For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Heidegger's Confrontation with Modernity: Technology, Politics, and Art

by Zimmerman, Michael E (1990)

Abstract

The relation between Martin Heidegger's understanding of technology and his affiliation with and conception of National Socialism is the leading idea of this fascinating and revealing book. Zimmerman shows that the key to the relation between Heidegger's philosophy and his politics was his concern with the nature of working and production.

Key Passage

The degradation of work in the twentieth century has reduced the time and skill needed for authenticcraftwork, except for those who "drop out" of the social mainstream in orderto pursue what they consider to be authentic producing. Nevertheless, greatcraftworkers remain. Perhaps the attraction such craftspeople have for us todaylies in our awareness that they are attuned to things in a way in whichmost of us are not. Consider, however, the admiration many people displayfor the intricate circuitry of a computer or the engine of a Mercedes-Benz. Weoften express amazement at the precision and beauty of such products. For themost part, they have been produced in gigantic factories in which much of thework is done by robots attended by human personnel.I6 Yet are not robots andcomputers themselves human inventions? Even graphic artists who use computerimagery remind us that the artist is still responsible for the imagesexecuted by the computer program. Technological products, too, are in somesense human crafts—but not handicrafts. Because Heidegger believed that thehuman hand was essentially linked to our awareness of being, he maintainedthat authentic "producing" had to involve work with the hands. Skilled hands"know" the materials with which they work. But those hands have alwaysused tools. At what point does a tool escape the play of the hand and becomemaster of it? Is it then that the potential for truly human acting and producingvanishes? If so, is that why Heidegger regarded the technological world as an"un-world," a placeless place? Heidegger believed that technological humanityno longer "dwells" upon the earth, but instead regards it as Le Corbusiersuggested that we regard a house: as a machine to live in. (p.241)

Keywords

Heidegger, Technology, National Socialism, Junger, Production, Germany, Nazi

Themes

On Heidegger

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