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|Ressourcentyp||Call for Papers|
|Titel||Ressentiment- On the Limits of Criticism and the Limits of its Critics. A Book of Interdisciplinary Essays|
|Beschreibung||Call for Contributions:
“Ressentiment”: on the Limits of Criticism and the Limits of its Critics.
(Editors: Jeanne Riou / Mary Gallagher)
This interdisciplinary volume of essays will explore the notion of ‘Ressentiment’, focusing in particular on its relation both to criticism and to power and dissent. “Ressentiment” is a historical term. In the industrial nineteenth century, it emerged as organized movements of protest and dissent grew in both popularity and force. Every critical movement brings forth its counter-critical movement, every aspiration a potential opponent.
Is “Ressentiment” a universal anthropological category? Is it present whenever one movement threatens to overtake another, more powerful one? What is the relationship of “Ressentiment” to power? When exactly are philosophical and ethical aims undermined as driven by “weak” and unsuitable competitors? Is the weaker argument driven by Ressentiment if its opponents have the right to say so? Does the perception of “Ressentiment” depend on the speech situation per se and the situation of the different speakers in an argument?
The charge of “Ressentiment” could be examined as a strategy of undermining opposition within a system. Even though it is – arguably – an emotional phenomenon, it could also be approached from the avenue of Systems theory, since, much like Intimacy, it is produced in particular ways by the codes of a particular system. Discourse on “Ressentiment” can thus be tracked in a number of directions, beginning with its incipience in nineteenth century critique of culture.
According to Nietzsche in "Zur Genealogie der Moral" [On the Genealogy of Morals], “Ressentiment” is the real driver of Christian theories of morality. For him, repressed hatred, envy and a sense of subjective powerlessness give rise to this phenomenon in its multi-facetted symbolic guises. In the period of his writings between 1913 and 1922, the phenomenologist and sociologist Max Scheler concurs with Nietzsche in many respects, but sets about showing that “Ressentiment” is not a Christian phenomenon. He argues that Nietzsche had underestimated the fear of death, fear of the sick, fear of the contagion of weakness in Antiquity, and idealized Antiquity in comparison to Early Christianity. For both Nietzsche and Scheler, however, “Ressentiment” is at the root of the ‘protest movements’ of the nineteenth century. Both authors focus in particular on the movements of socialism and feminism. As products of an unacknowledged envy of the more talented or naturally (socially?) more highly-ranked “Other”, these and a range of movements are discredited in the eyes of these conservative thinkers. And the charge of “Ressentiment” does not stop there. In Scheler, it carries over into a countering of criticism itself, a dismissal of the theoretical basis of the critical demand for social change.
In today’s world – though less in traditionally conservative quarters than in the neo-positivist discourses of particular forms of liberalism – the charge of “Ressentiment” can be used to undermine the argumentative credibility of political opponents, or dissidents, and of all those who call for greater justice. Whether Nietzsche and Scheler would have intended their critiques of social criticism to be used in this way is to an extent incidental. From the centre of a period of unprecedented modernisation and industrialization, and disillusioned with what they saw as the shortcuts of positivism in psychology (Spencer, Mill) or sociology (Comte), they embarked on their own paths of criticism. In the light of a resurgence of positivism in today’s political discourse, their criticism may well have particular resonance.
We hope that this publication will address “Ressentiment” in a broad spectrum of historical and contemporary contexts. One of the key questions will be whether this trope of the late nineteenth century has been rediscovered in the recent and ongoing crisis of the neoliberal economy. The charge of “Ressentiment” can be read, for example, between the lines of many attempts to discredit opponents of contemporary European policy in the area of banking and finance, but also education (Bologna and its effects on European third-level education) and a broad spectrum of dissenting opinion. However, “Ressentiment” is frequently the pretext for a dismissal of critical thought per se: critique is made to appear inappropriate, interest-driven and untimely.
Call for Contributions / Part 2. (Conceptual History / Contemporary Meanings)
The essays in this volume will, we hope, explore both the past and the present of the notion of ‘Ressentiment’. We will therefore welcome contributions on its entire scope, from its origins in antiquity and philosophical anthropology to its place in today’s intellectual and political landscape.
1. “Ressentiment”: the history of a concept
If its place in contemporary discourse connects it to theories of envy, the genesis of “Ressentiment” shows close conceptual ties with notions of pity. In the understanding of mimesis in Aristotle’s Poetics, pity and terror are part of the cathartic process unleashed by tragedy. While Plato in Book 10 of the Republic had famously banished the artists from his ideal Republic, since art was capable of arousing emotions stronger than rational thought, Aristotle sees a purifying role for the pity and terror evoked by witnessing tragic occurrences in drama. This connotation of pity and its link to catharsis carries over into the Judeo-Christian tradition, and, when Aristotle’s Poetics is rediscovered in the Renaissance, it combines with a new, seventeenth-century connotation of purification, namely purging. The eighteenth-century Enlightenment adds to this a dimension of moral improvement with Lessing’s acclaimed argument that the compassionate person is a better person, and that the purpose of art should be at least in part to arouse compassion. However, at the close of the nineteenth century, Nietzsche takes issue with Aristotle’s definition of catharsis, and departs in no uncertain terms from the Enlightenment paradigm of universal moral understanding. Art should not purge us of the experience of fear and danger, in Nietzsche’s view. On the contrary, the Dionysian anti-hero exposes himself to danger, rather than seeking to purge it, and his is an aesthetics of withstanding, experiencing – rather than of distancing through mimetic processes. In Nietzsche’s later writing, the anti-Aristotelian aesthetic is carried over to a theory of cultural weakness. Beyond Good and Evil and On the Genealogy of Morals unreservedly associate “Ressentiment” with a ‘false’ morality of the Judeo-Christian tradition, one built on cowardice rather than Dionysian courage. In the spirit of this cowardice, Nietzsche infers, “Ressentiment” emerges as the plea for mercy and appeal for pity from the centre of a weakened and corrupted core. Right up to today, this connotation continues to resound in cultural theories of “Ressentiment”, and dissent – whenever this is voiced by a minority group or from an isolated viewpoint – falls under suspicion of a false appeal for mercy. It is inherently under suspicion of looking for unwarranted advantage, undeserved leniency, unmerited protection. “Ressentiment”, in this way, can be dismissed with the contempt which Nietzsche showed for any social movement, any call for justice, any sense of protest not in keeping with the individual’s Dionysian self-celebration.
Beginning, then, with Nietzsche’s use of the term to attack what he saw as the ‘herd morality’ of a culture weakened and ‘perverted’ by a false morality, “Ressentiment” has been an often unspoken charge at the heart of politically conservative cultural theory. In its nineteenth and early twentieth-century reading first by Nietzsche, then by Max Scheler, “Ressentiment” effectively delivered a theory of envy. It saw at the heart of political dissent not a legitimate intellectual stance, but an emotional cry for help. In the aftermath, it is not difficult to see how “Ressentiment” has become a trope of other discursive formations. From the viewpoints of its critics, it represents the limits of criticism. For them, “Ressentiment” is the point of criticism’s descent into a pre-discursive, emotional terrain that has no place in rational discourse. Far too close to a non-verbalized cry of envy, “Ressentiment” is dismissed as the collective call for equality where this equality is not merited.
2) “Ressentiment”: Contemporary Resonance
Constructed as an emotional phenomenon in Nietzsche’s reading of Judeo-Christian culture, ‘Ressentiment’ asks questions, then, of religious history, of Christian ideals of goodness and justice, as well as of philosophy. How does modern and contemporary morality, and the political adaptation of morality both on the political ‘left’ and on the political ’right’ relate to the emotional phenomenon in its historical sense? How might this play out in today’s world? Some possible directions of exploration include the following:
How might the trope of “Ressentiment” resonate in the recent crisis of a world whose economic foundations have been called into question? Has it been used in this context to offset more serious criticism? What began in 2008 as a crisis in the banking sector brought about by dubious and often semi-legal practices had a devastating impact on several of the weaker economies of the Euro-zone. As this impact continues, “Ressentiment” has figured in certain political reactions to widespread unemployment in North America. The perception of US economic weakness has sparked a “Tea Party” backlash against Barack Obama’s political policies, supposedly revealing the failure and indeed incipient danger of providing a policy for the ‘weak’. In short, universal health care is denigrated as “Ressentiment”.
To what extent was the charge of “Ressentiment” in circulation in political discourse in the aftermath of the banking collapse that began with Lehman Brothers’ fall in 2008? In other words, to what extent was the critique of neoliberalism in the European press stifled by the counter-charge that “Ressentiment” against the banking sector could not be allowed to threaten the future of the Euro zone? Did “Ressentiment” raise its head as neoliberal agencies and governments tried to discredit their opponents without engaging with their arguments?
In relation to the educational sphere, the critique of university reform in post-Bologna Europe is routinely dismissed as “Ressentiment” – the useless dissent of old humanism and its resistance to change. This applies particularly where a political message is being driven home – that national interest, political survival, the wealth of the future depend on educating for the economy. Universities are rated accordingly and they shift to a vocationalist trend. As ideas are replaced by ‘targetable objectives’, ‘deliverable outcomes’, those who speak out are driven to the margins, their arguments neutralised as pure Ressentiment” – frustration and envy-based.
The editors hope to receive contributions for this volume from a variety of disciplines. Expressions of interest are invited and should be accompanied by an abstract of up to 400 words, to be submitted no later than 31 January 2011. While submissions and contributions may be in German, French or English, the volume is likely to be published in English only, thus necessitating translation of certain contributions into English. We would like to ask you to send your correspondence by email to both editors.
Dr. Jeanne Riou
Lecturer in German Studies
University College Dublin
Prof. Mary Gallagher
Professor of French and Francophone Studies
School of Languages and Literatures
University College Dublin
|Quelle der Beschreibung||Information des Anbieters|
|Person||Name: Dr. Jeanne Riou
|Kontaktdaten||Name/Institution: Dr. Jeanne Riou / School of Languages & Literatures, University College Dublin, Irland.
Strasse/Postfach: University College Dublin, Belfield
Postleitzahl: Dublin 4
Fax: 030 85733340
|Schlüsselbegriffe||Historische Semantik (Wissensgeschichte, Mentalitätsgeschichte, Ideengeschichte); Komparatistik (Kulturvergleich, Interkulturelle Literaturwissenschaft); Medien- u. Kommunikationstheorie|
|Zusätzliches Suchwort||Interdisziplinäre, kulturwissenschaftliche Essays|
|Klassifikation||04.00.00 Allgemeine Literaturgeschichte > 04.05.00 Antike und abendländische Literatur; 11.00.00 17. Jahrhundert > 11.03.00 Geistes- und Kulturgeschichte; 16.00.00 Jahrhundertwende (1880-1914) > 16.03.00 Geistes- und Kulturgeschichte; 17.00.00 20. Jahrhundert (1914-1945) > 17.03.00 Geistes- und Kulturgeschichte; 19.00.00 1990 bis zur Gegenwart > 19.03.00 Geistes- und Kulturgeschichte|
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