Goethe’s Faust and the socioeconomic roots of modern subjectivity

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The modern individual is the point of intersection of the processes of consumption and production. The subjective representation of these processes has been determined by two branches of the modern middle class, the bourgeoisie, which has privileged consumption, and the bureaucracy, which has privileged production.

The modern individual is the point of intersection of the processes of consumption and production. The subjective representation of these processes has been determined by two branches of the modern middle class, the bourgeoisie, which has privileged consumption, and the bureaucracy, which has privileged production. These two forms of the middle class gave rise in the C17 and C18 to two forms of Enlightenment, which in turn generated two forms of literary self-representation: the realist novel, predominant in England and France, and idealist philosophy, predominant in Germany. In the novel the world appears as the object of consumption, in idealist philosophy as the product of work. In Goethe’s Faust both representations of the world intersect in the central character. His tragedy is therefore the exemplary tragedy of modernity.