Nmherman on 6 Oct 2000 06:07:07 -0000

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Al Gore and the Internet

In a message dated 10/6/2000 12:48:06 AM Central Daylight Time, 
Jay@Fenello.com writes:

>  it is being systematically 
>  excluded! 

Isn't this basic Chomsky?  Here is an essay I wrote on commerce in 18th 
century English Theatre.  Prof. Felicity Nussbaum of UCLA will confirm the 


Nickolas Herman
Prof. Joel Reed
Master's Dossier
May 1, 1998

        The Terms of Exchange: Gender, Commerce, and the Public 
           Sphere in Two Eighteenth-Century English Narratives


Thus far in this paper I have tried to establish three major points.  The 
first was that the ethic of commercial humanism can be meaningfully 
interpreted as the reification of bourgeois ideology.  This reification takes 
the form of a false equation of the role of property owner with the role of 
human being pure and simple, and the attempt to disguise the inherent 
contradiction of a social order founded on relations of domination while 
basing its legitimacy on the free exercise of communicative reason.  The 
second was that because the representational power of the novel lay in its 
capacity to internalize the divisions of knowledge and labor the middle class 
existed to mediate, the conflicts and divisions inherent in in bourgeois 
ideology must be manifested in narrative representation.  Moreover, these 
conflicts could not be resolved one-sidedly in favor of ideology within the 
narrative form, but must retain the active engagement of ideology with the 
idea of its dissolution.  My third major argument was a specific inquiry into 
how one particular attempt to efface the contradictions of mercantile 
ideology within narrative--namely,  the moralization of commercial culture 
through concepts of gender difference-- failed, leaving significant and 
recoverable fissures for dissent.
    Although the strength of the connections among these three assertions 
warrants serious intellectual inquiry, and certainly rewards analysis with a 
rich array of insights, the possibility of a highly rigorous and radically 
unified connection among the three must not be overlooked.  If the ideology 
of commercial humanism depends upon and necessitates the ascendancy of 
narrative in the novel form as its primary self-representation in discourse, 
narrative itself--its capacity to articulate meaning--may possess no more 
legitimacy than the flawed Enlightenment identity of property owner with 
human being as such with whose emergence narrative coincided.  
    Both Anderson and McKeon view "seriality" as a necessary condition of 
narrative's pre-eminence as a mode of cultural representation.  In his 
description of how the narrative-based forms of the novel and the newspaper 
were able to construct the imagined community of nation, Anderson cites 
Walter Benjamin's concept of "'homogeneous, empty time,' in which 
simultaneity is...transverse, cross-time, marked not by prefiguring and 
fulfillment [as in religion and myth], but by temporal coincidence... 
measured by clock and calendar" (Anderson 24).  McKeon does not mention 
Benjamin, but makes a similar connection of seriality to narrative in his 
discussion of Levi-Strauss:  the structure of myth "'deteriorates into 
seriality'....At the far end of this process are the origins of the novel" 
(McKeon 5).  
    Benjamin is profoundly skeptical of any representation dependent for its 
force on homogeneous, empty time.  He writes that "The concept of the 
historical progress of mankind cannot be sundered from the concept of its 
progression through homogeneous, empty time.  A critique of the concept of 
such a progression must be the basis of any criticism of the concept of 
progress itself" (WB 261).  The Enlightenment paradigms of human progress are 
false because they are predicated on a serial conception of time; in 
Benjamin's view, no critique of Enlightenment that elides this crucial link 
is valid.       
    Benjamin does not believe that homogeneous empty time can be invested 
with meaning in the fullest sense; rather, it permits only the continual 
witness of the wreckage of possible meaning which cannot be retrieved.  He 
illustrates this in his discussion of Klee's painting, Angelus Novus:  "Where 
we perceive a chain of events...[the angel] sees one single catastrophe which 
keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage....[A] storm irresistibly propels him 
into the future to which his back is turned....This storm is what we call 
progress" (WB 259).  Homogeneous, empty time replaces the Jetztzeit, "time 
filled by the presence of the now" (HabermasPP 137), with a linearity that 
can only catalog the loss of past Jetztzeiten.  In other words, the 
precondition of narrative is a conception of time that only permits an 
awareness--like the Angel's gaze--of the absence of meaning.
    If we accept Benjamin's assertions about the nature of linear time, 
narrative itself must come under scrutiny as an integral mechanism of the 
ideology of empire and the disruption of the public sphere, as well as an 
obstacle to the complete realization of aesthetic experience.  The retrieval 
of marginalized discourse from the fissures in ideological narrative falls 
into the category of "rescuing critique" (HabermasPP 146) that extracts 
"semantic potential" from the artifacts of linear time and revitalizes them 
in a fully realized discursive Jetztzeit--an aesthetic analogue to the public 
sphere.  Linear time, and narrative representation, must be carefully 
interrogated as constructs used to suppress the meanings that threaten 
ideology.  If we consider time as a part of the natural world, Habermas' 
description of Adorno's critique of Enlightenment is particularly relevant to 
this distorted construction of time:
        [In] the original Enlightenment....The I acquires its inner             
        organizational form in the measure that, to coerce external nature, 
it          coerces the amorphous element in itself, its inner nature.  Upon 
this            relationship of autonomy and mastery of nature is perched the 
                triumphant self-consciousness of the Enlightenment. 
        (HabermasPP 100)
Enlightenment gazing, like Klee's angel, upon the accumulating wreckage of 

Works Cited: 

1.  Addison, Joseph.  The Spectator , Number Sixty-Nine (19 May 1711).  
Literature and Social Order in Eighteenth-Century England.  Ed. Stephen 
Copley.  London:  Croom Helm, 1984.  62-65.

2.  Anderson, Benedict.  Imagined Communities:  Reflections on the Origin and 
Spread of Nationalism.  London:  Verso, 1991.

3.  Benjamin, Walter.  Illuminations.  Ed. Hannah Arendt.  New York:  
Harcourt Brace, 1969.

4.  Brown, Laura.  Ends of Empire:  Women and Ideology in Early 
Eighteenth-Century Literature.  Ithaca:  Cornell UP, 1993.

5.  Cumberland, Richard.  The West Indian.  London:  1771.  (First Edition, 
Microfilm; cited by line number as)

6.  Guest, Harriet.  "A Double Lustre:  Femininity and Sociable Commerce, 
1730-60."  Eighteenth-Century Studies  23 (1990):  479-501.

7.  Guest, Harriet.  "'These neuter somethings':  Gender Difference and 
Commercial Culture in Mid-C18th England."  Unpublished Paper, 1996.

8.  Habermas, Jurgen.  Philosophical-Political Profiles.  Trans. Frederick G. 
Lawrence.  Cambridge:  MIT Press, 1983.

9.  Habermas, Jurgen.  Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere.  
Trans. Frederick G. Lawrence.  Cambridge:  MIT Press, 1984.

10.  Habermas, Jurgen.  The Theory of Communicative Action.  2 vols.  Boston: 
 Beacon Press, 1984-87.

11.  Klein, Lawrence.  "Gender and the Public/Private Distinction in the 
Eighteenth Century:  Some Questions about Evidence and Analytic Procedure."  
Eighteenth-Century Studies 29 (1995):  97-109.

12.  Lillo, George.  The London Merchant.  Ed. William H. McBurney.  Lincoln: 
 Nebraska UP, 1965.

13.  McKeon, Michael.  The Origins of the English Novel 1600-1740.  
Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins UP, 1987.

14.  Nussbaum, Felicity.  Torrid Zones:  Maternity, Sexuality and Empire in 
Eighteenth-Century English Narratives.  Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins UP, 1995.

15.  Olaniyan, Tejumola.  "The Ethics and Poetics of a 'Civilizing Mission':  
Some Notes on Lillo's The London Merchant."  English Language Notes  29.4 
(June 1992):  33-47.

16.  Pocock, J.G.A.  Virtue, Commerce, and History:  Essays on Political 
Thought and History, Chiefly in the Eighteenth Century.  Cambridge:  
Cambridge UP, 1985

17.  Vickery, Amanda.  "Golden Age to Separate Spheres?  A Review of the 
Categories and Chronology of English Women's History."  The Historical 
Journal  36 (1993):  383-414.

18.  Wilson, Kathleen.  "Citizenship, Empire, and Modernity in the English 
Provinces, c. 1720-1790."  Eighteenth-Century Studies  29 (1995):  69-96.

Nettime-bold mailing list