Critical Theory to Structuralism: Philosophy, Politics and the Human Sciences (The History of Continental Philosophy)
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Philosophy in the middle of the 20th Century, between 1920 and 1968, responded to the cataclysmic events of the time. Thinkers on the Right turned to authoritarian forms of nationalism in search of stable forms of collective identity, will, and purpose. Thinkers on the Left promoted egalitarian forms of humanism under the banner of international communism. Others saw these opposed tendencies as converging in the extinction of the individual and sought to retrieve the ideals of the Enlightenment in ways that critically acknowledged the contradictions of a liberal democracy racked by class, cultural, and racial conflict. Key figures and movements discussed in this volume include Schmitt, Adorno and the Frankfurt School, Arendt, Benjamin, Bataille, French Marxism, Black Existentialism, Saussure and Structuralism, Levi Strauss, Lacan and Late Pragmatism. These individuals and schools of thought responded to this 'modernity crisis' in different ways, but largely focused on what they perceived to be liberal democracy's betrayal of its own rationalist ideals of freedom, equality, and fraternity.
dozen others) a place for ritualistic acts, including the burning of sulfur. More mundane, daytime rites included refusing to shake the hands of known anti-Semites and eating horsemeat at lunch.55 Bataille’s fascination during this period with the religion of the Aztecs and with rituals of sacrifice perhaps explains the interest in the ranks of the Acéphale group in the sacrifice of one of its members by another; this act, the summum genus of the lesser rites, 53. Georges Bataille, “Letter to
favor with the regime; he spent most of the remainder of his career in comparative obscurity as a translator of philosophy books from French into Vietnamese. He died in France, where he had gone to seek medical aid. 182 french marxism in its heyday dropped out of the editorial picture; others, notably Beauvoir, remained. The “Presentation” of the journal in the inaugural issue, signed by Sartre,5 declared the editors’ intention to maintain an attitude of political engagement while not
oppressors also acts to dissolve them into mechanically regimented individuals (or serial groups). The “fraternity terror” that organically fused agents impose upon themselves in order to limit voluntary defections from the group eventually becomes crystallized in the form of a bureaucratic state that institutionalizes freedom and justice only by once again reducing its constituent members to passive appendages of the “practico-inert.” As recounted in the historical (or progressive) part of the
Anfängen des modernen Souveränitätsgedankens bis zum proletarischen Klassenkampf. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1921. Politische Theologie: Vier Kapitel zur Lehre von der Souveränität. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1922. Published in English as Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, edited and translated by George Schwab. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2005. Die geistesgeschichtliche Lage des heutigen Parlamentarismus. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1923. Published in
authoritarian ideology, essentialist concepts of gender and race were used to justify exploitative social relations. But Horkheimer’s understanding of the dialectic of bourgeois society also implied recovering the progressive content of the philosophical ideals of the bourgeoisie during its “heroic” phase. In contrast to some of his later, more pessimistic positions – Dialectic of Enlightenment, for example – in the 1930s Horkheimer still believed that Enlightenment ideals were essentially