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Critical theory and the affective turn

theoretical context that informs my re-​engagement with the earlier work of the Frankfurt School. In particular, I want to chart the recent ‘affective turn’ in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, which has proven to be a fertile, if somewhat disorderly, ground for research within the broader field of ‘new materialism’. My aim is to draw on some of these theories of affect to prompt new readings of first-​generation critical theory, readings that will emphasize the latter’s often overlooked concern with feeling, in all its senses. As will become apparent throughout

in Critical theory and feeling

enjoy a sense both of self-fulfilment and community with others’ (248). The activity of being a citizen is intertwined with that of being a whole individual, an individual who could see the beauty in nature, enjoy music, and at the same time perform the duties of a virtuous citizen. This, of course, was not a unique ambition for a great philosopher. Plato, Kant, Hegel and even Mill (to name but a few) aspired to do the same. Did Rousseau succeed in his endeavour? He recognised – like Burke – that the advent of Godless materialism was undermining the moeurs, and that

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The impossibility of reason

This book presents an overview of Jean–Jacques Rousseau's work from a political science perspective. Was Rousseau — the great theorist of the French Revolution—really a conservative? The text argues that the author of ‘The Social Contract’ was a constitutionalist much closer to Madison, Montesquieu, and Locke than to revolutionaries. Outlining his profound opposition to Godless materialism and revolutionary change, this book finds parallels between Rousseau and Burke, as well as showing that Rousseau developed the first modern theory of nationalism. It presents an integrated political analysis of Rousseau's educational, ethical, religious and political writings.

The affective politics of the early Frankfurt School

This book offers a unique and timely reading of the early Frankfurt School in response to the recent 'affective turn' within the arts and humanities. It revisits some of the founding tenets of critical theory in the context of the establishment of the Institute for Social Research in the early twentieth century. The book focuses on the work of Walter Benjamin, whose varied engagements with the subject of melancholia prove to be far more mobile and complex than traditional accounts. It also looks at how an affective politics underpins critical theory's engagement with the world of objects, exploring the affective politics of hope. Situating the affective turn and the new materialisms within a wider context of the 'post-critical', it explains how critical theory, in its originary form, is primarily associated with the work of the Frankfurt School. The book presents an analysis of Theodor Adorno's form of social critique and 'conscious unhappiness', that is, a wilful rejection of any privatized or individualized notion of happiness in favour of a militant and political discontent. A note on the timely reconstruction of early critical theory's own engagements with the object world via aesthetics and mimesis follows. The post-Cold War triumphalism of many on the right, accompanied by claims of the 'end of history', created a sense of fearlessness, righteousness, and unfettered optimism. The book notes how political realism has become the dominant paradigm, banishing utopian impulses and diminishing political hopes to the most myopic of visions.

Objects, affects, mimesis

3 A feeling for things: objects, affects, mimesis And things, what is the correct attitude to adopt towards things? –​Samuel Beckett, The Unnameable Recent years have seen an explosion of scholarly interest in things. From the ‘new materialisms’ to ‘object-​oriented ontology’, from ‘thing theory’ to ‘actor-​ network theory’, much of contemporary thought is turning its attention to the world of objects. What are the reasons for this shift? One of the principal motivations behind the turn to objects is a reaction against the ‘cultural turn’ and its subject

in Critical theory and feeling
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In the beginning was song

were also metaphors for his general Kulturkampf, that is, in his struggle against the decay or morals and the advances of Godless materialism. It was Rousseau’s central idea that scientism and reason alone could not edify man, let alone awaken his sensible heart. Music was a countervailing force, a subversive means of undermining the empty castle of rationalism. Music, for Rousseau, was meta-physical, in the Aristotelian sense of being beyond mere physics; ‘as long a you seek the moral implications in the physic of sound you fail to find it. You will reason without

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Case studies from the Victorian period

the self as a willed project outside of the pressure of materialism. The despair associated with habitual drunkenness can thus later be seen to hold out an attraction for the person who conceives of herself as wholly responsible for constituting her self, and is thus resistant to the new social pressures and social mores. Émile Zola, L’Assommoir Zola’s novel L’Assommoir, published in 1877, shares a broad literary intention with that of George Eliot’s work, which is to depict in a largely realistic manner the effect of environment on character. Zola states in the

in The Existential drinker

important secondary truths of what is meaningful and gives life its value. ‘The White Logic’ thus functions as a symbol rather than shorthand for a rational (‘logical’) appraisal of the human lot, since ‘alcohol’, and the kind of relationship with it that London depicts as the autobiographical thread upon which the basis of his life depends, could not provide a scientific-​rational grounding for knowledge. It runs counter to the previously, more strongly held views of London based on the science of evolution and historical materialism.42 In John Barleycorn London once

in The Existential drinker
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Once more, with feeling

century. I then discuss some of the contemporary theories of affect that have emerged in the past couple of decades as part of the so-​called ‘new materialisms’. Taking on board some of the key findings of this recent work on affect, I also highlight the potential political deficiencies that accompany such accounts, particularly within a growing ‘post-​critical’ context. The chapter closes with suggestions as to how early critical theory –​read through an affective lens –​might provide the social and political grounding that affect theory often lacks, while at the same

in Critical theory and feeling
Contingency or transcendence formula of law?

between litige and the différend of hermetically closed discourses, Foucault's ruptures between incompatible épistémès and Luhmann's plurality of closed self-referential systems. 13 Other theories are closely related: Michael Walzer's spheres of justice and Nelson Goodman's ways of worldmaking. 14 Especially theories of legal pluralism and pluralist versions of neo-materialism

in Critical theory and legal autopoiesis