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Power in ModernityAgency Relations and the Creative Destruction of the King's Two Bodies$
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Isaac Ariail Reed

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226689319

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226689593.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 28 September 2021

Two Parables from Kafka

Two Parables from Kafka

(p.1) Introduction Two Parables from Kafka
Power in Modernity

Isaac Ariail Reed

University of Chicago Press

The introduction to Power in Modernity articulates the need for a new theory of power via a contrast between two classic parables from Franz Kafka: "Before the Law" and "An Imperial Message." "Before the Law," which is used frequently in theory and philosophy (e.g. by Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida, and Giorgio Agamben) is usually interpreted to be a parable about symbolic violence. Whether it is taken to be about the state, morality in culture, or identity, the parable invokes a sociological nightmare from which the subject cannot awake. In contrast, "An Imperial Message" emphasizes the extension of networks of power through time and space, as well as the fantasy of those at the edge of large political formations that the center of power has something to say to them. By rendering power as long chains of delegation and domination, subject to modulation by fantasy and language, Kafka anticipates the perspective of Power in Modernity, and its theory of rector, actor, and other. This provides a counterpoint to the now-standard ways of imagining the intersection of culture and power associated with Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault.

Keywords:   Franz Kafka, Judith Butler, Before the Law, culture, An Imperial Message, Pierre Bourdieu, law and society, chains of power, principal and agent, literary theory

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