chapter  2
20 Pages

A short history of bourgeois self-emancipation

From Spinoza to Locke and onwards
WithDaniel Fletcher

This chapter suggests that in the Medieval period, as the proto-bourgeois classes began to assert the self against stifling feudal structures, they began to open up the paradox of self-emancipation, unleashing the two oppositional facets of desire which struggle against each other but which nevertheless remain two immanent, interdependent forces. It argues that the emergence of the West's bourgeois classes is underpinned by a liberalist or self-emancipatory ethos that is constituted by a contradictory desiring being, in which desires for being-over humanity and nature, or desires for possession and power, come into conflict with desires for being-with humanity and nature, or desires for horizontal connection. The chapter attempts to show that the radical protestors of the contemporary age are heirs to a long history of self-emancipatory radicalism that has emerged in tandem with the bourgeois history of self-advancement. It presents a self-emancipatory ethos brewing in seventeenth-century England but struggling to break free from aristocratic-bourgeois conservatism.