Power in Modernity: Agency Relations and the Creative Destruction of the King's Two Bodies

Power in Modernity: Agency Relations and the Creative Destruction of the King's Two Bodies

by Isaac Ariail Reed

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In Power in Modernity, Isaac Ariail Reed proposes a bold new theory of power that describes overlapping networks of delegation and domination.  Chains of power and their representation, linking together groups and individuals across time and space, create a vast network of intersecting alliances, subordinations, redistributions, and violent exclusions. Reed traces the common action of “sending someone else to do something for you” as it expands outward into the hierarchies that control territories, persons, artifacts, minds, and money.

He mobilizes this theory to investigate the onset of modernity in the Atlantic world, with a focus on rebellion, revolution, and state formation in colonial North America, the early American Republic, the English Civil War, and French Revolution. Modernity, Reed argues, dismantled the “King’s Two Bodies”—the monarch’s physical body and his ethereal, sacred second body that encompassed the body politic—as a schema of representation for forging power relations. Reed’s account then offers a new understanding of the democratic possibilities and violent exclusions forged in the name of “the people,” as revolutionaries sought new ways to secure delegation, build hierarchy, and attack alterity.

Reconsidering the role of myth in modern politics, Reed proposes to see the creative destruction and eternal recurrence of the King’s Two Bodies as constitutive of the modern attitude, and thus as a new starting point for critical theory. Modernity poses in a new way an eternal human question: what does it mean to be the author of one’s own actions?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226689593
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 03/25/2020
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Isaac Ariail Reed is associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Interpretation and Social Knowledge: On the Use of Theory in the Human Sciences and coeditor of Social Theory Now, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Two Parables from Kafka

Part I Power

1 Rector, Actor, Other Rector, Actor, Other
Other as Enemy and Slave
2 Agency Relations Action and Agency
Projects in Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Said
The Social Theory of Agency in the Work of Julia Adams
Patriarchal Patrimonialism Retheorized
Agency Relations and the Critical Theory of Power
3 Dimensions of Delegation and Domination The Ties That Bind
Materiality: Alfred Gell
Materiality in Chains of Power and Their Representation
On Interests and Actor Network Theory as Opposing Poles of a Spectrum
Relational Power
Discursive Power
Excursus on Chandra Mukerji’s Synthesis of Material, Relational, and Discursive Power
When Is the World Mechanical?
On Violence
Chains of Power and Their Representation: A Multidimensional Approach
4 Binding Performances Strange Magic
Illocutionary Force and Performative Power
Binding, Sending, and Excluding via Performance
The Salem Witch Trials and the Fall of Oscar Wilde
An Analysis of Performative Power in the Salem Witch Trials and the Fall of Oscar Wilde
Excursus on the Theorization of Performance and Ritual in Sociology
Performance in Chains of Power and Their Representation
Founding Performances
Part II Modernity
Introduction to Part II

5 Agency, Alterity, and the Two Bodies of the King Trouble at the Edge of Empire
Chains of Power and Their Representation in Seventeenth-Century Virginia
The King’s Body as Ultimate yet Absent Referent
The King’s Two Bodies
The King’s Two Bodies in Massachusetts Bay Colony and Beyond
Bacon’s Rebellion and Race: Enter the Other
The People as Myth and Guarantor of Delegation: Herman Husband’s Sermons
6 Performing the People’s Two Bodies in the Early American Republic The Sociology of the Spectacular State
Performing Sovereignty in 1794
Republican Government as a Problem of Meaning
Inventing the People’s Two Bodies in the Whiskey Rebellion
Parsing the People’s Two Bodies in the Whiskey Rebellion
The Northwest Territory as a Performance Space
The Battle of Fallen Timbers as a Violent Performance of the Spectacular American State
The Treaty of Greenville and the Destruction of the King’s Household as Metaphor for the State
Anthony Wayne as Agent of the Public
The People’s Two Bodies and Their Others
7 Within and without the King’s Two Bodies in London and Paris The King’s Two Bodies and the Representation of Agency in Elizabethan England
The Crisis of the King’s Two Bodies and the Emergence of the Hobbesian Vision of the State
Killing the King as Founding Performance
Why and How Should We Kill the King?
The People, Their Representatives, and the Law
The Radical Position
Performing without the King’s Second Body
Exclusions from the Ambiguity of Being within and without the King’s Second Body
The French Revolution as a Crisis in Authorship
Part III Power in Modernity

8 Modernity as the Creative Destruction of the King’s Two Bodies Getting the Joke
With What Should We Replace the King’s Two Bodies?
The New Political Economy
Tensions in Cultural Theories of the Modern
Biopower as the Replacement for the King’s Two Bodies
Power in Modernity: Bodies
Power in Modernity: Politics
Power in Modernity: Authorship

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