The faculty of the humanities has recently come under attack. Responding to criticism, many of those who care for the faculty insist on the social benefits of the academic disciplines and modes of inquiry that find shelter under its aegis. This article takes the opposite view. Rejecting the instrumentalist assumptions and economistic logic that many supporters share with their critics, the author seeks to redefine and defend the humanities by going back to the “sciences of the spirit,” Geisteswissenschaften, while understanding spirit less as an intangible element than as the paradigm of the in-fungible. Spirit is that which has no value in any market of fungibles. The value of the products that workers of the spirit produce has nothing to do with their value in the market; from the point of view of the capitalist market, the labor of these workers is a sheer waste of time. The capitalist market is allergic to the very existence of spirit because it cannot “economize” it. Therefore, to the extent that this kind of intellectual labor persists, the sciences of the spirit provide loci of resistance to the reign of capitalist markets and sites in which the contingency and limitedness of its logic are exposed.
Adi Ophir; The Sciences of the Spirit. differences 1 December 2013; 24 (3): 160–174. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2391986
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