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Environmental sociology strikes me as a deeply moral endeavor. I argue that understanding the good is not only relevant to the project of even having an environmental sociology. As well, there is an environmental sociology to the very idea of the good and its typical conception as being the non-political, removed from the human and therefore untainted and unpolluted by our desires and their corrupting hungers. The apartness with which we now typically regard both nature and the divine gives these realms innocence in our minds – which we then marshal in pursuit of our ambitions, yielding the common and deeply problematic paradox I call non-political politics. Such attempts at moral externalization characterize much of political debate in the present day, but has old roots. I show how the non-political idea of the good arose during bourgeois transition of the late Iron Age, and remains caught up in a social and economic conflict of long-standing and yet little notice: the pagan–bourgeois conflict and the ancient triangle of ideological separation between nature, the divine, and the human that this conflict birthed.
The problem of public knowledge is rooted in the tension between technocracy and populism. Public knowledge is important to the proper functioning of democracy, but knowledge associated with the public is frequently dismissed and devalued in policy-making contexts. Because encounters between democracy and expertise are a common part of environmental politics and environmental discourse, the problem of public knowledge is endemic to environmental sociology. The first section of this chapter draws on political theory to explore how and why public knowledge is important for democracy. The second section draws on the philosophy of science as well as the broader field of science and technology studies (STS) to explore how and why public knowledge is devalued and dismissed. The last section briefly explores the flaws of participatory strategies that are commonly proposed as solutions to the problem of public knowledge, and concludes by suggesting that public knowledge is less contradictory if we treat “public” as a role rather than a group of people.
This chapter considers the ways that poems construct forms of subjectivity. While the unproblematized, monologic lyric subject is a problematic figure, poems still have the capacity to construct and stage more viable modes of subjectivity and self-making. And such a reconfigured subject can become much more attentive to its embedding in various networks of social, economic, and ecological relations. In this way, the value of contemporary poetry inheres precisely in its continuing and critical interest in the status of subjectivity and of individual life within world systems that are unthinkable at the level of the human. Without reaching back once again to an outmoded model of the Romantic subject, much contemporary poetry seeks ways to represent the precariousness and vicissitudes of individual experience and to frame those experiences as more than simply “individual,” but rather as modes of responsiveness to social and environmental conditions. The chapter takes up poems by John Ashbery, Rae Armantrout, Roy Fisher, Jorie Graham, Claudia Rankine, and Layli Long Soldier.
The collective nature of character is a defining aspect of magical realism in the Americas and arguably the mode’s most notable departure from the conventions of literary realism. Magical realist authors aim to express communal realities, whether political, historical and/or cultural. To this end, they create 'insubstantial' characters who are not individualized or given complex interior lives. Rather, their identity is relational and based in collective structures, whether family, class, culture and/or ideology. Given magical realism’s greater investment in political and cultural selfhood, characters tend toward archetype and their lives toward allegory. The magical realist strategy of minimizing individuality in favor of collective experience allows authors to foreground politics over personality. As readers, we are asked to focus not on single selves, but on the political arc of entire continents and cultures. The authors discussed are García Márquez, Carpentier, Allende, Borges, Donoso and Erdrich.
The Terminal Classic period (ca. AD 800–1000) in the Southern Maya Lowlands witnessed a precipitous decline in the erection of carved stone monuments, a decline that corresponds to shifts in political ideologies and the disappearance of many prominent royal dynasties. Although Southern Lowland sites are often considered peripheral to the events and innovations occurring elsewhere in Mesoamerica during this time, a recently discovered stela, Stela 29, at the site of Ucanal in Peten, Guatemala, underscores the active role of the site in broader political movements in the ninth century. Our iconographic, textual, and stylistic analysis of this stela, in concert with other Terminal Classic monuments from the site, reveals a vernacular cosmopolitan aesthetic whereby local Classic Maya styles were infused with images and elements that referenced connections with peoples from northern Yucatan, the Gulf Coast, and Central Mexico.
Taking as an example the well-known fable “The wolf and the lamb” by Jean de la Fontaine, this chapter shows how language doesn’t merely affix labels to the familiar social reality we live in, but presents it in ways that serve the interests of the parties involved. It evokes mental and bodily schemas of experience that are recognized by others; it performs social dos and don’ts that are sanctioned by the group; and it manipulates the politics of the situation to gain symbolic distinction. Drawing from work in cognitive and anthropological linguistics and in sociology, it shows through numerous examples taken from everyday life that the exercise of symbolic power is neither good nor evil, it is what we do when we use language to communicate with others – we try to assert ourselves at the same time that we strive to show others that we respect them, value them, and want to be in turn respected and valued by them. I show how any use of language is a political act, in the sense that it is an exercise of symbolic power to present ourselves and others in the best possible light. It contributes to building our “symbolic self”, that is, our reputation, credibility and good standing among the people we come in contact with.
The European "modernism" of which Strauss was considered a representative in the 1890s and the "avant-garde" modernism that would exclude him in the new century differed significantly. Both are defined here as manifestations of, or critical reactions to, cultural and technological modernity. Varying shades of modernism are illustrated with reference to critical responses to Strauss and to his own 1907 essay "Is there an Avant-Garde in Music?" The length of Strauss’s career and the stylistic choices he made both reflect and problematize the once common notion that the history of the period’s music was simply one of evolutionary progress, which he first exemplified and then rejected. The varied and changing context of Strauss’s critical stance and compositional output resides not only in artistic ideas but also in politics and social practice in institutions like opera houses and concert halls and their audiences.
This chapter surveys how Decadent writers engaged with contemporary politics. It defines the Decadents as anti-modernists drawn to modernity in literary form but deeply resistant to modernity in social and political life. Like other anti-modernists they channelled their frustrations into dreams of idealized pasts or utopian futures and like them they fulminated loudly against the prevailing order. The chapter considers Decadent engagements with politics in terms of three key examples: the use by writers in the movement of tropes from the tradition of republican political theory; their enthusiasm for elite, underground and countercultural communities like the eighteenth-century libertines that provide historical alternatives to contemporary politics; and recurrent images of crowds, political protest and political forms of writing (like the manifesto) in their works, which comment more directly on the age. The chapter argues that Decadent writing arose from and responded to the politics of its historical moment, one rife with real and imagined political disorder and one that demanded the imagination of alternative possibilities for expression and association.
This chapter explores how the work of three of the ‘major’ modernist authors – T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and W. B. Yeats – might be considered to be invested in the ‘Decadent’ sensibility. The chapter begins by tracing the emergence of this Decadent sensibility in the late age of revolutionary romanticism, and in particular in Shelley’s claim that ‘Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World.’ If poets are, in 1821, legislators, it suggests they are no longer revolutionaries. Post-romantic poetry is then written in an age of failed, exhausted revolution and is often characterized by reactionary, backward-looking politics. In this narrative late modernism marks the culmination of this increasingly dispirited view of the world, so that Eliot, by the 1930s, invests in absolutist authority rather than in poetic possibility. As the chapter suggests, this view of the failure of poetic possibility was one which with the Decadent writers of the 1890s began to grapple. Try as they might, modernist authors found themselves caught in a Decadent paradox in which poetry could no longer transform the world, and so they turned to totalizing, even totalitarian politics.
Whereas John Locke (1632–1704) is best known for his "way of ideas" and political theory, he was also a skilled theologian. His theological concerns, interests, and ideas permeate his philosophical, political, and moral thought. Locke’s oeuvre in its different areas is indeed the production of a Christian philosopher. But Locke’s religious views are significant for yet another reason, in that his theological reflections resulted in a unique version of Christianity. Although Locke expounded his religious views in an unsystematic manner, given also his dislike of systems of doctrine and his hostility to claims of religious orthodoxy, an original and internally coherent form of Protestant Christianity emerges from his public as well as private writings. Locke's version of Christianity denotes various similarities with heterodox theological currents such as Socinianism and Arminianism, which Locke knew well. Nonetheless, Locke adhered to the Protestant doctrine of "sola Scriptura," according to which the Scriptures contain all that is needed for salvation. Thus, he always made sure that his conclusions were consistent with, and indeed grounded in, Scripture.
Locke’s religion, although expounded unsystematically in his public as well as private writings, is an original and internally coherent version of Protestant Christianity, grounded in his painstaking analysis of Scripture. Locke’s endeavor as a theologian was typical of a biblical theologian who paid particular attention to the moral, soteriological, and eschatological meaning of Scripture, which he considered infallible. Moreover, virtually all areas of Locke's thought are pervaded by a religious dimension, and his reflections on several epistemological, moral, and political issues denote a markedly religious character. His religious views also influenced the development of various Protestant currents, such as Unitarianism, Baptism, and Methodism, despite the mixed reception that his thought met with among English divines in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century. Briefly, an accurate examination of Locke’s writings on religion, as well as his philosophical, moral, and political works, belies depicting him as a "secular" philosopher. Locke was the archetype of a "religious Enlightener" endorsing reasonable belief as the coordination of natural reason and divine revelation.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is a novel about being dirty and dirtied. This chapter shows how the representations of things like mess and dirt and associated feelings like nausea, disgust, and squeamishness are bound up in revealing ways with Orwell’s depictions of the differences between totalitarian rulers and the subjects they rule. Moving in sequence through considerations of how Orwell gives filth, nausea, and disgust interesting things to do in the novel, the chapter traces a pattern of symbolic relations which culminates in the differences between the apparent cleanliness of Oceania’s political systems and the nigh-on inescapable muck of its citizens, and of the spaces they inhabit. The puritanism of Ingsoc accepts the reality of dirt, seeks to annihilate the sex instinct, and is temperamentally opposed to the aesthetic. In tracing that puritanism, Orwell made a narrative virtue of squalor. Coursing through Nineteen Eighty-Four, in other words, is a pattern of relations to do with the political work of filth and the ideological consequences of its avoidance (or apparent avoidance). This actualizing of squalor enabled Orwell to create a perennially applicable literary dystopia. It also helped him think through the complexities and inconsistencies of a politics built on the logics of filth.
The chapter draws on The Lion and the Unicorn to argue that Nineteen Eighty-Four, like ‘Such, Such Were the Joys’, represents a shift in Orwell’s thought as he critiques a meritocratic social order in a depiction of a dystopian society ordered around intellectual ability. The chapter examines intellectual control in Oceania through two processes: firstly, ‘doublethink’, a process through which the most intelligent members of society must submit themselves more completely to an act of self-hypnosis and secondly, the chapter contextualizes Ingsoc’s slogans against Animal Farm to argue that Orwell identifies political slogans with mind control. The chapter argues that the novel is Winston Smith’s thwarted bildungsroman, analysing how its form is designed to interrogate Ingsoc’s slogans. It examines the scenes of Winston’s self-education as he reads Goldstein’s Book and the children’s history textbook and suggests how the novel’s torture scene is aligned with the pedagogic, as the pupil/teacher relationship is redefined by Orwell as a relationship based upon intellectual manipulation. The tension between the pedagogic form of the novel, which explores political slogans and creates curiosity in the reader, and its criticism of the catechistic model of teaching, renders the novel paradoxically an anti-pedagogic pedagogic text.
The chapter focuses on how the religious dimension of peoplehood complicated the insurgency movement’s interactions with other Oromo groups and movements. Firstly, it discusses the Shoa Oromo community in Bale – a group that at the outset would ostensibly be close to the Arsi Oromo and share similar antagonist sentiments toward the Amhara and assumingly side with the insurgents against the state. The fact that they did not is noticeable and can only, the chapter argues, be explained by examining the religious dimension. Secondly, the chapter investigates the nascent Oromo ethno-nationalist movement surfacing in the 1960s. As a largely urban elitist movement and dominated by Christian Oromo, it was significantly different from the Bale insurgency. Although the two movements managed to connect, the chapter claims that religion constituted a potential conflictual dimension – something teased out in the chapter’s latter part. Lastly, the chapter explores what role the embryonic Salafi movement – emerging in the 1960s – played in relation to the insurgency. It amply demonstrates that this movement did not contribute to strengthening religious boundaries or reinforcing conflictual lines, in turn pointing to the need to move beyond established assumptions and teleological perspectives when thinking of Islam and politics.
This chapter argues that we should take seriously Orwell’s claim, in his 1946 essay ‘Why I Write’, that ‘what I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art’. By examining how this ambition of yoking art to politics plays out in Orwell’s final novel, it places Nineteen Eighty-Four within the context of the literary problems and practices of Orwell’s precursors and contemporaries. First, it considers his relationship with literary modernism and its legacies, with particular reference to his analysis of the work of James Joyce and Henry Miller, for instance in the 1940 essay ‘Inside the Whale’. Next, it examines Nineteen Eighty-Four in the light of earlier dystopian and speculative fiction by William Morris, Aldous Huxley, E. M. Forster, Jack London, Katharine Burdekin, Storm Jameson, and others; it also considers the influence on Orwell of Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. Finally, it assesses depictions of writing and the politics of language within the novel, and how their treatment might relate to Orwell’s sense of his place within twentieth-century literature.
Richard Wagner was a political being throughout his life, even if his various political beliefs and commitments were not necessarily consistent or coherent. These beliefs found their way into his works. This is not surprising. Wagner despised what he saw as the shallowness and superficiality of contemporary opera. He aimed to supplant this with serious and substantial music dramas, of which the Ring is the grandest and most comprehensive example. Its mythological setting and characters can be deceptive. There are many implicit references to contemporary social and economic life. Wagner intended his work to have topical relevance. George Bernard Shaw, an early enthusiast for Wagner, was one of the first to see this. It is a mark of Wagner’s far-sightedness that he made an exploitative attitude to nature one of the key failings in the old order which was to be replaced. But how was this to happen? In his many drafts of Brunnhilde’s final peroration, Wagner evoked both the humanist Ludwig Feuerbach and the pessimist Arthur Schopenhauer. Wagner’s interests were never narrowly musical. He took a keen interest in the philosophical and intellectual currents of his age.
The premiere of the Ring and the opening of the Bayreuth Festival in 1876 was the most significant European cultural event of the later nineteenth century. The idea of a festival after the model of classical Greek theatre was integral to the Ring. Performances were to be given free of charge under ideal conditions in a temporary theatre constructed for the purpose in a location away from the corrupting influence of modern industrial civilisation. The festival idea as finally realized was, however, far removed from the utopian ideals of the original conception. The scale and practical demands of Wagner’s enterprise forced him to compromise with shifting political paradigms and harsh economic reality. The first Bayreuth Festival thus became a meeting place not for Wagner’s classless society dedicated to the ideals of art, but of aristocracies and plutocratic elites. The democratic festival, originally conceived in the white heat of revolutionary fervour, became a symbol of artistic hegemony and the aggrandisement of the newly founded German Reich. The resulting artistic, cultural and highly potent political legacy was to extend far beyond the historical context in which the festival first came about.
In the years since its inception, Wagner’s Ring has generated significant commentary and controversy. Critics of the Ring asserted its influence in public discourse (beyond music criticism of the work and its performances) and generated ambitious intellectual and ideological debates about art, society, and politics. This chapter charts some milestones in these debates, including the contributions of well-known thinkers such as Nietzsche, Shaw, and Adorno, but also some of their French, German, or Russian contemporaries whose influence has waned since the fin de siècle. In the twentieth century, seminal musicological approaches emerged that transcend analytical-technical matters, such as Alfred Lorenz’s ideologically charged investigations of Wagnerian form or Richard Donington’s psychoanalytic explanations. More recently the task of interpreting the Ring has shifted from the written word to the operatic stage, where directors explore and expose its various and conflicting layers of meaning. Whether formulated by philosophers, writers, musicologists, or artists, two basic approaches emerge from these interpretations: They either develop a social or political interpretation from the Ring outward, or they insert the tetralogy into a preexisting worldview.