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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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Modernity as the Creative Destruction of the King’s Two Bodies

Modernity as the Creative Destruction of the King’s Two Bodies

(p.223) 8 Modernity as the Creative Destruction of the King’s Two Bodies
Power in Modernity

Isaac Ariail Reed

University of Chicago Press

This chapter places the historical interpretations and sociological analytic on power of the previous chapters within the project of critical theory. Beginning with an interpretation of a satirical play published about the Whiskey Rebellion in the newspapers of the early American republic, it then moves to think about the King's Two Bodies broadly as a recurrent format of fantasy—according to which the leader (King, Queen, Emperor) contains the political community as a whole. Transitions to modernity occur when sociopolitical movements creatively destroy the King's Two Bodies as a working background for doing politics. This perspective is then placed in relationship to other ways of conceptualizing modernity: as capitalism, disenchantment, differentiation, deliberative democracy, or the triumph of the biopolitical. Theories of contramodernity are also considered. In contrast to these, if modernity is the creative destruction of the King's Two bodies, then critique begins from a different starting point—the negative space left by the absence of the King, the reformulation of sacred and profane in modern political culture, and the continuation of myth into modern politics. Modernity reveals itself as a reconfiguration of bodies, politics, and authorship, whose contours provide both peril and possibility in the pursuit of life without the King.

Keywords:   Michel Foucault, Carole Pateman, Friedrich Nietzsche, Whiskey Rebellion, Ernst Kantorowicz, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Frantz Fanon, modernity, critical theory

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