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2— Part and Whole
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Part and Whole

"Distributive justice is a large idea. It draws the entire world of goods within the reach of philosophical reflection. Nothing can be omitted; no feature of our common life can escape scrutiny." So writes Michael Walzer in the opening paragraph of The Spheres of Justice (1983), a book remarkably unorthodox in its refusal to look for a "singular conclusion" about justice, but somewhat less unorthodox, perhaps, in the operative scope it continues to claim for that term. Justice for Walzer is not only a large idea; it is the most comprehensive, indeed the most exhaustive, idea imaginable, the most fundamental guiding principle for any human community. Its sphere of action is coincidental with the "entire world," with the sum of lived experience, with "being and doing as [well as] having."[1]

Walzer's broad definition of justice thus carries with it a silent premise about the nature of human society: a society imagined to be a "whole" and justice imagined, in turn, as the ethical norm governing that whole. This conception of justice as a virtue pertaining to a totality—and a virtue presiding over that totality—is not at all unique to Walzer, being a commonplace at least since Plato. In The Republic , for example, since it is the state that counts as a totality, Plato suggests that it is "in a State which is ordered with a view to the good of the whole [that] we should be most likely to find justice." Justice, in other words, is the integrating principle of any given, society, here imagined as a corporate unit. For that reason, it must be regarded, like a statue, "not piecemeal," not by exaggerating some particular feature, "but as a whole . . . by giving this and the other features their due proportion."[2]

This chapter questions the notion of a "whole"—whether social or individual—both in the context of the century best known for its exposition and theorization, the nineteenth century, and in the context of a particular vision of justice it continues to underwrite. My discussion will feature Herman Melville and Rebecca Harding Davis at pivotal moments, though its initial engagement (in various senses of


that word) is with the Marxist vision of justice. Marx is, of course, often taken to be an anti theorist of justice. His pronouncements on the subject are strictly ironic, some commentators have argued, because justice as he sees it is no more than the idealized self-image of a given economic regime, no more than the glorified abstraction from a reigning ideology.[3] Here, I take a somewhat different view, arguing that a nonironic theory of justice is traceable to Marx: traceable to his belief in a social whole and above all to his materialist conception of that whole.

Marxist materialism—a generalizing principle, moving always from a determinant to that which it determines—not only presupposes as its operative condition a social totality but presupposes, as well, a fully translatable (and therefore fully recoverable) totality of cause and effect. Like the concept of justice itself, materialism, at its most thoroughgoing, is above all a dream of objective adequation. Invoked as historical agency, as a material "base" translatable into corresponding social structures, it makes justice a matter of teleological guarantee (and, by the same token, perhaps also a matter of analytic indifference). Justice in Marx, I want to suggest, is both presumed and rendered moot by that presumption. Its imperfect enactment in history is guaranteed to be rectifiable in time, rectifiable by a social whole whose eventual materialization is the very promise of its materialism. The concept of the "whole," in other words, is both the operative premise and the inferential endpoint for Marx. And on this count (as on many others), he is perhaps more truly a nineteenth-century figure than we ordinarily think: committed to a discourse of part and whole that I call "metonymic" and committed, not least of all, to a vision of justice founded upon its generalizations.

Metonymy and Materialism

Not unique to Marx, the discourse of part and whole was very much a standard trope in the nineteenth century, a regular feature of its social critique. In a graphic moment in "The American Scholar," for example, Emerson would thrust before the reader a catalog of bodily parts, amputated and randomly assorted, "strut[ting] about" like "so many walking monsters—a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man." With this grotesque image he castigated a phenomenon he found equally grotesque, a phenomenon brought on by the mod-


ern division of labor and amounting, as he saw it, to a metonymic perversion, a substitution of part for whole. Every task is "so distributed to multitudes, . . . so minutely subdivided and peddled out," Emerson complained, that human beings too have become mere fractions of what they might have been.[4] Speaking of human fractions, Emerson's neighbor, Thoreau, was even more emphatic: "It is not the tailor alone who is the ninth part of a man; it is as much the preacher, and the merchant, and the farmer. Where is this division of labor to end? and what object does it finally serve?[5]

Emerson and Thoreau were talking about the same phenomenon which, some sixty years earlier, Adam Smith had reported in thrilling terms.[6] The division of labor for Smith had meant a tremendous gain in productivity, his prime example being the worker who, once upon a time, had been capable of making "perhaps not one pin in a day," but who under modern management "might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day.[7] For Emerson and Thoreau, such increased output could mean only a human loss, only a substitutive violence, by which the "ninth part of a man" was made to stand for the man who, they assumed, was once upon a time fully himself, organic and integral. "A man in the view of political economy is a pair of hands," Emerson had observed in an earlier lecture.[8] This sense of metonymic horror was vividly felt on both sides of the Atlantic. It was the burden of Ruskin's pointed rebuke to Adam Smith in The Stones of Venice (1853), when he complained about laborers being "divided into mere segments of Men—broken into small fragments and crumbs of life; so that all the little piece of intelligence that is left in a man is not enough to make a pin, or a nail, but exhausts itself in making the point of a pin or the head of a nail."[9] And it was the burden of Marx's even more pointed critique in Capital (1867). Capitalism, Marx wrote, institutes a regimen of "partial function" and "fractional work"; it "rivet[s] each labourer to a single fractional detail" and runs a "productive mechanism whose parts are human beings."[10] In so doing, it

converts the labourer into a crippled monstrosity, . . . just as in the States of La Plata they butcher a whole beast for the sake of his hide or his tallow. . . . Not only is the detail work distributed to the different individuals, but the individual himself is made the automatic motor of a fractional operation, and the absurd fable of Menenius Agrippa, which makes man a mere fragment of his own body, becomes realised.[11]


The body of the worker, partitioned and fragmented, thus stands for Marx as a sign, a generalizable figure, for capitalist atrocity. I call this mode of figuration "metonymic," not so much in the sense of Roman Jakobson[12] as in the sense of Kenneth Burke and, more recently, in the sense now current among cognitive linguists, especially George Lakoff. For Kenneth Burke, metonymy is the trope that "conveys some incorporeal or intangible state in terms of the corporeal or tangible"; it is thus a form of reduction, capturing an immaterial order within a material index and an attribute of consciousness within a "bodily equivalent."[13] George Lakoff, meanwhile, links metonymy to what he calls the "prototype effect" in human cognition: the tacit derivation of an overarching, integral, and silently normative category from a term construed to be its part.[14] Metonymy operates most broadly then as a principle of commensurability, the immaterial here being encapsulated by (and equated with) the material in a generalizable relation, a relation of representational adequacy or logical inferability. Deriving a presumptive whole from an actualized part, metonymy not only instantiates but also contains, focusing on a salient detail only to project from it a bounded totality. In this particular example, the bodily parts adduced by Emerson and Thoreau, Marx and Ruskin, would seem to be projections, however monstrous, of a normative wholeness, shadowed in its very loss.

This chapter is an argument against the presumed integrity of such a "whole." It is also an argument against the presumed commensurability of the material and the immaterial. Still, my hope here is not to develop a general critique of metonymy but to challenge one particular instance of its deployment. What concerns me is a quite specific juncture, the juncture at which Marx (like Emerson, Thoreau, and Ruskin) should choose to expose the injustice of capitalism by invoking the ideal of an integral unit—equated with its physical body, here called "the individual himself"—a unit whose current dismemberment he lamented but whose original (and eventual) wholeness he apparently never questioned.

The nineteenth-century concept of a "whole," including Marx's and perhaps most especially Marx's, was thus "materialist" in a quite literal sense, in that it was derived from (and imaged after) the boundedness and integrity of the physical body. What this corporeal derivation made possible was a new assurance about the boundedness and integrity of the world, based on the commensurability between the


material and the immaterial, an assurance I here call "metonymic." Here I also depart from Hayden White, who, in identifying metonymy as a central trope in Marx, has emphasized its opposition to the metaphoric (and thus fragmenting) exchange imposed by capitalism.[15] Yet in its very denial of the fragmented, in its reduction of all differences to a form of the commensurate, metonymy in my view would seem to be instituting an exchange of its own. It was through metonymy, after all, that the idea of the person was here equated with the physical fact of the person, making the bodily subject synonymous with the subject as an epistemological category.

Charles Taylor has referred to this principle of commensurability—this equation of the epistemological with the corporeal—as the "strong localization" of the self. He links it not only to modern individualism but also to modern materialism, the paradoxical union of which, he argues, would usher in the equally paradoxical spectacle of a "radical subjectivity" consorting with a "radical objectivity." Under this new dispensation, this collapse of the immaterial into the material, "we come to think that we 'have' selves as we have heads."[16] it was this equation of "selves" with "heads" that prompted these nineteenth-century thinkers to make the bodily subject a founding unit, an empirical whole, integral not only in physical space but also in the nonphysical space of a polity, an economy, and a morality.

Following Taylor, then, I want to link the preeminence of the bodily subject not only to nineteenth-century individualism but also, more surprisingly, to nineteenth-century materialism, especially its Marxist variant. "Materialism," from this perspective, is something rather broader than the position usually attributed to Marx and summed up in his much-quoted preface to the Critique of Political Economy ("The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness").[17] Understood as a form of economism, materialism has had more than its share of critics. Rather than rehearsing their familiar arguments, I want to give the term a different definitional scope and situate it within a different order of vulnerability. Taking materialism to be above all an epistemology, I want to take issue not with its thematic dependence on the economic but with its cognitive dependence on the commensurate: its dependence on the translatable relation from part to whole, from the tangible to the in-


tangible. It is in this sense that I want to charge Marxist materialism with being "metonymic," metonymy here being not just a style of representation but also a style of cognition. And it is this cognitive style that underwrites Marx's dream of an integral body as an adequate figure for "the individual himself," as well as his dream of a total revolution as an adequate figure for justice, an adequation based on the translatability of the economic into the legal, the political, and the social.

Bodies Physical and Nonphysical

Marx is not alone, I should add, in being intelligible within a metonymic tradition. We too are intelligible within it, for the legacy of metonymy is still with us today, still current in the debates in contemporary political theory, between, say, Michael Sandel and John Rawls, about the degree of coincidence between the bodily subject and the epistemological subject.[18] It is current as well, I would further argue, in the institution of literary criticism, in our shared habit of referring routinely to the "body" of the text, as if its epistemological horizons were objectively bounded: bounded by its contents, and bounded (most currently) by its material circumstances, circumstances generalizable into something called History, a whole at once social and textual. Metonymy dies hard, it would seem. Still, its longevity notwithstanding, such a cognitive form has not always been in ascendancy, and historically the material and the immaterial have been otherwise correlated, the image of part and whole otherwise configured.

In the Nicomachean Ethics , for example, the imagined whole turned out to have something other than a material body, and it answered to something other than a personal name. It was the community that counted as an integral unit for Aristotle, the community that represented the ideal of some fundamental and plenary wholeness. Not surprisingly, then, it was the nonphysical ideal of the community—rather than the physical body of the individual—that struck Aristotle as being in danger and in need of fortification against the fragmenting effects of the division of labor. Since there was no natural bond between the builder and the shoemaker, and between the shoemaker and the farmer, Aristotle worried that "a community or association between them would be impossible." Indeed, if it were not for that fortunate necessity, the necessity of "reciprocal exchange," which re-


united those separated by the division of labor, binding them together "as if they were one single unit," the always precarious whole called the community might otherwise "not hold together."[19]

I have highlighted the degree to which the bodily subject was not deemed an endangered unit (or a unit of concern) for Aristotle, not only to supply a foil to Marx but also to bring into focus a different epistemological tradition, one that, to my mind, stands less as an alternative to materialism than as a reminder of its limits. The example of Aristotle is especially instructive here. His well-known defense of concrete particulars notwithstanding, Aristotle was not willing to equate an epistemological entity with its physical embodiment, not willing to imagine the immaterial as being commensurate with, exhausted by, or generalizable from a material unit. In this regard at least, he was firmly within the tradition of ontic logos, a tradition prevalent in Greek antiquity and dramatized most memorably in Plato's Theory of Forms.[20] This subtle but crucial space of epistemological difference—a space left open (and left opaque) by the explanatory inadequacy of the material world—would persist for the next two thousand years, with obvious changes but also with significant continuities. It was kept alive, not least of all, by Christian theology, under whose auspices the explanatory inadequacy of the material world would become not only a point of contention but also a cause for celebration.

It was the "body" of Christ, after all—the body and its enigmatic materiality—that fueled the major doctrinal battles of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The problem with the term "body," as exasperated church fathers noticed from the outset, was that it had "multiple" meanings: at least three, in fact, referring simultaneously to "the body of Christ in human form, the body of Christ in the Sacrament, and the body of Christ in the church."[21] The apostle Paul hardly clarified matters when he offered the following exegesis: "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread."[22] Augustine, puzzling in turn over this supposed gloss, thought that "the communion of the body of Christ" meant "the unity of the body and blood of Christ," which he interpreted as "the society of his body and members, which is the holy church in those who have been predestined and called."[23] The holy church as the "body of Christ" was indeed a central tenet of medieval


theology, but it was also a central enigma, as imperfectly grasped by human reason as it was imperfectly registered by the physical senses, a "body" in no way coextensive with the corporeality of its members. The efficacy of the church, its power to secure salvation for all, was based on this very incommensurability, this ineffable (but not unimaginable) margin of discrepancy between the two kinds of "bodies." For it was only in the midst of—and only in its nonreduction to—the mortality of physical bodies that the corporate church would shine forth in its immortal majesty: a body in nonphysical space, at once immediate and intangible, available to sensory apprehension and indeed sensory adulation, but hardly encompassed by its limits.

The enigma of the corporate church—the sense that it was somehow not just a body, somehow more than a body, though it was nonetheless a body—attested not only to the commingling of the material and the immaterial in medieval thought but also to the complex lack of adequation between these two orders of reality. As much as anything else, the corporate church was marked by its cognitive slipperiness, its refusal to conform to the bounds of the senses. Even so, it was less of an enigma, and less of a knotty theological issue, than the problematic materiality suggested by the other meaning of the "body of Christ," revolving around the character of the sacramental host in the Eucharist. Almost to a man, Christian exegetes rejected the cheap excuse that the "body" might be no more than a figure of speech. Almost to a man, they agreed that the body was material, a "real presence," and that, in the act of consecration, the bread actually stopped being bread and was "converted into the nature and substance of the flesh" of Christ.[24] What was unclear, however, was how this "conversion" came about. In what sense could the bread and wine be said to be the body and blood of Christ, and what relation did this eucharistic "body" bear to the historical body of Christ, the body received from the womb of the Virgin Mary and sacrificed on the cross? In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, these theological fine points would flare up into debates of the most gargantuan proportions.

Berengar of Tours, author of De sacra coena (On the Holy Supper ) and one of the chief antagonists in this controversy, argued that the eucharistic body could not possibly be that historical body, because otherwise it would "have been in existence already for a thousand years and more." Even if one could stomach the idea of eating some thousand-year-old meat, Berengar thought it unlikely that the body


of Christ in heaven would be daily cut up and "a particle" daily "sent down to the altar."[25] And, in any case, what did it mean to "eat" this Christic flesh? Guitmond of Aversa, an opponent of Berengar's, but like him driven by an overliteral imagination, began to worry about a mouse nibbling on the consecrated host. Would that animal be eating the "body of Christ"?[26] Clearly, these were questions not everyone would like to entertain. Berengar was condemned by a succession of councils and synods (fourteen in all). In 1059, he was forced under duress, in Rome, to recant his position and to affirm that "the bread and wine are the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ," even to the point where that body might be "ground by the teeth of the faithful."[27] This did not quite settle the controversy, however, which waged on for another hundred and fifty years, until finally, in 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council established the doctrine of transubstantiation (the actual presence of the body and blood of Christ "under the outward appearances of bread and wine"),[28] a doctrine that survived even the challenge of the Reformation, being reaffirmed by the Council of Trent in 1551.

The debate about the eucharistic body reflected not only the complex discrepancy between the material and the immaterial in medieval theology but also the complex discrepancy between "reason" and "sense."[29] As Galileo would say (in a different context), the Christian theologians were "able to make reason so conquer sense that, in defiance of the latter, the former became the mistress."[30] And so, even though the "holy mystery of the Lord's body" was not exactly comprehensible as a sensory phenomenon, the theologians were nonetheless able to argue for its rational defensibility.[31] The "rationality" at work here, then, would seem to be of a distinct, and distinctly premodern, stripe, not predicated on the evidentiary adequacy of the senses, and certainly not on the generalizability from the material to the immaterial. Within the terms of our discussion, we might say such a rationality was profoundly antimetonymic. The material and the immaterial commingled, that is, only in enigmatic apposition and not at all in explanatory adequation: it would be folly to start out from the physical bread and wine and generalize about the "body of Christ." Acceding, then, to the explanatory limits of the material world, the Christian theologians acceded as well to an order of reality only imperfectly fathomed by the senses.

This premodern rationality, with its tolerance for conceptual enig-


mas, was discernible not only in Christian theology but also in that most sober and unmystical of domains, jurisprudence. The complex discrepancy between the material and the immaterial would prevail even here, for it was here, as Ernest H. Kantorowicz has shown, that one would encounter the legal fiction of the "King's Two Bodies," a fiction kept alive for hundreds of years, providing one of the most important threads of continuity from the Middle Ages through Tudor and Stuart England and reappearing, as late as 1765, in Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England .[32] And so the king too, like Christ, had a "body" that amounted to a kind of sensory mystery, a mystery that nevertheless did nothing to prevent the most determined as well as most virtuoso sort of legal reasoning, displayed, on this occasion, by the learned judges in the celebrated case of the Duchy of Lancaster (1562). The king, they reasoned, had a body politic at once inseparable from but also irreducible to the body natural:

So that he has a Body natural, adorned and invested with the Estate and Dignity royal; and he has not a Body natural distinct and divided by itself from the Office and Dignity royal, but a Body natural and a Body politic together indivisible; and these two Bodies are incorporated in one Person, and one Body and not divers, that is the Body corporate in the Body natural, et e contra the Body natural in the Body corporate. So that the Body natural, by this conjunction of the Body politic to it (which Body politic contains the Office, Government, and Majesty royal), is magnified, and by the said Consolidation hath in it the Body politic.[33]

The syllogism, self-announced as it was, was not strictly speaking sensible—if one defines "sense," that is, by the reckoning of the physical senses. Like the Christian theologians, the learned judges here seemed to be doing some fancy footwork with arithmetic and with physical concepts such as spatial location and extension. Bacon, confident New Physicist that he was, and supremely intolerant of such mysteries, complained that this was "a confusion of tongues [having] their foundations in subtlety and imagination of man's wit, and not in the ground of nature."[34] That confusion of tongues was tolerated even less, in the twentieth century, by Frederic Maitland, the great legal historian, for whom the King's Two Bodies had now become nothing but a joke. He would "not know where to look," Maitland said, "in the whole series of our law books for so marvelous a display of metaphysical—or we might say metaphysiological—nonsense."[35]


Maitland is right, of course. Or at least he is right within a particular cognitive universe, in which the "metaphysical" and the "metaphysiological" have come to mean the nonsensical, and in which "sense" itself has come increasingly to be equated with human reason itself. This conflation of sense with reason—a phenomenon traceable to the seventeenth century, to the new fascination with the physical and mechanical properties of the mind—would, in the succeeding centuries, profoundly transform the relation not only between body and mind but also between the mind and the world. Henceforth the mind would engage the world only in its material intelligibility, only through the evidence furnished by the physical senses, on the assumption that such empirical data would unlock mysteries elsewhere operative. Enlightenment rationality—linked most directly to secularization and more obliquely to Protestantism—might be seen critically, then, as an alternate form of mystification: the mystification of empirical reason itself into what Bacon called "the ground of nature." That "ground" was thus very much a materialist ground, giving pride of place always to the materiality of the body—or rather, to the materiality of the world as registered by the materiality of the body—a materiality which was then adduced as an account of the mind as well as an account of the world.[36] In sharp contrast then to the enigmatic apposition of the material and the immaterial in medieval theology, a relation of explanatory adequacy would now prevail, subordinating the immaterial to the material as a logical derivative, or perhaps even, as Michael McKeon suggests, as an "analogy."[37] Within the terms of our discussion, we might also call Enlightenment rationality an instance (and an especially long-lasting instance) of metonymic practice, operating always on the presumed commensurability between two ontological orders: between body and mind, between thought and world, between evidence tangible and empirical and inferences intangible and presumed.

To press home the distinction between the modern and the premodern rationality that I have tried to outline, we might point to one particular area of contrast, having to do with the postulate of "generalizability" and with the cognitive practices it underwrites. Unacceptable (and indeed inconceivable) to premodern reason as a hermeneutic relation between material and immaterial realms, this postulate has become, since the Enlightenment, none other than the founding tenet of modern rationality.[38] Unlike medieval cognitive practice,


then, which assigned to the senses no evidentiary primacy and to the material realm no explanatory adequation, Enlightenment rationality came into being not only through the elevation of the senses into evidentiary ground but also through the elevation of physical evidence into generalizable evidence. Now sense and reason, materiality and reality would all be strung together into a series of equivalences: symmetrical, airtight, mutually entailed, mutually reflexive. Materialism—understood as a dream of objective adequation—thus imposed on the world a new texture, thinning it out into a translatable order, a grid of inferable correspondences. No longer opaque, no longer a paradox of the sensible and the enigmatic, it would henceforth acquire a uniform comprehensibility, submitting without fail to empirical proofs and causal explanations. The collapse of reason into sense, in short, went hand in hand with the attribution to the world of a kind of anticipated (and therefore compulsory) transparency. We usually associate these imperial claims of reason with modern science, but such claims would seem to have been shared by a much broader spectrum of Enlightenment epistemologies. Modern materialism, in particular, would seem to stand or fall on those claims, for, embracing a physicalized world as its evidentiary ground, it would effectively invert the Cartesian mind/body dualism into an explanatory dualism, so that the material would be separated from the immaterial only to serve as its epistemological foundation, the foundation upon which the immaterial might be explained as a secondary effect.[39]

This Enlightenment tradition of physical evidence and explanatory adequacy was thus very much the philosophical tradition inhabited by Marx.[40] To be sure, he was witnessing its darkening moment, the moment when, as Foucault suggests, the field of knowledge was increasingly troubled by a new sense of "obscure verticality," of "great hidden forces" invisibly controlling the "visible order."[41] Still, this darkening world would seem only to have inspired and not deterred Marx, propelling him toward material explanations of antithetical clarity, if equal verticality. His critique of the commodity form (punctuated by the word "mystery" as a kind of incantatory accusation) was driven very much by an explanatory passion, by a desire to make sense of the world, to deliver it from its intolerable opacities through an attribution of cause. For him, the idea of an immaterial order—incommensurate with, inexplicable by, and nongeneralizable


from material facts—was nothing if not an intellectual affront. And as his grudging tribute to Bacon, Hobbes, and Locke made amply clear, not the least of the attractions of materialism was its epistemological certitude. Praising Bacon, for example, for the "rational method [he applied] to the data provided by the senses" and for his "teaching [that] the senses are infallible and are the source of all knowledge," Marx acknowledged that "materialism is the son of Great Britain by birth."[42] And as if further to underscore that kinship, he here had recourse to the same argument (and indeed the same vocabulary) that Frederic Maitland would use fifty years later, noting with some vehemence that "an incorporeal substance is just as much a nonsense as an incorporeal body. Body, being, substance are one and the same real idea."[43] It was this equation of "body" with "being"—and the casual relegation of the incorporeal to the realm of "nonsense"—that made for the explanatory texture of Marxist materialism, an evidentiary model predicated not only, as we all know, on the primacy of the economic but, just as crucially, on a conception of man as a "corporeal , living, real, sensuous, objective being."[44] As an entity whose physical wholeness was an undisputed given, the bodily subject thus stood at the very heart of the Marxist dream of objective adequation. The bodily subject was the locus of metonymy in Marx, we might say: the point of inferential projections, the point where he could derive his generalizations from matter to spirit, from part to whole, from a physical fact to a presumptive totality.

But to say that is also to suggest a certain tropism, a certain gravitational pull, between Marxist materialism and nineteenth-century individualism. For within an evidentiary universe of the physical senses, it is only the corporeal subject—only the individual as actualized by his or her body—that can ever be demonstrable as "real." As Marx says, "Since only what is material is perceptible, knowable, nothing is known of the existence of God. I am sure only of my own existence."[45] Only the bodily subject can ever stand, empirically and incontestably, as a founding unit of Marxist epistemology. And since the relation between the material and the immaterial is now one of explanatory adequation (rather than, as previously, one of enigmatic apposition), it is the bodily subject that must now stand as the ground of generalizations, the ground out of which bodily shapes can be derived for otherwise nonphysical bodies: "bodies" such as society, or such as class.


Marxist Individualism

To give the paradox an even sharper edge, we might say that the Marxist image of society is, almost by necessity, an inferential derivation from Marxist individualism, the "social" here being derived always from a prior notion of the bodily subject. The suggestion is not as outrageous as it might seem. It is not entirely fortuitous, after all, that Marx should be found, on at least one occasion, in the company of Emerson and Thoreau. And Alasdair MacIntyre pointed out some time ago that Marxism is a nineteenth-century philosophy "as much because of what it has inherited from liberal individualism as because of its departures from liberalism."[46] That inheritance, I would argue, is less substantive than cognitive. The bodily subject is central to Marxist thought, in other words, not as a matter of thematic description but as a matter of inferential projection. It enables Marxism to make sense of the world by reflexively incorporating the world, fashioning it into an integral unit, and generalizing from body to person, from person to class, and from class to a totally "just" society.

Still, the notion of a "Marxist individualism" might seem like an oxymoron, since Marx (unlike Emerson and Thoreau) was on record as having rejected the individual as a legitimate category of thought. He had begun the Grundrisse , for example, with the acid remark that "the individual and isolated hunter and fisherman, with whom Smith and Ricardo begin, belongs among the unimaginative conceits of the eighteenth-century Robinsonades." "The more deeply we go back into history," he said, "the more does the individual, and hence also the producing individual, appear as dependent, as belonging to a greater whole."[47]

When Marx went on, however, to imagine this "greater whole," when he tried to offer a historical survey of this "whole" as a counterpoint to the individual, the terms with which he did so turned out to be surprisingly individualistic, derived to a surprising degree from the physical attributes of the body. Thus, the "first form" of community as he envisioned it (an "initial, naturally arisen, spontaneous" development) also happened to be a "comprehensive unity." And since this "unity is the real proprietor and the real presupposition of communal property, it follows that this unity can appear as a particular entity above the many real particular communities," so much so that it "exists ultimately as a person .[48] Similarly in classical antiq-


uity, the "second form" of human association: even though the community was no longer "the substance" integrating its members into "purely natural component parts," Marx noted with satisfaction that the city-state was still a "political body ," still a "presence," a "whole," indeed "a kind of independent organism."[49]

As Marx's organic language suggests, the social for him—whether as historical reconstruction or (as I will argue) as dialectical forecast—turned out to resemble nothing so much as a physical body, a body integral and objective, imaged forth as a natural unit. And since this nonphysical "body" now stood to its physical counterpart not in a relation of discrepancy (as the medieval church once did) but in a relation of analogy, we might speak of the social in Marx as the effect of a metonymic entailment. The nonphysical body, in other words, took on all those attributes—the empirical objectivity as well as the corporeal integrity—which characterized the physical body. The latter, then, was not only constitutive of the former but fully descriptive of it, fully representative of its nature and disposition as a "whole." The logic of metonymy in this sense dispensed with the need to theorize about the social, for it was already accounted for, its defining features already immanent and inferable from those of a material given. And so it turned out that for Marx an immaterial phenomenon was imaged after the materiality of the corporeal subject, an entity objectified even as it was generalized.

Raymond Williams, in one of the most illuminating discussions of materialism I have seen, has singled out this generalizing logic as the central problem within Marxism. Materialism, Williams writes,

grounded on the rejection of categorical hypotheses of an unverifiable kind, and basing its own confidence in a set of provisional working procedures and demonstrations, finds itself pulled nevertheless towards closed generalizing systems: finds itself materialism or a materialism. There is thus a tendency for any materialism, at any point in its history, to find itself stuck with its own recent generalizations, and in defence of these to mistake its own character: to suppose that it is a system like others, of a presumptive explanatory kind.[50]

The tendencies of materialism, so succinctly outlined by Williams here, are especially problematic (but also, in a sense, problematically utopian) when its generalizations are derived from the bodily subject, when its image of the world is founded upon the image of a


containable physicality. It was this odd compound of materialism and individualism—this projection of the bodily attributes of integrity and totality onto a historical canvas, as the ultimate attributes of human existence—that enabled Marx to imagine a just society as the organic issue, the natural given and the natural end, of the coming of age of the proletariat.

Marx's image of the proletariat was thus not so much that of a collectivity as that of an individual . Or, more accurately, we might say that Marx's image of a collectivity was in fact the image of an individual. If capitalism was that monstrous machine whose "parts are human beings," class was that integral body within which those human parts could once again be made into a political whole. "The proletariat" in Marx was the effect of a generalization, then, extrapolated from and imaged after what (following Marx and Engels) we might call the figure of the "abstract individual." Of course, the "abstract individual" was the very thing Marx and Engels set out to critique, in their attack on Bruno Bauer and, most famously, in the eleven Theses on Feuerbach .[51] And yet it is possible to argue that this figure was never clearly foreign or antecedent to Marxism, that it was in fact the derivational ground for its historical projections:

Since the abstraction of all humanity, even of the semblance of humanity, is practically complete in the full-grown proletariat; since the conditions of life of the proletariat sum up all the conditions of life of society itself in all their human acuity . . . it follows that the proletariat can and must free itself. . . . The question is not what this or that proletarian, or even the whole of the proletariat at the moment considers as its aim. The question is what the proletariat is , and what, consequent on that being , it will be compelled to do.[52]

What empowered the proletariat, then, was its particular mode of "being," its status as the "abstraction of all humanity," its agency being not only underwritten by but actually objectified within that integral character. It was this derivation of a historical necessity from an objective identity,[53] and the projection of that objective identity upon a human collectivity, that made the proletariat a historical subject for Marx. And since that subject was a metonymic container for "all the conditions of life," the unfolding of which was "practically complete in the full-grown proletariat," there was also a sense in which this "full-grown" body would bring with it a unified "whole,"


a complete subsumption of differences. For this reason Marx wrote that even though "proletariat and wealth are opposites . . . it is not sufficient to declare them two sides of a single whole." Rather, he argued, "when the proletariat is victorious . . . it is victorious only by abolishing itself and its opposite. Then the proletariat disappears as well as the opposite which determines it, private property."[54]

In this account of the birth of communist society, the proletariat not only eliminated its antagonist but, in the same gesture, eliminated itself as an antagonist and so ushered in a unified humanity, marked by its undifferentiated pristineness no less than by its dialectical completions.[55] This image of an integral whole allowed Marx, in Critique of the Gotha Programme , to speak of revolutionary justice as if it were a natural issue, growing out of the development of a single body, the unfolding of a single life. Having gone through its difficult childhood (when it is "still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges"), this revolutionary "body" will grow into a state of maturity, Marx said, a state where justice will prevail as a natural condition of life and where "society [can] inscribe on its banners: from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!"[56]

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs": this dream of commensurability—this exchange of effort and satisfaction—remains, even in the late twentieth century, one of the most compelling visions of justice. Still, its utopian faith—its faith that its two stipulatory clauses could somehow balance out, that its two prepositions, "to" and "from," would somehow flow in organic harmony—could proceed only from an assumption of wholeness, only by imagining the social body as if it were actually a physical body.

The Marxist dream of justice, as a dream of objective adequation, thus rested on what Louis Althusser would call a postulate of "philosophical fullness" as well as a postulate of "simple original unity."[57] For Althusser, such postulates are sheer anathema, which he lays at the door of Hegel and, to some extent, the early Marx himself.[58] What they amount to, he argues, is a blithely homogenizing principle, a kind of cosmic equation mark, liquidating all differences, making them all subsumable, all immaterial:

For the unity of a simple essence manifesting itself in its alienation produces this result: that every concrete difference . . . [becomes] no


more than "moments" of the simple internal principle of totality, which fulfils itself by negating the alienated difference that it posed; further, as alienations—phenomena—of the simple internal principle, these differences are all equally indifferent .[59]

Against this "indifferent" epistemology, which turns all differences into epiphenomena, into secondary evidence, Althusser offers an elaborate defense, by painstakingly (and some would say casuistically) distinguishing the Marxist dialectic from its Hegelian precursor. Of course, the Hegelian legacy might be said to have influenced not only Marx but virtually every modern thinker, including Althusser himself.[60] Still, the point remains that in making the immaterial a simple translation from the material—in making the former an epiphenomenon of the latter—Marxist epistemology would seem to have conferred upon the "indifferent" an analytic primacy, embracing it not only as its cognitive ground but also as its cognitive horizon. This reign of the indifferent might be seen, I would argue, not only as a consequence of Marxist materialism but, above all, as a consequence of Marxist individualism, dictated by its generalizations from the integrity and totality of the corporeal subject. Like an entire spectrum of nineteenth-century individualisms, Marxist individualism adduces signs of difference only to affirm the primacy of identity.[61] Against this identitarian logic, then, against its ceaseless subordination of the differentiated, its ceaseless subordination of the nonintegral, I want to bring into focus one particular critique of Marx—initiated by Engels and elaborated by Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, and most recently Anthony Giddens—a critique directed at his subordination of the nonintegral in one especially crucial category, the category of the "social."

Marx and Durkheim

The social is, arguably, the category that has the most to suffer from a Marxist epistemology. It suffers, that is, from a presumption of generalizability, a presumption about its "indifferent" givenness as an epiphenomenon. In reclaiming it, I want to challenge not only the broadly materialist and individualist premises of Marxism but also their implicit claim to adequation, to "philosophical fullness." To-


ward that end, I want to highlight what I see as the necessary blurriness of the social in Marx and contrast it with its sharp clarity in, say, Max Weber, or (perhaps most pertinent here) Emile Durkheim. I have in mind, in particular, the contrasting evidentiary domains—and the contrasting degrees of analytic precision—set forth by Marx and Durkheim to discuss what might look like the same phenomenon, namely, the division of labor.

For Marx, the division of labor was very much an economic phenomenon; it was an industrial arrangement, peculiar to the factory and the assembly line. He was at pains, indeed, to show how the "division of labor in the interior of a society, and that in the interior of a workshop, differ not only in degree, but also in kind." The former, the social division of labor, being pervasive and seemingly universal, was for that reason also unanalyzable, since it "springs up naturally," a "spontaneous growth," "caused by the differences of sex and age, a division that is consequently based on a purely physiological foundation."[62] True to his logic of corporeal generalizations, society was figured here as a natural body, and social division of labor, being also "physiological," was thus a matter of analytic indifference to Marx.[63] All his critical energies were directed elsewhere, against the division of labor in the workshop, clearly no work of nature but a man-made horror, involving as it did the carving up of natural individuals into industrial parts. In short, for Marx, the domain of the "social" (to the extent that it was distinguishable from the economic) turned out to be only a secondary order of evidence, subsumable under the category of the "natural." Only the economic, only the primary evidentiary domain, merited the scope as well as the care of his analysis.

There was a hierarchy of evidence in Marx, we might say, a hierarchy seen all the more clearly when it is seen in reverse—when we turn, for example, to Durkheim. What was immaterial to Marx was consequential for that very reason to Durkheim. And so, tersely noting that "the division of labor [is] a fact of a very general nature, which the economists, who first proposed it, never suspected,"[64] Durkheim went on to discuss the phenomenon not as a feature unique to the workshop but as a feature common to all organized society. As the principal investigatory site, the social also sustained the finest analytic distinctions in Durkheim. Far from being a derived postulate or a collapsible epiphenomenon, it was here a field of primary relations


with an evidentiary domain in its own right, out of whose complex differentiations Durkheim would elaborate an equally complex theory of social integration.

Durkheim's insistence on the social as primary evidence—his sense of its irreducibility to some other explanatory ground—serves as a challenge not only to the evidentiary logic of Marx's economism[65] but also to the logic of his bodily generalizations, his inferential reasoning from the physical to the nonphysical, from part to whole. The social might be seen, indeed, as a challenge to the very concept of a "whole." This is not, of course, Durkheim's own sense of its possible usage; for him, society is very much a whole, and the "social" very much synonymous with the functionally integral. Still, in rejecting a hierarchy of evidentiary planes, Durkheim himself would seem to be pointing the way toward a non integral conception of society, predicated not on the linear translatability of structural determinism but on the supple permutability of structural interactions.[66] Especially in the context of justice, the "social" for Durkheim turns out to be the chief antidote to the reign of the commensurate, replacing the lex talionis of primitive society with various forms of mediation, forms increasingly complex in their "volume" and "density."[67] Seen in this light, the social would seem to open up the possibility of a field incompletely unified, incompletely integrated, a field characterized neither by the fit among its constitutive terms nor by the fit among its evidentiary planes. Justice, in such a world, can no longer be seen as a simple given, an immanent relation among things. In short, theorized as a domain of difference , difference at once irreducible and irreconcilable, the social would seem to turn justice into a vexed concept not only as a matter of implementation but, above all, as a matter of commensurability, a matter of internal adequation.

Using Durkheim against himself, then, I want to invoke the social both to question the notion of a commensurate totality, and—going even further out on a limb—to argue that the very concept of "social justice" might turn out to be itself an oxymoron. My thinking here is guided by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe's powerful argument against our usual conception of "society" as a "founding totality of its partial processes."[68] Taking seriously their suggestion that the social is "unsutured," that there is no seamless rationality, no perfect adequation between part and whole, I want to bring into critical focus various permutations of the incommensurate—relations of uneven-


ness, nonalignment, untranslatability—that challenge the idea of the "whole." And with the disturbance of that concept, I want to disturb as well the concept of justice which invokes it and rests on it, deriving from its supposed totality its own claim to descriptive adequacy and philosophical fullness.

New Historicism and the Presosition "In"

For my purposes, then, the social is less important as an autonomous domain than as an analytic pressure, a challenge not only to any notion of "total" justice but also to any notion of an immanent (and therefore containable) equivalence among things. Differently put, we might also say that the social, as a field imperfectly integrated, imperfectly contained, is a vital challenge to that most familiar and most peremptory of spatial concepts, inscribed by the preposition "in," a concept which, as Charles Taylor reminds us, has "come to seem as fixed and ineradicable from reality as the preposition is from our lexicon."[69] And since this spatial concept is crucial not only to the materialism and individualism of Marx but also to a broad spectrum of modern epistemologies (beginning, perhaps, with Descartes's location of ideas "in" the mind, as mental "contents"),[70] I want to take this occasion to digress somewhat and to reflect more specifically and more critically on this prepositional regime, as it informs, inspires, and inhibits many of our linguistic practices. I am thinking especially of the practice of literary criticism and its time-honored ambition to interpret what is in a literary text.

What is in a literary text is, of course, a matter of attribution, varying with our critical interests. With our current historicist turn, it is the "social" itself that is most often offered up as a complement to that preposition, offered up as its substantive notation as well as its syntactical end. The social is invoked, that is, both as an operating theater and as a functional logic, both of which are understood to govern the text, to be objectively immanent "in" it, giving it a resident identity, an indwelling purpose, and turning it into a kind of verbal container for a thing called History.[71] In our hasty retreat from deconstruction, we seem to have forgotten one of its crucial insights: that a text has no interiority, no objective circumference it can be said to encompass, and no unified space, no unified field of intention it can be said to


contain, certainly not an intention unified under the name of History. One conceivable outcome of deconstruction might actually have been a radical challenge to the entire discipline of literary studies: a challenge to its image of the text as a bounded object and to its image of reading as an attempt to match that boundedness, to be commensurate with what is "in" it. This was not what in fact happened. New Historicism, to the extent that it reinstates reading as the search for a containable identity, a context-bound identity, would seem to mark a return to an earlier epistemology, one that, in this case, reads History not only as the indwelling agency in Literature but also as its hermeneutic limits, its bounds of meaning. The text is thus imagined once again to be a spatial unit, embedded in History and filled with its contents, contents inferable if not ultimately provable, answering always to a History which accounts for it, translates into it, and integrates it into a hermeneutic whole, dictating and containing its possibilities for meaning. The task of critic is thus once again to "unpack" those contents, to effect a reverse translation, as it were, by locating the historicity "in" the text and locating the text "in" history.

As must be obvious by now, I want to take issue with this prepositional regime. I want to propose a mode of literary studies not premised on a spatialized image of the text, and not premised on meaning as a containable category. The hermeneutic relation between history and literature is thus necessary but insufficient. Just as the meanings of history might not be fully generalizable from one particular work of literature, so the meanings of literature might not be fully derivable from one particular historical moment. Rather than limiting ourselves to a search for "historicity" (and rather than equating historicity strictly with determinacy and locatability), we might want to turn instead to a hermeneutics that is less spatially ascriptive, less discretely periodizing, and more alive, perhaps, to the continuing meaningfulness of a text, more willing to study that meaningfulness beyond any function it might conceivably have performed at one particular moment. Engaging the text not as a part of a concluded whole—not as a piece of cultural work that has already served its purpose, that has meaning only in reference to the past—we might instead want to think of it as an evolving cluster of resonances, its semantic universe unfolding in time rather than in space, unfolding in response to the new perceptual horizons that we continue to bring to bear upon it and that never cease to extend to it new possibilities of


meaning. The accumulating resonances of a text, its subtle but non-trivial shifts in nuance and accent, are a tribute, then, to the socialness of language, to the unending conversations of humanity over time. Inflected by those conversations, inflected by the historical life of language—a life at once more ancient and more recent than any locatable circumstance—the very linguistic character of a text must make it permeable in time, polyphonic over time, its resonances activated and reactivated with each new relation, each mutating meaning.

To equate the text with any single explanatory context would seem, from this perspective, to be unduly metonymic: unduly collapsing an immaterial order into a set of material circumstances, and unduly collapsing a semantic universe into a narrow grid of instances. Against the violence of that reduction, much might be said, I think, for a criticism that makes no attempt to produce a containable identity for a text, no attempt to devise a fit for its semantic contours. And even as "fitness" is rejected here as a hermeneutic ideal, "doing justice" is also rejected as a hermeneutic practice, on the ground that justice (with reading as with much else) is dangerously close to a form of impoverishment. Not doing justice to the text, not sentencing it to a designated slot in history, such a criticism will perhaps not be "historicist" in the current understanding of that term. All the same, it will remain historically minded, although it will imagine history not as a domain of full inscription, in which the meaning of literature is given once and for all, given because of its determinate place in a hermeneutic totality. Indeed, skeptical of that totality, and skeptical of the preposition "in," it will perhaps turn to some other relational categories—"between," "beside," "residual to," "in spite of," "above and beyond"—categories that engage the text not as the predictable part of a historical whole but as a perpetual witness to a history perpetually incomplete.

Reading the Incomplete: Herman Melville

What might a reading look like that has no desire to imagine a whole, no desire to devise for the text a hermeneutic totality? I want to pursue that question by way of a practical demonstration, by turning now to Herman Melville's "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids," a story that, almost providentially, brings together questions of the material and the immaterial, part and whole, and all


against the background of a literary form that makes justice an unavoidable (if implicit) issue. As the title suggests, this is a diptych, made up of two contrasting, complementary parts, evenly divided and inversely matching. On one side, there is convivial ambience, culinary delight, and carefree association, a world occupied exclusively by men. On the other side, there is a brutal environment, regimented labor, and physical misery, a world occupied monotonously by women.

Given this complementary structure—this antithesis of privilege and oppression—it is hardly surprising that the men should happen to be bachelors. For bachelorhood, here and elsewhere in Melville, is a species of manhood singled out for its privilege and distinguished, in that privilege, from manhood of the more run-of-the-mill sort. exemplified by the "Benedick tradesmen," who, being married, must spend their lives attending to the "rise of bread and fall of babies."[72] The bachelors, by contrast, are free from all obligations, marital and paternal, free, it might seem, even from the necessity of work. Of course, we know that the bachelors actually do work. They are practicing lawyers, hailing from such places as Grey's Inn and Lincoln's Inn. However, as they are here presented they are eminently at leisure. The bachelors are portrayed, that is, as if they were gentlemen of means, banded together, first and last, by their pleasure in idleness. Reveling as they do in a unique gender privilege, they make up a class by themselves.

The mapping of an aristocratic identity upon a bachelor identity—the mapping of class upon gender—is, of course, something of a convention itself. As Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick points out, the "aristocratic," as perceived (no doubt wishfully) by the bourgeoisie in the nineteenth century, was marked by a cluster of attributes including effeminacy, unspecified homosexuality, connoisseurship, and dissipation, all of which were conveniently personified by the pleasure-loving, leisure-flaunting bachelor.[73] Sedgwick is speaking of nineteenth-century England, but her insight applies equally to nineteenth-century America, where an even keener suspicion of the "aristocratic" prompted the same indictment of class through gender, making the effete bachelor a metonym for the entire upper order, real or imagined. This is certainly the case with Ik Marvell's Reveries of a Bachelor (1850), which makes that most unmanly of luxuries, daydreaming, the essence of well-heeled bachelorhood. And it is the


case as well with "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids," which, in making effete aristocrats out of effete bachelors, would seem to be operating within a well-defined tradition of populist critique.

"The Paradise of Bachelors" is thus pervaded (ostentatious references to "paradise" notwithstanding) by an aura of the degenerate, an aura of declension from a heroic past to a feminized present: "the iron heel is changed to a boot of patent-leather; the long two-handed sword to a one-handed quill"; "the helmet is a wig." Instead of "carving out immortal fame in glorious battling for the Holy Land," as the Crusaders once did, the modern-day bachelor is now reduced "to the carving of roast-mutton at a dinner-board" (317–318). There is a time-honored quality to this portrait of degenerate leisure: time-honored, but, it would seem, also endlessly repeated. Melville was hardly alone, then, in his dire intimations, for as Francis Grund observed in 1837, Americans as a rule "know but the horrors of idleness."[74] And so it was that in 1843, when Henry Ward Beecher gave a series of Sunday evening lectures to his congregation (subsequently collected in his Lectures to Young Men ), the first lecture should be devoted to the subject of idleness. Like Melville's story, this also featured a certain seedsman :

When Satan would put ordinary men to a crop of mischief, like a wise husbandman, he clears the ground and prepares it for seed; but he finds the idle man already prepared, and he has scarcely the trouble of sowing, for vices, like weeds, ask little strewing, except what the wind gives their ripe and winged seeds, shaking and scattering them all abroad. Indeed, lazy men may fitly be likened to a tropical prairie, over which the wind of temptation perpetually blows, drifting every vagrant seed from hedge and hill, and which—without a moment's rest through all the year—waves its rank harvest of luxuriant weeds.[75]

Such harsh judgment (not to say such figurative extravagance) might seem surprising. It is especially surprising coming from Beecher, who happened also to be the author of a popular novel, Norwood (1868), whose idealized hero, Reuben Wentworth, was not only idle in his youth but actually contemplated a career in idleness. He discussed the matter with his Uncle Eb, who, when asked whether one could "be a gentleman in any respectable calling," had answered, "Oh, dear, no. My gentleman must take all his time to it, spend his time at it, be jealous of everything else." Wentworth ends up not being a


gentleman—he becomes a doctor—but what Uncle Eb said about the gentleman might equally be said of him: "He [is] so fine that he accomplishes more while doing nothing than others do with all their bustle."[76]

Elsewhere in Beecher, there are further examples of people who accomplish more while doing nothing than others do with all their bustle. In an essay entitled "Dream-Culture" (1854), for instance, he went so far as to argue that "the chief use of a farm, if it be well selected, and of a proper soil, is, to lie down upon." He called this unusual kind of husbandry "industrious lying down," and contrasted it with the other, more usual variety, practiced by farmers, which involved "standing up and lazing about after the plow or behind his scythe." That kind of farming was ordinary enough. "Industrious lying down," on the other hand, produced crops that were far more extraordinary: "harvests of associations, fancies, and dreamy broodings." And to those who objected that such "farming" was "a mere waste of precious time," Beecher replied that it was completely justified "if it gives great delight[,] . . . if it brings one a little out of conceit with hard economies, . . . and the sweat and dust of life among selfish, sordid men."[77]

Beecher certainly seemed to be speaking out of both sides of his mouth.[78] He was not alone, however, for there was in fact very little agreement in the mid-nineteenth century about the merit of leisure and recreation.[79] The controversy attracted a good many commentators, especially clergymen, a significant fact in itself. In a book called The Christian Law of Amusement (1859), for example, James Leonard Corning, pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, described the battle as being waged between those who denounced amusement "with most dogmatic intolerance as if nothing could be said in its favor" and those who praised it to the skies, "as if the progress of civilization depended on it."[80] However, this did not prevent Corning himself from joining the fray, determined as he was to prove that the necessity for amusement was a "Christian law."

As for Henry Ward Beecher, the battle seemed to be going on inside his head and among his various pieces of writing. But there was a pattern as well behind these seemingly contrary pronouncements.[81] In Norwood , for example, it was the gentlemanly Dr. Wentworth who, alone of all the townspeople, could afford to be seen standing under a cherry tree, "watching with a kind of sober smile the workmen" la-


boring away at their tasks.[82] Leisure clearly meant different things when it was enjoyed by different people. Cheap amusements—such as the popular theater and the circus—were sinks of iniquity: a "universal pestilence," an "infernal chemistry of ruin," indeed "hell's first welcome."[83] More genteel pastimes, however—such as visiting the Louvre and the National Art Gallery, or summering in the country—actually turned out to be morally uplifting and indeed were recounted by Beecher as fond episodes in his own life. Star Papers , his collection of occasional essays, offered a record of his tour of Europe as well as his "vacations of three summers."[84]

Beecher is something of a pivotal figure from this perspective, testifying not only to the fluidity of class attributes in the nineteenth century but also (perhaps more crucial for my argument here) to the contending valences within the social field, its failure to exhibit anything like a rationalized totality. Leisure, once flung in accusation at the feet of the upper class, was now claimed by the middle class, gingerly but also quite openly, not just as a birthright but as something of a requisite, at once identity imparting and identity certifying.[85] The social meaning of leisure would thus seem to be more variously marked, more variously nuanced and accented, than might appear generalizable from any simple economic given. It is against this complex semantic history of leisure that we can begin to gauge the dissonances in Beecher's own writings, or the dissonances between him and Melville. And it is against this complex semantic history, as well, that we can begin to gesture toward a historical criticism that is nonetheless not bound by the preposition "in." For the great interest of the Melville story is surely not what is in it: not the fact that leisure is here linked with degeneracy but the fact that it is so linked in accordance with an earlier, more populist, faintly anachronistic conception of class. Unlike the blandly decorous leisure in Norwood or Star Papers , leisure in "The Paradise of Bachelors" remains overrich, too savory, too alluring.[86] And unlike Henry Ward Beecher, who apparently has come to accept leisure by accepting a selective version of it—the version newly sanitized by its association with the middle class—Melville has kept alive an older dynamics of attraction and revulsion, or attraction as revulsion, so that the spectacle of gentlemen at leisure becomes not so much a presumption in favor of leisure as a presumption against the gentlemen themselves, who as leisured men are also shown to be lesser men.


From that perspective, it is difficult to speak of the story as a "social critique"—as if that critique were its resident identity—for the critique is hardly located "in" the story, but is intelligible only in relation to Beecher and only in relation to an earlier conception of class that, in the mid-nineteenth century, was just about to be superseded. Furthermore, even with this expanded semantic horizon, the text does not seem to possess a meaning integral enough or binding enough to give it anything like a concluded identity. For the Melville story, in its very polemical energy, in its metonymic attack on the leisured gentleman as effete bachelor, also carries with it something like a polemical overload, with consequences unintended, unexpected, and quite possibly unwelcome. One such consequence is that even though the story is probably not "meant" to be homophobic, homophobia is nonetheless more than a dim shape on the horizon.[87] The resonances of the story (and for us, in the 1990s, they are troubling resonances) must far exceed anything Melville himself might have imagined. Given this signifying surcharge, and given the continual evolution of that surcharge, any attempt to devise a hermeneutic totality for the text is bound to fail—woefully, but perhaps also happily. For that failure is surely a tribute to the story's continuing vitality, its continuing ability to sustain new meanings, even troubling meanings, over time. The semantic horizon of the text is thus commensurate neither with the sum of its parts nor with the sum of any number of readings. Taking these incommensurabilities as reminders of a nonintegral universe, we should perhaps also take to heart their intimations of shortfall, as well as intimations of possibility, in order to rethink the very idea of adequation, both as it informs a reading of a text and as it informs a theory of justice.

The question of justice is, of course, the implicit burden of the Melville story itself, a question that, to my mind, is also better pondered as an instance of the incomplete rather than an instance of descriptive fullness. As we have seen, what Melville offers is a contrasting tableau of privilege and oppression, rendered in the idiom of class as well as the idiom of gender. The female operative, a casualty on both counts, thus stands as a metonym for injustice, an injustice done to all workers. This gendering of injustice is very much a deliberate invention on Melville's part, for, as Judith A. McGaw points out, even though there were actually both male and female workers in the Dalton paper mill that Melville visited, the story takes as its exhibit only


the latter.[88] This metonymic focus on the woman worker is in turn doubled upon itself, for the focus is hardly on her general well-being, but on one particular feature of her person. It is her sexualized body that is being dramatized here, the oppressions and deprivations of that body serving as a metonym for the full range of her oppressions and deprivations. Female sexuality, in short, becomes the generalized sign for the injury of class. Beginning with the journey to the paper mill (a protracted affair, vividly rendered as a grotesque encounter with the female anatomy), economic injustice is equated throughout with sexual violation, industrial capitalism being figured here as a mechanized rape of the female body.

It is this metonymic logic that confers on female sexuality its signifying primacy. To the extent that this signifying relation is understood to be a complete relation, however—to the extent that this "rape" is understood fully to summarize the female operatives as well as the entire working class—the women are also turned into naturalized signs, welded into and subsumed by what they signify. There they stand, "like so many mares haltered to the rack," tending machines which "vertically thrust up a long, glittering scythe . . . look[ing] exactly like a sword" (329). Not surprisingly, they give birth not to babies but to industrial products. The narrator reports a "scissory sound . . . as of some cord being snapped, and down dropped an unfolded sheet of perfect foolscap . . . still moist and warm" (332). In short, the sights and sounds of industrial production cruelly mimic the sights and sounds of biological reproduction, underscoring at every turn the simple equation between perverted womanhood and industrial victimhood.

Melville was not the only one to have lighted on the denaturalized woman as a metonym for the sufferings of the working class. Joan Wallach Scott, studying the representation of women workers in France during the same period, has come upon strikingly similar images of female sexual disorder metonymically equated with the problems of the entire industrial order. As Scott points out, this mode of cultural figuration—this deployment of a class critique upon the symbolic body of woman—is not altogether disinterested. Indeed, as she documents it, political economists such as Jules Simon (who wrote a book called L'Ouvrière ) not only routinely lamented the sexual plight of the women workers but also proposed, as a remedy, "the return of the mother to the family," for, as he said, "It is neces-


sary that women be able to marry and that married women be able to remain at home all day, there to be the providence and the personification of the family." Given this view of things, it is not surprising that, according to Michelet, ouvrière was an "impious, sordid word that no language has ever known." Jules Simon, meanwhile, went so far as to say that "the woman who becomes a worker is no longer a woman."[89]

There is, of course, nothing quite so outspoken in "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids," nor anything that hints of the Cult of True Womanhood, the American counterpart to those pronouncements offered by Michelet and Simon.[90] Still, given Melville's anxieties about his literary career in an environment dominated by "scribbling women," it is certainly possible to see, in this story about "blank-looking girls" working on "blank paper" (328), a half-resentful, half-wishful, and not especially well-disguised fantasy about women who wrote too mechanically and too much.[91] Such speculations aside, we might note as well that in his metonymic logic—in the implied equation between industrial victimhood and perverted womanhood—Melville, like Marx, would seem to have begged the very question of justice his writing so powerfully brings into focus. In his case, injustice is both self-evident and beside the point, both naturalized and rendered moot by that naturalization. Its spectacle excites only an obligatory apostrophe—"Oh! Paradise of Bachelors! and oh! Tartarus of Maids!"—an apostrophe almost "equal" to its object, we might even say, not only in repeating the diptych form of the story but also in completing it, turning its metonymic conceit into a natural circumference, a natural totality.

Against this formal closure—this inscription of a figural reality as full reality—I want to suggest an avowedly "incomplete" reading, one designed, that is, to go against the grain of the story, and most certainly against the grain of metonymic thinking. I want to suggest a reading predicated on the improbable presence of a historical "whole" in the text, an improbability whose consequences I take to be pragmatic rather than self-deprecatingly rhetorical. In other words, if we concede that the meaning of literature is not a containable category, we would have to concede, infinitely more, that the meaning of history is also not containable: not as a hermeneutic totality, and especially not as a hermeneutic totality in a text. Taking this hermeneutic incompleteness as an energizing relation between history and litera-


ture and as a tribute to the evolving vitality of both, we might want to focus on those moments in the text where its historicity seems most tenuous, most problematic, using these moments to question the very idea of a unified "whole," both as it bears on the determining ground of literature and as it bears on the determinate shape of history.

Reading "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids," then, not as a totality, I want to engage it obliquely, engage it by dwelling on what it does not represent, which in this case happens to be an alternative account of the woman worker. That alternative figure casts a new light, I think, not only on the presumptive totality of Melville's story, but also on the presumptive totality of the historical process itself. For that figure was nothing if not emblematic in the 1830s and 1840s. Gleefully adduced—by company officials and ecstatic foreign visitors—that woman worker was considered the pride of America and was routinely contrasted with the debased operatives in Manchester, England.[92] Charles Dickens, who admitted to having "visited many mills in Manchester and elsewhere," reported with much-dramatized surprise that the American women workers "were all well dressed. . . . They were healthy in appearance, many of them remarkably so, and had the manners and department of young women: not of degraded brutes of burden." Indeed, "from all the crowd I saw in the different factories that day, I cannot recall or separate one young face that gave me a painful impression; not one young girl whom, assuming it to be a matter of necessity that she should gain her daily bread by the labour of her hands, I would have removed from those works if I had had the power."[93]

For Dickens, the American woman worker cut a different figure for obvious reasons: in being so happily unrecognizable to the English reader, she showed up everything that was wrong with industrial England. This juxtaposing function was, in fact, the standard function assigned her by English visitors. The Reverend William Scoresby, who visited the "factory girls" expressly to report to his congregation in Bradford, England, devoted chapters of his book, American Factories and Their Female Operatives (1845), to "Their Literary Pursuits," "Their Leisure Employments," "Their Moral Condition," and "Causes of Their Superiority." Scoresby found that these women were "clothed in silks, and otherwise gaily adorned," that it was "a common thing for one of these girls to have five hundred dollars (a hundred guineas, nearly) in deposit" at the Lowell Institution for


Savings, that their literary publication, the Lowell Offering , was "fair and comely," quite "a phenomenon in literature": in short, though "having no possible motive for flattering our transatlantic sisters," he must nonetheless conclude that in "general moral character, or superior intelligence, or great respectability—these factory girls do greatly surprise and interest us" and that they must commend themselves to "those who feel an interest in the improvement of the condition of our working population."[94]

These glowing nineteenth-century accounts are echoed by some twentieth-century historians, who, reacting against mainstream labor history, have called attention instead to the benefits of factory work for women.[95] Thomas Dublin, in particular, emphasizes the importance of industrialization not only to women's individual well-being but also to their potential for collective action. Dublin finds that—contrary to our usual view—the New England factory girls had not been driven to work by dire necessity. Indeed, according to him, the property holdings of the fathers put them in the broad middle ranges of wealth in their home towns; fully 86 percent of the fathers had property valued at $100 or more. These women came because they wanted to, he argues, because they wanted the freedom of urban living, away from their rural families; what they gained along the way was a sense of solidarity born out of the social relations of production. Work sharing at the mills and communal living at the company boardinghouses socialized the women in a way that the household economy would not, and that experience led directly to the collective action exemplified by strikes of the 1830s and the Ten Hour Movement of the 1840s, which saw the growth of a permanent labor organization among women, the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association (founded in December 1844). Dublin concludes that the factory experience "placed the Lowell women squarely within the evolving labor movement and indicated that crafts traditions were not the only legitimating forces in labor protests of the period."[96]

Such arguments, striking in their own right, do not pose as severe a challenge to the Melville story as they do to our current habit of reading. Any attempt to read the story as a metonym—as a container of history, an index to history—is bound to flounder here, for what is most striking about the story is surely its oblique relation to the lives of nineteenth-century women workers, its nonencapsulation of anything that might be called a "historical whole," and its unavoidable


slipperiness as the ground of historical generalizations. To acknowledge this is not, of course, to argue for a lack of connections between history and literature. It is, however, a call to rethink the nature of those connections, to set aside our current metonymic premise in favor of concepts such as unevenness, off-centeredness, nonalignment. Such concepts, in their challenge to the idea of a fully integrated totality, qualify not only the hermeneutic relation between history and literature but also the epistemological foundation of yet another idea which requires a "whole": the idea of justice itself.

The Limits of Totality: Rebecca Harding Davis

For the nineteenth-century women workers themselves, it was the very nonexistence of a whole that made their lives livable, bearable, and, in the end, not simply a metonym for "injustice." Their stories and poems, letters and memoirs thus stubbornly refused to bear witness to a principle of full integration, full adequation,[97] a refusal that, at the very least, should compel us to rethink the category of "commensurability," with its attendant constructs of body and mind, part and whole, material and immaterial, and its attendant suppositions about the ground for justice. Almost without exception, these women, even those writing for house organs such as the Lowell Offering , commented on the physical ordeal of work, the fatigue and often the disfigurations suffered by the body. In a series entitled "Letters from Susan," one author, Harriet Farley, complained that

the hours seemed very long . . . and when I went out at night the sound of the mill was in my ears, as of crickets, frogs, and jewsharps, all mingled together in strange discord. . . . It makes my feet ache and swell to stand so much, . . . they almost all say that when they have worked here a year or two they have to procure shoes a size or two larger than before they came. The right hand, which is the one used in stopping and starting the loom, becomes larger than the left.[98]

What is remarkable, however, is that, such bodily afflictions notwithstanding, Farley also went on in the same letter to report that the factory girls "scorn to say they were contented, if asked the question, for it would compromise their Yankee spirit. . . . Yet, withal, they are cheerful. I never saw a happier set of beings. They appear blithe in the


mill, and out of it."[99] From aching ears and swollen feet, it might seem a long way to cheerfulness, happiness, and blitheness. But it was just this strange transport—this improbable outcome given the point of departure—that structured the daily lives of the women workers. Harriet Hanson Robinson, who started working in the Lowell mills in 1834 at the age of ten, offered yet another account of this phenomenon in her memoir, Loom and Spindle , published in 1898 when she was seventy-three years old. From the distance of some sixty years, she could still remember the excitement of gainful employment, of having money in the pocket for the first time, and of the magical transformation the women underwent:

[A]fter the first pay-day came, and they felt the jingle of silver in their pockets, and had begun to feel its mercurial influence, their bowed heads were lifted, their necks seemed braced with steel, they looked you in the face, sang blithely among their looms or frames, and walked with elastic step to and from their work. And when Sunday came, homespun was no longer their only wear; and how sedately gay in their new attire they walked to church, and how proudly they dropped their silver four-pences into the contribution-box! It seemed as if a great hope impelled them,—the harbinger of the new era that was about to dawn for them and for all women-kind.[100]

For women not accustomed to having earnings of their own, not accustomed to the luxury of city clothes or the luxury of church patronage, leaving home and working in a factory brought with it a psychological well-being that shone forth in spite of the physical ordeal of repetitive labor and long working hours. One was not reducible to the other or generalizable from the other, and that was precisely the point. For what was most remarkable about these accounts of factory life was surely the persistent lack of fit—the lack of absolute determination or absolute entailment—between standards of discomfort and states of mind, between the generalized conditions of work and the specific affect reported by the women workers. The women workers were workers, to be sure; they were bodies bound to machines, bodies that became aching ears and swollen feet. But they were women as well, and, as women, they had a prehistory significantly different from that of the men and a capacity for transformation (not to say a capacity for benefit) also significantly different. The experience of industrialization, it would seem, was not at all an integral experience,


not at all evenly registered or universally shared, but locally composed for each particular group, its composition being directly related to the antecedents out of which that group emerged.[101] In the case of the women workers, coming as they did from under the shadow of the patriarchal household, the emotional satisfaction as newly independent wage earners might turn out to be as nontrivial a benefit as the physical drudgery of labor was an oppression. It is here, in the perpetual lack of adequation between these two registers, that we can speak of the "nontrivial" as a crucial evidentiary category, a crucial supplement to any model of presumptive totality and generalizability. And here as well we can speak of gender as an exemplary instance of the nontrivial, both in the relays it multiplies between body and mind and in the challenge it poses to their supposed integration.

What emerged, then, from these writings by women workers was a set of determinations that, while acknowledged, were also carefully kept from being too seamless, too absolute. Between the body and the person, and between the person and the class, there was always the possibility for inconclusiveness, always the possibility for imperfect alignment and contrary articulation. The bodies of the women told one story, their letters told another, and their organized strikes, it would seem, told yet a third. Lucy Larcom was speaking only in one of the many possible voices of the woman worker when she wrote:

One great advantage which came to these many stranger girls through being brought together, away from their own homes, was that it taught them to go out of themselves, and enter into the lives of others. Home-life, when one always stays at home, is necessarily narrowing. That is one reason why so many women are petty and unthoughtful of any except their own family's interests. . . . For me, it was an incalculable help to find myself among so many working-girls, all of us thrown upon our own resources, but thrown much more upon each others' sympathies.[102]

Speaking in a voice related but not exactly identical, Larcom also mentioned that she was "dazzled" by the thought of "Mount Holyoke Seminary . . . as a vision of hope" and that "Mary Lyon's name was honored nowhere more than among the Lowell mill-girls."[103] And it was in yet another related but not exactly identical voice that Sally Rice wrote the following letter, explaining why she did not want to leave the factory and go home to the "wilderness":


I can never be happy in among so many mountains. . . . I feel as though I have worn out shoes and strength enough walking over the mountains. . . . [A]nd as for marrying and settling in that wilderness, I wont. If a person ever expects to take comfort it is while they are young. . . . I am most 19 years old. I must of course have something of my own before many more years have passed over my head. And where is that something coming from if I go home and earn nothing. . . . You may think me unkind but how can you blame me for wanting to stay here. I have but one life to live and I want to enjoy myself as well as I can while I live.[104]

We would be hard put to find a unified identity in these letters and memoirs by women workers.[105] What confronts us instead are many circumstances for identities, identities imagined as well as lived, all rhetorically mediated and only partially harmonized. The women were not speaking out of a singular body called the "working class." They were not even speaking out of a singular body called the "person." For the person, in every respect, turned out to be less than a singularity but also more than a body. Like the human voice itself, at once rooted in the body which nourishes it but also miraculously unencompassed by that body, the person too is at once material and immaterial, at once a determinate presence and a field of incipience, no part of which—neither the swollen feet, nor the letter-writing self—could "do justice" to the whole, the very integrity of which was now shown to be something of a fiction.

In this sense, the writings of the women workers suggest one way to think about Rebecca Harding Davis's Life in the Iron Mills (1861), to my mind one of the most interesting nineteenth-century attempts to write in defiance of a whole, in defiance of the canon of objective adequation, and therefore also one of the most interesting experiments in what we might call "incomplete justice"—if that is not too much of a contradiction in terms. That experiment begins, significantly, with a series of carefully specified nodal points where the story's transparency of determination is allowed to become opaque, to modulate into a paradox, an enigma, a relation of untranslatability. One such moment revolves around the central female character, Deborah, whose "thwarted woman's form," "colorless life," and "waking stupor that smothered pain and hunger" would seem to make her "fit to be a type of her class."[106] The "fit" is by no means absolute, however, for generalizable as Deborah might seem, one can


nonetheless never be sure she is just that and no more than that. Certitude extends, in other words, only to what is verifiably there, not to what is unverifiably not. There is no final proof, for instance, that there is

no story . . . hidden beneath the pale, bleared eyes, and dull, washed-out-looking face, [where] no one had ever taken the trouble to read its faint signs: not the half-clothed furnace-tender, Wolfe, certainly. Yet he was kind to her: it was his nature to be kind, even to the very rats that swarmed in the cellar: kind to her in just the same way. She knew that. And it might be that very knowledge had given to her face its apathy and vacancy more than her low, torpid life. (22)

If the opaqueness of Deborah begins with a postulate of the unverifiable, something that might or might not be in her, it ends with something like a tribute to the inexhaustible, a condition that makes any determinate cause inadequate to the felt effects. Of course, what is inexhaustible here turns out to be Deborah's capacity for suffering, a capacity well in excess even of what her "low, torpid life" so amply supplies her. This fact, lamentable from one point of view, nonetheless gives Deborah something almost akin to the cheerfulness, happiness, and blitheness reported by Harriet Farley, Harriet Robinson, and Lucy Larcom—akin, in the sense that it also saves her from being a transcript of her material conditions, affirming in her the density and dignity of the unknown, untypified, unspoken for. Her greatest suffering comes not from her bodily deprivations but from the particular sort of kindness with which she is treated. In this unexpected fastidiousness (where one would have imagined simple gratitude), Deborah emerges less as a whole than as a qualification to that concept. She cannot be read metonymically for just that reason, for her identity is both overflowing and undersaturated, both unexhausted by her materiality and only partially accounted for by its determinations.

In the enigma of affect which Davis puts at the heart of a story that is otherwise relentlessly transparent, relentlessly determinate, Life in the Iron Mills stands as a testimony to the limits of totality, and perhaps to the limits of justice itself. Justice is clearly very much an issue in the story, though, I would argue, a vexed issue, at once invoked and circumscribed in the very terms of its invocation. "I want you to come down and look at this Wolfe," the narrative voice tells us, "that you may judge him justly." And it goes on:


Be just: when I tell you about this night, see him as he is. Be just,—not like man's law, which seizes on one isolated fact, but like God's judging angel, whose clear, sad eye saw all the countless cankering days of this man's life, all the countless nights, when, sick with starving, his soul fainted in him, before it judged him for this night, the saddest of all. (25–26)

In spite of Davis's repeated injunction to the reader to "be just," to arrive at a verdict that would presumably encompass the entire life of Hugh Wolfe, such a panoramic vision actually seems only to be the privilege of "God's judging angel," whose omniscient eye is in a position to see "all." Human laws, by contrast, would always be imperfect, limited by their partial vision, a limit imposed not only by the unavailability of justice as a fully viewable category but also by the unavailability of any human life to be judged as a "whole." That unavailability is further compounded by the phenomenon of loss in the routine of living, an involuntary attrition which, in making human agency porous in its effect, must render porous as well any notion of a recuperative universe.

"Something is lost in the passage of every soul from one eternity to the other,—something . . . which might have been and was not" (64), Davis writes at the end of Life in the Iron Mills . The "loss" here is perhaps loss in a general Wordsworthian sense, the loss incurred by the very unfolding of a human life. But, more specifically, it also seems to be the loss incurred by any attempt to engage the world, any attempt to translate from one experiential register into another. It is this loss that renders excruciating Deborah's love for Hugh—her nightly, mile-long walk to bring him dinner and, most fatally, her decision to steal for his sake—a love so untranslatable as to be virtually meaningless to its object. And it is this loss that renders excruciating Hugh's last attempt to engage the world in conversation. As he says good-bye to the last passerby outside his jail window, on what he knows to be the last day of his life, "a longing seized him to be spoken to once more":

"Joe!" he called, out of the grating. "Good-bye, Joe!"

The old man stopped a moment, listening uncertainly; then hurried on. The prisoner thrust his hand out of the window, and called again, louder; but Joe was too far down the street. (59)

The fragility of the human voice—its utter lack of guarantee, utter dependence on the recipient, its helplessness and involuntary silence


in the face of physical distance—thus dramatizes, for Davis, not only the incommensurability between the material and the immaterial, but also the incommensurability between self and world: a world that refuses to envelop us in reciprocity, to render back to us, in sonorous fullness, our need for attention, expression, conversation. The single most haunting image in Life in the Iron Mills is the fate of what is not translated, not received, not noticed. In ways at once accidental and agonizing, the sum of the parts is always greater than the whole here, for the whole, the supposed whole, is not so much an effect of our plenitude as an effect of our loss.

And yet it is through this loss—through the incommensurability of the material and the immaterial which occasions it—that Davis is able to offer the consolation (dubious to some, perhaps, but a consolation nonetheless) of human lives that are only partially determined, partially accounted for. That consolation marks the breakdown in a panoramic view of justice, a breakdown in its ability to tell a complete story, either about the collective life of the working class or even about the circumscribed life of a woman named Deborah. And indeed, to our surprise, Deborah, unlike Hugh, is allowed to survive, living a life "pure and meek" among the Quakers, in a "homely pine house" overlooking "wooded slopes and clover-crimsoned meadows" (63). That ending, improbable as it is, nonetheless seems nonabsurd to me: nonabsurd, not because it fully summarizes, fully integrates what has gone on before, but because it does not. There is no total justice here, only incomplete justice, incomplete both in the narrowness of its action and in the dissonance of its effects. With that incompleteness, and the nontrivial difference it nonetheless makes, Life in the Iron Mills enjoins us to rethink the very object of political philosophy—to rethink it outside its dominant claims of adequation and totality—an injunction that, thus far, would seem not only more humanly bearable but also more humanly precise.


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