Destroy and Liberate

Destroy and Liberate

Destroy and Liberate

In David Hume's science of human nature every self is located by passions that bind it to groups, repel it from other groups, and rank it on a hierarchy: we call this discovery a `topology of the passions'. These bound and ranked selves and groups form the matter of what he called `government', a supposedly neutral model of political action designed to avoid the malady of faction and catapult Scotland out of feudalism into a glorious future as a commercial society, assisted by the application of the new discipline of political economy, a discipline blind beyond its functional measures of privileged variables - the growth of trade, interest rates, wage levels - measures that justify the destruction of all obstacles to the wholesale liberation of the commercial passions. To govern - a new kind of action for a new epoch - is to destroy and liberate. But ever since Hume, government has fallen apart because it fails to take into account the complexity of society as a topology of the passions. It is through a close analysis of Hume's account of the English Revolution in The History of England that we find an alternative to government: in his ambivalent report on the impact and danger of another model of political action - democratic enthusiasm - wherein to act is to incarnate an idea of commonality. Moreover, it is also in Hume's History that we glimpse the springs and workings of fortune in politics: models of political action woven together, unravelling, re-woven, any `ought' or any `necessity' foundering in a sea of contingency. We see how the efficacy of a politics is sown together by speech acts and their shaping of time in a topology of passions.
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In David Hume's science of human nature every self is located by passions that bind it to groups, repel it from other groups, and rank it on a hierarchy: we call this discovery a `topology of the passions'. These bound and ranked selves and groups form the matter of what he called `government', a supposedly neutral model of political action designed to avoid the malady of faction and catapult Scotland out of feudalism into a glorious future as a commercial society, assisted by the application of the new discipline of political economy, a discipline blind beyond its functional measures of privileged variables - the growth of trade, interest rates, wage levels - measures that justify the destruction of all obstacles to the wholesale liberation of the commercial passions. To govern - a new kind of action for a new epoch - is to destroy and liberate. But ever since Hume, government has fallen apart because it fails to take into account the complexity of society as a topology of the passions. It is through a close analysis of Hume's account of the English Revolution in The History of England that we find an alternative to government: in his ambivalent report on the impact and danger of another model of political action - democratic enthusiasm - wherein to act is to incarnate an idea of commonality. Moreover, it is also in Hume's History that we glimpse the springs and workings of fortune in politics: models of political action woven together, unravelling, re-woven, any `ought' or any `necessity' foundering in a sea of contingency. We see how the efficacy of a politics is sown together by speech acts and their shaping of time in a topology of passions.
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