Andrew Poe
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On the borders of enthusiasm
Beginning a very dangerous politics
in Political enthusiasm
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This chapter explores the development of enthusiasm as a political concept. It offers a close reading of Kant’s thinking on enthusiasm and the politics that comes from it. This reading pays close attention to the political anxieties associated with enthusiasm. Kant is usually read as defending a detached, impartial spectator as the ground for a more sober politics. This chapter offers a distinct counter-reading of Kantian enthusiasm that moves past the purified spectator, immune to political engagement. This reading of enthusiasm makes sense of Kant’s own anxiety regarding enthusiasm as the “most dangerous” political idea, showing where Kant gives us the terms to think through how to cross the boundary between actor and spectator, and the place of enthusiasm in constructing that pathway. While Kant struggled to come to terms with the significance of enthusiasm, this chapter argues that we see the grounds for a radical reading of enthusiasm within his thinking; a performance that motivates revolutionary action.

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Political enthusiasm

Partisan feeling and democracy’s enchantments


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