Bourgeois Subjectivity

by Caleb Roberts

The modern subject’s consciousness of itself as free and self-determining is an illusion produced by the bourgeois notions of property that mediate its self-awareness.  This bourgeois property right is the incoherent attempt to universalize, either transcendentally or ontologically, the Roman jurisprudential distinction between a person (persona), who as a subject of the empire (civis) and is invested with the legal right (juris) to ownership (dominium), and a thing (res), which is an objective property owned by a person.  Western subjectivity is nothing more than the social determination of selfhood refracted through this distinction.  A nonobjective “personal” knower and an objectively known “thing” are the epistemological inflections of this Roman legal definition. (22-23)

Joshua Davis | Waiting and Being: Creation, Freedom, and Grace in Western Theology