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THE CHILD AND POSTMODERN SUBJECTMTY


David Kennedy
Department of Educational Foundations
Montclair State Univer ity

In between the view that children are what adults are, know what adults know, and deserve
exactly what adults deserve and the view that children are the negation or opposite of adults in
being, knowledge, and desert, is an a yet unfathomable range of po ibilities that merits
exploration and mapping.'
The epigraph, taken from the introduction to a recently published volume of
essays on the views on childhood of eleven Western philosophers, combines meta-
phors with a gentIe but unsettling sense of disjunction. 2 The first sits squarely on the
Aristotelian logical foundation of identity and negation. Adults are adults and
children are not-adults, or vice versa. The econd evokes the exploration of uncharted
waters. Where, between the immutable logical markers of the law of contradiction,
does the diver slip in to the problem? If she enters with ethics, philosophy of rights,
property and law, she soon hits the hard and shallow bottom of centuries of accretion
of the Western tradition - a subsurface long etched and striated with familiar
distinctions, contradictions, dilemmas, and aporias - and finds herself wading. For
this discourse, "child" might as well be marker for any subspecies real or inlagined
by the white male We tern academic philosopher - woman, primitive, insane,
slave, poor, aninlal: the Other held at arm's length.
But what if the contradictions so adamantly upheld and institutionalized in
Western binary consciousness enter into dialectical relation? What if we recognize
them as poles of a whole system of relations, and so liable to all the transformations,
deformations, reversals, and tensions of the process of dialectic? Here we slip off the
ledge. Can the word" child" be spoken without speaking the word"adult," and vice
ver a? Is childhood, like adulthood, a form of knowledge, and therefore available
either to both children and adults? Is adult "reason" which children, all of these
philosophers say,lack - is this Reason imaginable apart from an irrational that gives
it its shape? How are children like adults? How are adults like children? Can
adulthood and childhood be known apart from their relation? If these questions push
us toward the psychological, so be it. Psychology is a form of the philosophy of
subjectivity anyway, and philosophy is capable of more than one form of logic.
THE CHILD AS "VALUABLE STRANCER" AND REASO 's IRRAT10NAL CORE
What is peculiar and compelling about these questions is that they probe the
boundaries of two epochal problems of Western self-interpretation. At least since
1. Gareth Matthews, The Philo ophel's Child (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 19991, 6.
2. Socrates, Ari totle, the Stoics, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Mill, Wittgenstein, Rawls, and Shulamith
FirestOne.
3. Plato, The Republic, nan . and ed. P.M. Comford (London: Oxford University Press), 140.

EDUCATIONAL THEORY / Spring 2002/ Volume 52 / Number 2


© 2002 Board of Trustees / University of I1linoi
156 ED U CAT ION A L THE 0 R Y SPRING 2002 / VOLUME 52 / NUMBER 2

Friedrich Nietzsche, and probably since Ernst Hegel and the Romantics, the question
of the status of reason in the economy of subjectivity has preoccupied some artists,
some psychologists, some philosophers} and many of those who presume to consider
themselves artists of their own live . Related to thi question, and rendered insistent
by centuries of radical individualism, is the question of the historical character of
subjectivity} and the po sibilities - if there be possibilities at all - of both its
development and its evolution.
The Western subject defines itself according to the relations between rea on and
d sir . Plato's tripartite soul is the first statement that has come down to us of this
relation, although his formula i a reproduction of Indo-European ocial, economic,
and political structure, which was in place centuries if not a millennium before his
Republic. Rea on, the smallest of the three parts} must rule emotion and appetite.
Although the images Plato uses to invoke thi tripartite relation include mu ical
harmony and the proper tension of a drawn bow, the final images are of domination
and control. Reason and its"subordinate and ally" the "spirited element, /I hays,
"must be set in command over the appetite, which form the greater part of each
man's soul and are by nature insatiably covetous. /13 This right relation b tw en the
three parts of the soul is impossible for children, who are, along with women, laves,
and the "inferior multitude," be et by "th great rna of multifariou appetite and
pleasures and pains,"4 for being an adult require an internal a well a an external
submission to a separated part of one' ubjective tructure. It is th part that
Ari totle call the" executive."s It requires, not so much a process or a movement a
a terminal reorganization according to hierarchical internal power rela tion . It i the
founding metapsychological condition for Descartes's res cogitan ,th 1£ u-
pended above itself, which finds the res extensa alien, a flesWy mechani m. Thi
form of subjectivity comes to the boundary between childhood and adulthood a to
a great divide - for which adulthood, as Gareth Mathews says, is a state which i /I

accomplished absolutely and once and for all when childhood, it contrary, is
transcended. Childhood is merely the preparation for that which definitively leave
it behind."6
This normative self-structure dominates the Western patriarchal tradition, and
it must exclude the Other in the form of child, woman, "native," and" lave" - any
form of subjectivity in which body and feeling, in other word , /I de ire," In terplay in
a different relation with reason. This structure begin to unravel in the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries, along with the understanding of reason that holds it in

4. Ibid., 125.
5. Aristotle, Physics, uan . W. Charlton, in A New Aristotle Reader, ed. J.L. AckrilllPrinccton .J.:
Princeton Univer ity Pre 51, .l 04.
6. Matthew, The Philo opher's Child,96.

DAVID KENNEDY i A ociate Profe or in the Department of Educational Foundations at Montclair


State University, Upper Montclair, NT 07043. His primary area of scholarship arc philosophy of childhood
and community of inquiry studies.
KE EDY Child and Postmodem Subjectivity 157

place. Something begin to emerge - a tentative subjectivity as yet in doubt but still
emerging, influenced by and in turn influencing the accelerating transformations of
modernism: evolutionary theory, physics and cosmology, depth psychology, techno-
logical explosion, ideological struggle in the realms of politics and economics,
postcolonialism, and perhap most important, the ever-increasing intervisibility of
cultures on a planetary scale.
One of the prophets of this long transitional moment (along with women, people
of color, the artist, the mad, and the aboriginal) is the child. Launched by Jean-Jacques
Rousseau's brilliant and contradictory formulation of Emile, childhood as a psycho-
logical condition and a form of knowledge assumes iconic significance among the
Romantics, those first modem ecular rebels against Reason. In their search for the
"foreign/, the exotic - other cultures, other times, other forms of life - they find
the most exemplary specimen of difference within their midst. The child, and
especially the young child, that "best philo opher/J7 begins to stand in} with the
artist, as prophet of a new subjective economy, an economy in which Plato's three
dimensions enter a crisis of interpretation. Aufklarung has already shown its dark
underside in the excesses of the French Revolution, and the ri e of hyper-rationalized
state bureaucracies which follows reinforces the sense, growing throughout the
nineteenth century, that it hides an irrational core - a sinister reversal. Friedrich
Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoievsky, and Sigmund Freud begin charting dimensions of
the p yche that progressively confound Plato's nested linear hierarchy, and hint at
other psycho-logics - Freud's logic of dreams, for example - thatare deconstructive
of the law of contradiction which dominates common sense notions.
In this shifting moment, the condition of childhood come gradually to be seen,
no longer as an unformed adult subjectivity, but as a form of subjectivity in itself.
Relative to the dominant norms of adult subjectivity, the child become what the
feminist philosopher Sandra Harding characterizes as a "valuable stranger" among
the cultural "natives," an "outsider within," with an "epistemic privilege." The
child represents no longer an incomplete but an altemative epistemology. Ontoge-
netically, the child is a subjective tructure characterized by transformation - a
paradigm for what Julia Kristeva, in describing the emergent postmodern elf, called
the "subject.in-process/' or self as a pluralism of relationships rather than an
"organization constituted by exclusions and hierarchies."9 Childhood stands for
"jouissance," the experience of pre-Oedipal "forgotten time," ecstatic moments in
which the socially constructed form of the boundary line between self and external
world is deconstructed in the interests of ongoing elf·reconstruction. 10 The child is

7, William Wordsworth, "Ode: Intimation of Immortality from Recollection of Early Childhood," in


Poems, ed. H.T. HalllNew York: Scott Foresman, 19241, 195.
8. Sandra Harclin& Whose Science! Whose Knowledge! Thinking from Women's Lives (Ithaca, N.Y.:
Cornell University Press, 1991), 124, 131,307.
9. Julia Kristeva, Desire in Language (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 135 and Julia Kristeva,
The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Ab;ection INew York: Columbia University Press, 1987),65.
10. Catherine Marchak, "The loY of Transgression: Bataille and Kristeva," in Philosophy Today 34, no. 4
IWinter 19901: 354-63.
158 E Due A TI 0 N A L THE 0 R Y SPRING 2002 / VOLUME 52 / NUMBER 2

an experimental being, in rapid and continual reorganization; a being in which the


elements of self are in dialogue, both internally and with the external world. Slowly,
with the growth of developmental psychology throughout the twentieth century, the
adult comes to see herself, hke the child, as an unfinished being as well.
An unfinished being is one in which the relations among the various dimensions
of the self are not fixed, but in dialogue for the purpo es of ongoing reorganization.
In this interpretation, the goal of self-development has not been abandoned so much
as infinitely deferred. The fixed goal of the Platonic subject is reflectiv of a static
metaphysics - a dualism in which a transcendent model is offered a an end tate
of development. The subject-in-process is oriented toward what Dewey called
"growth," for the purpo e of growth, becau e intrinsic to growth it elf are all the
values which justify it, The organismic theory of the early twentieth century,
emergent from evolutionary biology, identifies - at least on on dirnen ion - its
developmental dynamics: the progressive integration of functions in a imultaneou
movement toward centralization, hierarchization, and individual articulation. Among
the "lower" animal, this process is relatively fixed, and arranged predictably acro s
the life cycle. The bles ing and the curse of human i the element of ind t rminacy
that renders a closed sy tern an open one. In this regard, human a y tern
phenomena are somewhere between the mollusk and the weather.
THE CHrLn AND THE DIALECTIC OF WESTERN REA 0

It was the Romantics who discovered "child" a an alternative subjectivity and


prophet of unfinished being. In fact they were recapitulating a perennial count r
Wisdom tradition, present at least since the Tao Te Ching, which compare the one
in harmony with the Tao to a newborn child, I I and inscribed in Judeo-Chri tian elf-
understanding in the Jesus-sayings on "little children. "12 Suffering a th y wer with
the dramatic failure of Enlightenment Reason in the bloodbaths of the French
Revolution, they were in a sense beginning again. Holderin invokes the "Edenic elf-
unity of childhood" as an adult developmental ideal, of which the child i prophetic
precursor. 13 Samuel Coleridge searches for a form of education - or Bildung - that
would" carry on the feelings of childhood into the powers of manhood. "14 Thi unity,
which for the Platonic subject implies the eradication of childhood, i for the
Romantics it recovery. The promi e i a new kind of ociallife, ba ed on th adult's
reappropriation of the child's form of life on a "higher" level- a world characterized
by, as Reinhard Kuhn put it, "the transparence of its inhabitant and ub equent
perfection of their interrelationship. This ideal harmony would make pos ible the

11. Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mjtchelll ew York: Harper and Row, 19881, 55.
12, For a urvey of this tradition, see David Kennedy, "Child and Fool in the Western Wi dom Tradition,"
Thinking 11, no. I: 11-21 and "The Hermeneutics of Childhood," Philosophy Today36, no. 11 pring 1992):
44-58.
13, Quoted in M.H. Abrams, Natul'al Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature
(New York: onon, 1971),239.
14. Quoted in Judith Plotz, "The PerperuaJMessiah: Romanticism, Childhood, and the Paradoxes of Human
Development," in Regula ted Children/Liberated Children, ed. Barbara Finkelstein INew York: Psychohistory
Pres, 1977),81.
KENNEDY Child and Po tmodem Subjectivity 159

abolition of the rules of civilization and would result in a humanity without


aesthetic and sociallaws./I 's This is the vision of a counter-modem, post-adult
utopia, in which the distinction between public and private self is abolished; we "live
and feel in the present," a "unitary, undivided existence." The polariti s that make
for the "dividedness, alienation, and inner deadness of modernity" - between spirit
and matter, mind and nature, desire and necessity - are overcome. The high
Romantic mediation between thought and feeling takes the child and the artist as its
exemplary symbols. for Nietzsche, "child" is the final "metamorphosis" (after
camel and lion) of the" pirit of man."16
The Romantics were looking for a way out of the closed system of subjectivity
that Plato's tripartite elf repre ents, but could only pre ent the new ubject as a
prophetic, utopian figure - or, like that other Romantic figure, the dark, alienated
adult of Compte de Lautreamont, Marquis DeSade, or Do toiev ky, an anti-hero. But
Romanticism breaks into real time in the closet lor repressed) Romantic Freud, who
finds the very continuity between child and adult, and its fatal disconnect in the
vicissitudes of development, which Coleridge invoked. As Ashi Nandy has said of
him, Freud demonstrated that
Childhood and adulthood [are] not twO fixed phase of the human life-cycJe(where the latter Iha I
to inescapably upplant the fonnerl. but a continuum which, while diachronica!l ylaid out on the
plane of life hj tory, [i I alway synchronically pre ent in each per onality.I'
Thus Freud breaks the contradiction "adult/child" and puts the two forms of
knowledge and being in dialectical relation. In 0 doing, he prepare the way for that
revision of subjectivity as "in process" which the Romantics had been struggling to
locate among the ruins of Enlightenment. He deals the first definitive blow to Plato's
closed, hierarchical ystem. Carl Jung then tak it a step further.
Freud moves subjectivity from a closed toward an open system using more or less
the arne element a Plato lId, Ego, and uperego); but what moves the system
toward openness is that these very elements are split, doubled, put in mutual
reflection, and complicated by being both inside and outside the individual subject
- that is, in the other a well a the elf. Through po iting what is called
"introjection" and "projection, terms that express the operations of this
/I

intersubjective field, psychoanalytic theory extends the subjective into the


intersubjectiveandmake of elfandotherone ystemwith hiftingboundarie .1 To
deconstruct the classical model further, Ego, one representative of Plato's reason, has
its dark irrational shadow and mirror in the Superego, another representative. The

15. Reinhard Kuhn, Corruption in Paradise: The Child in Western Literature (Hanover .H.: New England
Uruversity Press, 1982),229.
16. Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus SpakeZarathusLra, in The Portable Nietzscbe, trans. Walter Kau&nan (New
York: Viking Press, 19541, 137.
17. A his andy, "Reconstructing Childhood: A Critique of the Ideology of Adulthood," in Traditions.
Tyrlllll1y, and Utopia (Delhi: Oxford Uruver ity Pres, 19871,71.
18. Introjection and projection, nrst postulated by Freud, are developed in British object relations theory.
Por a summary of the main theori t , see David E. Scharff, Refjnding the Object and Reclaiming the Self
(Northvale N.J.: Jason Aronson, 19921, chap 3.
160 E. Due A T l O A L THE. 0 R Y SPRING 2002 / VOLUME 52 / NUMBER 2

latter takes the elements of reason and suffuses them with emotionally charged
voices and feeling. Nor does ld accept it ub ervience to Ego, knowing that the
latter is simply the ambiguous, shifting outer zone where it meets the world. Id
mocks the law of contradiction, and insists on a deeper, more conflicted, more
dialectically charged self-narrative, expressed through dream and intuition in the
logic of art, premonition, and famasyplay. Id i not only Plato's appetite, but appetite
interfused with the highest and deepest spiritual impul es. Becau e of the e contra-
dictions, Ego, in it presumption to rule, finds itself continually undermined by
reversals and misunderstandings, and bypassed, doubled, split, and mirrored by
introjection and projection.
Tung draws the dialectical and developmental implication of Freud's
deconstruction of the Platonic hierarchy. In th cour e of the life cycle there come
a moment, which he identifies with mid-life, when the Ego [or reason) is, a he puts
it, "dethroned. JlI9 Its executive function is demoted to that of broker, negotiatOr,
communicator, and - if the transition i successful- master of dialogue. Freud did
not quite recognize this decentering of the Ego, except as a structural guarantee of
human neurosis. His ambivalence is coded in his famou statement, "Where ld wa
Ego shall be, "20 which neglects to add thatldis Ego's ground, and so Ego hall be there
- in relative psychic health anyway - only to the extent to which it allow Id to
inform its deepest aspirations and even affects. Tung took Freud's structural analy is,
placed it within the whole life cycle, and set it in dialectical motion. This ignals the
shift from a totalistic to a pluralistic subjective economy, which ha become the
hallmark of the postmodem. Henceforth, the internal polity of the self ha become
democratized. The I is forced to recognize the other within, and to accept that other
a itself. The implications for recognition and acceptance of the other Out ide one elf
follow, and are developed in an emergent theory of dialogue, inaugurated b Martin
Buber in the early twentieth centuryY
It is of no little significance - and e pecially to educational theory - that
Freud's inquiry was focused on childhood. To look into childhood is to gaze into the
fundamental themes of the dialogical self. In Freud's infant the original b dy- elf i
in fact the ld, and furthermore, Id in an aduali tic relation with the external word -
I am what I behold. Superego has not yet emerged, and only the prestructure of Ego
are present in the form of, for lack of a better term, Kant's categorie of under tanding.
The infant body is a kind of mystical body, or at least appears that way to the (after
Freud' organized adult body, in which the polymorphous plea ure cenrer ha receded
to the genitals with their insistent tension ,and the Superego erected a a hadow-
a watcher - over the Ego and it truggle for balance. Perhaps .0. Brown, the
quintessential post-Romantic, is exaggerating when he says, "Our indestructible

19. CG. lung, Tbe Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, 2d ed. trans. R.F.C. HulllPrinceton: Bollingen,
19691.
20. Sigmund Freud, The Ego and the ld, ed. James Strachey, trans. loan Riviere (1924; reprint, New York:
W.W. Nonon, 1990),24.
21. Martin Buber, I and Thou, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Scribners, 1970).
KENNEDY Child and Postmodem Subjectivity 161

unconscious desire for a return to childhood, our deep childhood-fixation, is a desire


for a return to the pleasure-principle, for a recovery of the body from which culture
alienates us, and for play instead of work."zz At any rate, Freud's infant subjectivity
is a first, prophetic statement of the possibilities for unification - both internally
and with the external world - which, given a nonlinear under tanding of the life-
cycle, i always with the adult as both an indistinct memory of a whole other form
of lived experience, and an indistinct pre-apprehension of an analogous future form.
Freud's infant is in fact a "scientific" inscription of the Divine Child, which Jung
identified as among hi archetypes of the unconscious, and characterized as repre-
senting a "paradoxical union between the lowest and the highest, and both an If

original and a terminal unity of conscious and unconscious - the beginning and the
end. 23
Later, the child of three to six (more or less) undergoes yet another form of lived
experience. She becomes what Elizabeth Jones has called a "master player"24-a
bricolateur of the psychological, discursive, and performative space that adults
associate with art, spirituality, exuality, and deep feeling and thinking - which
D.W. Winnicott called "transitional."25 Tran itional pace de cribes the experience
of playing with, in the interests of overcoming, the hifting boundary between in ide
and outside which adults more often than not repres in the interests of a necessary
practicality. In the young child it is most clearly expressed in solitary fantasy play,
where the player her elf decides what is possible and what is not. In transitional
space, the world ac ts in the form of my projection, which is also an introjection from
the world - projection and introjection unite. It is the way the world would act when
it act the way I would have it act, and welcomes the way I act. It is childhood's final
bid for the realization of "our indestructible unconscious desire" - self-world unity.
Then, in the young child's play with an other, transitional play enters the realm
of dialogue and neg tiation - and here relation becomes a theater of possibility.
Perhaps the closest adults come to this form of mutual transitionality is in erotic
play, in which giving and receiving pleasure, informed by fanta y, i experienced by
the whole body, thus invoking the originary infant polymorphicity. But it can also
be present in philosophical dialogue, in musical play with others, in revel, and in
ritual in all its po sible forms - including, for example, the lived experience of sport.
In all these cases, we can experience a form of intersubjectivity which decon tructs
the strict boundary between elf and other, and elf and world, and allow for the
creative indeterminacy that is the transformative element in human culture.

22. orman O. Brown, Life Against Death: The P ychoanalytic Meamng of History (Middletown Conn.:
Wesleyan University Pres, 1959),38.
23. CG. Jung and Karl Kerenyi, Essay on a Science of Mythology: The Divine Child and the My teries of
Eleusis (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 79 Ef.
24. Gretchen Reynolds and Elizabeth JODes, Master Players: Learning from Children at Play ( ew York:
Teacher College Pre ,1997).
25. D.W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality ( ew York: Basic Books, 1971).
162 ED U CAT JON A L THE 0 R Y SPRINC 2002. / VOLUME 52 / UMBER 2

These are only two form of the child's difference which follow from Freud's
inquiry, characteristic of two moments in the rapid - compared to adults -
developmental passage of early childhood. Western psychologi ts aware of expand-
ing cross-cultural anthropological data during the first half of the twentieth century
(the most prominent among them Jean Piaget and Heinz Werner) explored the
similarities between the young child's alternative ubject-world boundarie and the
subjectivities of "aboriginals" and the mentally ill. 26 Ernst Cassirer investigated
what he called "mythical thought," where as he described it,
the rigid limit between "inside" and "outside," the "subjective" and the "objective" docs not
subsist as such, but begins, as it were, to grow fluid. The inward and outward do not stand side
by side, each as a separate province; each, rather, is reflected in tbe other, and only m {hi
reciprocal relatiol! does each disclose its own meaningP

The early twentieth century i the first moment of the "return of the repres ed,"
when conquest and colonization underwent polar reversal. A Trojan Hor e entered
the gates of We tern civilization, and the child, whom Jonathan Fineberg ha
described as "a kind of dorn stic noble savage," wa in its belly.2s
Psychology explored gestalt and field theory. Maurice Merleau-Ponty' formu-
lation of the phenomenal or lived body, in chiasmic relation with a world that it both
is and is not, acted further to deconstruct notion of discrete ubjectivity.29 Thi
ontological groundwork in self-world tIUcture has been reinforced by an emerging
list of alternative deep-epi temologies, a list which has grown to include, not ju t th
original "savage" and "primitives" of the first half of th century, but omen,
"people of color" in general, and, rna t recently in "queer theory," alternative
sexualities.
The emergence of pluralism in our interpr tation of the ubjectiv economy
parallels the emergence of epistemological plurali m in general, and it xpres ion
in the spheres of the humanities, the sciences, and the arts. It is in the latter that the
child has had the most obvious and compelling influence. Beginning in the late
nineteenth century and culminating in the 1940s, children' , e peciall young
children's, characteristic ways of rendering the world in drawing and paint provided
(along with alternative semiologies of "primitive" and Eastern art) a powerful
deconstructive influence on tho e major European artists who were pre iding over
the final dis olution of classical representationalism, and the emergence of the
unconscious. 30 Surrealism and Dada were perhap the most culturally evocative

26. Jean Piaget, The Cbild's Conception of the World [London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 19291 and HeIDz
Werner, Comparative P ycbology of Mental Development (New York: International Univer itie Pre ,
1948). Both were heavily in1luenced by the work of anthropologi t Levy-Bruhl.
27. Ernst Cassirer, The Pbilosophy of Symbolic Forms, vol. 2, Mythical Thought, tran . Ralph Mannheim
(New York: Yale University Press, 19551, 99.
28. Jonathan Fineberg, The!nnocent Eye: Cbildren 's Art and the Mod em ArtiSt (Princeton Universl ty Pres ,
1997), 1 J.
29. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin mitb (London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, j 9621.
30. See Fineberg, Tbe Innocent Eye and David Kennedy, "Subver ive Innocence," Childhood 6, no. 3
(August 19991: 389-99.
KENNEDY Child and Postmodern Subjectivity 163

expressions of this phenomenon, crossing over as they did into literature and
performance art. Surrealism sought to release the newly discovered language of the
unconscious - a language inherently oneiric, polysemic and transgressive. For the
rational and propositional self, which stakes its identity on clear formalized bound-
aries between subject and world, this language is subversive and incoherent. Its
analogies to the language spoken by the young child through fantasy play - which,
as Anna Freud pointed out, is equivalent to free association among adults in the
psychoanalytic process31 - redirected attention to the child as alternative subjectiv-
ity, and therefore representative of a possible world to be encountered hermeneuti-
cally by adults. And in the realm of representation, painters such as Klee, Mira,
Kandinsky, and Picasso took directly from the young child's characteristic expres-
sive and representational style to break open a space for a language of symbol and
emotion with a logic and syntax inaccessible to the classical representational
tradition. Picasso said, "1 could draw like Raphael by the age of six. It ha taken me
thirty years to learn to draw like a child. 1132
The larger cultural phenomenon to which all these example point i the child's
contribution to what Merleau-Ponty called lithe attempt to explore the irrational and
integrate it into an expanded reason which remains the task of OUI century."33 As
Western subjectivity is founded on a notion of reason and its dominant place in the
subjective economy, so it will be our reinterpretation of reason - and coming to
terms with its dark hadow - which will be the pivot point in a change in that
economy. And it is the reason of those parts of Plato's soul considered to be without
reason that is discovered in Freud's formulation. When the unconscious aspects of
the psyche are allowed th ir reason, then classical reason is, not weakened, but
reconstructed through expansion - this, anyway, is the contemporary Western
gamble.
Freud's discovery is the product, not just of science or philosophy, but of the
clarification of the problem of evil which events of the twentieth century oblige us
to seek. In that century the nation which had produced the most powerful philo-
sophical tradition in European history, a tradition that dominated the Enlighten-
ment project from Kant forward, perfected its rationalism with new techniques of
systematic genocide. It was the century in which Communism's deeply reasoned
ideal of social and economic justice ended in the Gulag; and in which Deism's
Unseen Hand withered with the triumph of global corporate capitalism. It was the
century, in other words, in which reason revealed its abysmal shadow - its Blakean
Spectre. Dialectically, this was an affirmation of darkness, or of the necessity for its
integration into the normative subjective structure.

31. Anna Freud, Tbe Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, trans. C. Baines (New York: International
Univer ities Pre , 1946), 40.
32. See Kennedy, "SubverSive Innocence," 392.
33. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, "Hegel/s Exi tentiaJi m,lt in Sense and Non-Sense, tran . H.L. and P.A.
Dreyfus (Evanston Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 19641, 63.
164 ED U CAT ION A L THE 0 R Y SPRING 2002 / VOLUME 52 / UMBER 2

THE CHILD, TI-IE POSTMODERN SUSJECf, AND EDUCATION

As I have aheady pointed out, Tung moved beyond Freud's economic and
topographical formulations of subjectivity and offered a model of adult development
that posited a shift somewhere in mid·life: a moment in which the Ego wa
"detluoned" from its executive position, and a process of the integration of uncon-
scious contents into the conscious self-structure began. The gate to this opening out
of the Ego-definedstructur to the constellations ofthe unconscious is what he called
the "shadow," by which he seems to have meant the shadow thrown by rea on' -
namely, the Ego iniormed by Superego - propositional constructs of what a "good,"
or an "honest," or a "reasonable" self should be. In order to move into the
psychological space of the emergent integration of conscious and uncon ciou , we
must confront the dragon-at-the-gate of our resentments, jealousies, petty vanity,
and hidden pride, our capacity for hatred and envy, our cruelties, our perver e and
wandering lusts, our miserable woundedness and fragmentation, our needine s. Thi
is the shapeless and murky boundary-place where the sexual and aggressive instinc-
tual energies live in uneasy symbiosis with Superego ideals.
The material which the shadow covers is the boundary, not just between my Ego!
Superego and the unconscious, hut between myself and the Other, for before r
acknowledge the hadow material as my own, I project it onto other, and e them
as the cause or embodiment of my envy, anger, perversity, cruelty, and so on. Once
I own the material, I am in a position to recognize my projective relation with thc
Other. This recognition is the precondition for recognizing, in tum, that J am a
multiple self - that I live, not just within myself, but across the boundarie of the
self and "within" the Other. In fact there is no clear "within," a it boundan hUt
continually, and I am forced to see subjectivity and intersubjectivity a a field
phenomenon. I recognize myself as more an "intersubject" than a subject, in that "I"
am located both in myself and in the Other through projection and introjection.
If the shadow is not what we mean by evil, it i at lea t what allow us to
recognize our own capacity for evil. Once I recognize evil or the po sibility of evil
within my elf, I stop projecting it onto the Other - or at lea t I can no longer ever
be completely sure whether I am projecting or not. In integrating the hadow r accept
my own abysmal incompletenes and finitude, and what Emmanuel L vina called
the "rupture of th Egoist-L"34 r become a being whose own development depends on
the development of others.
lung's was perhaps not the first formulation of psychological development
among adults, but what is distinctive about his account is that it assume, not just
accretion, or gain, or loss, or even centering, but a process of continual reorganiza-
tion. Unlike Freud's, which still assumed normative adulthood as a tatic condition,
and any process it underwent as one of self-education or self-correction of an already
complete structure, lung's was a dialectical model. Freud's notion of therapy could
be characterized as one more example of the Stoic ideal of what Michel Foucault

34.EmmanuelLevina ,TimeandtheOther,tran .A.Lingi {Pitt burgh:Duqu neUniver ityPres ,19 n


17.
KENNEDY Child and Postmodem Subjectivity 165

called" technologies of the self" - a process by which reason turns and manipulates
the other parts of the self in the interests of balance, harmony, and proper subordi-
nation of the lower parts to the higher. J5 On the other hand, Freud's descriptions of
the interactions between Ego and the other elements of the self evoke a system of
relation full of ambiguity, reversals, and risks of polarization or failure to connect.
The Ego is still characterized as an embattled, even a tragic hero. In Jung, the hero
abdicates the throne. It is the dawn of the democratic self. Henceforth, all balances
- both within self and between self and Other - will be negotiated.
The child starts a a negotiator, then is taught a culturally and historically
mediated model of the internal and external relations of the self. This is accom-
plished by learning what thoughts and feeling are appropriate to express and what
not, and when; by learning the limit and acceptable fonn of erotic and aggre ive
feeling and behavior; by learning what telepathic knowledge of the Other or of ocial
situations to pay attention to, to trust, ven to admit to - and what to ignore, d ny,
suppress, or repress. All of these dispositions, learned through a thousand small or
large interaction with significant others, make up a subjective repertoire held
together in the armature of the self-concept, or image of the self as if seen by an Other.
This self-concept/self-image is fitful, alternatively clear and obscure, distant or
close, shot through with Superego ideals and prohibitions, and confirmed or
disconfirmed in interactions with other. Its contents, and the manner in which it
is held, are as much cultural as personal constructs.
Childhood development is about constructing boundaries, both within the self
and with the Other, and these boundaries are constructed in and a the body - they
are the body and it lived en eofbeing. The adult who take upthetaskofcontinual
reconstruction of these boundarie , based on ongoing experience and belief, puts
herself again in the po ition of the child: of tarting again, of admitting to the position
of the decentered Ego, of (like the child) not having all the information. Of
encountering the world and the Other as not completely known, as unfinished. Of
approaching the boundaries playfully. Of testing the boundaries.
The implications of a form of adult subjectivity informed by child subjectivity
apply, not just to Superego formation, or to personal and social relations, but to
political relation and - more difficult till - to economic one. The plural,
emergent self is a self of dialogical and therefore at least potentially democratic
internal and external relations. Although the form the external relations take will be
haped and limited by cultural and political traditions, it might also be argued that
cultural, political, and economic traditions act to shape subjectivity and
intersubjectivity. If we argue this way, then we could hypothesize that the plural self
is an emergent outcome of at lea t everal hun.dred year of democra tic, socialist, and
free enterprise aspiration ,experiments, and emergent insti tutions in the West. The
reevaluation of childhood and its place in and significance for adult self-understand-
ing, which has been underway in the We tat least since Rousseau's Emile, is a crucial

35. Michel Foucault, The Care of the Self INew York: Random House, 19 6).
166 ED U C A TI 0 A L THE 0 R Y SPRINC 2002/ VOLUME 52/ NUMBER 2

dimension of these aspirations, experiments, and emergent institutions. The miss-


ing element is an educational tradition which reflects this reevaluation. The
institution of schooling, in its obstinate, dreary conservatism, resists adult-child
dialogue in both form and spirit - captured as it is by the binary opposition of adult
and child and erving as it doe the reproduction of the classical adult subject.
Perhap we will know we are approaching the next stage of the cultural
emergence of the subject-in-process when schools start to understand themselves as
studios and laboratories of transitional space - places where the play-impul e is
understood as the fonn of activity that best expresses the human impulse for
transformation. Play, said Friedrich Schiller,
is everything that is neither subjectively nor objectively contingent, and yet impo es neither
outward nor inward necessity... in a happy midway point between law and exigency... .!n
proportion as it lessens the dynamic influence of the sensation and emotion, it will bring them
into harmony with rational ideas; and in proportion as it deprive the law of reason oftheir moral
compulsion, it will rec.oocile them with the interest of the en es.'·
It make ense - in fact it has made ense since Freud, at the dawn of what was
heralded as the century of the child," put childhood and adulthood in dialogue -
/I

that education would be the first of our in titutions to devote itself to the broad
cultural emergence of the subject-in-process. This is not just because the experience
of childhood is one of the paradigmatic model of the subject-in-proces , but becau e
it is in childhood that aform of subjectivi ty is leamed in the body. The school devoted
to the subject-in-process is as advanced as a cutting-edge scientificlaboratory, except
in the realm of culture. There, a culture leams to seek the balance between play and
work, autonomy and interdependence, the plea ur principle and the reality prin-
ciple. There the product of culture are brought into the transitional play- pace and
re-examined, reconstructed, re-imagined.
In order to fulfill this aspiration, school would have to be almo t completely re-
imagined. In order to re-imagine schools, childhood would have to be re-imagined.
In fact this has been happening in the We t for the last two centurie - beginning
with Rousseau, proliferating in Romanticism, self-articulating in Freud, and
operationalizing in John Dewey and Paulo Freire. The tradition of early childhood
curriculum and pedagogy which had its start with the Romantic Friedrich Froebel
and whose mo t recent state of the art is found in the philo ophy and practice of the
preschools of Reggio Emilia, is the only expression, apart from prophetic
Summerhillian experiment , of adult-child dialogue and the construction of a
transitional space.
The inroads of this tradition into mainstream education are typically blunted,
distorted, and co-opted by the self-blinding imperative of a system that simply
cannot understand itself as other than a reproductive arm of the"state," understood
in its broadest sense to include, not just legal, political, and economic form, but
social, cultural, and relational ones - from the form of the community to the form

36. Friedrich chiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, trans. R. Snell lNew York: Frederick Ungar,
1954), 78, 75.
Child and Postmodem Subjectivity 167

of the family to the form of individual sexual organization and of sexual "morality"
- and the production of a subject to maintain these forms. Freud's contribution to
education was given on the deepestlevel, and was primarily a deconstructive one: he
found the fault line in the Platonic subject (the ubject of the tate pm excellence).
Jung boldly broke with the impasse created by Freud's conflicted, late-Victorian
formulation, and opened the internal dialogue that leads to an understanding of
subjectivity as a continuous reconstructive process.
This new model of subjectivity confronts the "dark Satanic mills" of reproduc-
tive education and demands a new form - a form that recognizes the subject-in-
proce s and thereby reinscribes itself in culture andsoci ty a an insti tution devoted,
not to reproduction, but to transformation. It is, after all, in the adult's discovery of
the child - to the extent that "child" represents play, transitionality, self re-
invention, boundary work, growth, spontaneity, plasticity, vulnerability, enthusi-
asm, and deep inquiry - in short, the Romantic notion of generic "genius" - that
the po tmodem subject had its earliest formulation. This being the case, that adult-
child intentional community called" chool" i potentially a space where adult-child
dialogue results a much in the Ie-imagining of adulthood as of childhood. Lacking
this transformation of the institution of school, it is likely that its drift toward
cultural irrelevance, and its gradual replacement by agencies like corporate training
centers which do its reproductive job more efficiently will continue. On the other
hand, re-imagining childhood eems inevitable, for it is inextricably linked with re-
imagining adulthood, which is a process we do not choo e. The age demand it.