Labors of Imagination: Aesthetics and Political Economy from Kant to Althusser

Labors of Imagination: Aesthetics and Political Economy from Kant to Althusser

Labors of Imagination: Aesthetics and Political Economy from Kant to Althusser

Labors of Imagination: Aesthetics and Political Economy from Kant to Althusser

Synopsis

Challenging prevailing assumptions about the relationship between language and politics, this book offers a compelling new account of aesthetic and economic thought since the eighteenth century. Mieszkowski explores the doctrines of productivity and interest in Romanticism and classical political economy, arguing that the critical force of any historical model of literature depends on its understanding of the distinction between intellectual and material labor. This provocative contribution to contemporary debates about culture and ideology will be important for scholars of literature, history, and political theory.

Excerpt

The last twenty-five years have seen increasing scholarly interest in the relationship between aesthetics and economics. Particular attention has been paid to the way in which classical political economy and the eighteenthcentury discourse on taste emerge concurrently from earlier moral and social thought, only to diverge in the course of the nineteenth century as the work of art comes to be regarded as the antithesis of the commodity form. Although such historical analyses raise important questions about the rise of bourgeois subjectivity, the formation of the modern conception of value, and the relationship between equality and individuality in liberalism, they also tend to overlook the degree to which the thinkers they are addressing offer their own far-reaching theories of history, theories that may be incompatible with the methodologies being employed to understand them. in this respect, to evaluate the liberal tradition by situating the work of its principal contributors in a genealogy of ideas, discourses, or institutions is to risk foreclosing on some of its most important contributions.

Labors of Imagination takes this complication as its starting point. Its broadest thesis is that Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment and Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations inaugurate parallel discourses in which productive agency comes to be understood in terms of the creative and destructive powers of language. For the writers who follow, an emphasis on the transformative dimensions of language does not, as is frequently assumed, culminate in the claim that something called “discourse” directs human activity and molds empirical reality. To the contrary, nineteenthcentury analyses of discursive positing or performance invariably question the status of language as a stable paradigm of thought, action, or construction.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.