“The Horrifying Ties, From Which the Public Order Originates”

Bernhard Siegert

in This Is Enlightenment

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780226761473
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226761466 | DOI:
“The Horrifying Ties, From Which the Public Order Originates”

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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This chapter offers a unique way to raise the question of Enlightenment mediations of power. It begins by contesting the “two-hundred-year-old myth” that understands the Enlightenment as the epoch when media mediates the private citizen's self-realization as the Public, enabling, in Habermas's influential account, bourgeois society's successful confrontation with the absolutist state. As an alternative to this familiar narrative, the chapter describes an Enlightenment project that gives the state an intimate role in policing, forming policy for, and shaping the communications media that link together the network of people and things, all in the name of securing the welfare of modern state and society. Drawing on Friedrich Schiller's plays, historical writings, and translations, as well as Louis–Sébastien Mercier's Tableau de Paris and Kant, a counter-image of the police is developed as the medium through which the unity of a complex urbanizing society can be grasped as a transcendental unity. It is argued that the salience of the police chief, who, as the new “father confessor,” uses his many agents to mingle with the public, making police and public unthinkable apart from one another.

Keywords: Enlightenment; power; state; policing; media; police chief

Chapter.  4856 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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