Friday, January 27, 2012

Lecture Two: The Dialectic of Enlightenment I – Bach, Kant, Theresiana, Frederick, Sade, Horkheimer/Adorno

Lecture Two

The Dialectic of Enlightenment I – Bach, Kant, Theresiana, Frederick, Sade, Horkheimer/Adorno  [DRAFT]

Immanuel Kant. “What is Enlightenment?”

Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, “Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality,” pgs.81-119.

Last time we looked a bit at the some misconceptions about Cultural Studies and also mentioned the origins of Cultural Studies. Today we will begin to examine some of the tendencies that came together as Cultural Studies. This means that we must first examine the ideology of enlightenment.

Now we can turn first to the idea of Enlightenment and the era of Enlightenment because it is really the foundation of our time as well as the ideology that is often critiqued in Cultural Studies. It is important to understand that critique does not mean here what it means in the studio. Broadly speaking, the idea of critique is not about simply passing judgment. It is not about good or bad, it is about understanding how ideas and things work, the social determinations of interpretation and following through the implications of their social function, i.e., working out their internal Rationality to its logical conclusions. Don’t misunderstand, it is impossible to be detached and non-judgmental, i. e., objective, and thus by critique we mean deferring judgment rather than immediately passing judgment. On another level, critique demands a self-referential act, and it demands that we must ruthlessly critique our own assumptions as we critique the ideologies and technologies of our social relations. There are real differences between critique and criticism. Too often the two become confused or are taken to mean the same thing, but critique as we mean it has much more in common with Max Weber’s concept of understanding in sociology than it does the work of the critic, or the writer of “consumer and entertainment guides,” or of an advocate for a politics who never questions their own politics. It is about, as Karl Marx said, the ruthless critique of all existing things, the taking apart of the apparatus of everyday life to understand how it is that we come to constantly reproduce that apparatus of life.

Let’s begin approaching Enlightenment by remembering that it has to common meanings: first refers to the ‘era of Enlightenment” and 2] the process of social and individual enlightenment. And remembering this, let’s begin with a bit of music, Bach’s Musical Offering from 1748.

Bach, and his manuscript for the 6 Voice Fugue

There are many versions: Krijn Koetsveld & Netherlands Bach Ensemble ]

While it is a famous piece and you have no doubt heard it before even if you did not realize what you were hearing; it is also very much the music of the Enlightenment. I say this even though Bach is already being shoved to the side by more secular and entertaining popular and court music (e.g., Bach’s own son, C. P. E. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and a lot of others in between).

C. P. E. Bach was a court composer for Frederick II (“the Great”) of Prussia (C.P.E. Bach: Concerto pour cello en la majeur, Ensemble Baroque de Limoges Christophe Coin, direction et Cello solo] In 1747, the elderly church musician visited his son at the Potsdam palace. Frederick, a musician, friend of Voltaire, and social reformer in the Enlightenment mode, had just acquired a new instrument, a pianoforte, the forerunner of the modern piano. Showing Bach the new instrument, because Frederick knew of Bach’s reputation for improvisation, Frederick played a theme and “asked” Bach to improvise a fugue on it. Bach did but when asked to improvise a 6 voice fugue, he politely asked to be able to write it down. He did and it is what we know now, along with the other canons and fugues on the theme, as the Musical Offering. It is an offering to the Emperor and the 6 voice fugue or “ricercar” (an earlier term for fugue and still used in Bach’s day) was referred to by Bach as the “Prussian Fugue.” Much like several of his other compositions, such as the Art of the Fugue
[here is an example:

performed by Glenn Gould (who, like Theolonius Monk, would hum along and drive the sound engineers crazy) and another version: Bach:The Art of Fugue- Contrapunctus 1 and Glenn Gould speaking on the Art of the Fugue:]

Bach does not specify what instrument is to be used the performance, and so we have a good number of versions of the Musical Offering. There is this one as well: Musical Offering, orchestrated by Anton Webern
Anton WEBERN: Fuga (Ricercata) a 6 voci [Fugue No.2] from Johann Sebastian BACH "Musical Offering" (orchestr. 1934-35) Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI - René Leibowitz, conductor (Rec: 10.III.1962, Roma) 
and scored for small orchestra by Anton Webern, the 20th Century composer whose work --- along with that of Alban Berg and Arnold Schoenberg --- will constitute “Modern”music and be important for understanding the perspective of the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School on popular culture and ideology. Adorno noted that Bach deliberately failed to suggest instrumentation for many of his most important and later works so as to not limit them by the musical technology of his day and also to leave them open to future interpretation --- and the makes perfect sense for such a master of improvisation. But we will touch on these things at a later time. For now, listen to Webern’s transcription. Notice how the theme is handed between the different instruments. Listening to this, we have the music of Enlightenment at the moment when Enlightenment was already approaching its limit. The complex interaction of the musicians and the theme is not unlike the complexity that we face when trying to lay out a genealogy for Cultural Studies. When we look closely at, say the shift to the study of popular culture, it will appear as a seemingly natural unfolding of a process of research, as just one thing leading to another, but seen from a broader perspective, what looked simple will seem to be the result of a chaotic and indeterminate interaction of social and natural forces... and sometimes “mere” chance. It is the difference between trying to follow the theme in the Five Movements for String Quartet by Webern:] ) and the hook lines of modern “adult contemporary music.”

Webern’s music also emphasizes the importance of silence. It reminds the listener that what is not heard in the music, and in the past, is just as important as what is heard and known. A great deal of our work is in revealing what has been forgotten and lost in the constant work of authority at repressing the origins of the present, to naturalize it and assure us that we are making progress towards a common goal: an enlightened society.

So what is the meaning of Enlightenment? To dare to be wise! It is as much about an orientation to the world as it is a time period. The Age of Enlightenment had not yet come, Kant wrote, but it was possible to see it coming from his position in an era where enlightenment had finally become possible. The essay “What is Enlightenment?” is one of the definitive statements on enlightenment and one that you will encounter in many of your readings and in other courses. If you have already discussed it elsewhere, I think that we can perhaps amplify those discussions or perhaps point out some things that might not have been mentioned yet.

Of course, Kant begins with a definition. Enlightenment is the freeing of Man from tutelage or immaturity. And Enlightenment has a motto: Dare to be Wise! or “Have the courage to use your own reason!” Dare to think for yourself, but also dare to be a Wise Man or Scholar who uses Reason and philosophy to develop himself (yes, the gendered language is deliberate for that was what they meant. To them, civil society was the domain of men.)

Although we have been freed from the direction of Nature, most of us still live “under life-long tutelage” and so it is easy for some to set themselves us as our guardians..... to become tyrants. Of course, this means that most of us live under tyranny. To understand this, he suggests we look to how very attractive its to live at the direction of others --- to just do as you are told. And culture itself makes it even more attractive and easier to give one's self over to another:
“If I have a book which understands for me, a physician who decided for my diet, and so forth, I need not trouble myself.”
And in an interesting acknowledgment of how the social relations of capital are very much under consideration:
“I need not think because, so long as I can pay” others willingly take up the task for me.
There are also the guardians, a special class who understand that freedom is dangerous for the common person, and who have “so kindly assumed superintendence over” those who will not think for themselves.

These guardians have trained and treated us like domesticated cattle, and we have become just such “placid creatures” who “[w]ill not dare take a single step without the harness...”

Most will not attempt to free themselves because of the difficulty of being Enlightened. It does not happen all at once, nor does it happen without struggle. It is fear of failure, of these initial failures that “leads most [of us to fall back into the arms of supervision]. Being supervised has become, he writes, almost our very nature. But Kant does not think that it is our real nature, which he sees as being free, and he believes that this fear of using our own reason leads us to the kind of supervision and prejudices that result in war. And Kant is all about establishing the basis for world peace and individual dignity through the use of Reason.

But it is very difficult for a single individual to break free. “He has come to be fond of this state” of living under tyranny and besides, in a world that is only allowed to be understood using the Laws and formulas of the guardians, the individual has never had the opportunity to use his own reason. And even if one had the courage to think, one would not know what to think, since abandoning tutelage is to abandon the familiar ways of making sense of the world. In an ironic sense, the free thinker would appear to those under tutelage as irrational, not rational. Sort of like a bunch of bourgeois guys in 1776 Philadelphia telling one of the “Great Kings” of Europe that they are free and will start their own nation. It must be remembered that amongst the “Founding Fathers” were prominent enlightenment figures, such as Franklin and Jefferson. Jefferson’s interests lay not so much in politics as in Natural History, astronomy, farming, and ethics. His one book is a work of Natural History entitled Notes on the State of Virginia and he was engaged with von Humboldt and Buffon. He was one of the first to use the Linnean classification scheme (the one ours is based upon) in the Americas. The Jefferson Bible is well worth the look, as he took the New Testament and removed all of the religious portions, leaving a Christ that is not divine but a teacher of ethical living not unlike Xenophon’s rendering of Socrates. (I leave it to you to look that reference up! ) The Declaration of Independence is perhaps the most radical text of Enlightenment ideology with its almost unheard of and, in its day, irrational declaration of inalienable rights. It goes far beyond anything that Kant could support. Rather than respect the ruler, Jefferson et al. assert that if your ruler is no longer respecting those inalienable rights (and they lay out in detail the wrongs suffered by “the People”), “the People” have not just a natural right but an obligation to throw off that ruler and take power for themselves.

Yes, before you say, “but he was a slaver” let me say it first! ( ) However, deeply flawed people are the norm in history and history has been made by deeply flawed people who did not always know what they were doing or even that they were doing it. This is indeed a relativistic stance and I know that relativism and the deferring of judgment may make uncomfortable many who believe that there are natural codes of behavior or divinely proscribed commandments. However, if you look for purity in the past you will be as disappointed as looking for it in the present. “It is moral certainty, not tentativeness, that historically has encouraged people to harm or kill others. Genocide, racial and religious persecution, and the rest of the long catalog of political acts that have stained human history can only come from people who are sure that they are right. Only in bad novels and comic books do characters knowingly do evil and boast of it. In life, people rationalize their actions in moral terms...” (Edelman, Constructing the Political Spectacle, 1988:5). This is certainly no less true for ourselves as it is for Jefferson and so many others. It is worth noting that Kant's “What is Enlightenment?” was published in 1784. Mozart dies in 1791. You know the significant dates in North America at that time.

Anyway, Kant thinks that only a few succeed in breaking free on their own.  Obviously, too, there are lots of possible references back to Plato's cave in the Republic. Although individuals might become enlightened, society can not merely because of these few individuals.

This constraint on enlightenment is overcome by shifting our view away from seeing enlightenment as an individual phenomenon to Enlightenment as a social phenomenon: The Enlightenment of a Public.

This public will throw off the guardians only after a period wherein the public learns to use Reason in the governing of itself, and individuals learn the public use of reason and the obligation/debts of self-discipline. During this time, the public is no doubt susceptible to the prejudices instilled in them over the long period of supervision. They might even turn on the former guardians and inflict the same types of domination that was inflicted on them. “Thus the public can only slowly attain enlightenment.” And without freedom, Enlightenment of the public is impossible.

In other words, we must learn to be free and we can only learn this by restricting our freedom until we learn to use it wisely (rationally).

To Kant --- surrounded by revolutions and the social unrest that can lead to revolution --- most revolutions do not fundamentally change our ideologies and ways of life. It is true that they get rid of despots, but often simply replace one despot with another. A true revolution, though a rare event, changes our way of thinking and not just who our leaders are. Without this, Kant argues, “new prejudices will serve just as well as old ones to harness the great unthinking masses.” 

We need freedom, he says, but what do we mean by this? Well, it is the freedom to “make the public use of one's reason at every point.” ------ the right to argue with each other, to criticize. It is precisely this freedom that is being repressed and preventing the progress of enlightenment.
“But in reality, we hear from corner of society the order ‘Do not argue!’”
Now Kant presents us with four figures from his society that specifically issue this command. They are for us representations of the apparatus of authority during his day: the military, the state bureaucracy, the Church, and the Prince/tyrant/Leviathan.
First, there is the military officer who says 'Do not argue, but drill!'
Second, the tax collector [who says] 'Do not argue, but pay!'
Third, the Cleric [who says] 'Do not Argue, but believe!'
And there is a fourth one, too, the Prince who says 'Do not argue, but obey!' However, it just so happens that Kant's uniquely Enlightened emperor, Frederick the Great, says “Argue as must as you like, and about what you like, but obey!”

Still, we are left with these four figures of authority:
      Tax collector
and their four commands:
       Pay our taxes

We can not be totally free or ‘go back to nature,’ nor would we want such a return. You have heard the phrase, no doubt, the wise restraints that make men free” and notice it in its context as coined during the 1930s for the Harvard Law School commencement: “You are ready to aid in the shaping and application of those wise restraints that make men free.” It is not as if the relation between authority/government and knowledge is some secret. In fact, the relation has been assumed and certainly is apparent in, e. g., Plato’s Republic.

Instead, one hears in this famous dictum the implicit idea that free men are restrained, controlled.... that they must repress a part of themselves in order to be free.

And so if we must have the restrictions, then we must distinguish between those that promote Enlightenment and those that create obstacles to Enlightenment.

And to make this distinction, Kant identifies two manners of using Reason, one that is a restricted or private/civil reason as opposed to the public use of reason. This public use of freedom is the critical use of it and should therefore be free if the public is to be educated: “The public use of one's reason must always be free, and it alone can bring about enlightenment among men.”

The measure of this freedom is to be found in the existence of a new social representative: the Scholar or the learned/wise man. This person uses Reason when he expresses himself in public is “like a scholar before the reading public.” The enlightened individual acts as a citizen when he expresses himself as a scholar in critiquing an order, a tax, a belief, or the judgment of the authorities, just as it is expressed by his obedience.

If left to ourselves and in freedom, we would become enlightened. It is our nature to become so, but we have created structures that both prevent and encourage enlightenment. But we can’t be left to alone for we are social animals. Laws, regulations, and restrictions on how one carries out their duties in public office, civil society/business, or private affairs are necessary because, if for no other reason, social labor must be organized and rationally carried out. We can debate how to carry out an industrial/military/civil process both before and after we perform it........ but when it is being performed, we must do our duty.
“The touchstone of everything that can be concluded as a law for a people lies in the question whether the people could have imposed such a law on itself.... and what a people may not decree for itself can even less be decreed for them by a Monarch or tyrant....Men work themselves gradually out of barbarity if only intentional artifices are not made to hold them in it.”
This free thinking effects the “character of the people” who as a result gradually become capable of self-government because this freedom promotes “the principles of government” itself. So that government comes to treat humans in accordance with their dignity, and not as machines or instruments of production (as in Aristotle). So Kant asks, do we live in an Age of Enlightenment? And his answer is a definitive “No.” We live in an age of Enlightenment, by which he means an age where everything must submit to criticism.

But then Kant concludes by turning his praise to his Emperor, the one who says “Argue as much as you want and about what you want, but obey!”

And finally he confronts a paradox. The more civil freedom/private freedom, the greater are the restrictions on the use Reason, the less civil freedom, the more likely the individual can develop into a fully rational human.

Now let’s turn to first to what can be thought of as a companion short essay entitled “What is Orientation in Thinking?” Kant concludes with the following paragraph and long footnote:
Friends of the human race and of all that it holds most sacred! Accept whatever seems most credible to you after careful and honest examination, whether it is a matter of facts or of rational arguments; but do not deny reason that prerogative which makes it the greatest good on earth, namely its right to be the ultimate touchstone of truth.* If you fail in this respect, you will be unworthy of this freedom and will surely forfeit it; and you will bring the same misfortune don upon those other guiltless souls who would otherwise have been inclined to employ their freedom lawfully and hence in a manner conducive to the world’s best interests!
[Footnote] *To think for oneself means to look within oneself (i.e., in one’s own reason) for the supreme touchstone of truth; and the maxim of thinking for oneself at all times is enlightenment. Now this requires less effort than is imagined by those who equate enlightenment with knowledge, for enlightenment consists rather in a negative principle in the use of one’s cognitive powers, and those who are exceedingly rich in knowledge are often least enlightened in their use of it. To employ one’s own reason means simply to ask oneself, whenever one is urged to accept something, whether one finds it possible to transform the reason for accepting it, or the rule which follows from what is accepted, into a universal principle governing the use of one’s reason. Everyone can apply this test to himself; and when it is carried out, superstition and zealotry will be seen to vanish immediately, even if the individual in question does not have nearly enough knowledge to refute them on objective grounds. For he is employing the maxim of the self-preservation of reason. It is consequently very easy to lay the basis of enlightenment in individual subjects by means of education; one must merely begin at an early stage to accustom young minds to this reflection. To enlighten an era, however, is a very protracted process; for there are numerous external obstacles which either preclude that mode of education or make it more difficult to implement (Kant, “What is Orientation in Thinking?” from Political Writings, 1786:249).
The other aspects of Enlightenment come together in this use of reason:

Nature / Natural History
the Individual
the Market and social contract
Human Rights
Universal History
Progress and domination
The naturalizing of the social world and the social domination of nature

Reason can understand Nature; nature is not divine but a world of systems, logics, unfoldings (the original meaning of “evolution”) and progressions with a deep past, and hence the study of nature would be called Natural History. Reason is the property of all Individuals who express themselves through language (in Cultural Studies, “language” is always understood as referring to speech, texts, visual signs, gestures, etc.). Individuals enter into relations with each other through a Social Contract which is the basis of the Market as a sphere of exchange between individuals --- and the Supreme Court recently reminded us that a corporation is an individual, too. The contract assumes the existence of certain universal individual rights. The entire history of society moves in one direction, and all societies are directed towards a single goal: the realization of these universal rights. All Nations will develop through the same stages, until they all reach the highest stage of perfection in the achievement of universal rights for all individuals. This Universal History has at its core is the concept of Progress. Progress was the most revolutionary concept of a rising bourgeoisie that embraced carried forward the ideology of an age of Enlightenment.

As Ernst Cassirer wrote, albeit a bit romantically because of his affinity to that rising bourgeois class “...[the Enlightenment] thirst for knowledge and intellectual curiosity are directed not only toward the external world; the thought of this age is even more passionately impelled by that other question” i.e., the question of Man. “Pope gave brief and pregnant expression to this deep-seated feeling of the age in the line ‘The proper study of mankind is man.’” The Enlightenment “senses that a new force is at work within it, but it is even more fascinated by the activity of this force than by the creations brought forth by that activity. It rejoices not only in results, but it inquires into, and attempts to explain, the form of the process leading to these results. The problem of intellectual ‘progress’... appears in this light. Perhaps no other century is so completely permeated by the idea of intellectual progress as that of the Enlightenment.” While we see many different expressions of this in many branches of knowledge and in varied technological advances, these all converge for Cassirer:
“All the various energies of the mind are... held together in a common center of force. Variety and diversity of shapes are simply the full unfolding of an essentially homogeneous formative power. When the eighteenth century wants to characterize this power in a single word, it calls it ‘reason.’ ‘Reason’ become the unifying central point of this century, expressing all that it longs and strives for, and all that it achieves.... The eighteenth century is imbued with a belief in the unity and immutability of reason. Reason is the same for all thinking subjects, all nations, all epochs, and all cultures.” (The Philosophy of the Enlightenment. Boston: Beacon, 1951:4-7.)

Cassirer uses terms like “mind” and “feeling of the age” to avoid a more accurate concept that we will use: ideology.

With Enlightenment comes a disenchantment of Nature, a turning of Nature into a thing or commodity for exploitation. But one of the scientific breakthroughs of the Enlightenment was the decentering of humans in relation to the natural world. Humans were placed within nature and Natural History flourished through its attention to the place of humans in the natural order. This is or course epitomized by Linneaus’ System of Nature, which not only gave us our modern system of classifying plants and animals, but also placed humans in the natural order for the first time. It is at this moment that you can have Man as “the proper subject of study.” Nietzsche certain pointed this out to us as well, but without the conservatism of Cassirer:
To breed an animal with the right to make promises --- is not this the paradoxical task that nature has set itself in the case of man? Is it not the real problem regarding man? ....To ordain the future in advance in this way, man must first have learned to distinguish necessary events from chance ones, to think causally, to see and anticipate eventualities as if they belong to the present, to decide with certainty what is the goal and what the means to it, and in general be able to calculate and compute. Man himself first of all have become calculable, regular, necessary, even in his own image of himself, if he is to be able to stand security for his own future which is what one who promises does! (Genealogy of Morals. New York: Vintage. 1967:57-58.)

There is the view in Cultural Studies, which is drawn directly from Horkheimer and Adorno, that we use the same rationality to exploit and repress the nature that is inside of ourselves just as we exploit and repress that the nature that we have reduced to a mere object. There is, the Frankfurt School further argued, a pervasive sado-masochism in the everyday life of the social relations of capital. This brings us to our other text for today: “Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality” from Dialectic of Enlightenment.

Juliette, Morality and the Social Relations of Capital
“From Kant’s Critique to Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, the hand of philosophy had traced the writing on the wall, but one individual put that writing into practice, in all its details. The work of the Marquis de Sade exhibits ‘understanding without direction from another’ --- that is to say, the bourgeois subject freed from all tutelage.” --- Horkheimer in Dialectic of Enlightenment.

This chapter from Dialectic of Enlightenment was written by Horkheimer. There is no record that Adorno directly contributed to it. This excursus attempts to demonstrate that the heart of the bourgeois world is a domain of freedom but also of cruelty. This is the paradox of western society, or of any modern society where the social relations of capital prevail. The technologies that are essential aspects of these relations are embedded within a whole set of social relations which can literally be seen in Sade: technologies of pleasure and arrangements of bodies around a machine that both satisfies and produces desire. It can also be seen in the positions of the Explorer and the prisoner, the guard, the superintendent, etc. in Kafka's Penal Colony. These relations themselves are not static, but have their own histories.

Into hands stained by the murder of spouses and children, sodomy, killing, prostitution, and infamy, heaven has placed these riches to reward me for such abominations.
Horkheimer quotes this line from Sade because it describes the benefits of modern life. It may be exaggerated, but that exaggeration does not rob it of its insight. We have been rewarded by history with our lifestyle (something to consider as you sit in front of a computer right now). If all the world is a stage, then the world is also a theater of cruelty in a very real sense: “...when power was at stake, the rulers have piled up mountains of corpses even in recent centuries.” (Dialectic, 91)

How might this be understood? Well, first we must remember that the Enlightenment, the rise of the Bourgeoisie, and the rise of capital can not be separated. They depended upon each other Think again about Kant's famous statement on the meaning of Enlightenment and the central themes in the ideology of Enlightenment.

There is a great coherence to this view. It is this coherance that makes it quite attractive. It presents the enlightened person as the object of progress, as an individual who is courageous and rational. It also describes an entire transformation in the understanding of the relationship between Society and Nature, and between human and human.

Now this courage that Kant refers to is a special quality that has been carefully cultivated. It is not the wild courage of associated with the battlefield, but belongs to a new kind of human: the individual. The Enlightened individual becomes such because they are courageous in their wise use of Reason. They are no longer under the guidance of another, but free to think for themselves. Thinking for yourself --- even thinking that you are a unified self--- is a new phenomenon, he says, and most people fear such a moment of emancipation when the alternative is the comfort of the established order. It is a quality that could potentially belong to everyone, but in practical terms belongs only to a few who know how to use it. One might say that this is still the case, which is why Kant says we live in an age of Enlightenment, but not in an enlightened age.

Along with this freedom, though come new obligations, the obligations of an Enlightened Individual no longer under the yoke of feudal lords or the Church. This new freedom must be exercised with a certain restraint, for one is allowed such freedom of thought only under the Emperor Frederick, and so Enlightenment should also make one realize that a certain debt is owed to that which allows such freedom of thought and action. Enlightenment, then, is not just about freedom and progress. But whether it is freedom or obligation, everything refers back to Reason. While Kant advised that we stop at the point where Reason threatens the social order and thus the conditions for its own existence. There is, Horkheimer says, the possibility that Reason through its very success will come to threaten its own existence. The very rationalization of life through authority, science, and bureaucracy threatens the freedom upon which Reason is based. The rationalization of life deprives Nature as well of any meaning except as a material for rational exploitation (e. g., “wild life management,” “forest stewardship,” etc.). Rationalization comes to threaten life itself by making Nature and humans into objects for study and use. The disenchantment of Nature, as Max Weber referred to it.

The long paragraph from pages 68-70 is the heart of Horkheimer’s argument about nature being transformed into an object and what that means for our understanding of our own social relations:

For the rulers, however, human beings become mere material, as the whole of nature has become material for society. After the brief interlude of liberalism in which the bourgeois kept each other in check, power is revealing itself as archaic terror in a fascistically rationalized form.
Now Horkheimer quotes from Juliette:

The religious chimeras,’ says the Prince of Francavilla at the court of the King of Naples,‘must be replaced by utmost terror. The people must be freed form the fear of a future Hell. Once that is destroyed they will abandon themselves to anything. But that chimerical fear must be replaced by penal laws of enormous severity, which apply, of course, only to the people, since they alone cause unrest in the state. Malcontents are born only to the lower classes. What do the rich care for the idea of a leash they will never feel themselves, if this empty semblance gives them the right to grind down those living under their yoke? You will find no one in that class who will not permit the darkest shadow of tyranny to fall on him, provided it really falls on others.’
And then Horkheimer draws a comparison between Sade, a rationality that governs even our leisure time, and sports.

“Reason is the organ of calculation, of planning; it is neutral with regard to ends; its element is coordination. More than a century before the emergence of sport, Sade demonstrated empirically what Kant grounded transcendentally: the affinity between knowledge and planning which has set its stamp on inescapable functionality on a bourgeois existence rationalized even in its breathing spaces. The precisely coordinated modern sporting squad, in which no member is in doubt over his role and a replacement is held ready for each,” [not unlike any factory or corporation---BRBIII] “has its exact counterpart in the sexual teams of Juliette, in which no moment is unused, no body orifice neglected, no function left inactive. In sport, as in all branches of mass culture, a tense purposive bustle prevails, although none but the wholly initiated observer could fathom the different combinations or the meaning of the games changing fortunes, governed by arbitrarily chosen rules. The special architectonics structure of the Kantian system, like the gymnasts’ pyramids in Sades Orgies and the formalized principles of early bourgeois freemasonry --- cynically reflected in the strict regime of the libertine societies of the 120 Days of Sodom --- prefigures the organization, devoid of any substantial goals, which was to encompass the whole of life. What seems to matter in such events, more than pleasure itself, is the busy pursuit of pleasure, its organization....

‘Just so,’ replies the Prince in Sade to the speaker just quoted, ‘the government itself must control the population. It must possess the means to exterminate the people, should it fear them, or to increase their numbers, should it consider that necessary. And nothing should weigh in the balance of its justice excepts its own interests or passions, together only with the passions and interests of those who, as we have said, have been granted just enough power to multiply our own.’ The Prince points the path which imperialism, reason in its most terrible form, has always followed. ‘Take away its god from the people you wish to subjugate, and you will demoralize it’ [Meaning not only psychological depression, but the destruction of morality in general--- BRBIII] ‘As long as it has no other god than yours, you will always be its master ... Grant it in return the widest, most criminal license. Never punish it, except when it turns against you.’
We are all children of the Enlightenment. Through Reason comes both self-understanding and an understanding of the world. The ability to understand ones' own nature, too. It is the individual who uses this Reason. These individuals are, as they are self-aware, able to enter into contracts (agreements, covenants, etc.) with each other: to give and receive obligations. Thus the market is the sum of these obligations at least as seen by the bourgeoisie. As Marx pointed out, the Market is really an abstract or “alienated” representation of the social relations of real people. The invisible hand is in fact our inability or unwillingness to make visible the exchanges between individuals.

For most of us, it just seems that the domain of Reason expands as the accumulation of knowledge ---and capital--- increases. Life gets “better.” Progress is assured for the individual, the nation, and the species. With Enlightenment comes the ideology of individualism comes as well a recognition that some share certain habits or customs which set them apart from others. For example, some share a more “advanced” way of life. The community, nation, or “people” follow the same path of development that the individual does. The development of the individual recapitulates the development of the species, as does the progress of nations recapitulate the expansion of the species's domination of nature.

Now, perhaps the most positive aspect of Enlightenment is the belief in the universality of the ideology of progress. Enlightenment may begin in one place, but it is the birth right of all humans. Behind our ideology of inalienable rights and of all humans progressing through the same stages of development – of the world itself becoming Enlightened.

It is out of this that the “disciplines” i. e., the current disciplining of the producers and accumulators of knowledge, arise. It is knowledge and culture, after all, that we are always told drive the motor of progress.

All of this sounds great. Who is against electricity or modern medicine? Who would want polio to return? Few would want to return to even those romanticized societies of the past, where only the Ruler held the power of life and death. As Michael Wood of “Hitler's Search...” once said “Throughout history the priest and the executioner have walked hand in hand.”

This leads us back to the place we started. The wealth and benefits that we take for granted come to us as much through blood and cruelty as through kindness and empathy. Much our social, intellectual, and artistic labor involves the creation and maintenance of what are in reality systems of cruelty and terror (“weapons systems,” “missile defense systems,” “delivery systems,” as well as networks, communities, social movements, and of course, the Market) all of which are assumed to be “only for defense.” From the renaming of the War Department to the Department of Defense to the Cold War's doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction to yet another year of the Terror War, we have become quite comfortable with being terrorized. “It is just the way things are.” “It is just the way the world is.” However, to look at terror only in the context of the last 60 years would be to miss the point. What Sade shows us is that terror has been there from the beginning of the bourgeois era, that it indeed defines that era just as much as Reason, progress and enlightenment. If not the priest and the executioner, then terror and reason have been partners since the emergence of Enlightenment. This is the value of Sade’s critique of Reason.

“The Enlightenment of the modern age has been marked from the first by radicalism....” Horkheimer writes, “Juliette’s credo is science. She abominates any veneration which can not be shown to be rational: belief in God and his dead son, obedience to the Ten Commandments, preference of the good to the wicked, salvation to sin....The dark writers of the bourgeoisie, unlike its apologists, did not seek to avert the consequences of the Enlightenment....when power was a stake, the rulers have piled up mountains of corpses even in recent centuries.”
If one needs an more example, then certainly look no further than the rationality of cruelty displayed in our legalistic and rationalistic justification for torturing prisoners captured in the Terror War; torture that takes place in our own penal colony. (See
and listen to the first part of this Brian Leherer show
To find the relationship between terror and Reason, look at the next set of slides below. These feature, on the very surface, the rationalization of torture and its aesthetic. Think about the amount of time and deliberation that went towards devising these artifacts. Think about the constellation of social forces necessary for these to be deployed and used on the bodies of human beings like yourself: the church, the state, the legal profession, the medical knowledge necessary, too. The philosophical rationalizations (no pun intended), the manufacturing knowledge and industrial techniques, the aesthetic sensibility, and the quest for truth are all here, as well. It is this quest for truth that powers progress, but the interrogators, despite their rationality, do not have access to truth except through the body of the prisoner or simply use the prisoner’s own body to “carry out the sentence” as Kafka describes in his Penal Colony, which we will examine in a couple of weeks.

The slides before you today are primarily from two sources. The first, the Constituto Criminalis Theresiana was written in 1768 in an attempt to rationalize punishment. (You can read the work here: Every detail was noted and devises measured so that equality of punishment would be possible. It was considered a work of liberal penal theory. It is also a work of aesthetics. And as we see in many of the devises, a great deal of attention was paid to the aesthetics of the instrument of torture and to the choreography of the torturers. The instruments had to be constructed so as to ensure that the same punishment was being meted out everywhere within the empire. Not only the trial procedure, but the procedures of punishment had to be rationalized and normalized. But again, their was also an aestheticisation of the instruments. The Pear, the Iron Maiden and the “collar & weight” depicted below are obvious examples. Just as today, Reason in the form of design, science, and technology are just as often put to work in the repression of freedom as they are to the task of emancipation.

If there are two poles of the use of Reason, then Frederick and Theresa stand as appropriate representatives, along with Sade.

The second source is Inquisition/Inquisición: A Bilingual Guide to the exhibition of Torture Instruments from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Era, Presented in Various European Cities. Photographs by Marcello Bertoni. 1985. Florence, Italy: Qua d'Arno. The title almost speaks for itself.

I have also added some illustrations from the history of slavery because the same instruments that were being used on the degenerates of Europe were also deployed on the bodies of its “instruments of production.”

Notice that the idea was often to punish and to maim, but not necessarily to kill. Whether the idea was the the former of the later, the maximum amount of thought went into devising the most painful and degrading punishments. This is what Juliette's research reveals. It is no wonder that the worse punishments awaited the heretic, the woman, the homosexual, etc. The very fact that we can find these objects in popular culture, in everyday speech --- “being grilled,” or “being put on the rack,” or “being crucified,” or jokes about “chastity belts” --- that should make us take seriously Nietzsche's remark, echoed later by Freud, that though repressed, the memory of socialization has been burned into us. And we know that whatever has been repressed can not be repressed indefinitely.

“The human being, in the process of his emancipation, shares the fate of the rest of his world. Domination of nature involves domination of man. Each subject not only has to take part in the subjugation of external nature, human and nonhuman, but in order to do so must subjugate nature in himself. Domination becomes 'internalized' for domination's sake....the kinds of weapons or machines that man uses at the various stages of his evolution call for certain forms of command and obedience, of co-operation and subordination, and thus are effective also in bringing into being certain legal, artistic, and religious forms.” ---Max Horkheimer, “The Revolt of Nature” (1947:93 and 103).

Walter Benjamin perhaps captured some of the seeming paradox of the emergence of cultural critique in his description of Klee's Angelus Novus, which was a present to him by the artist and in Benjamin's constant possession until his death. His description was written just before his death in the Pyrenees as he fled the advance of the Nazis.

“A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.”  ---Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History, IX (1940).

NOTE: The performance artist Laurie Anderson used this quote from Benjamin for her song “The Dream Before” (a.k.a., “Progress”):!/s/The+Dream+Before/1kVQio?src=5 or watch a 2001 performance here:

This is a statement that is often pointed to as important to understanding the views that gave rise to Cultural Studies. Because you can bet that there are other interpretations out there that are no less concerned with questions of power and the meaning of culture. For example, those that Critical Theory arose in opposition and resistance to... interpretations such as this one:

The introduction of Inquisition/Inquisición ends with these words: “The Roman saying of homo hominibus lupus, 'man is a wolf to men,' is a vile calumny of wolves.... Probably the last survivor of the human race will be some torture victim in an underground cell beyond the reach of radiation.”

Over the next three weeks we will look into some of the other tendencies and ideas that came together in Cultural Studies, such as Borges, Kafka, Freud, and the study of popular culture. Then we will turn to the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, Stuart Hall and the Birmingham School, and the American Reception.


  Theresa and Frederick II 
 Alessandro Magnasco
The Inquisition or (Interrogations in a Jail) (1710-1720) 

(The Establishment of Criminal Inquiries, 1769.)

Thumbscrews, from the Constituto Criminalis Theresiana.

Shin Breaker in use, from the Constituto Criminalis Theresiana.

The Pendulum. 1500s-1700s from the Constituto Criminalis Theresiana.

Illustrations of machines of pleasure from Sade's Julliette

Interrogation chair, 17th century original. Florence, Italy.

The Garrotte, remained in use in Spain until the fall of Franco in 1975.

Iron Maiden of Nuremberg, 18th Century copy of 15th century original.

Head Crusher, Venice, 1500-1700.
Cotton Mill, United States, 19th Century

The use of everyday objects is also notable in these cultural artifacts. Many of the technologies are simply converted for use on humans. For example, the cotton mill was an industrial device which was easily converted into a torture devise. This means that even when it was being used to mill cotton rather than swing bodies, its existence served as a constant reminder of its other uses. One could be both put to work “at the mill with slaves” and tortured on the mill with slaves. The lack of choice masquerading as real alternatives remains with us in the false choice of consumer products and our devotion to earning the money to exchange for those commodities.

ON this page we publish an illustration of an INSTRUMENT OF TORTURE used among the slave-holders of Missouri. The correspondent who sends us the sketch writes MONTGOMERY CITY. MISSOURI, January 24, 1862.
I send you the sketch of an instrument used by the secession slave-masters of Missouri to punish their Negroes. Not long since one of these wretched victims came within our lines with an instrument of this description round his neck. It was securely riveted there, and required an hour's filing before it could be removed. This proved to be a very painful operation to the poor "contraband;" for his neck was so snugly encased by the iron band, and the instrument was of such a peculiar shape, as to render the operation difficult of accomplishment. The negro stated that he had worn it two months, and this statement has been corroborated by reliable Union men at the same county. The form of the instrument prevented him from lying down and taking his rest at night; and its weight and close fit rendered it very burdensome during the day. It consisted of a heavy iron ring, fitting closely round the neck, from which extended three prongs, each two feet in length, with a ring on the end. I suppose the design of the instrument was that a chain should be attached to it, and thus secure the victim beyond all possible hope of escape; but this negro had been running loose, with the thing round his neck, for two months; and finally, ascertaining that Federal soldiers were near, speedily repaired to them for deliverance from his tormentor. Of course he found the deliverance which he sought, and the instrument of torment is preserved by us as a mournful example of the deep degradation to which the soul, tainted by secession, may descend. It is needless to say that we did not send the negro back to his master, but so far as we were concerned, left him perfectly free to do his own will. The name of the person who has thus proved himself destitute of all humanity is Dudley Wells, of Montgomery County, Missouri. He is now a prisoner, held as a traitor to his country, and awaiting the punishment due his crime; and if he does not receive it at an earthly tribunal he certainly will at the tribunal of an outraged conscience.
Dodge's Battery, 4th Regiment Iowa Volunteers.

From:Harper's Weekly, February 15, 1862

The Punishment Collar with dead weight (a.k.a. ball and chain), 1500-c.1860. Together, they weigh twenty-seven pounds. Death usually was the result of infections from the abrasion of the neck and shoulders.

Ball and Chain, Europe, America, and Popular Culture

The Chastity Belt, Venice, 17th -19th Century throughout Europe.

The Oral, Rectal, and Vaginal Pear, Venice, 1575-1700s.

Water Torture (Water boarding) 1500's to the present. Currently authorized for use by the American government.  Illustrations from Europe, Philippines, Vietnam, and the United States.

Branks, or Scold's Bridles, Northern Europe and Germany. 1600-1800.
Made entirely of sheet iron. Used on slaves in the New World until 1800s.

Terry Gilliam

Next Lecture -
Borges: Fragments, Dreams. and the Meaning of Tradition