Reconstituting the Body Politic

Reconstituting the Body Politic

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The concept that art must have no instrumental function is a doctrine traditionally traced back to Kant's Critique of Judgment. In Reconstituting the Body Politic, Jonathan Hess proposes that this concept of autonomous art marks not a withdrawal from the political realm but the ultimate embodiment of Enlightenment political culture, a response to a crisis in the institution idealized by Jurgen Habermas as the bourgeois public sphere. In Reconstituting the Body Politic, Hess explores the moment in late eighteenth-century Germany that witnessed the emergence of two concepts that marked the modern era: the political concept of the public sphere and the doctrine of aesthetic autonomy. By considering the extent to which, at its very inception, the concept of aesthetic autonomy is inextricably intertwined with the emergence of the concept of the public sphere, he offers both a historical study of the political conditions that produced this concept and a contribution to contemporary literary and political theory. Reading texts by Kant alongside the writings of contemporaries like Karl Philipp Moritz, Hess examines a wide variety of eighteenth-century texts, discourses, and institutions. He then enters into a critical dialogue with Walter Benjamin, Reinhart Koselleck, and Jurgen Habermas to articulate a political critique of this aesthetic. The aesthetic theory of Kant's Critique emerges not as a mere defense of the qdisinterestednessq of aesthetic pleasure but as an engaged response to the political limitations of public culture during the Enlightenment. Hess argues for an understanding of these concepts as functionally interdependent, and he reflects on what this interdependence mightmean for the practice of literary and cultural criticism today. His work will interest not only Germanists and critical theorists but also art historians and historians of philosophy and political thought.Moritz does not just pronounce pleasure and utility external to the value of the noninstrumental work of art. In declaring them external, Moritz here also reduces utility to pleasure, and to pleasure of the most vulgar sort. Within the context ofanbsp;...

Title:Reconstituting the Body Politic
Author:Jonathan M. Hess
Publisher:Wayne State University Press - 1999


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