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Melancholic FreedomAgency and the Spirit of Politics$
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David Kyuman Kim

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195319828

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195319828.001.0001

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 Agency as a Vocation

 Agency as a Vocation

(p.123) 6 Agency as a Vocation
Melancholic Freedom

David Kyuman Kim (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Agency as melancholic freedom is deeply ambivalent. It speaks to the uncanny experience of feeling indebted to, yet alienated from, the glorious legacies of modernity: the legacies of liberation, emancipation, and autonomy. Late modern and postmodern agency share a concern for the banality of freedom, i.e., the loss of urgency that once attended the great struggles for freedom and emancipation from the forces of oppressive authority and dehumanizing domination. Given the banality of freedom — that is, the ways in which we speak about freedom either through hollow words or in hushed, sotto voce tones — it would seem that it is impossible to avoid talking about ambivalence when raising the subject of agency in our times. This chapter brings Taylor and Butler — both of whom express a fair degree of ambivalence — into conversation with another theorist of ambivalence, Max Weber. It is argued that the sotto voce of the banality of freedom sings with the modern prophetic spirit/soul described by Weber.

Keywords:   Charles Taylor, Judith Butler, agency, melancholic freedom, ambivalence, Max Weber, vocation

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