Modernity and the Political Fix

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Professor Andrew Gibson’s Modernity and the Political Fix was published in April 2019 by Bloomsbury in its Political Theologies series. It both follows on from his boos on Misanthropy and his book Intermittency and brings together the political themes of his work since 1999, including his writings on Joyce and Beckett. The thesis it tests and explores is as follows: whatever its roots in Hume and the Enlightenment, and even in Hobbes, modernity proper and in any fully serious sense begins in 1789 with the French Revolution, the experience (and not merely the conviction) of groundlessness and political and social renewability, and therefore a concept of the worldly incarnation of justice and the good. However, modern politics, understood as a politics of justice and the good, is haunted from the start by historical irony, an irony those working on behalf of modern politics prove unable to countenance, think through or keep pace with, let alone resolve (hence `the political fix’). Renovation produces reaction which produces renovation. Renovation and reaction anticipate, compromise, reverse, need and bleed into, borrow from each other, seemingly interminably. It is significant that the word `modern’ considerably predates the word `conservative’. Modern politics continually implodes, threatens to slide or collapse into its opposite, breeds its own opposition as an aspect of modernity itself. With the end of the Cold War, however, the long struggle of modern politics to extricate itself from its problematic entanglements comes to an end. Whether redefined as postmodernism, globalization, neo-liberal democracy or `total capital’, the scene of implosion promotes itself as reinterpreting or indeed replacing politics.
Modern politics, then, is presently chronically in retreat and on the defensive, even on the wane. But this by no means necessarily spells its death. The task now becomes the rescue of key modern political concepts, their preservation and transmission, but according to an altogether different conception of political temporality, political causality, political subjectivity and fidelity. The concepts chiefly at stake in the book (as in its chapter titles) are Historicity, the Event, the Remainder, the People Untransformed and Transmission. Literature and the arts are key in this context. After decades of political explications of literature which in effect always elevated the political above the aesthetic, it is now time to rethink modern politics with modern literature (and art, music and theory) as one’s starting-point, not least because modern literature, theory and art repeatedly understood historical irony, grasped it and pursued its implications to intellectual conclusions, as modern philosophy and political thought did seldom or not at all. The significant figures in the book in this respect include Byron, Goya, early Foucault, Joyce, Woolf, Wagner, Joseph Roth, Gabriele Tergit, Döblin, Canetti and Lacan. The book ends by considering how far, in the light of its argument, certain theologians, and radical poets influenced by theology (R.S. Thomas, Norman Nicholson), can assist in revising our modern models of political thought.

A political theology for our times.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages248
ISBN (Electronic)9781350096998, 9781350096967
ISBN (Print)9781350096974
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2019

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