The Politics of Wigs

And, just to branch out into relevant adjacent territory, here are three key remarks about wigs from the philosophers who matter. Two of these have appeared on the Virtual Stoa before, but if you minded about that sort of thing you’d have stopped reading decades ago.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, on his “reform”:

“The moment my resolution was confirmed, I wrote a note to M. de Francueil, communicating to him my intentions, thanking him and Madam Dupin for all goodness, and offering them my services in the way of my new profession. Francueil did not understand my note, and, thinking I was still in the delirium of fever, hastened to my apartment; but he found me so determined, that all he could say to me was without the least effect. He went to Madam Dupin, and told her and everybody he met, that I was become insane. I let him say what he pleased, and pursued the plan I had conceived. I began the change in my dress; I quitted laced cloaths and white stockings; I put on a round wig, laid aside my sword, and sold my watch; saying to myself, with inexpressible pleasure: “Thank Heaven! I shall no longer want to know the hour!”

Immanuel Kant explains why wig-makers, but not barbers, should have the vote:

“He who does a piece of work can sell it to someone else, just as if it were his own property. But guaranteeing one’s labour is not the same as selling a commodity. The domestic servant, the shop assistant, the labourer, or even the barber, are merely labourers, not artists (artifices, in the wider sense) or members of the state, and are thus unqualified to be citizens. And although the man to whom I give my firewood to chop and the tailor to whom I give material to make into clothes both appear to have a similar relationship towards me, the former differs from the latter in the same way as the barber from the wig-maker (to whom I may in fact have given the requisite hair) or the labourer from the artist or tradesman, who does a piece of work which belongs to him until he is paid for it. For the latter, in pursuing his trade, exchanges his property with someone else, while the former allows someone else to make use of him. But I do admit that it is somewhat difficult to define the qualifications which entitle anyone to claim the status of being his own master.”

Karl Marx:

“I may negate powdered wigs, but that still leaves me with unpowdered wigs.”

0 thoughts on “The Politics of Wigs”

  1. Mehring, writing of Frederick the Great seems to have had a pretty low opinion of both wig-makers and barbers …

    “But since his despotism by no means enjoyed an inviting reputation in Germany and elsewhere, he had to promise immigrants the greatest privileges in the matter of peasant, military and fiscal obligations, without however attracting much better than incorrigible scum. Instead of real peasants there came, as he once said, ‘wig-makers and actors’ or, as he complained on another occasion, ‘barbers, distillers, apothecaries, cooks, pastrycooks and hucksters’.”

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