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Can We Judge the Humanities by Their Future as a Course of Study? If we were moving in the right direction, where reality might fulfill our hopes, we shouldn’t need any visionary ideals to beckon us. Events would open out before us congenially, and would call forth our innocent interest and delight, gradually, concretely, in ways odder and more numerous than we expected. Why, then, is this not so? Why does experience leave us so desolate, so puzzled, so tired, that like Plato and Plotinus and the Christian saints we must look to some imaginary heaven or some impossible utopia for encouragement and for peace? —Mr. Darnley, in George Santayana, The Last Puritan»U.S. readers have made Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Empire a widely noticed academic bestseller. The book came into the market at a time when globalization was still a term on almost everyone’s lips; it afforded a way for a subset of academic humanists to link their work to what they took to be an issue of deep sociopolitical, cultural, and economic consequence. Empire built itself from a great many terms and ways of talking already circulating in the university and media. Its familiarity made it easy for academic cultural studies scholars to engage with it. Its bold and universal account of what was going on in a long secular period of neoliberal economics and state policy excited readers eager for some sort of radical explanation that could contest with official Hayekian accounts of post–Cold War change. It afforded many chances to do more work, ways to tie the terms of especially U.S.-based cultural studies to the world of (post)state politics and economy—all in a way that showed how culturalist work mattered. Addressing the largest questions of the age, as this book and its adopters 8 Humanities as a Course of Study 103 claimed to do, in itself legitimized work that followed from or indeed had made it possible by emphasizing the role of cultural politics and suprastate institutions. As part of a paradigm’s normal academic development, the book and its adherents faced opposition, sometimes from a statist political Right that despises Negri for his past politics just as it despises cultural criticism,1 sometimes from competitive (‘left’) academics who prefer other models or categories for humanistic and cultural work. In other words, the book fell into a normal pattern of market behavior.2 The events of September 11, 2001, have given us a new commonplace. September 11 changed everything, we almost all say. Those former “masters of the universe” who attend the World Economic Forum tell us that terrorism, war, and the United States have moved globalization out of sight; everything that seemed real in the long 1990s almost matters no more.3 Globalization goes on, as it did during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries before the Cold War changed the relations of capital to space. But globalization as the phenomenon of the Clinton years has disappeared in the dust of collapsing towers, smart bombs, and dead bodies. As a result, as a topic for academic preoccupation, globalization has lost some of its charm to legitimate humanists’ work and self-opinion. All my debatable assertions matter less, however, than two other things: first, we now know that the Bush regime’s strategic intellectuals planned something like a global war of preemption long before the murders of the workers in the World Trade Towers;4 second, we now know that the United States has an appetite for unilateral, preemptive, imperial,5 and military adventures. Indeed, the war in Yugoslavia, with the bombing of Belgrade, taught that lesson during the long 1990s.6 Discussions of globalization assert the nation-state’s decline, even when they acknowledge the particular role played by the U.S. state apparatus in nurturing the neoliberal order of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and China’s liberalization. These discussions valuably moved humanistic work out of the grasp of nation-state concepts and made possible new alignments, canon formations, and research projects—what we now call interdisciplinary hybridity.7 If 9/11 changed everything, then it has changed the relations between the humanities and globalization. How fundamental are these changes? Do they include a reconsideration of the figure of the “weakened nation-state” troping upon the nation-state concepts of older cultural work? Do we wonder if 104 A More Conservative Place “the politics of representation” belongs...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781611683707
Print ISBN
9781611683424
MARC Record
OCLC
841033861
Launched on MUSE
2013-02-13
Language
English
Open Access
N
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