The Triad of Subject, Other, and Law in Kafka’s The Trial


Apart from their literary value, Franz Kafka’s works are usually considered an important contribution to the understanding of the modern subject. This post explores exactly this aspect in the unfinished yet famous novel The Trial. It is argued that the novel does not only present an account of the experience of alienation under Law in modernity, but that it also provides important steps towards a formal theory of it, moving significantly beyond, for example, Max Weber’s account of bureaucratization, which has been a more conventionally accepted theory of modernity. Kafka’s Trial renders problematic the universalizing ambitions of modernity by demonstrating how a certain mechanism of alienation is not an incident upon a further unstained modern project, but rather its logical consequence, an unavoidable underside to any highly bureaucratic political system.
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