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Fürstenspiegel, Political Economy, Critique

Fürstenspiegel, Political Economy, Critique

(p.107) 5 Fürstenspiegel, Political Economy, Critique
The Birth of Theory
Andrew Cole
University of Chicago Press

Theorists have long used the genres of tragedy and comedy to explain--or critique--history. But there is also the genre of Fürstenspiegel, which Hegel uses to examine the historical character of the discipline of political economy—taking on its greatest practitioner, Adam Smith. Hegel’s pairing of Fürstenspiegel and political economy matters, in the first instance, because their histories are, unbeknownst to later theorists and genre specialists alike, intertwined and continue to influence one another in intellectual history from fifteenth-century Fürstenspiegel literature to nineteenth-century German idealism and historical materialism, and onward to twentieth-century Marxisms and historicism. For Hegel and others writing within the Hegelian-Marxist tradition, medieval genre offers a perspective on modernity, setting into relief features of the emergent in contrast to the archaic. Such critical generic anachronism is not only central to the familiar “ideology critique” (Ideologiekritik) of appearances and conditions—be they economic, political, or ethical—but also marks the inception of a critical practice that is then developed in the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and Fredric Jameson. Ideology critique, in other words, emerged out of an engagement with the Middle Ages—specifically by thinkers reflecting on the persistence of the medieval within an unevenly developed modernity.

Keywords:   historicism, Marxism, genre criticism, Fürstenspiegel, political economy, ideology critique, Adam Smith, Bakhtin, Jameson

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