The Obsolescence of Humanity

Looks like somebody is working on a long overdue translation of Gunther Anders The Obsolescence of Humanity:

Exactly half a century ago, in the year 1906, my father William Stern, at the time about twenty years younger and generations more confident than his son today, published the first volume of his work “Person and Thing”. Only with difficulty could he be robbed of the hope of rescuing the “person” by means of the struggle against an impersonal psychology. His personal benevolence and the optimism of the time to which he belonged prevented him for many years from realizing that that which made the “person” into a “thing” was not the scientific treatment of the former, but rather the factual treatment of human beings by human beings. When overnight those who held humanity in contempt stripped him of honor and hunted him, he was not spared this gram of better insight into a worse world.

These sorrowful pages about the devastation of humanity are written in remembrance of him, who ineradicably planted the concept of human dignity with his son.

Follow it here.

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Tomba on Dialectic of Enlightenment

Massimiliano Tomba’s excellent “Adorno’s Account of the Anthropological Crisis and the New Type of Human” has the following discussion of Dialectic of Enlightenment which I think provides of very cogent statement of how it should be read in contrast to the pervasive post-Habermasian reading:

In the Dialectic of Enlightenment, Max Horkheimer and Adorno sketched out the genealogical pathway of the Western civilisation in which the modern individual had emerged. Far from merely projecting the contours of the modern individual onto Homer’s Odysseus, they problematised a specific pathway of Western civilisation. In the famous chapter on Odysseus, which was written by Adorno and cut by Horkheimer (see Adorno, 1998, pp. 37–88), Odysseus’s resistance to Circe’s magic becomes an image of a specific path of civilisation that corresponds to the ‘history of renunciation’ and ‘suppression of instinct’ (Horkheimer and Adorno, 2002, pp. 56, 43, 55). In this chapter, Adorno substantially relied on the arguments of the conservative philologist Rudolf Borchardt, whose name, however, appears only once in the published version and simply as one of ‘the esoteric apologists of German heavy industry’ (Horkheimer and Adorno, 2002, p. 37). However, in his manuscript, Adorno inverted the conservative orientation of Borchardt’s analysis: while Borchardt’s denunciation of Homer’s enlightenment and of the mercantile character of the epic tried to exalt the original power of the chthonic mythology, Adorno rejected idealisations of the origin as mere projections of the discontent with the present onto the past. Here, critical thinking and reactionary considerations find at once their maximum of proximity and of distance: both are dissatisfied with the present, but while the latter looks to history in order to restore the origin, the former indicates possibilities that are contained in the present and can open new histories. Inverting the romantic perspective, Adorno considers the concept of myth in its historical and dynamic dimension. He analyses a myth in the core of enlightenment that enlightenment tries to remove. The history of the suppression of instincts, which began with the myth, turns reason itself into myth, bringing in the end its complete self-destruction and overturning into barbarism. Hence, romanticism and technocracy are in effect allies of barbarism, not opponents. The dialectic of enlightenment can be investigated in Odysseus’s myth because the myth reappears in the core of enlightenment. The liberation from the myth through the dominion of rationality over nature turned this rationality into myth: ‘Myth is already enlightenment, and enlightenment reverts to mythology’ (Horkheimer and Adorno, 2002, p. xviii).

One may argue, with Habermas, that modern reason is not yet disenchanted enough to be really consistent with its claim of emancipation (Habermas, 1987, pp. 106–30; see also 1997, pp. 38–55). This perspective, which enables the idea of the unfinished project of modernity, makes no sense if one brings the entire course of Western civilisation into question. The dialectic of enlightenment shows us that the history of Western civilisation is definitively compromised and that the so-called unfinished project of modernity is to be broken rather than carried on. Romantic criticisms and the idea of the unfinished project of modernity share the idea of a unilinear history. Against this idea, the task of critical thinking is to maintain that other histories and modernities were (and are) possible. The issue concerns not the scale of the achievement of the project of modernity but a certain pathway of modernity. This capitalist project, far from freeing individuals, puts them at the mercy of blind forces. The mythical moment that put the individual fate at the mercy of ancient gods survives in the laws of capitalist production for which individuals are reduced to ‘roles’ (Marx, 1976, p. 170) or, more precisely, ‘character masks [Charaktermasken]’. Habermas’s idea of a discursive rationality that guarantees symmetrical relations between participants in communication is de facto a form of academic self-deception that hides the moment of the unfreedom of individuals and thus remains enchanted in it. 35-6


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Future Projects: a history of Open Marxism and the CSE Debates.

At some point, I would like to write a history of the CSE Value and State Debates as well as a history of Open Marxism. I dunno if these would be separate or part of a larger project. Either way, it seems to me that the CSE value and state debates have often been left out of the recent revival of interest in value theory, state theory, and the New Readings of Marx. Moreover, it also seems to me that a proper history of Open Marxism would make the case that it was the first to draw on the array of New Readings.

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Stefan Breuer, ‘The Long Friendship: Theoretical Differences Between Horkheimer and Adorno.’

Breuer’s seminal essay on the important differences between Horkheimer and Adorno

That critical theory is not a unity has long been known. The differ­ ences between early critical theory and Horkheimer’s and Adorno’s work from Dialectic ofEnlightenment onward have recendy been stressed once again by Jurgen Habermas in his Theory of Communicative Action. Less well known is the fact that alongside this rupture epistemologique there are further, fundamental differences in the approaches of the most important representadves of cridcal theory—differences not only between the so-called inner circle and the other members of the In­ stitute for Social Research but also within the inner circle itself, in particular between Horkheimer and Adorno. This is not to say that such differences were played out consciously, or that they placed their collaboration in question. Dialectic ofEnlightenment is the product of a theoretical alliance that presupposes a far-reaching agreement on cer­ tain fundamental principles. Nonetheless, the discourse between Horkheimer and Adorno goes beyond this agreement. They con­ curred only in certain areas, whereas in others they pursued diver­ gent, sometimes contrary goals


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Critical Transdisciplinary Research Network

Heathwood Press, which publishes the writings of Clarke, Gunn, Wilding and others, is organizing a Critical Transdisciplinary Research Network. Give at go, if ya fancy.

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Dead Dogs Never Die: Hegel and Marx

Frank Engster and Eric John Russell have edited what looks to be a fantastic special issue of Revista Opinião Filosófica on the Hegel Marx collection with contributions from Arthur, Moseley, Jameson, Lange, Schmidt and what might be the first English translation of the work of Andreas Arndt:


Revista Opinião Filosófica would like to announce the release of its latest issue, vol. 7, no. 1:

Dead Dogs Never Die: Hegel and Marx

The volume’s thematic is centered on the unwavering relation between Hegel and Marx. Guest edited by Eric-John Russell and Frank Engster, this multilingual and international collection brings together the work of leading scholars in the field. As an extract from the editorial describes:

“As a whole, the following volume incontrovertibly captures the passage between two generations of scholars in the investigative field of the Hegel-Marx relation. With focus on both the methodological and substantive affinity between Hegel and Marx, we find here a collection that from varied direction attempts to uncover an internal relation between Hegel’s philosophy and Marx’s critique of the capitalist mode production. […] These essays validate the fertility of evermore posing the riddle of why it is that to stare into Hegelian philosophy is to unrelentingly hold fast, knowingly or not, to the problems of capitalist society. For this, the dead dogs refuse to die so long as their object remains intimately connected to our own tumultuous situation.”

While the individual contributions are listed below, the volume in its entirety can be accessed here:

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Alfred Schmidt on Henri Lefebvre and Contemporary Interpretations of Marxism

The English translation of the German afterword to Lefebvre’s Dialectical Materialism (which Schmidt translated)


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