Philosophy and Critical Theory

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Mads Qvortrup

This chapter outlines the major philosophical problem for Rousseau: the burden of modernity. It gives an account of Rousseau's place in the emerging world of modernity, and his opposition to secularism and scientism. It shows how his general philosophical—and theological—opposition to modernity underpinned his moral philosophy. Unlike liberal or utilitarian thinkers, Rousseau sought to base his moral judgements on emotions and sensibility, not on rational calculations. It is shown how this made him overcome the poverty of ethical theory that has characterised modernity—and how Rousseau invented post-modernism (with a pre-modern face). The chapter also contains a section on Rousseau's economic philosophy, in which it is shown that he—like Adam Smith—succeeded in transcending the economic theories of mercantilists and physiocrats. An analysis of the relationship between Rousseau and Burke is also presented. Often seen as adversaries, the chapter shows that Rousseau and Burke, in fact, were in agreement on the majority of issues, including opposition to revolutionary change, reverence for religion, and a preference for gradual reform.

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Andrew Bowie

The reductionist assumptions that lead to the idea of folk psychology themselves involve serious methodological problems which are shown up by arguments from the aesthetic tradition. The ideas about the role and nature of self-consciousness from Immanuel Kant to the Romantics suggest that attempts to explicate subjectivity in the terms used to explain objective nature will themselves fall prey to the problems of reflection. Theodor W. Adorno is an apt figure to invoke in the context because, in the wake of Friedrich Nietzsche, he thinks, as does Martin Heidegger, that the ills of modernity are rooted in the attempt by the subject to dominate the world of objects. Richard Rorty characterises the development of modernity in terms of how the 'public', problem solving resources of natural science and 'projects of social cooperation' become separate from 'private' projects of self-development, in which he includes 'romantic art' and, possibly, religion.

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A civic profession of faith

Rousseau’s and nationalism

Mads Qvortrup

Previously unrecognised by scholars of nationalism, Rousseau was, in fact, the founder of the modern doctrine of nationalism. This chapter shows how Rousseau succeeded in developing a case for social cohesion and the necessity of having a common culture in a society. In developing a case for nationalism as a ‘civic profession of faith’ he continued—and redeveloped—a doctrine begun by Machiavelli, which was later to be further elaborated by Alexis de Tocqueville and present-day theorists and practitioners of social capital, like the political scientist Robert Putnam and the English politician David Blunkett. It is argued that Rousseau accomplished the feat of developing a new doctrine of civic religion (i.e., nationalism) and that he succeeded in combining a defence for this doctrine with a new place for Christianity (which was consistent with the original apolitical teachings of Christ). The chapter also presents an account of Rousseau's thinking on international politics, including something as timely as an account of his opposition against the establishment of a European superstate.

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Checks, balances and popular participation

Rousseau as a constitutionalist

Mads Qvortrup

Often presented as a proto-totalitarian, Rousseau has traditionally been seen as an opponent of constitutionalism, checks and balances, and the separation of powers. Following a brief overview of the history of constitutionalism (from Moses to the French Revolution), this chapter compares Rousseau's political writings with the writings of constitutionalists like James Madison and Baron de Montesquieu. It shows that Rousseau shared the view that checks and balances are necessary for preventing the corruption of power and that he advocated a system of the separation of powers (and spoke highly of the British constitution. Yet, contrary to the other constitutionalists, Rousseau was a democrat. Whereas Montesquieu and Madison wanted the elites to check the elites (through the introduction of second chambers and constitutional courts), Rousseau emphasised that the executive ought to be checked by the people. He thus anticipated the political system that was instated by the American populists (including Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson). However, unlike other constitutionalists, Rousseau did not believe that institutions themselves would be sufficient for creating a good polity. He ceaselessly emphasised that political education was necessary for creating a good society.

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Aesthetics and subjectivity

From Kant to Nietzsche

Andrew Bowie

In 1796 a German politico-philosophical manifesto proclaims the 'highest act of reason' as an 'aesthetic act'. The ways in which this transformation relates to the development of some of the major directions in modern philosophy is the focus of this book. The book focuses on the main accounts of the human subject and on the conceptions of art and language which emerge within the Kantian and post-Kantian history of aesthetics. Immanuel Kant's main work on aesthetics, the 'third Critique', the Critique of Judgement, forms part of his response to unresolved questions which emerge from his Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Practical Reason. The early Romantics, who, after all, themselves established the term, can be characterized in a way which distinguishes them from later German Romanticism. The 'Oldest System Programme of German Idealism', is a manifesto for a new philosophy and exemplifies the spirit of early Idealism, not least with regard to mythology. The crucial question posed by the Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling of the System of Transcendental Idealism (STI) is how art relates to philosophy, a question which has recently reappeared in post-structuralism and in aspects of pragmatism. Despite his undoubted insights, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's insufficiency in relation to music is part of his more general problem with adequately theorising self-consciousness, and thus with his aesthetic theory. Friedrich Schleiermacher argues in the hermeneutics that interpretation of the meaning of Kunst is itself also an 'art'. The book concludes with a discussion on music, language, and Romantic thought.

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Philip Nanton

The concept of the frontier is examined through the study of rhetoric, reading the frontier into a variety of written texts by both ‘outsiders’ and ‘insiders’ to St. Vincent society. The journal of John Anderson, a nineteenth century stipendiary magistrate and ‘Bodily Harm’ a twentieth century thriller by Canadian writer Margaret Atwood are discussed as ‘outsider’ texts that dramatise difficulties of personal dislocation in a context where what constitutes civilization in the society encountered is opaque. By contrast three insider texts are offered in the form of memoirs of local ‘pioneering heroes’ in which frontier retentions are implicit in the stories of their political lives.

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Philip Nanton

This chapter again moves between macro narrative and micro detail to flesh out the various dimensions of wilderness/civilization relationship. It offers two case studies, one examining the history of the Shaker Baptists of St. Vincent and the second focusing on marijuana production and distribution. They illustrate how once ‘wild’ rural practices have gradually been ‘civilized’ into mainstream and urban society. Portrait sketches of three individuals from different walks of life illustrate urban frontier styles of living.

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Pirates of the Caribbean

Frontier patterns old and new

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Philip Nanton

This chapter examines the context for studying the frontier in the Caribbean. It challenges the notion that the Caribbean frontier featured for only a brief period in the region’s history. It argues that historically the Caribbean has had and continues to have identifiable frontier features. Shifting state boundaries, strong privatization, weak state regulation and patterns of religious and social withdrawal are explored as underlying features of the continuing Caribbean frontier.

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Philip Nanton

This chapter argues that the notion of the frontier in small multi-island states is a complex affair. As physical boundary the notion of frontier also encompasses administrative, territorial and cultural island to island distinctions, all complicated by a notion of ‘islandness’. Beyond the conventional notion of physical boundary, the frontier is also a site of balance between imagined ‘civilization’ and ‘wilderness’. It is marked by outpost status, inconsistent or sporadic commitment to local infrastructure, including government institutions, prevalent violence and a rough and ready society that centres men and those who excel at improvisation. However, the attractiveness of the frontier concept in an island situation like SVG is its double edged potential - it is ‘liminal’ open and closed simultaneously and also its key elements of ‘civilization’ and ‘wilderness’ are always incomplete.

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Philip Nanton