Enlightenment and Community

Enlightenment and Community

Benjamin W. Redekop
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Enlightenment and Community
    Book Description:

    Jürgen Habermas' pioneering work has provoked intense discussion about the rise of a modern public sphere and civil society. Redekop revises and expands the Habermasian thesis by demonstrating that, rather than being particularly "bourgeois," the eighteenth-century German public was a problematic, amorphous entity that was not based on a single social grouping - a beckoning figure that led Lessing, Abbt, and Herder on unique but comparable quests to give it shape and form. His perspective provides an important new understanding of the work of authors who have often been placed in overly narrow and restrictive categories.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6419-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-28)

    The notions of “the public,” “publicity,” and “public opinion” are key concepts in Western social and political discourse. These terms tend to have a dual character, indicating both the presence of some kind of human community and the processes by which ideas, opinions, concerns, and information are represented within that community. The word “public” — noun or adjective — is of central importance. As a noun, denoting a body of citizens, it is employed as a crucial point of reference in the evaluation of policy — that is, what is the public’s position on the matter? As an adjective it invokes root processes...

  5. 1 Public Writers and the Problem of Publikum
    (pp. 29-57)

    During the eighteenth century the German-speaking area of Europe was a patchwork of territories controlled by secular and clerical authorities, of free Imperial Cities and territories held by Imperial Knights. Laid over the top of this veritable constellation of cities, states, and provinces was a complicated system of legal rights and duties. German society was characterized by a relatively static if not uniform corporate order — estates — and the prevailing form of government was absolutist, whose fundamental condition and leading idea was that of “social discipline.” In this context the primary units of social movement were specific layers and groupings (for...

  6. 2 United and Yet Divided: Lessing’s Constitution of an Enlightened German Public
    (pp. 58-122)

    In a passage written towards the end of his life, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing argued that civil society “cannot unite men without dividing them; not divide them, without establishing rifts between them, without putting walls among them.”¹ This paradoxical statement is emblematic of Lessing’s approach to the problem ofPublikum,representing a dialectical relationship between differing tendencies in his work. On the one hand, in his dramatic and dramaturgical works particularly, Lessing advanced an ideal of sociability based upon the sympathetic, affective identification of social actors with one another: a united public sphere of sympathetically responsive and hence virtuous individuals. On...

  7. 3 Inscribing a Public Sphere of Citizens: Thomas Abbt’s Response to the Problem of Publikum
    (pp. 123-167)

    If Lessing’s approach to the problem ofPublikumrequires a good deal of careful exegesis, Thomas Abbt’s (1738-66) was plain and simple, and indeed overt — Abbt was by nature interested in issues of social and political culture. If Lessing’s engagement with such issues was mediated by literary and aesthetic concerns, Abbt’s was more straightforwardly couched in discourses of patriotism, morals, and sociability. In Abbt the question of citizenship, only lurking in the wings of Lessing’s writings, takes centre-stage. Drawing on a variety of European sources, Abbt — an academic with broad interests — strove invom Tode für das Vaterland(On Dying...

  8. 4 Language, Literature, and Publikum: Herder’s Vision of Organic Enlightenment
    (pp. 168-220)

    Throughout his career Johann Gottfried Herder entertained wide-ranging ideas on the relationship between language, letters, and the formation of a united and harmonious GermanPublikum. While rejecting many components of the prevailing Enlightenment culture, especially cosmopolitanism and anything that smacked of abstract philosophy, Herder advanced his own ideas on the role of the educator or “enlightener,” ideas that, like much of his thought, were expressed in organic metaphors and images. These notions, which underwent a change in emphasis but not in substance during Herder’s life, are in turn organically related to his larger literary and philosophical project.

    Herder was convinced...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 221-240)

    In the foregoing chapters I have detailed the ways in which three leading figures of theAufklärungwere engaged, in roughly the third quarter of the eighteenth-century, in theorizing and shaping an emergent GermanPublikum. It was during the eighteenth century that the term “the public” was reconstituted from its ancient juridical and humanist roots and contested in the service of a changing socio-political order. European Enlightenment culture was hence a fundamental locus for the emergence and conceptualization of what has come to be called the modern public sphere, a topic that twentieth-century scholars first approached via the concept of...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-258)
  11. Index
    (pp. 259-263)