restricted access 3.5: How Color Saved the Canon
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an “imagined,” chord of mutuality in the sufferer’s sympathetic witness. “For every rich man, there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many,” Smith would write in The Wealth of Nations.40 But the inherent inequities of wealth were for Smith already resolved socially, in the arena of civil society where—according to Smith’s Lockean rule—one also finds “the security of property . . . [and] the defense of the rich against the poor” (WN, 181). The boundaries of morality for Smith are thus contained within a capitalist form of government produced within civil society . As is evident in Book Two, Chapter Three of The Wealth of Nations, which echoes his blueprint of “moral sentiment” in the earlier treatise of 1759, “partial ” behavior on either side of class division is reduced to the supra-materialist realm of character, conduct, and mutual respect.41 Thus, conflict writ as “moral” restraint is a historically necessary condition for the advance of markets, not inimical to them. For Smith, economic contradictions , rather than potentially confronted by a pre- or anticapitalist moral exchange “between persons” as in Thompson’s paternalism, are resolved in precisely that (subjective) arena in the guise of “moral sympathy.”42 In a society necessarily unequal, the capitalist spectator finds experiential “correspondence” within civil society as “fellow feeling” (TMS, 10). And this is insufficiently distinguishable from Thompson’s allegedly precapitalist gentleman/client relation. Far from standing outside, and thereby in opposition to, the market, sympathetic experience and (unequal) moral reciprocity are seen as effects surreptitiously congenial to the market in its earliest historical forms. Thus, to find within popular agency the rational correspondence of individual feeling is to move inadvertently within the very market relations that collective action is alleged to be opposing. We have not in this overview of sympathetic morality traveled far from a concern over the loss of “human agency” attached to CS—that notion of stony activism that keeps knowing and doing at some economically unsullied mutual distance. Indeed, underneath current debates over the textual proclivities of CS and the hard questions theory asks of history is the tacit endorsement of Enlightenment intersubjectivity that attends Thompson’s crowd. This same misdirected melding together of self-interest with collective response is what Wiegman and Frankenberg want rightly to pin to the overly volunteerist desires for post-whiteness that inform much of white labor history. When a cultural zone of mutual reciprocity is posited outside economy, the shadowy presence of consensus as moral experience becomes the preferred way of envisioning popular struggle. This account of the popular, which underwrites CS’s interest in the masses, is traceable to Thompson, but finds its origins with Enlightenment rationalizations of affect that need to be redressed. M U L T I T U D E O R C U L T U R A L I S M ? 198 Adam Smith’s theory of moral sympathy develops the individuation of the masses further along the lines Thompson has drawn. “We suppose ourselves the spectators of our own behavior,” he writes, “and endeavor to imagine what effect it would, in this light, produce upon us. This is the only looking-glass by which we can, in some measure, with the eyes of other people, scrutinize the propriety of our own conduct” (TMS, 16). The primary feature of the moral “looking glass” is that it is circular: “the creation of an imaginative self-projection into an outsider whose standards and responses we reconstruct by sympathy .”43 In Smith’s formula, the expression of outward sympathetic feeling is only the initial step in an infinite spectatorial chain. The sympathizing subject not only corresponds with his own experience of pleasure or suffering with the object of his gaze, but internalizes this correspondence such that the first subject /object relation is reproduced as the secondary “propriety” of voluntary selfrestraint .44 “A prison is certainly more useful to society than a palace” (TMS, 30), Smith would remark in anticipation of Bentham’s panopticon. But the disciplinary procedures spelled out by Foucault are in Smith’s much earlier example rather more efficient, softer in appearance but no less material in effect, than the bricks and mortar of education or early modern punishment.45 For Smith, the “propriety” implicit in his circular moral gaze is at work by epistemological necessity, and indeed, at the level of language itself. Unlike the spectator of Hutcheson and Hume, both of whom gave prominence...


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Subject Headings

  • Heterosexual men -- United States -- Psychology.
  • Education, Higher -- Political aspects -- United States.
  • Education, Higher -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Whites -- Race identity -- United States.
  • United States -- Race relations.
  • Men, White -- United States -- Psychology.
  • National characteristics, American.
  • United States -- Census, 2000.
  • Multiculturalism -- United States.
  • Group identity -- Political aspects -- United States.
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