Even if capitalist markets do have an inclusive aspect, open to exchange with anyone…as long as it is profitable, capitalism as a whole is predominantly and inherently a system of social exclusion, dividing people by property and excluding the non-profitable. a system of this kind is, of course, incapable of allowing the capabilities of all humankind to be realized. and currently the the system looks well fortified, even though new critical currents are hitting against it.
The language and style of Justine are inextricably tied to sexual pleasure. Sade makes it impossible for the reader to ignore this aspect of the text. Roland Barthes, whose essays in Sade, Fourier, Loyola describe the innovative language of each author, underscores the importance of pleasure when discussing the Sadian voyage:
If the Sadian novel is excluded from our literature, it is because in it novelistic peregrination is never a quest for the Unique (temporal essence, truth, happiness), but a repetition of pleasure; Sadian errancy is unseemly, not because it is vicious and criminal, but because it is dull and somehow insignificant, withdrawn from transcendency, void of term: it does not reveal, does not transform, does not develop, does not educate, does not sublimate, does not accomplish, recuperates nothing, save for the present itself, cut up, glittering, repeated; no patience, no experience; everything is carried immediately to the acme of knowledge, of power, of ejaculation; time does not arrange or derange it, it repeats, recalls, recommences, there is no scansion other than that which alternates the formation and the expenditure of sperm.
Barthes’s observation reflects La Mettrie’s influence on Sade, whose libertine characters parrot in both speech and action the philosopher’s view that the pursuit of pleasure is man’s raison d’être. Sexuality permeates a great many linguistic and stylistic features of Justine, for example, names of characters (onomastics), literal and figurative language, grammatical structures, cultural and class references, dramatic effects, repetition and exaggeration, and use of parody and caricature. Justine is traditionally the name of a female domestic (soubrette), connoting a person of the lower classes, who falls prey to promiscuous behavior. Near the beginning of Justine, Sade renames the heroine the moment she accepts employment at the home of the miserly Monsieur Du Harpin, surname evocative of Molière’s Harpagon. Sophie, the wise example of womanly Christian virtue in the first version, becomes Thérèse, the anti- philosophe in the second, who chooses to ignore the brutally realistic counsel of her libertine persecutors. Sade’s Thérèse recalls the heroine of Thérèse philosophe who, unlike his protagonist, profited from an erotic lifestyle.
Sade may manipulate language to enhance erotic description but he also relies upon his observation of everyday life and class division of the ancien régime to provide him with models for his libertine characters, their mores, and their lifestyles. In Justine, he presents a socio-cultural microcosm of France during the reign of Louis XV. The power brokers of Sade’s youth who, for the most part, enriched themselves in his Majesty’s wars by means of corruption and influence, resurface in print as Justine’s exploiters. The noblemen, the financiers, the legal and medical professionals, the clergymen, and the thieves-robber barons representative of each social class-sexually maneuver their subjects to establish control. While we learn what the classes of mid-eighteenth-century France ate, how they dressed, where they lived, we also witness the ongoing struggle between victim and victimizer, the former personified by Justine, an ordinary bourgeois individual who can never vanquish the tyrant who maintains authority through sexual prowess rather than through wealth.
Barthes tells us that Sade’s passion was not erotic but theatrical. The marquis’s infatuation with the theater was inspired early on by the lavish productions staged by the Jesuits during his three and a half years at the Collège Louis-le-Grand. Later, his romantic dalliances with actresses and his own involvements in acting, writing, and production attest to his enormous attraction to the theater. In his libertine works, Sade incorporates theatricality, especially in his orgiastic scenes; in his own way, he creates the necessary horror and suspense to first seduce the reader and then to maintain his/her attention. Like a spectator in the audience, the reader observes well-rehearsed productions whose decor, script, and players have been predetermined, and where they are shown her various props in the form of “sadistic” paraphernalia.
Sade makes certain that the lesson given by her libertine victimizers following her forced participation in their orgies is not forgotten. Once again, Sade relies on man’s innate need for sexual pleasure to intellectualize the universe in a manner similar to his own. By using sexual desire as a ploy, Sade inculcates the atheistic materialism he so strongly proclaims into both an attentive Justine and reader. Justine cooperates with her depraved persecutors but refuses to adopt their way of thinking and thus continues to suffer at the hands of society’s exploiters. Sade, however, seizes the opportunity to convince his invisible readership that his concept of the universe is the right one. No matter how monotonous it may seem, repetition, whether in the form of licentious behavior or pseudo-philosophical diatribe, serves as a time-tested, powerful didactic tool.
The thought of Giorgio Agamben has been often accused of being utopian. Antonio Negri, for example, branded Agamben’s core concept, “naked” or “bare life,” as a “utopian escape” and then identified in (State of Exception) a “feverish utopian anxiety.” Agamben has also been accused that his notion of politics of dissolves “into an eschatological, utopian vision of social life,” infused with strong theological and messianic overtones, which would make of it a particular version of political theology. But, what of the quite common unease for a political project that is deemed unrealizable, empty, even impolitic. Is it Utopia or Anti-utopia? The clue is provided for through Walter Benjamin.
At the end of his essay on Surrealism (Surrealism The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia), Walter Benjamin writes:
For what is the program of the bourgeois parties? A bad poem on springtime, filled to bursting with metaphors. The socialist sees that ‘finer future of our children and grandchildren’ in a society in which all act ‘as if they were angels’ and everyone has as much ‘as if he were rich’ and everyone lives ‘as if he were free.’ Of angels, wealth, freedom, not a trace – these are mere images.
In a piece written two years later, Der destruktive Charakter, he insists that a radical, revolutionary politics must renounce optimistic, metaphoric contemplation:
The destructive character sees no image hovering before him.
Benjamin does not employ the term utopia; it is clear nonetheless that a political project founded on mere – and optimistic – images of the future is the target of his harsh criticism. If political utopianism in fact originated – strongly influenced by world travels and discoveries of new lands – by situating a political alternative in a spatial displacement (a nonplace that is, however, another place), at least from the Enlightenment it assumed the character of a “better future” toward which a progressive politics should strive. If, following Benjamin, we define “utopia” as a political project construed around images of the future and rhetorically based on the syntagma “as if ” (als ob), then Agamben’s project exudes an intrinsic and intense anti-utopianism. It is true that there is no explicit attack on utopia in his work and even that, in the preface to (Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture), he defines the “philosophical topology” presented as his method as “constantly oriented in the light of utopia”; however, the messianism in which his philosophical project is steeped constitutes an implicit but evident rejection of utopianism.