John Roberts. The Reasoning of Unreason: Universalism, Capitalism, and Disenlightenment. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018

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Artemy Magun


John Roberts, a leading figure in studies of artistic modernism, has published a book of political theory. This is not as surprising as it might appear, since the aesthetic writings of Roberts (e.g., Roberts 2015) were written from a leftist, critical theory perspective and pondered the relationship between avant-garde art and politics. The question of universality played an important role in those writings, too. Roberts approached the subject dialectically, in a Hegelian way, by identifying the universality of art with the telos of a double negation: the negation of art’s increasingly banal critical and subversive stance toward all social institutions (itself included), which would push art out of itself into a revolutionary praxis. Roberts’s new work raises the question of universality even more thematically, in trying to reaffirm it in the present circumstances, against the reign of monetary abstraction and legalistic uniformity— which is not quite the same thing as the universal. The true, “emancipatory” universal is “reason-in-struggle,” an infinite project of grounding all human practices in reason and contesting its irrational limitations.

DOI: 10.25285/2078-1938-2019-11-2-174-178


Political Theory, Universalism, Capitalism, Social Institutions, Ideology

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