Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Beardsworth, Sara


The problem addressed in this dissertation is found in the fact that the goals of political modernity cannot be realized within the rational orientation established by modern enlightened reason. Instead of the progressive movement toward the actualization of genuine freedom and human happiness, the modern world is characterized as a kind of “perpetual present.” In this dissertation I demonstrate that the problem of the perpetual present is rooted in the epistemic and practical assumptions of enlightened modernity. Exposing the roots of the problem of the perpetual present in the modern world allows me to develop a dual perspective on modernity, one that acknowledges both the failures that have occurred and the possibilities that exist. Following the lead of J. M. Bernstein’s research, I turn to the work of Theodor W. Adorno and Hannah Arendt to explicate the structure of political modernity’s failure and to demonstrate that there is another possibility contained within the modern world. More specifically, I will demonstrate that the thought on exemplary validity, which can be derived from Adorno and Arendt’s thought, provides a critical orientation capable of challenging the perpetual present.




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