The Political Aesthetics of Inclusion and Exclusion

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Democratic Aesthetics in Tocqueville

In his analysis of democracy Alexis de Tocqueville makes a number of observations about the relationship between political culture and arts. He writes about the theater, the poetry, the arts of democratic peoples, as well as about literary industry and about the strange ambiguity of architecture, namely, why Americans build both important and insignificant monuments. These observations and analyses are consistent with Tocqueville’s insight that in democracy, arts have to conform to the sensibilities of the masses, with an emphasis on “of the masses.”

We must note that the point is not that democracy has a particular artistic style but that it possesses an integrative force that makes everything, arts and letters included, seek the favor of the masses. It is a force like that of gravitation that has an effect on everything. What is more, it enables us to move and sense the world, but we seldom think of it. I noticed long ago, for instance, that modern architects do, consciously or unconsciously, very often nothing else but transform the commonest objects of every household into gigantic edifices. It is as if we were wandering in the land of giants like Gulliver: we are surrounded by enormous spoons, bottles, saltcellars, books, bananas – whatever – without really being aware of this. So great is the force of democratic gravitation that even the most refined and cultured taste is really nothing more than the gigantic version of the most common and simple taste.

But let us stay with Tocqueville for another moment. His well-known thesis is that democracy rests upon two basic sentiments: the passions for freedom and equality. When the two passions collide, which is not a rare phenomenon, it is equality that gains the upper hand. Tocqueville demonstrates the operation of these sentiments as gravitational, structure-forming forces by analyzing countless areas of social life. Let me cite a passage that captures the core of my own point. This is what Tocqueville writes about language:

“I have noted before that democracies have a taste, and often a passion, for general ideas; that is because of their peculiar qualities, good and bad. The form this love of general ideas takes in language is a continual use of generic terms and abstract words . . .  Democratic peoples have this passion for generic terms and abstract words because such phrases broaden the scope of thought and allow the mind to include much in a few words. . . . This abundance of abstract terms in the language of democracy, used the whole time without reference to any particular facts, both widens the scope of thought and clouds it. They make expression quicker but conceptions less clear. However, in matters of language democracies prefer obscurity to hard work.”[1]

In effect, Tocqueville argues that the proliferation of abstract words in American English serves two purposes. First, it “enlarges” thought, makes it a sort of an umbrella, as it were. Second, thereby thought becomes more or less obscure, or even, let me add, enigmatic. He seems to be content with noting or even just intimating the paradox involved here and does not go into a detailed analysis of it. By way of making use of his axiom about the two basic passions of democracy, his observations regarding the two aspects of the proliferation of abstract words in American English can now be interpreted in the following manner.

The predilection for using abstract terms corresponds to the passion of equality, as it entails a potential reference to everything and everyone, a basic openness, a total inclusivity and receptivity. The other aspect, the obscurity or intimacy that is inherent to such words, entails unanchoredness, a free-floating contentlessness, which sits well with our passion for freedom, understood as endlessness, free association, excitement, unexpectedness. This protects individuality. Tocqueville himself may or may not have approved of this.

My purpose is not to offer a commentary on his work but to advance an idea that is at least plausible. Let me illustrate it by the example of the concept of ‘equal opportunity.’ It is surely a very rich concept for the simple reason that it is applicable to everyone and anybody, for a whole life. It creates a homely and cozy democratic feeling, an awareness of  “I-will-never-be-let-down.” On the one hand, the adjective of “equal” is of course a direct reference to equality, which brings us immediately to the root passion for equality. The notion and noun of “opportunity,” on the other hand, is already pregnant with exciting possibilities, a plurality of autonomous decisions. Further, it entails an almost infinite set of options to choose from, according to everyone’s tastes and preferences.

In what follows, I shall spell out this ambiguity in more detail and with illustrations in the field of aesthetics. If it is a plausible, perhaps true, description of democracy in the Tocquevillean sense that equality and freedom are both ground values of it, though with equality being the overriding one from a historical perspective (with occasional exceptions of freedom fights when the ancient code of honesty and heroism overcomes), then it should also be true that within the arts inclusion and receptivity are the chief values. However, they are in constant tension with the opposite passion and tendency, that of exclusion, even prohibition, a celebration of inexpressibility, of the mystery of the absolutely free self.

Equality and Inclusion

The aesthetic value of equality or the aesthetic significance of the value of equality (if it is a value at all) is in itself minimal. What is more, it is quite plausible to assume that it is aesthetics that would resist any attempt to demonstrate the equal value of every piece of art. Of course, there is an aspect of equality that attaches to every piece of art but this has relatively little significance. Every valuable thing, including things that represent, bear, or instantiate aesthetic value as well, deserves acknowledgement and protection qua being a valuable thing. This is similar to the thesis of moral equality, which is the philosophical basis of all democratic equality feeling, though in contemporary political and moral philosophy this thesis is often rendered a core moral function. It is hardly an insignificant idea; on the contrary, in liberal philosophy the equal moral value of all human beings tends to command a much greater moral respect than personal moral merits and achievements.

For works of art, at least for the time being, objective or meritorious differences play a greater role. It would indeed be strange to speak about the basic aesthetic equality of every piece of art. However, the day the democratic passion for equality conquers the realm of aesthetics as well may not be that remote. For human dignity, which is often thought to be the source of moral equality, is a highly expansive concept, not only because of its linguistic abstractness but also because it in fact affects everything that any human being may ever create, nay, just touch, like in the myth of King Midas. Hence, the time is approaching when the Kantian Kingdom of Ends (of autonomous, rational beings) will have its moral supremacy extended over the world of objects created or just touched by these ‘ends.’ Every artwork will have, or will be realized as having, a basic equal value inasmuch as they are created by equally valuable beings. Perhaps the ultimate measure of aesthetic value will consist in nothing else but the depth of its relationship to its creator. The deeper the relationship, the greater will be not the enjoyment or admiration of but the respect for the artifact.

Works of art are seldom created exclusively for the pleasure of the artist. They need audience reception. The principle of moral equality will protect this link as well, to the same degree and with the same argument it employs to entrench the supreme value of “creation.” Besides that, the various types of reception will have equally infinite value. If a piece of art is ‘liked by’ someone (or, for that matter, disliked), it will be an infinitely valuable relation because “being liked by” presupposes an infinitely valuable being or a being of infinite worth. Creation and reception will inevitably become equally valued relationships because of the presupposed infinite moral value of every human being.

It is indeed strange to watch and listen to highly educated aesthetes who stress that reception is a no less sovereign act than creation, yet they are rarely wont to accept that this act be a measure of good taste. In other words, if we contend that every work of art becomes infinitely valuable once it is liked by a subject who has infinite worth (or is priceless, hat keinen Preis, in Kantian language), then do we have any right to pontificate on matters of taste and argue for a difference between what we think is trashy, meager, shallow and what we think is ingenious, sublime, profound? Aesthetic measures and good taste become relative, and ultimately, useless concepts once we take the thesis of moral equality really seriously. Whatever the sovereign chooses will be infinitely valuable and every choice she or he makes will be of equal value because it constitutes the same type and degree of value. This is the essence and the essential tyranny of equality.

This is perhaps why the concept and genre of installation has been on the rise in contemporary arts. Installations are artistic communications. As such, their value is equal to any other type of artistic communication and, under the roof of moral equality, equal to any type of communication. I would go even farther and instead of the concept of installation I would use the concept of aesthetic action because this is even more universal, abstract, and hence inclusive. In February 2014, BBC aired the following news:

“A cleaner has mistakenly thrown away contemporary artworks meant to be part of an exhibition in southern Italy. Works made out of newspaper and cardboard, and cookie pieces scattered across the floor as part of Sala Murat’s display were thrown out. Lorenzo Roca, from cleaning firm Chiarissima, said the unnamed cleaner was ‘just doing her job.’ He added his firm’s insurance would cover the value of the art, estimated to be around 10,000 euros. . . . It later emerged the cleaner had handed them over to refuse collectors, thinking it was rubbish left behind by workers who set up the Mediating Landscape exhibition. “We are obviously very sorry for what happened,” city marketing commissioner Antonio Maria Vasile said. “It’s clear the cleaning person did not realize she had thrown away two works and their value.”[2]

The artist was Paul Branca. I am unaware of any sequence to the story but it is easy to imagine a follow-up to it. The cleaning lady might have communicated to the public that what she did was nothing else but performing an aesthetic action, in the center of which stood the motive of cleanliness. Alternatively, the motive could have been exploring the dialectics of being and non-being, in particular the appearance and disappearance of litter, the ambiguous relation between dirt and hygiene, disgust and antiseptics, between something and nothing. There is a whole and total world, so the cleaning lady could have explained, much as in a Monty Python scene.

There were some sardonic comments made here and there in the press about the story, yet it would be a grave error, commonly made by classical aesthetics, to conclude that modern arts are hereby annihilated because plain, simple taste has survived the onslaught of nihilistic modernism. For the cleaning lady’s reaction is, for a modern artist, a truly aesthetic action. We may move even further. Let us allow the cleaning lady to transform an installation into an aesthetic action by misunderstanding yet receiving it, and let us then allow the artist to transform the two phases into an art performance. He might as well have said that the whole story was so conceived, or if it was not, it just developed into what it became. Creation and reception, however mistaken it might have appeared to unrefined observers, turned into a joint creative process. Nothing is created, except the creative process. Does that mean anything?

In any case, the highest degree of abstraction is concreteness as an abstract concept: whatever there is in the world, whatever goes on in the world, represents or instantiates the very same degree of universality, and bears the very same universal and solitary value. There are no more dimensions. Liking and disliking, admiration and rejection, even indifference are organic parts of this creative process. Thus emerges some novel aesthetic totality where calculation and surprise, alpha and omega, creation and reception are melted in a single great aesthetic experience, limitless and shapeless. This is the political aesthetics of inclusion.

We should beware of thinking that this is something absolutely new. A good early example of this process is the Japanese Gutai Group and its performances. Murakami Saburo’s Passing Through (1956) expresses this totality, and as far as I can tell, it does so perfectly.

What is this work of art? First, we have the idea taken from the paper-walls characteristic of Japan; then the action itself, the passing, in fact, running through the six screens of paper by one assault; then the fixing of the moments of the action and putting the pictures onto a single one; then the six destroyed papers; then the reception of the whole thing. Who could tell which part is the most relevant or valuable from an aesthetic point of view? The visitor may feel literally tempted, encouraged to go on with the aesthetic performance, tearing apart the picture into small pieces, for instance, for the photo is reproducible anyway.

Neither Murakami nor the Japanese avant-gardists have produced, I am afraid, anything radically new. What they did do was take democratic aesthetic sense seriously. But that strives for totality anyway, or more precisely, to make aesthetics as abstract as possible in accordance with most concepts. Everything that exists will have a place under this concept; hence aesthetics, like morality, will penetrate the world entirely. Again, Tocqueville has a foretaste of this and considers therefore the most totalizing genre of arts, theater, the paradigmatically democratic genre, even in the age of aristocracy.

Moreover, even in aristocracies the drama represents the most democratic side of the literature. The crowd can enjoy sights on the state more easily than any other form of literature. No preparation and no study are needed to take them in. It is they that carry off your feet, however preoccupied and however ignorant you may be. . . . Democratic audiences . . .  like to see the same medley of conditions, feelings, and opinions that occur in life. The drama becomes more striking, more vulgar, and truer.[3]

Drama is hence the total art. Wagner’s conception of Gesamtkunst is merely another form of expressing this fundamental need. And this is why everything that democracy touches becomes in some essential sense theater. The `aesthetic` value always desires to be staged, has a predilection to performance, cannot rest, provokes, and finally, absorbs the visitor, the reader, the audience. The theater of democracy does not really have an audience, only artists.

A final, hopefully entertaining, example. Opera may be considered the most refined genre of drama and theater, still to some extent meant for the elite, yet democracy cannot be stopped from entering this majestic scene. John Adams’ Nixon in China was already a continuation, if not a revival, of Shakespearean popularism, of putting to stage contemporary politics and reflecting on high abstract problems of, say, dynastic legitimacy. No wonder Plato hated theater. He was very aware of the fact that poets or playwrights and philosophers belong to different worlds: whereas poets can rule democracy with the help of drama, philosophers’ arguments may prepare only their own execution, regrettably, on a stage.

In any case, we have a very recent example of an opera emerging out of the world of everyday politics, literally written by the participants. I have in mind the Nostra Culpa, first performed in 2013, which was called by its composer Eugene Birman a financial opera. Others refer to it as an austerity opera. It is about the Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman’s polemics with Toomas Hendrik, the President of Estonia.[4] Krugman runs a blog at New York Times Online. Once he made a short comment on the Estonian economy, in fact, its putative recovery as a result of a series of austerity measures. Not being a believer in such measures, his comment was dismissive. The Estonian President, who has a perfect command of English, having lived and studied in America, read the comment on his visit to Riga, and became funnily furious. He immediately tweeted a number of remarks.[5] The story was liked by the media, of course, and it was perhaps because Krugman titled his comment Estonian Rhapsody that the story inspired a short opera whose underlying topic is not dynastic legitimacy but Keynesianism versus Friedmanism, austerity versus stimulus. Thus we jump from diagrams into scores, from twitter to libretto.

Freedom and Exclusion

If Tocqueville is right, and this is our presumption here, then notwithstanding our insatiable passion for equality we would not like to relinquish freedom, either. Its aesthetic form and representation is perhaps even more contradictory, even paradoxical, than the aesthetic representation of equality. The philosophical ground of equality was claimed to be Kantian moral equality, in agreement with the received view of modern political philosophy. The firmest ground of freedom is also Kantian philosophy, though not necessarily in a way Kant himself would sanction. For what is at stake is not freedom understood as the condition and actions of autonomous, because rational and good-willing beings, but as the condition and actions of individual human beings. The core concept is individuality, which entails sovereignty, ineffability – in short: otherness.

The smile of Mona Lisa was most probably about Mona Lisa as a character whom Leonardo simply painted. The inexplorability of “the smile” as the sign of a sovereign individual called Mona Lisa is a characteristically modern problem. Las Meninas by Velazquez, held by many to be a pinnacle of Western arts, is arguably a very complex painting, with an interplay of perspectives, an indeterminate center, a presence that is both real and virtual (the painter looks both at the royal couple and on the visitor, the onlooker, and we may never know whom he is about to paint). In one sense, the topic is painting itself, with the painter as the sovereign who keeps his secret; yet in another sense the main character is the one on whom the painter looks or may look, yet whose identity is also kept secret forever.[6]

This double-sovereignty, that of the painter and that of the visitor, the two major characters, is stressed by the emphatic lack of significance on the part of the figures depicted. Their full-blooded, detailed and minutely elaborated presence on the picture is wholly irrelevant. The sovereign individual cannot be represented, only alluded to; its presence is to be made felt by painting the non-paintable. In some sense, this is the end of painting. No wonder that Velazquez’ idea could not be advanced much further for a long time.

Yet the evolution and impregnation of modern self on arts could not be halted. With different techniques, the modern sovereign individual as an aesthetical category, an ideal it itself, began its rise in the 18th century. The key to this was a very simple discovery. The modern individual’s sovereignty is hollow. There is absolutely no need to try to represent sovereignty by help of painting it with an utmost effort the artist is capable of. The hollowness of sovereignty can be represented by any technique or idea that diverts the attention from the character, even though he or she is depicted. Look at A. Watteau’s oeuvre. The title of one of his major works is very telling: The Indifferent Man. What the painting communicates is that there is nothing to be communicated, except for this very prohibition. There is something behind the scenes, beyond the curtain that we are not allowed access to, yet we know very well that there is nothing there. There is no theme, no motive, but its highly refined absence. There is no idea, no sentiment, no passion, but an ineffable impression.

From Baltasar Gracian’s Book of Worldly Wisdom, let me cite the one titled “Grace in Everything”:

“‘Tis the life of talents, the breath of speech, the soul of action, and the ornament of ornament. Perfections are the adornment of our nature, but this is the adornment of perfection itself. It shows itself even in the thoughts. ’Tis most a gift of nature and owes least to education; it even triumphs over training. It is more than ease, approaches the free and easy, gets over embarrassment, and adds the finishing touch to perfection. Without it beauty is lifeless, graciousness ungraceful: it surpasses valour, discretion, prudence, even majesty itself. ’Tis a short way to dispatch and an easy escape from embarrassment.”[7]

Grace and gracefulness are true aesthetic categories and values, today largely ignored, perhaps because they are the most difficult ones to represent. It is most probably much easier to create something that is beautiful or sublime, not to speak about what is provocative, than something truly graceful. But no less difficult is it, and Gracian’s definition testifies to this, to talk about grace. Words are almost an insult to grace if we are going to approach it. What kind of value and quality is it? And how is it related to the sovereign individual who is absolutely free? Philosophical terms are vulgar here.

There was an attempt in the 17th century to give another name to this value. The category of “je ne sais quoi” is intentionally clumsy, gracefully graceless, pointing to the heart of the matter: what the “I don’t know what” refers to is exactly what cannot be named, therefore it cannot be learned, unfolded, uncovered, communicated. But we must be honest. Grace, gracefulness, easiness, nonchalance are not too distant from hollowness. We cannot deny, however, that there is or there can be something attractive, pleasant and agreeable about hollowness, emptiness, about the void, the nothing.

In the famous pictures of C. D. Friedrich we often see individuality dissolving in nature, in the environment, and at the same time it is elevated to the point of absolute sovereignty. It is an uncircumscribable, unfathomable reality. It is vacuous yet mighty. This is the democratic man in his full grace. Velazquez managed to paint the sovereignty of the painter that flows from the enigmatic but very substantial power of art yet at the same time he already began to raise the absolutely insubstantial individuality of the object, namely, the visitor, to the same level of sovereignty. Watteau is a highly significant example of how to paint, how to communicate what cannot be communicated, namely, the lack of anything worthy of telling, by depicting characters as weightless individuals who, nonetheless, bear the somber, indeed, sad dignity of a hollow sovereignty. We are absolutely free, yet absolutely empty.

A similar thing happens in democratic politics, too. The classic arcana imperii of Tacitus, the secrets of rule and domination were unmasked and analyzed by political science by help of Newton’s, Descartes’ and Hobbes’ methodological principles. The mysterious concept of sovereignty, the notion and need of absolute freedom in politics, had to be rescued from political science. First, there were attempts, like those of Bossuet, whose description of the majesty of royal authority is majestic in itself:

Majesty is the image of the greatness of God in a prince. God is infinite God is all. The prince, in his quality of prince, is not considered as an individual; he is a public personage, all the state is comprised in him; the will of all people is included in his own. Just as all virtue and excellence are united in God, so the strength of every individual is comprehended in the person of the prince. What greatness this is, for one man to contain so much![8]


Bossuet’s high image of princely majesty stands in a stark contrast to the reality of many monarchs’ very average and uninteresting personality. Velazquez’s painting and indeed many more of his pictures of the royal family, bears witness to this. For Tacitus, who spared no effort in exposing the vices and crimes of his Caesars, their ruthlessness is legendary. But even his most rapacious villains are somehow surrounded by some true greatness, perhaps ensuing from their Romanness and not from their character. Most 18th century rulers, with some exceptions, could hardly be cited as personal embodiments of the kind of royal majesty Bossuet envisioned. But we can go even further. The most spectacular royal, nay, imperial career of the age was certainly that of Napoleon, yet there is a sense of meanness, vulgarity, and even vacuity about that career. Emerson’s famous essay on him may not be an objective evaluation of his character, actions and achievements, yet it captures the idea very well:

“Napoleon is thoroughly modern, and, at the highest point of his fortunes, has the very spirit of the newspapers. He is no saint . . . , ‘no capuchin,’ and he is no hero, in the high sense. The man in the street finds in him the qualities and powers of other men in the street. He finds him, like himself, by birth a citizen, who, by very intelligible merits, arrived at such a commanding position that he could indulge all those tastes which the common man possesses but is obliged to conceal and deny: good society, good books, fast travelling, dress, dinners, servants without number, personal weight, the execution of his ideas, the standing in the attitude of a benefactor to all persons about him, the refined enjoyments of pictures, statues, music, palaces and conventional honors, – precisely what is agreeable to the heart of every man in the nineteenth century, this powerful man possessed. It is true that a man of Napoleon’s truth of adaptation to the mind of the masses around him, becomes not merely representative but actually a monopolizer and usurper of other minds.”[9]

Napoleon is enigmatic but his secret is his vulgarity. Yet he is the sovereign, at least its incarnation. He is a democratic emperor: the commander-in-chief, the first minister, the supreme judge, perhaps the chief editor-in-chief, all in one person, a true imperator perhaps but definitely not a Caesar. For if these offices are removed from his personality, what remains is a letter – the famous “N” – that signifies sovereignty without personality. A military genius may be a rare phenomenon, yet it is utterly incapable of substituting for personal greatness and personal weight.

If modern monarchs are unable to carry the weight of sovereignty because they are too much modern individuals, the other solution political theory has proposed may perhaps work. There is not much difference between Bossuet’s exaltation of the prince and Hobbes’ vision of the artificial person:

“The only way to erect such a Common Power . . . is, to conferre all their power and strength upon one Man, or upon one Assembly of men, that may reduce all their Wills, by plurality of voices, unto one Will: which is as much as to say, to appoint one man, or Assembly of men, to beare their Person . . .; and therein to submit their Wills, every one to his Will, and their Judgements, to his Judgment. This is . . .  a reall Unitie of them all, in one and the same Person, made by Covenant of every man with every man . . .  This done, the Multitude so united in one Person, is called a COMMON-WEALTH, in latine CIVITAS. This is the Generation of that great LEVIATHAN, or rather (to speake more reverently) of that Mortall God, to which wee owe under the Immortall God, our peace and defence.”[10]

To which Rousseau added his no less enthusiastic ideas about the infallibility, absolute freedom, if not exactly omnipotence of the general will. Briefly, we have popular sovereignty, or the sovereignty of the people as a unity. The perhaps most succinct, yet in my view imprecise, formula was provided by Abbé Sieyès:

1. What is the Third Estate? Everything.

2. What has it been until now in the political order? Nothing.

3. What does it want to be? Something.

The formula is famous but needs to be corrected. My proposal is this: What was the Third Estate? Something. What has it become? Everything – and thereby nothing. For once we remove the last ties between sovereignty and real, personal individuality, which is politically perhaps right, yet there remains the scary option of a sovereign will being capable of everything yet totally irresponsible, unaccountable, unapproachable – practically speaking a nothing.

No wonder that Tolstoy, another famous critic of Napoleon and the view that the emperor (his intentions, decisions, orders) were the “cause” of events, could not but conclude that history is a sequence of events that flow from and explain one another. Utmost freedom and utmost unfreedom, being everything and nothing: these are the contradictory yet very real aspects of popular sovereignty that are, however, very much in tune with the modern self whose aesthetic master form is suspended individuality, a presence of something that in reality is nothing. Works of art that speak or want to speak about our passion for freedom have no other choice but create something whose message consists in nothing else but exclusion. No one is allowed to enter the human Holy of Holies – the sanctuary of the modern self – because it is empty.

My ambition was very modest. It was only to place Tocqueville’s thesis regarding the relationship between equality and freedom in the world controlled by democratic taste. Examples prove nothing, of course, but may make certain contentions plausible or at least encourage a sympathetic hearing. Since inclusion and exclusion are a dyad that corresponds to that of equality and freedom, hopefully this is at least an elegant analogy. If it helps us understand better our world, then this is some satisfaction to the philosopher, a small victory over the artist. Aesthetics is, after all, a revenge of philosophy over art.



[1] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. J.P.Mayer, trans. George Lawrence (New York: Harper, 1988), 481-82.

[2] See Incidentally, the same thing happened in October 2015, at an exhibition titled ’Where shall we go dancing tonight?’ in Bolzano, Italy. See Both links accessed 3th November, 2015.

[3] Tocqueville, op. cit., 489, 491.

[4] Estonian Rhapsody. June 6, 2012, 11:19 am. Since Estonia has suddenly become the poster child for austerity defenders — they’re on the euro and they’re booming! — I thought it might be useful to have a picture of what we’re talking about. So, a terrible — Depression-level — slump, followed by a significant but still incomplete recovery. Better than no recovery at all, obviously — but this is what passes for economic triumph?

[5] 8:57 p.m. Let’s write about something we know nothing about & be smug, overbearing & patronizing: after all, they’re just wogs. 9:06 p.m. Guess a Nobel in trade means you can pontificate on fiscal matters & declare my country a “wasteland.” Must be a Princeton vs Columbia thing. 9:15 p.m. But yes, what do we know? We’re just dumb & silly East Europeans. Unenlightened. Someday we too will understand. Nostra culpa. 9:32 p.m. Let’s sh*t on East Europeans: their English is bad, won’t respond & actually do what they’ve agreed to & reelect govts that are responsible. 10:10 p.m. Chill. Just because my country’s policy runs against the Received Wisdom & I object doesn’t mean y’all gotta follow me.

[6] Las Meninas exemplifies not the Classical but the modern age. The radicalness of the picture consists in its being a metaphor for the structure of meaning specific to the modern age where the sign operates through difference – the signifier being grounded in nothing, in the invisible or absence, against which it identifies.” Gulgeta, Zdravka (2011), “Michel Foucault’s (Mis)interpretation of Las Meninas or, Pure Representation as the Tautologous Structure of the Sign,” Facta Universitatis Series: Linguistics and Literature 1: 1-12, Vol. 9.

[7] First published in 1637, translated by Joseph Jacobs. Accessed 24th September, 2015.

[8] J-B. Bossuet, Politics Drawn from the very Words of the Holy Scripture, trans. Patrick Riley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1990), 160.

[9] R. W. Emerson, “Napoleon: Or The Man Of The World” in The Prose Works of R. W. Emerson, Vol. II. (Boston: J.R. Osgood, 1875), 122.

[10] Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. C. B. MacPherson (London: Penguin Books, 1985), 227.

Zoltan Balazs

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Zoltan Balazs is a Professor of Political Science at Cornivus University and a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Social Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.