THE THEORIES OF subjectivity that have dominated the last thirty years of literary and cultural studies all agree on one thing.They reject the idea of the subject as a completely self-contained being that develops in the world as an expression of its own unique essence. Uniformly, they identify this image of subjectivity with the Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment can be seen to span the period from Francis Bacon ( 1561-1626) to the French Revolution of 1789, covering developments as disparate as the origins of modern empirical science, the elaboration of universal ideals of political organisation (from totalitarianism to the liberal state) and the substitution of the cult of personal sensibility for collective religion.The Enlightenment is chosen as the target of contemporary critical thought because its ideals still underprop the institutions and processes that justify the way modern Western social and political systems operate. Yet, of course, the Enlightenment was not a single thing and is full of contradictions.Both the rationale for the modern liberal state and the ideology of its most vehement opponents can be traced to definitively Enlightenment thinkers.
The situation with subjectivity is similar: in the same way that key developments in Enlightenment thought, and early modern thought in general, first posed the question of the subject as a free, autonomous and rational being (what we call the individual), we can also find there the seeds of radical attacks on this model, which