In the closing pages of The Liberal Imagination, Lionel Trilling points out that there exists a lack of sympathy between the ‘tradition of democratic liberalism as we know it’ and the most significant of the modern European writers. ‘Yeats and Eliot’, he writes, ‘Proust and Joyce, Lawrence and Gide—these men do not seem to confirm us in the social and political ideas which we hold.’1 Trilling could have added the names of Malraux, Sartre, Kafka, Graham Greene, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh, André Breton, and the host of poets stemming from the tradition of Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Mallarmé, and brought his list to a triumphant conclusion with those of the three writers on whom Barthes chose to concentrate in his next book: Sade, Fourier and Loyola. For it would be almost impossible to find three authors more out of sympathy with the capitalist, liberal, democratic, pluralistic, secular, officially optimistic but profoundly sceptical industrial society which we have the good fortune to inhabit. Sade was a pessimistic aristocrat obsessed by the connection between sexual pleasure and physical suffering; Fourier a Utopian philosopher whose dream was of a perfectly regulated harmonious society in which differences of opinion would completely disappear; and Loyola a Catholic visionary whose whole life was devoted to establishing the authority of the Church Militant.
KeywordsSexual Pleasure Harmonious Society Democratic Liberalism Physical Suffering Liberal Imagination
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