Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era


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Previous Article. Next Article. Carola L. Vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart. Vom Mittelalter bis ins Eine anthropologische Studie. Green, Women Readers in the Middle Ages. Geschichte und Mythos. Aus dem Englischen von Harald Ehrhardt. Deutschsprachige Adversus-Judaeos-Literatur des Edition und Untersuchung. Gattungsverhandlungen zwischen Poetologie und Politik. Revolution and Language in Kant, Goethe and Kleist.

Intermediale Inszenierungen und romantische Kunsttheorie im Werk E. As this article will underline, such an understanding of on-going historical forces is not the reserved mark of a Machiavellian genius but the result of critical analysis applied to strategic thinking in order to unveil all the possibilities of the present. Clausewitz himself was influenced by the extremely rich intellectual environment of early 19 th century Berlin. As my book dedicated to Clausewitz Dufort, demonstrates, the sophistication of On War was inspired by early dialectical methods.

It is this reflexive perspective that allowed Clausewitz to think of societal change itself as a means in the conduct of war. However, the limited cognitive tools he had at hand in his context to systematise this approach left it incomplete even in On War , his celebrated masterpiece. The link between social theory and the production of innovative strategic knowledge in different contexts and eras is a complex question.

Through the elaboration of this genealogical exercise it appears that the changing understanding of the very notion of power, and its correlative concept of critique, is the most influential theoretical precondition for strategic innovation in strategic studies. To approach this question and its relation to strategic thought, the genealogy will cover a wide range of historiographical approaches-defining various meanings for the notion of power-and their influence on strategic studies, including pre-modern Christianity, the Enlightenments and its reactions, Marxism and Realism, critical security studies and post-modernism.

It is generally agreed upon that technological determinism is to a certain extent always implied when one talks of strategy. Developments in weaponry, communications and logistics all influence the field of potential action. The existing technical means are at once tools and constraints for the strategist. In his war taxonomy, John Keegan points at the complex relationships between technological change and strategic reconfiguration see also Baylis et al. Influenced by soviet literature on strategy from the s, Krepinevich identifies technico-military revolutions that divide military history into different technico-military regimes , and suggests that each has had a direct impact on strategic thinking and doctrines see also Bousquet, The adjustment between technological evolution and changing strategic concepts thus presents a predominant set of problems for strategy theorists.

What is less generally integrated into modern strategic thinking is that the rationality governing strategy is itself rooted in the social context from which it emerges; it materialises in conjunction with the ideology, religion, traditions, problems and organisation of a given society. Philip Bobbitt , who argues along these lines, puts forward a multidisciplinary analysis of the influence that both technological evolution and social forms might have on strategy.

From a socio-historical perspective, he retraces the transformations of the interactions inside the triad formed by strategy, law and legitimacy. This triad structures the coming into being, the course, and the form of the main wars in recent Western history see also in historical sociology literature Downing, ; Teschke, and Tilly , Any particular conceptualization of strategy thus remains highly dependent on the social and historical context in which it is formulated, as well as the theoretical perspective upon which it is founded.

Although the classical strategist aims for a universal definition of strategy and its governing laws, his discoveries remain invariably bound by historical specificity. Strategic studies are therefore not exempt from the universalising modern bias. Any strategic doctrine contains its own politico-normative worldview, its own theory of the social world-beyond being a simple instrument of policy; strategy is also ideological in itself Barkawi, To capture the role of ideology in strategic studies it should be understood how strategic thoughts and doctrines are determined by the changing social theories that inform them.

In the last two centuries in Germany, this can be achieved by identifying the different forms of historiography that have informed strategic thought. Indeed, the evolution of historiography precedes the transformation of strategic studies in many ways and only a few strategists have reflexively considered the critical implications and limitations of this determinacy over their plans and policies. The Cambridge School of historical thought will be used here in order to approach the philosophies of history informing past strategists. More fundamentally, strategy remains a radically perspectival but still descriptive term considering the management of the means of political life.

Specifically, the meaning of the very concept of power in Germany has determined much of what has been thought of in terms of strategy. Different German scholars articulate power, in its ubiquitous relationship to force and legitimacy, into forms of historiography that either impede or enable strategists to grasp all the possibilities their present contexts have to offer.

The objective of a genealogical understanding of strategy is to identify the attributes of different notions of power and historiography that may contribute to developing strategic thinking. A remarkable characteristic of such a diachronic comparative exercise is to encounter similar sensibilities, problems and answers over very different places and periods. Although the rationales, motivations and political contexts are irremediably singular 7 , many thinkers share cognitive practices.

The question of reflexivity is often presented as a recent debate in IR, at best one originating with the Frankfurt School. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify similar echoes in previous German authors-from Kant to Marx or Clausewitz-in the forms of explicit or implicit intentions, fragments and practices.

It seems more accurate to speak of recurrent moments of amnesia and rediscovery. The following genealogy looks specifically at suspected seminal periods of reflexive rediscovery or amnesia to identify strategic innovative intellectual practices. Modern Western historiography gradually emerged after the demise of Christian historiography.

Generally, the latter presented historical movements in terms of a linear divine plan only accessible to understanding trough biblical revelations. The crisis of the Carolingian imperial war-economy and the following general downfall of early medieval governance would lead to the appearance of medieval heavy cavalry-the knight. Stemming out of the imperatives of the bellicose rivalries of predatory lordships over defenceless peasants Teschke, , p. They did produce some technical treatises on strategy, such as those of Rabanus Maurus, archbishop of Mainz pp. Indeed, the complexity of military strategy associated with the ancient separation of arms progressively regressed into a most unsophisticated form of warfare.

From mere pawns of a divine plan, political actors were now entitled a certain form of agency Vasoli, , p.

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For the humanist thinkers of the Renaissance period themselves, the secularisation of knowledge was a seminal and critical endeavour aiming at capturing the full purview of human history. With the downfall of the papacy and the empire, the two dominant medieval institutions, the foundation of authority was being transferred to many other existing forms of polities Vasoli, , pp. The artes ascended as a knowledge breaking with scholastic epistemology and aiming at being useful for civil life Skinner, , pp.

In this context Machiavelli undertook, in the small city-state of Florence, the task of understanding power beyond Christian morality-a task that would earn his name an ignominious reputation still alive half a millennium after his death. For the latter, humans were therefore partly free of determinism in their actions and partly submitted to the goddess of Fortune Skinner, , pp. More than an influence from the classics, the corpus Aristotelicum constituted the heart of Florentine humanist education. Machiavelli departed from an Aristotelian historiography-and the legions of advice-books for leaders it inspired his contemporaries to write-with The Prince.

The good life was still to be forsaken, but in order to be successful; the means could not always be virtuous. It was a frontal assault on the necessary unity and coherency of ends and means characterising the Christian legacy. Following Machiavelli, adopting virtuous behaviour may in some cases be an irrational and disastrous policy. Machiavelli considered a fundamental issue of social life when he exposed the fact that no matter how rational humanity can be, irreconcilable political aims-corresponding with various definitions of the Aristotelian good life-will inexorably exist and will create conflictual politics Geuss, , p.

Therefore, Machiavelli , pp. In the latter, the management of politics was not dictated by a predetermined Aristotelian ethical line but evaluated in terms of competing strategic options. As Skinner , p. For the first time recorded since a millennium of Medieval Christian obscurantism, power was exposed in its naked face, as force, as the fundamental explicans of a contingent history. From the premise of the primacy of force, power was understood as a technique and justice as one of its symptoms Machiavelli, , p.

Machiavelli only underlined the need for a preliminary analytical emphasis on the dynamics of power. On the other side, power served no other master than it-self and shall be regarded as following its own imperatives. An interesting moment for studying strategy and its dependency upon the intellectual context is early 19 th century Prussia. It reveals to our eyes the terms in which Clausewitz thought of his troubled and fast-changing world. Since my last book was dedicated to his life and work, it is not necessary to review his doctrine here. Nevertheless, studying the social theories that shaped his work is of crucial importance for understanding-beyond mere personal and contingent circumstances-his ease for strategic innovation and which contradictions he never resolved.

In particular, the following section aims at bringing back to life the early 19 th century Prussian intellectual context and to consider its impact on strategic thought. The historicist element contained in post-Renaissance historiography unleashed in Europe a vision of society as contingent and fluctuating, in sharp contrast to the static social order innate to Christian historiography. The latter generally served afterward as the basic explanatory scheme of historiography in the terms of a linear moral, technological and political advancement of humanity.

As such, reminders of a Christian grand design continued to underline most Modern literature under the form of a devout quest for the nomothetic functioning of history Best 6. As in Christian historiography, events were understood through an overarching structure containing its teleological impulse-a tendency that culminates with the Enlightenments. This form of teleological historiography opened the idea of social transformation and progress to the field of strategy. But it came at a cost. The histories of the Enlightenments were one-dimensional and aimed toward a pre-determined end dictated by a linear philosophy of history.

For this period and beyond, strategic thought was limited to exposing the practical necessities that would provoke the unfolding of a pre-written history. The strategists of the Enlightenments would remain embedded in a neo-Aristotelian vision of power. During the 17 th through the 19 th centuries, the universalistic ideas unleashed tremendous periods of warfare and transformations in European affairs. The French Revolution and its consequences was one of the most blatant examples of the potential of these ideas to put societies in motion.

Paradoxically, strategic thinking remained mostly unable to comprehend the dynamics intrinsic to a form of warfare that extended its reach deep into society. During the Napoleonic Wars the question of the state was of prime concern for philosophers, politicians and strategists. Both were in contact with a third philosopher; the author of On War.


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The influences of Kant, Hegel and Fichte on Clausewitz are still only loosely understood since Clausewitz paid little tribute to the origins of his inspiration. By placing his works in his own intellectual context it is possible to retrace the meaning of power that inspired and defined On War -the most influential work on strategy.

Opening with Kant, the canonical thinker of the Enlightenment period, this section portrays an understanding of history that presupposes a teleological movement and dictates its means and ends over strategy-a historiography that uses human-wills and their conflicts in order to accomplish its purpose. He stated his faith in one of the most powerful high-modernist ideas:.

If it is now asked, whether we at present live in an enlightened age, the answer is: No, but we do live in an age of enlightenment. As such, Kant identified in the progress of the Enlightenment project of emancipation the fundamental determination in human history. Through the antagonistic relationships within a civil-society of maturing rational subjects, a rational world was undoubtedly constructing itself.

As such, Kant further developed his conception of reason as a teleological project-as an end per se -which shall ultimately tend to materialise in the perfect constitution and perpetual peace:. For if we start out from Greek history as that in which all other earlier or contemporary histories are preserved or at least authenticated, if we next trace the influence of the Greeks upon the shaping and mis-shaping of the body politic of Rome , which engulfed the Greek state, and follow down to our own times the influence of Rome upon the Barbarians who in turn destroyed it, and if we finally add the political history of other peoples episodically , in so far as knowledge of them has gradually come down to us through these enlightened nations, we shall discover a regular process of improvement in the political constitutions of our continent which will probably legislate eventually for all other continents Kant, , p.

The Kantian philosophy of history was based on an anthropological conception of human subjects-as endowed with perfectible reason and free-will-who aggregate in society, causing the inevitable linear development of rationality and its materialisation tending towards a rational organisation of the world Dean, , p. As such, even if he was drastically opposed to war, for Kant the French Revolution and the Revolutionary wars were symptoms of progress since they favoured civil constitutions and global cosmopolitanism.

All in all, in such an understanding of history, critical reason was-in Kant-the faculty to discern between freedom and determination in history. It served to uncover the necessity of the present and its very development realised the intrinsic teleology of history as inscribed in human nature The death of Kant in marked the end of the Enlightenment golden age in European political thought. It was Hegel who most effectively attacked Kantian reason, at the beginning of the 19 th century, alleging that it was based on a principle of subjectivity Habermas, , pp.

As we previously mentioned, on October 13 th , while drafting the last pages of the Phenomenology of Spirit , Hegel could observe from his study Napoleon entering Jena to prepare for the upcoming battle against the Prussian forces Paret, , p. This scholar-who had previously championed the French Revolution 25 -turned against universal cosmopolitanism in a Berlin under French occupation. A fierce opponent of an oppressive state, Fichte now preached for the maximization of state-power in order to rescue national liberty. Accordingly, he formed a quite visceral hatred of Napoleon, the man who had betrayed the cause […] To his mind, the French had ultimately shown themselves to be unworthy of their appointed role in spreading the evangel of Freedom Moore, in Fichte , , p.

This is in accordance with God-given impulse in man, causing that interrelationship of creative tensions upon which the community of peoples rests Fichte CPA quoted in Sterling : Here Fichte re-established Machiavellian necessities within inter-national struggles in balance with the idealism embodied in the elected nation and its desire for expansion see Meinecke, , p. If for Hegel the identity of Reason and reality was an accomplished deed, for Fichte, it remained an end to be actively forsaken.

Witnessing the defeat of Napoleon, the later Hegel would ultimately join Fichte in considering the nation as the prime site for the realisation of the World Spirit. Politics was thought of in terms of necessities and duties toward predetermined historical ends. Emblematically, on both side of the Napoleonic Wars power struggles were largely thought of in terms of universal legitimacy. Universalist ideas also permeated reactionary and conservative intellectual circles. Primarily concerned with pan-European aristocratic community, his main goal within the Holy Alliance was to defend and reinstate the God-given ancient regime beyond national interest.

First unleashed as a defensive counterweight for dynastic states toward disruptive humanist ideals Herberg-Rothe, , p. This integration would serve as the foundation for Realpolitik 34 thinking, which postulated a priori the war between expansionist nations and located the primordial locus of legitimacy within the nation-state defending and expending national influence. Leopold von Ranke inspired the Prussian School of historiography with its accent upon the state and inter-state relations.

In this specific historiographical perspective, political and judicial institutions were no longer considered in terms of the Aristotelian ideal of good life-they were strictly contemplated as means of state-power [Machtsaat] serving the supreme interest of the nation. The end to be pursued-the empowerment of the German nation-state [Volksstaat]-was no longer open to question.

Meanwhile culture, education, industrialisation and nationalism itself became means for the complete incorporation of Volksstaat ideology into society to maximise state-power Pois, , p. Realpolitik strategic thought considered all living forces of society within its field of concern. Nevertheless, it is within this post-Kantian intellectual reaction against the Enlightenments and cosmopolitanism-which would also engender the anti-rationalist ideas of Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche-that some of the most influential ideas about strategy were produced under the pen of a participant of the Jena-Auerstedt battle, Carl von Clausewitz.

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Influenced by Kant, Hegel and Fichte Strachan, , pp. Corresponding with Fichte after reading the Addresses and his defence of Machiavelli [], Clausewitz focused his practical concerns on the instrumental necessity of fostering German statist nationalism [Volksstaat] through education to win a war against the French Emperor Paret, , p. Among other elements, his strategic legacy incorporated the fields of passion and identity under a Machiavellian perspective of power. Through this dialogue, the strategist was compelled to reconsider his certitudes and to alter his means to respond to the changing character of war.

But it was an amalgam of available German idealist influences that allowed the author of On War to structure a reflexive theory of practice for the strategist. Likewise, Clausewitz believed that war also had a spirit of its own under its abstract absolute form. His action as a commander, Clausewitz thought at that point, revealed its transcendental essence in real wars. It had the effect of transforming the character and the rules of war, as they were previously known. Strachan , p. Clausewitz did not see a reflective intelligence perhaps like his own as an appropriate quality for a great commander.

The German adjective for intellectual in this passage is geistiger, with its additional connotations of spirit and inspiration. Knowledge had to be translated into capability and decisiveness. In , eight months after he read the Addresses to the German Nation , Clausewitz corresponded with Fichte regarding an article the latter had written on Machiavelli Paret [], pp. Redacted in this time of political collapse in Prussia, this article represented for Fichte the moment of his foremost radicalisation in his belief of the primacy of force.

Fichte articulated an idealist philosophical understanding of individual duties toward the state with Realpolitik at a time when Clausewitz struggled to find a philosophical foundation for his ideas on war and social reforms Paret, [], p. It is no coincidence that this article highly impacted him. They shared a Machiavellian understanding of power Paret, , p. The modern art of war, far from using men like simple machines, should vitalize individual energies as far as the nature of its weapons permits Clausewitz letter to Fichte quoted in Paret, [], p.

Fichte and Clausewitz believed that national identity [Volksgeist] could be fostered through state schools and universities. Social reforms-such as nationalist education-were obvious instruments of state-power for them Fichte, , p. These intimate links between war and social change were in themselves for Clausewitz a limitless source of innovative means in war. This approach would inspire many later Marxist strategists such as Lenin and Mao. Among other labels, Liddell Hart , p.

This reputation-apparently shared by the theoreticians of power as force -obviously contributed to his limited influence outside military circles up to the end of the 20 th century. His later readers would associate his legacy with the dramatic consequences of direct strategy and mass mobilisation that characterised 19 th and 20 th century warfare. It was not before four years before his death-that Clausewitz finally broke with this unitary perspective of politik and war.

A theory of war became a reference-an abstract guide strictly considering power as force relations. However, the older Clausewitz-who lived through severe disappointments with the realities of his dynastic state and became pessimistic after witnessing national unity under the Prussian state-was ready to overcome the ontological unity of the nation as a source of legitimacy and as a source of force.

Clausewitz : , emphasis in the original. Indeed, by the end of his life Clausewitz had discovered the ambiguities of his theory of war and exposed the tension between the inherent reality of limited war and its abstract absolute form. As a military theoretician, Clausewitz remained poorly equipped for clarifying the puzzle he himself had sketched. A reading informed by the contemporary distinction, between power as force versus power as legitimacy , alleviates his theory from an important contradiction.

On the one hand, it appears that the abstract notion of absolute war is a reference informing politik as a web of Machiavellian power as force relationships where societal transformations and ideologies are conceived as means in war. Here war operated in the realm of the primacy of force over policy-a subordination to be comprehended in terms of societal and institutional manipulations-and unleashed a totalitarian strategy determined by its socio-historical context.

The confusion arising from a synthetic understanding of power and politik reached another fundamental dimension of his theory of war. Adopting a Machiavellian understanding of power and negating the primacy of politico-normative policy i. Politik -under its neo-Aristotelian definition-became for the later Clausewitz an element that had an instrumental role in his theory of war.

Clausewitz did not elaborate on the consequences of such a stance. Bonded within the teleological social theories and historiographies of Kant, Hegel and Fichte, Clausewitz could not systematize the reflexive consequences inherent to his own theory. But his later ideas contained the seeds of reflexivity applied to strategy a practice he himself had inherited from practical experiences.

However, they have not responded to this implicit call for the development of reflexivity as a fundamental notion of strategic studies. Since its potential was not radically incorporated, strategic studies has remained mesmerized and dependent on On War as a source of reflexive inspiration up to our days. In the bellicose context of German reunification from the nineteen-century through the early twentieth century, the Machiavellian tradition of power as force re-emerged in Germany in order to serve inter-state competition.

Early Clausewitz-like emphasis on the necessity of societal legibility and passions continued to inform strategists who conceived of the empowerment of the nascent German state as an end in itself. Nevertheless, no place was left for reflexive concerns toward the incontestable nationalist ideal. Under his pragmatic command and through three successive wars from to , Prussia succeeded at unifying the German states.

As did Clausewitz and the other reformists before him, Bismarck promoted progressive social reforms while being a conservative and elitist nationalist, institution such bills as the Health Insurance Bill , the Accident Insurance Bill and the Old Age and Disability Insurance Bill It emphasized the purported organic unity of society as a race and the state see Richter, , pp.

Their reflexive endeavour led the project in different directions but all have brought precious contributions to the reflexive turn of a Clausewitzian approach to strategy. Friederich Nietzsche endeavoured to liberate German philosophy from its teleological necessities. As did Machiavelli before him he operated a frontal philosophical charge against Christianity but also attacked the modern rationalist faiths.

Questioning the value of morality per se , Nietzsche stood outside of ethics Geuss, , p. His understanding of historicism was one centred on relations of power with no guiding intelligence or grand design. He introduced a historiography that is fundamentally contingent in its results. Likewise, Nietzsche took a drastically opposite direction from Kant and Hegel by situating reason as a thing of this world. When Nietzsche proclaimed the end of philosophy, he stated no more than the unavoidable entanglement of a reason in a contingent history, a multiplicity of social conflicts and the turmoil of human desires McCarthy in Habermas, , p.

Morality, as with any other conception, was the result of precise histories of struggles, which he explored retroactively as genealogies. His scepticism in face of the concrete capacities of reason was the antithetical response to the Kantian absolute principle of Reason. Its fundamental premise was that Kantian reason was a veil for a disguised will to power and domination. Nietzsche criticised idealist theoretical depth as a fraudulent invention of the philosopher.

Nietzsche also developed a form of reflexivity-as genealogical accounts-, which Clausewitz could never approach due to his rationalist and idealist theoretical influences. On the one hand, in his crusades against the authority of Christian morality, it cannot be denied that Nietzsche advanced more than a basic materialist posture toward the human spirit in order to embrace force and domination as virtue per se. Herein, Nietzsche denounced the discourse of progress and modernity as veiled forms of domination Habermas, , p.

Likewise, he denunciated the Volksstaat drifts and opposed anti-Semitism and pan-Germanism. Although himself a German nationalist politically and philosophically, Meinecke proposed detaching this form of historiography from its racist underpinning. This contingent explanation did not hold for the German context after where Meinecke argued that authoritarian forms of rule are more adapted to ensure state-power Sterling, , p.

The two World Wars that he personally experienced led him to consider the intrinsic contradiction of the imperatives of power and ethics. Meinecke finally arrived at the conclusion that the real limitation to abuses of power was not to attempt to suppress power calculus i. For Meinecke, a reflexive perspective that would unveil power relations would allow for limiting the totalizing tendencies of societal strategism-a question that would also absorb his contemporary thinkers of the Frankfurt School.

As we shall see, the latters settled for abandoning instrumental reason instead of intending the taming of power as in Meinecke. The glorification of the Schlieffen plan was more a matter of irrational military pride for the offensive than an efficacious strategy. Brunner expanded his critique to German idealism and historical materialism as equally, although inversely, reductionist forms of historiography. Later historians rejected this approach, which was closely associated with the official racist history institutionalized under Nazi Germany.

The GG applied German historicism to the evolution of ideas by studying the rapid transformation of political concepts during what Koselleck called the Sattelzeit, an era of crisis and hastened transformation that lasted roughly from to The concepts studied by the GG registered and affected the important socio-economic change of the Sattelzeit.

As such, not only were the institutions instrumental and deterministic in human conflictual practice but so were the contested conceptualizations of the organization of politics and society. By considering dually the notions of power as both force and legitimacy, they brought into historicism many paths for transcending the teleology of the Volksstaat historiography. In doing so, they freed strategy from its teleological dictate.

Despite being associated with Nazism, the Germans scholars-whom developed their ideas in reaction to the consequences of Volksstaat historicism-have significantly influenced the strategic ideas of the second half of the 20th century. As the second section of this article discusses, authors such as Marx and Weber-and the associated traditions in mainstream strategic studies-did not break with teleological historiographies.

In fact, the idea of a reflexive strategic perspective based on a strictly Machiavellian understanding of power-as in Nietzsche-returned to oblivion with the all encompassing condemnation of historicism due to its association with the European drift toward ultra-nationalism. At this critical crossroad, strategy missed its encounter with Nietzsche.

After the First World War both the European order and historicism were in crisis. He insisted on the necessary and tragic acknowledgement of the impossibility in identifying any basic ethical-political end on a rational foundation. Indeed, Weber considered means and ends as discrete categories-where the former remained within the reach of Hegelian reason and the latter felt outside of it.

Most eminently, it was Morgenthau whom conveyed this misinterpretation into strategic studies. Morgenthau shared with Weber a conviction of the need to use coercion and the use of force to secure national survival, wealth and values. As in the age of Volksstaat powerpolitk , Western strategic thinking of the second half of the 20 th century would be dominated by the realist paradigm and concentrated its attention on the strictly military means of state power-nuclear weaponry, nuclear war-fighting strategies and targeting doctrines-without reflexive introspection on purposes.

Although classical strategy remained an inspiration and an important reference in strategic studies, in the second half of the 20th century it was the Realist theory of IR that informed conventional strategy. From the s onwards, strategy became a civilian matter. In the US, scholars from various fields History, Political Science, Economics, Physics, Mathematics analysed strategy through the application of different techniques empiricism, rationalism, systems theory, game theory, etc.

With the advent of a bipolar nuclear world order and the intensification of the Cold War, nuclear deterrence and military weaponry had an unchallenged monopoly in the mainstream strategic field. This context reduced strategy to extremely limited and technical debates see Kaufmann, ; Kissinger, ; Snyder, ; Schelling, ; Freedman, ; Baylis et al. Not only limiting in strategic terms, this intrinsically conservative perspective had important consequences:.

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The choice of a strategy involves a decision about which values to pursue, and analysis should explore the consequences for values in questions of strategic policy. By eschewing disciplined discussion of values, realist policy science disarmed itself from consideration of the strategic question that of the political objectives at stake Barkawi, : Holding to its conservative stance, realist strategic studies remained highly rationalised and externalised societal and international transformation. The evaluation of international dynamics through a limited statist Realpolitik perspective impeded compromises and fostered escalatory dynamics.

This uncritical approach, also adopted by the USSR at times, proved highly dangerous for the two blocs in numerous instances and threatened human survival in some others. Marx argued that it was through the process of production that historiography, and a correlative revolutionary philosophy of praxis, could be founded.

Influenced by Kantian historiography through Hegel Reiss in Kant, , p. As for natural sciences, history would therefore be approached by nomothetic explanation. Reason, through critique 69 , served to dialectically expose this material process in order to strategically bring about its necessary endpoint-the revolution of the proletariat. Nevertheless, he reproduced the modernist flaw by introducing a pre-determined philosophy of history within his work. Marxist critique was limited at exposing the necessity of the present in order to quicken the pace of the train of history.

Marxist strategy is the most historically significant among revolutionary approaches to strategy. An interesting consequence of this approach was that it brought the cornerstone of strategic thinking away from the strictly military battlefields to resituate its core around societal transformation. Still, the classic Marxist approach, as a social theory of praxis, exhibited a positivist epistemology and was based on a form of historical determinism that prescribed strategies for bringing about the inevitable passage from capitalism to communism.

They must obey their own laws. In line with their societal emphasis, revolutionary strategists of the 20th century adventured beyond strictly military strategy, expanding its field to problematize questions of social relations of power, ideology and culture. Vladimir Ilitch Oulianov, aka Lenin , reflected upon the tasks of a revolutionary army and its relation to the revolutionary government in the mobilisation of Russian workers.

Strategic thought grounded in Soviet Marxism undermined reflexive practices due to the necessary character of its historiography. Critics of this rigid approach would swiftly be rejected or eliminated. Other Marxist strategists would develop Marxist-Leninist theories in practical praxis guidelines. In China, Mao expounded revolutionary strategies based on the peasantry and guerrilla warfare see Schram, In Italy, the theorist and strategist Antonio Gramsci addressed the question of the relationship between political and cultural consensus hegemony and the so-called objective conditions and their respective roles in revolutionary strategy see Macciocchi, Under this teleological form of historiography, power was considered coevally as force , through class struggle, and as legitimacy , through communism, its necessary emancipatory consequence.

Ends and means conflated again here perfectly and reflexive thinking was rendered obsolete. Above all, the unquestioned legitimacy of actions following this ideology led to some extremes in many conflict theatres of the Cold War era, against those considered to be reactionary elements that were slowing the emancipatory pace of history. Furthermore, Marxist historiography presented the universe of possible means as essentially composed of antagonistic classes. Marxism erected its strategic thought on a Fichtean-like synthesis of force and legitimacy into the science of revolutionary praxis.

Strategy was normatively harnessed to the teleology of an inevitable proletarian revolution herein reducing means calculation to a matter of necessity. As for the revolutionary Marxist science of praxis, conservative strategic thought was harnessed in its various forms to the necessities of national security. Under their mainstream versions, Marxist and Realist approaches to strategy were characterised, respectively, by a teleological and rationalised historiography. The former neglected non-economic antagonisms and postulated the necessity of historical development, of which strategy could only slow or quicken the pace.

The latter precluded the very possibility of historical transformation through the reification of the international cold-war system. The remainder of this article outlines the evolution of a reflexive approach -and its heirs-, which remained of little significance within strategic studies until recently: the Frankfurt School.

Evolving in opposition to the mainstream approaches discussed above, the Frankfurt School brought back to life many of the reflexive tendencies. By discussing its recent evolution, we aim at underlining what in its intellectual context may have gone wrong for contemporary reflexive IR scholarship in terms of strategic thinking. Adorno, Marcuse and Fromm, its iconic figures, joined the institute following an invitation from Horkheimer, its acting director during the s.

They problematized the objective status of Marxism, which allegedly allowed it to define other forms of knowledge as ideological. Thinkers of the early Frankfurt School propounded and developed the concept of reflexivity. Since then, this analytical approach has been reworked and rediscovered under many angles within the constructivist IR literature after Hoffman reintroduced it.

However, it is necessary to delineate the particular form of historiography of the early Frankfurt School in order to understand the nature of its influence on contemporary strategic thought. As such, this approach implied a specific form of historiography characterised by levels of domination resulting from the progressive distortion of reason towards its instrumental form. In fact, for Adorno, reason and domination came to be equated in Western modernity, where reason culminated in its positivist and instrumental form Dean, , p.

The latter was understood as power under its diverse forms of incursion such as class exploitation, forms of social domination and interests Dean, , pp. In order to do so, a reference was needed. The Frankfurt School recuperated the notion of emancipation-the universal notion of goodness for humankind provided by Kant-and by doing so, reintegrated the teleological impulse of modernity into their work Dean, , p.

Therefore, contrarily to Marx, emancipation would be forsaken under the form of reconciliation with nature; to value things and people in themselves and not only as means. Critique became guided by this philosophy of history characterised by levels of domination as a result of a distortion of reason. One lineage, passing trough Marcuse, became iconic of the New Left and counterculture movements of the s and s and matured by joining contemporary postmodernism. Another lineage passed through the work of Habermas, who is the inescapable reference in 21 st century critical security studies.

One may still insist that the machinery of the technological universe is 'as such' indifferent towards political ends However, when technics becomes the universal form of material production, it circumscribes an entire culture; it projects a historical totality-a 'world'. For example, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John Adams later the second president of the United States , in urging that womens independence be guaranteed in the future U.

In America as in Europe, fresh new vision electrified artistic and intellectual circles. Yet there was an important difference: Romanticism in America coincided with the period of national expansion and the discovery of a distinctive American voice. The solidification of a national identity and the surging idealism and passion of Romanticism nurtured the masterpieces of the American Renaissance.

Romantic ideas centered around art as inspiration, the spiritual and aesthetic dimension of nature, and metaphors of organic growth. Art, rather than science, Romantics argued, could best express universal truth. The Romantics underscored the importance of expressive art for the individual and society. In his essay The Poet , Ralph Waldo Emerson, perhaps the most influential writer of the Romantic era, asserts: For all men live by truth, and stand in need of expression. In love, in art, in avarice, in politics, in labor, in games, we study to utter our painful secret.

The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression. The development of the self became a major theme; self-awareness, a primary method. If, according to Romantic theory, self and nature were one, self-awareness was not a selfish dead end but a mode of knowledge opening up the universe. If ones self were one with all humanity, then the individual had a moral duty to reform social inequalities and relieve human suffering. The idea of self which suggested selfishness to earlier generations was redefined.

New compound words with positive meanings emerged: self-realization, self-expression, self-reliance. As the unique, subjective self became important, so did the realm of psychology. Exceptional artistic effects and techniques were developed to evoke heightened psychological states.

The sublime an effect of beauty in grandeur for example, a view from a mountaintop produced feelings of awe, reverence, vastness, and a power beyond human comprehension. Romanticism was affirmative and appropriate for most American poets and creative essayists. Americas vast mountains, deserts, and tropics embodied the sublime.

The Romantic spirit seemed particularly suited to American democracy: It stressed individualism, affirmed the value of the common person, and looked to the inspired imagination for its aesthetic and ethical values. In New England, Romanticism fell upon fertile soil.

The movement was based on a fundamental belief in the unity of the world and God. The doctrine of self-reliance and individualism developed through the belief in the identification of the individual soul with God. Transcendentalism was intimately connected with Concord, a small New England village 32 kilometers west of Boston. Concord was the first inland settlement of the original Massachusetts Bay Colony. Surrounded by forest, it was and remains a peaceful town close enough to Bostons lectures, bookstores, and colleges to be intensely cultivated, but far enough away to be serene. Concord was the site of the first battle of the American Revolution, and Ralph Waldo Emersons poem commemorating the battle, Concord Hymn, has one of the most famous opening stanzas in American literature: By the rude bridge that arched the flood Their flag to Aprils breeze unfurled, Here once the embattled farmers stood And fired the shot heard round the world.

Concord was the first rural artists colony, and the first place to offer a spiritual and cultural alternative to American materialism. It was a place of high-minded conversation and simple living Emerson and Henry David Thoreau both had vegetable gardens. Emerson, who moved to Concord in , and Thoreau are most closely associated with the town, but the locale also attracted the novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, the feminist writer Margaret Fuller, the educator and father of novelist Louisa May Alcott Bronson Alcott, and the poet William Ellery Channing.

The Transcendental Club was loosely organized in and included, at various times, Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller, Channing, Bronson Alcott, Orestes Brownson a leading minister , Theodore Parker abolitionist and minister , and others. The Transcendentalists published a quarterly magazine, The Dial, which lasted four years and was first edited by Margaret Fuller and later by Emerson. Reform efforts engaged them as well as literature. A number of Transcendentalists were abolitionists, and some were involved in experimental utopian communities such as nearby Brook Farm described in Hawthornes The Blithedale Romance and Fruitlands.

Unlike many European groups, the Transcendentalists never issued a manifesto. They insisted on individual differences on the unique viewpoint of the individual. American Transcendental Romantics pushed radical individualism to the extreme. American writers often saw themselves as lonely explorers outside society and convention. For the Romantic American writer, nothing was a given. Literary and social conventions, far from being helpful, were dangerous. There was tremendous pressure to discover an authentic literary form, content, and voice all at the same time.

It is clear from the many masterpieces produced in the three decades before the U. Civil War that American writers rose to the challenge. Ralph Waldo Emerson Ralph Waldo Emerson, the towering figure of his era, had a religious sense of mission. Although many accused him of subverting Christianity, he explained that, for him to be a good minister, it was necessary to leave the church.

The address he delivered in at his alma mater, the Harvard Divinity School, made him unwelcome at Harvard for 30 years. In it, Emerson accused the church of acting as if God were dead and of emphasizing dogma while stifling the spirit.

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In his essay Self-Reliance, Emerson remarks: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Yet he is remarkably consistent in his call for the birth of American individualism inspired by nature. Most of his major ideas the need for a new national vision, the use of personal experience, the notion of the cosmic Over-Soul, and the doctrine of compensation are suggested in his first publication, Nature This essay opens: Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers.

It writes biographies, histories, criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs. Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past?

The sun shines today also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship. Emerson loved the aphoristic genius of the 16th-century French essayist Montaigne, and he once told Bronson Alcott that he wanted to write a book like Montaignes, full of fun, poetry, business, divinity, philosophy, anecdotes, smut.

He complained that Alcotts abstract style omitted the light that shines on a mans hat, in a childs spoon. Spiritual vision and practical, aphoristic expression make Emerson exhilarating; one of the Concord Transcendentalists aptly compared listening to him with going to heaven in a swing. Much of his spiritual insight comes from his readings in Eastern religion, especially Hinduism, Confucianism, and Islamic Sufism. For example, his poem Brahma relies on Hindu sources to assert a cosmic order beyond the limited perception of mortals: If the red slayer think he slay Or the slain think he is slain, They know not well the subtle ways I keep, and pass, and turn again.

Far or forgot to me is near Shadow and sunlight are the same; The vanished gods to me appear; And one to me are shame and fame. Find me, and turn thy back on heaven. This poem, published in the first number of the Atlantic Monthly magazine , confused readers unfamiliar with Brahma, the highest Hindu god, the eternal and infinite soul of the universe.

Emerson had this advice for his readers: Tell them to say Jehovah instead of Brahma. The British critic Matthew Arnold said the most important writings in English in the 19th century had been Wordsworths poems and Emersons essays. From a poor family, like Emerson, he worked his way through Harvard. Throughout his life, he reduced his needs to the simplest level and managed to live on very little money, thus maintaining his independence. In essence, he made living his career. A nonconformist, he attempted to live his life at all times according to his rigorous principles.

This attempt was the subject of many of his writings. Thoreaus masterpiece, Walden, or, Life in the Woods , is the result of two years, two months, and two days from to he spent living in a cabin he built at Walden Pond on property owned by Emerson. In Walden, Thoreau consciously shapes this time into one year, and the book is carefully constructed so the seasons are subtly evoked in order.

The book also is organized so that the simplest earthly concerns come first in the section called Economy, he describes the expenses of building a cabin ; by the ending, the book has progressed to meditations on the stars. In Walden, Thoreau, a lover of travel books and the author of several, gives us an anti-travel book that paradoxically opens the inner frontier of self-discovery as no American book had up to this time. As deceptively modest as Thoreaus ascetic life, it is no less than a guide to living the classical ideal of the good life.

Both poetry and philosophy, this long poetic essay challenges the reader to examine his or her life and live it authentically. In his journal for January 30, , Thoreau explains his preference for living rooted in one place: I am afraid to travel much or to famous places, lest it might completely dissipate the mind. Thoreaus method of retreat and concentration resembles Asian meditation techniques. The resemblance is not accidental: like Emerson and Whitman, he was influenced by Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. His most treasured possession was his library of Asian classics, which he shared with Emerson.

His eclectic style draws on Greek and Latin classics and is crystalline, punning, and as richly metaphorical as the English metaphysical writers of the late Renaissance. In Walden, Thoreau not only tests the theories of Transcendentalism, he re-enacts the collective American experience of the 19th century: living on the frontier.

Ralph Dumain: "The Autodidact Project": Study Guides: Reflexivity & Situatedness

Thoreau felt that his contribution would be to renew a sense of the wilderness in language. His journal has an undated entry from English literature from the days of the minstrels to the Lake Poets, Chaucer and Spenser and Shakespeare and Milton included, breathes no quite fresh and in this sense, wild strain.

It is an essentially tame and civilized literature, reflecting Greece and Rome. Her wilderness is a greenwood, her wildman a Robin Hood. There is plenty of genial love of nature in her poets, but not so much of nature herself. Her chronicles inform us when her wild animals, but not the wildman in her, became extinct.

There was need of America. Walden inspired William Butler Yeats, a passionate Irish nationalist, to write The Lake Isle of Innisfree, while Thoreaus essay Civil Disobedience, with its theory of passive resistance based on the moral necessity for the just individual to disobey unjust laws, was an inspiration for Mahatma Gandhis Indian independence movement and Martin LutherKings struggle for black Americans civil rights in the 20th century. Thoreau is the most attractive of the Transcendentalists today because of his ecological consciousness, do-it-yourself independence, ethical commitment to abolitionism, and political theory of civil disobedience and peaceful resistance.

His ideas are still fresh, and his incisive poetic style and habit of close observation are still modern. Walt Whitman Born on Long Island, New York, Walt Whitman was a part-time carpenter and man of the people, whose brilliant, innovative work expressed the countrys democratic spirit. His Leaves of Grass , which he rewrote and revised throughout his life, contains Song of Myself, the most stunningly original poem ever written by an American.

The enthusiastic praise that Emerson and a few others heaped on this daring volume confirmed Whitman in his poetic vocation, although the book was not a popular success. A visionary book celebrating all creation, Leaves of Grass was inspired largely by Emersons writings, especially his essay The Poet, which predicted a robust, open-hearted, universal kind of poet uncannily like Whitman himself. The poems innovative, unrhymed, freeverse form, open celebration of sexuality, vibrant democratic sensibility, and extreme Romantic assertion that the poets self was one with the poem, the universe, and the reader permanently altered the course of American poetry.

Leaves of Grass is as vast, energetic, and natural as the American continent; it was the epic generations of American critics had been calling for, although they did not recognize it. Movement ripples through Song of Myself like restless music: My ties and ballasts leave me I skirt sierras, my palms cover continents I am afoot with my vision. The poem bulges with myriad concrete sights and sounds.

Whitmans birds are not the conventional winged spirits of poetry. His yellowcrownd heron comes to the edge of the marsh at night and feeds upon small crabs. Whitman seems to project himself into everything that he sees or imagines. But he is equally the suffering individual, The mother of old, condemnd for a witch, burnt with dry wood, her children gazing on I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the dogs I am the mashd fireman with breast-bone broken More than any other writer, Whitman invented the myth of democratic America.

The Americans of all nations at any time upon the earth have probably the fullest poetical nature. The United States is essentially the greatest poem. When Whitman wrote this, he daringly turned upside down the general opinion that America was too brash and new to be poetic. He invented a timeless America of the free imagination, peopled with pioneering spirits of all nations.

Lawrence, the British novelist and poet, accurately called him the poet of the open road. Another important work is his long essay Democratic Vistas , written during the unrestrained materialism of industrialisms Gilded Age. In this essay, Whitman justly criticizes America for its mighty, many-threaded wealth and industry that mask an underlying dry and flat Sahara of soul. He calls for a new kind of literature to revive the American population Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does. Yet ultimately, Whitmans main claim to immortality lies in Song of Myself.

Here he places the Romantic self at the center of the consciousness of the poem: I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. He was enormously innovative. From him spring the poem as autobiography, the American Everyman as bard, the reader as creator, and the still-contemporary discovery of experimental, or organic, form.

Their lives fitted a pleasant pattern of wealth and leisure directed by the strong New England work ethic and respect for learning. In an earlier Puritan age, the Boston Brahmins would have been ministers; in the 19th century, they became professors, often at Harvard. Late in life they sometimes became ambassadors or received honorary degrees from European institutions.

Most of them travelled or were educated in Europe: They were familiar with the ideas and books of Britain, Germany, and France, and often Italy and Spain. Upper class in background but democratic in sympathy, the Brahmin poets carried their genteel, European-oriented views to every section of the United States, through public lectures at the 3, lyceums centers for public lectures and in the pages of two influential Boston magazines, the North American Review and the Atlantic Monthly.

The writings of the Brahmin poets fused American and European traditions and sought to create a continuity of shared Atlantic experience. These scholar-poets attempted to educate and elevate the general populace by introducing a European dimension to American literature. Ironically, their overall effect was conservative. By insisting on European things and forms, they retarded the growth of a distinctive American consciousness.

Wellmeaning men, their conservative backgrounds blinded them to the daring innovativeness of Thoreau, Whitman whom they refused to meet socially , and Edgar Allan Poe whom even Emerson regarded as the jingle man. They were pillars of what was called the genteel tradition that three generations of American realists had to battle. Partly because of their benign but bland influence, it was almost years before the distinctive American genius of Whitman, Melville, Thoreau, and Poe was generally recognized in the United States.

Longfellow, professor of modern languages at Harvard, was the best-known American poet of his day. He wrote three long narrative poems popularizing native legends in European meters Evangeline , The Song of Hiawatha , and The Courtship of Miles Standish Longfellow also wrote textbooks on modern languages and a travel book entitled Outre-Mer, retelling foreign legends and patterned after Washington Irvings Sketch Book.

He began as a poet but gradually lost his poetic ability, ending as a respected critic and educator. As editor of the Atlantic and co-editor of the North American Review, Lowell exercised enormous influence. Under his wifes influence, Lowell became a liberal reformer, abolitionist, and supporter of womens suffrage and laws ending child labor. His Biglow Papers, First Series , creates Hosea Biglow, a shrewd but uneducated village poet who argues for reform in dialect poetry.

Benjamin Franklin and Phillip Freneau had used intelligent villagers as mouthpieces for social commentary. Lowell writes in the same vein, linking the colonial character tradition with the new realism and regionalism based on dialect that flowered in the s and came to fruition in Mark Twain. Oliver Wendell Holmes Oliver Wendell Holmes, a celebrated physician and professor of anatomy and physiology at Harvard, is the hardest of the three well-known Brahmins to categorize because his work is marked by a refreshing versatility.

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the suburb of Boston that is home to Harvard, Holmes was the son of a prominent local minister. His mother was a descendant of the poet Anne Bradstreet. In his time, and more so thereafter, he symbolized wit, intelligence, and charm not as a discoverer or a trailblazer, but rather as an exemplary interpreter of everything from society and language to medicine and human nature.

Some of the stars that shine more brightly today than the famous constellation of Brahmins were dimmed by poverty or accidents of gender or race in their own time. Modern readers increasingly value the work of abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier and feminist and social reformer Margaret Fuller. John Greenleaf Whittier John Greenleaf Whittier, the most active poet of the era, had a background very similar to Walt Whitmans. He was born and raised on a modest Quaker farm in Massachusetts, had little formal education, and worked as a journalist. For decades before it became popular, he was an ardent abolitionist.

Whittier is respected for 33N PAGE 35 anti-slavery poems such as Ichabod, and his poetry is sometimes viewed as an early example of regional realism. Whittiers sharp images, simple constructions, and ballad-like tetrameter couplets have the simple earthy texture of Robert Burns. His best work, the long poem Snow Bound, vividly recreates the poets deceased family members and friends as he remembers them from childhood, huddled cozily around the blazing hearth during one of New Englands blustering snowstorms. This simple, religious, intensely personal poem, coming after the long nightmare of the Civil War, is an elegy for the dead and a healing hymn.

It affirms the eternity of the spirit, the timeless power of love in the memory, and the undiminished beauty of nature, despite violent outer political storms. Margaret Fuller Margaret Fuller, an outstanding essayist, was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. From a modest financial background, she was educated at home by her father women were not allowed to attend Harvard and became a child prodigy in the classics and modern literatures. Her special passion was German Romantic literature, especially Goethe, whom she translated.

The first professional woman journalist of note in America, Fuller wrote influential book reviews and reports on social issues such as the treatment of women prisoners and the insane. Some of these essays were published in her book Papers on Literature and Art A year earlier, she had her most significant book, Woman in the Nineteenth Century It originally had appeared in the Transcendentalist magazine, The Dial, which she edited from to Fullers Woman in the Nineteenth Century is the earliest and most American exploration of womens role in society.

Often applying democratic and Transcendental principles, Fuller thoughtfully analyzes the numerous subtle causes and evil consequences of sexual discrimination and suggests positive steps to be taken. Many of her ideas are strikingly modern. She stresses the importance of self-dependence, which women lack because they are taught to learn their rule from without, not to unfold it from within.

Fuller is finally not a feminist so much as an activist and reformer dedicated to the cause of creative human freedom and dignity for all Let us be wise and not impede the soul Let us have one creative energy Let it take what form it will, and let us not bind it by the past to man or woman, black or white. She never married, and she led an unconventional life that was outwardly uneventful but was full of inner intensity. She loved nature and found deep inspiration in the birds, animals, plants, and changing seasons of the New England countryside. Her day also included homemaking for her attorney father, a prominent figure in Amherst who became a member of Congress.

Dickinson was not widely read, but knew the Bible, the works of William Shakespeare, and works of classical mythology in great depth. These were her true teachers, for Dickinson was certainly the most solitary literary figure of her time. That this shy, withdrawn village woman, almost unpublished and unknown, created some of the greatest American poetry of the 19th century has fascinated the public since the s, when her poetry was rediscovered.

Dickinsons terse, frequently imagistic style is even more modern and innovative than Whitmans. She never uses two words when one will do, and combines concrete things with abstract ideas in an almost proverbial, compressed style. Her best poems have no fat; many mock current sentimentality, and some are even heretical. She sometimes shows a terrifying existential awareness. Like Poe, she explores the dark and hidden part of the mind, dramatizing death and the grave.

Yet she also celebrated simple objects a flower, a bee. Her poetry exhibits great intelligence and often evokes the agonizing paradox of the limits of the human consciousness trapped in time. She had an excellent sense of humor, and her range of subjects and treatment is amazingly wide.

Her poems are generally known by the numbers assigned them in Thomas H. Johnsons standard edition of They bristle with odd capitalizations and dashes. A nonconformist, like Thoreau she often reversed meanings of words and phrases and used paradox to great effect. From Much Madness is divinest sense To a discerning Eye Much Sense the starkest Madness Tis the Majority In this, as All, prevail Assent and you are sane Demur youre straightway dangerous And handled with a chain Her wit shines in the following poem , which ridicules ambition and public life: Im Nobody!

Who are you? Are you Nobody Too? Then theres a pair of us? Dont tell! How dreary to be Somebody! Dickinsons 1, poems continue to intrigue critics, who often disagree about them. Some stress her mystical side, some her sensitivity to nature; many note her odd, exotic appeal. One modern critic, R. Blackmur, comments that Dickinsons poetry sometimes feels as if a cat came at us speaking English.

Her clean, clear, chiseled poems are some of the most fascinating and challenging in American literature. In the case of the novelists, the Romantic vision tended to express itself in the form Hawthorne called the romance, a heightened, emotional, and symbolic form of the novel. Romances were not love stories, but serious novels that used special techniques to communicate complex and subtle meanings. Instead of carefully defining realistic characters through a wealth of detail, as most English or continental novelists did, Hawthorne, Melville, and Poe shaped heroic figures larger than life, burning with mythic significance.

The typical protagonists of the American Romance are haunted, alienated individuals. Hawthornes Arthur Dimmesdale or Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, Melvilles Ahab in Moby-Dick, and the many isolated and obsessed characters of Poes tales are lonely protagonists pitted against unknowable, dark fates that, in some mysterious way, grow out of their deepest unconscious selves.

The symbolic plots reveal hidden actions of the anguished spirit. One reason for this fictional exploration into the hidden recesses of the soul is the absence of settled, traditional community life in America. English novelists Jane Austen, Charles Dickens the great favorite , Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, William Thackeray lived in a complex, well-articulated, traditional society and shared with their readers attitudes that informed their realistic fiction.

American novelists were faced with a history of strife and revolution, a geography of vast wilderness, and a fluid and relatively classless democratic society. American novels frequently reveal a revolutionary absence of tradition. Many English novels show a poor main character rising on the economic and social ladder, perhaps because of a good marriage or the discovery of a hidden aristocratic past. But this buried plot does not challenge the aristocratic social structure of England. On the contrary, it confirms it. The rise of the main character satisfies the wish fulfillment of the mainly middle-class readers.

In contrast, the American novelist had to depend on his or her own devices. America was, in part, an undefined, constantly moving frontier populated by immigrants speaking foreign languages and following strange and crude ways of life. Thus the main character in American literature might find himself alone among cannibal tribes, as in Melvilles Typee, or exploring a wilderness like James Fenimore Coopers Leatherstocking, or witnessing lonely visions from the grave, like Poes solitary individuals, or meeting the devil walking in the forest, like Hawthornes Young Goodman Brown.

Virtually all the great American protagonists have been loners. The democratic American individual had, as it were, to invent himself. The serious American novelist had to invent new forms as well hence the sprawling, idiosyncratic shape of Melvilles novel Moby-Dick, and Poes dreamlike, wandering Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. Few American novels achieve formal perfection, even today. Instead of borrowing tested literary methods, Americans tend to invent new creative techniques.

Most of the Romantic heroes die in the end: All the sailors except Ishmael are drowned in MobyDick, and the sensitive but sinful minister Arthur Dimmesdale dies at the end of The Scarlet Letter. The self-divided, tragic note in American literature becomes dominant in the novels, even before the Civil War of the s manifested the greater social tragedy of a society at war with itself. Nathaniel Hawthorne Nathaniel Hawthorne, a fifthgeneration American of English descent, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, a wealthy seaport north of Boston that specialized in East India trade.

One of his ancestors had been a judge in an earlier century, during trials in Salem of women accused of being witches. Hawthorne used the idea of a curse on the family of an evil judge in his novel The House of the Seven Gables. It tells of the passionate, forbidden love affair linking a sensitive, religious young man, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, and the sensuous, beautiful townsperson, Hester Prynne.

Set in Boston around during early Puritan colonization, the novel highlights the Calvinistic obsession with morality, sexual repression, guilt and confession, and spiritual salvation. For its time, The Scarlet Letter was a daring and even subversive book. Hawthornes gentle style, remote historical setting, and ambiguity softened his grim themes and contented the general public, but sophisticated writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Herman Melville recognized the books hellish power.

It treated issues that were usually suppressed in 19thcentury America, such as the impact of the new, liberating democratic experience on individual behavior, especially on sexual and religious freedom. The book is superbly organized and beautifully written. Appropriately, it uses allegory, a technique the early Puritan colonists themselves practiced.

Hawthornes reputation rests on his other novels and tales as well. The crumbling of the house refers to a family in Salem as well as to the actual structure.

Romantic Theory: Forms of Reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era

The theme concerns an inherited curse and its resolution through love. Both use modern settings, which hamper the magic of romance. The Blithedale Romance is interesting for its portrait of the socialist, utopian Brook Farm community. In the book, Hawthorne criticizes egotistical, power-hungry social reformers whose deepest instincts are not genuinely democratic.

The Marble Faun , though set in Rome, dwells on the Puritan themes of sin, isolation, expiation, and salvation. In the last of these, a nave young man from the country comes to the city a common route in urbanizing 19th-century America to seek help from his powerful relative, whom he has never met. Robin has great difficulty finding the major, and finally joins in a strange night riot in which a man who seems to be a disgraced criminal is comically and cruelly driven out of town. Robin laughs loudest of all until he realizes that this criminal is none other than the man he sought a representative of the British who has just been overthrown by a revolutionary American mob.

The story confirms the bond of sin and suffering shared by all humanity. It also stresses the theme of the self-made man: Robin must learn, like every democratic American, to prosper from his own hard work, not from special favors from wealthy relatives. My Kinsman, Major Molineux casts light on one of the most striking elements in Hawthornes fiction: the lack of functioning families in his works.

Although Coopers Leather-Stocking Tales manage to introduce families into the least likely wilderness places, Hawthornes stories and novels repeatedly show broken, cursed, or artificial families and the sufferings of the isolated individual. The ideology of revolution, too, may have played a part in glorifying a sense of proud yet alienated freedom. The American Revolution, from a psychohistorical viewpoint, parallels an adolescent rebellion away from the parent-figure of England and the larger family of the British Empire.

Americans won their independence and were then faced with the bewildering dilemma of discovering their identity apart from old authorities. This scenario was played out countless times on the frontier, to the extent that, in fiction, isolation often seems the basic American condition of life. Puritanism and its Protestant offshoots may have further weakened the family by preaching that the individuals first responsibility was to save his or her own soul.

Herman Melville Herman Melville, like Nathaniel Hawthorne, was a descendant of an old, wealthy family that fell abruptly into poverty upon the death of the father. Despite his patrician upbringing, proud family traditions, and hard work, Melville found himself in poverty with no college education. At 19 he went to sea. His interest in sailors lives grew naturally out of his own experiences, and most of his early novels grew out of his voyages.

In these we see the young Melvilles wide, democratic experience and hatred of tyranny and injustice. His first book, Typee, was based on his time spent among the supposedly cannibalistic but hospitable tribe of the Taipis in the Marquesas Islands of the South Pacific. The book praises the islanders and their natural, harmonious life, and criticizes the Christian missionaries, who Melville found less genuinely civilized than the people they came to convert. This work, a realistic adventure novel, contains a series of meditations on the human condition. Whaling, throughout the book, is a grand metaphor for the pursuit of knowledge.

Realistic catalogues and descriptions of whales and the whaling industry punctuate the book, but these carry symbolic connotations. Although Melvilles novel is philosophical, it is also tragic. Despite his heroism, Ahab is doomed and perhaps damned in the end. Nature, however beautiful, remains alien and potentially deadly. In MobyDick, Melville challenges Emersons optimistic idea that humans can understand nature. Moby-Dick, the great white whale, is an inscrutable, cosmic existence that dominates the novel, just as he obsesses Ahab.

Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era
Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era
Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era
Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era
Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era
Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era
Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era
Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era Romantic theory: forms of reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era

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