The Political Subject: Essays on the Self from Art, Politics and Science

The Political Subject: Essays on the Self from Art, Politics and Science

The Political Subject: Essays on the Self from Art, Politics and Science

The Political Subject: Essays on the Self from Art, Politics and Science

Synopsis

Following her New Modernity, which looked at ways in which we could rethink Enlightenment values to include more of the world of the emotions and the body, in this volume Wendy Wheeler gathers together essays which explore the complex nature of the contemporary 'self', which - as she argues - is the starting point for politics.Wheeler's contributors show that looking creatively and imaginatively across the different disciplines, art, literature, science, psychology - we can see the emergence of new ideas about the nature of politics, and of the human beings which are the subject of politics. In particular we can see the poverty of much contemporary political discourse, which tends to lose sight of human beings in its focus on managerialism, efficiency and a rather narrowly defined realism. By rethinking fundamental questions about the nature of political subjects, we can begin to develop a new and more humane politics.The book has a historical section which looks at ways in which ideas about the self have been both shaped by past political cultures and reflected in them. The contemporary section includes essays on psychoanalysis, crowd psychology, modernisation, colonialism, political poetry, complexity theory, emotional literacy, ethics, masculinity and computer prosthetics. Wheeler's trawling of the disciplines in her quest for a new politics has resulted in an original and illuminating series of reflections on new ways of 'doing politics.'

Excerpt

Despite contemporary cries of ‘modernise or die’ from businesspeople, politicians and managers, the era of political modernity – with its relatively stable ideologies and dreams of order – is over. Modernity, having dissolved the original forms of the binding ties of tradition and religion, is now itself in crisis, leaving people struggling to find ways of organising their personal and communal lives in meaningful ways – though this is enacted in differing temporalities in different parts of the globe. the European Enlightenment took apart the older, integrated, world-view of tradition, and partitioned it into three spheres: science, morality and art. Belatedly, we are now discovering that none of these partitioned-off spheres has ever wholly broken free from our older, perhaps evolutionarily ancient, selves. Recognising this, however, and seeing the ways in which our older needs and narratives inform our newer ones, may help us to practice a different modernity in more fruitful ways. As confidence in the project of modernity has seeped away, all the uncertainties imminent within Enlightenment itself have been unleashed. But this unbounded postmodernity does not necessarily presage the dystopian future often depicted within popular culture. With thought and, above all, creativity, we might find our way to an exciting, and much more human, new modernity in which the technological dream of order, which has so beset modern imaginings, is finally laid to rest.

Central to any exploration of what that new modernity might look like is the question of the experience of selfhood which will inform and accompany it – particularly as this relates to questions of political agency. Jean-Francois Lyotard has said that the postmodern writer always ‘comes too soon’ and that he or she is always writing the ‘what will have been done’. My own understanding of this dilemma (‘a crisis . . .

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