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Materialism and Imagination

Nicolas Veroli


Early on in the development of capitalist modernity the bourgeois public sphere imposed itself as the dominant institution for the mediation of social conflict as well as the foundational modality for socialization of individuals and groups. By public sphere is to be understood, on the one hand, the invention of print media technologies, and on the other, the institution of academies – literary and scientific, museums, salons, and later national schooling systems that insured that control over norms of discourse and aesthetic representation was exercised by one particular social class in European society as well as in Europe’s then rapidly developing colonial empires. In the process of gaining cultural hegemony, this public sphere stabilized – and was itself stabilized by – a particular and novel form of rule: that of the modern nation state. This complex articulation occurred through a variety of cultural, economic, and political strategies. The establishment of national and imperial markets starting in the sixteenth century, the onset of processes of cultural and linguistic homogenization starting shortly thereafter, the invention of a legal and philosophical human subject were all necessary conditions for the constitution of this public sphere. The normative status which the bourgeois-humanist subject acquired during this period meant that while “all” were assumed to be subjects in the public sphere, only those (white, male, heterosexual, and propertied) who could adhere to the normative strictures of bourgeois subjectivity could participate in its organization and function in it as agents. The bourgeois public sphere thus imposed itself, progressively, as the exclusive space for the legitimate production of knowledge, moral norms, and aesthetic forms.

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Journal on African Philosophy. ISSN: 1533-1067 (online).
Editor: Olufemi Taiwo.

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