For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Heidegger's Political Self-Understanding"

by Poggeler, Otto (1992)


This anthology is a significant contribution to the debate over the relevance of Martin Heidegger's Nazi ties to the interpretation and evaluation of his philosophical work. Included are a selection of basic documents by Heidegger, essays and letters by Heidegger's colleagues that offer contemporary context and testimony, and interpretive evaluations by Heidegger's heirs and critics in France and Germany.In his new introduction, "Note on a Missing Text," Richard Wolin uses the absence from this edition of an interview with Jacques Derrida as a springboard for examining questions about the nature of authorship and personal responsibility that are at the heart of the book.Richard Wolin is Professor of Modern European Intellectual History and Humanities at Rice University. He is the author of Walter Benjamin, The Politics of Being: The Political Thought of Martin Heidegger, and The Terms of Cultural Criticism: The Frankfurt School, Existentialism and Poststructuralism.

Key Passage

Junger's essay "Die totale Mobilmachung" sees a  decisive historical turning point in the First World War, but at the same time he sees it as a civil war, world war as world revolution. In the concept of total mobilization junger wants to show that "wars of workers" are now succeeding the wars of knights, kings, and citizens. No longer is it monarchs who, after consultation. with their ministers, bring about a tactically calculated confrontation of armies. In those days the City Magistrate of Berlin could announce after the battle of jena and Auerstidt that now, where the king has a  lost "a bataille," peace is the first duty of the citizen. But Carl von Clausewitz tried to conceive the "God of War" itself as standing opposed to the monarchs of Europe after the levee en masse in the French Revolution and then Napoleon. Clausewitz concluded from the new character assumed by war, however, that the important thing was to return even such war to the service of politics. Against this, junger's war of workers is total in that it places all of life in its service-commerce and foodstuffs as well as armament. On junger's interpretation it· was precisely the presence of retarding moments in Prussian politics that hindered the kind of mobilization necessary for Germany to win the First World War. America, not a  military state but nevertheless a country without a  past, had been to a greater extent capable of a total mobilization and thus had emerged from the war as the "clear victor." -The revolution in Soviet Russia also showed a thoroughgoing mobilization, for example, in the five-year plan. Progress-i.e., the world revolution-and total mobilization (by means of which the difference between war and peace was said to be eliminated) have many variants according to. Junger: "In fascism, in Bolshevism, in Americanism, in Zionism, and in the movement of the colored peoples progress initiates advances which hitherto one would have held unthinkable." The book Der Arbeiter opposes the workers who carry out the total mobilization to the security-seeking bourgeoisie, but not to the spirit of the warrior. On the contrary, in the annihilating slaughters of the World War the soldier is said to have experienced in death a higher reality, namely that "Gestalt" of the worker which now gives meaning to life. Escapist romanticism is rejected, yet this life of work and total mobilization itself once more becomes a "cult" and a "myth." In the Stahlgewittern junger had desaibed his feeling of impending death after being seriously wounded as a  joyous experience in which he-"as though illuminated by a flash of lightning" -grasped his life in its "innermost Gestalt. "6 -If in his Rectoral Address Heidegger imposes upon the University the duty of knowledge service which educates one to armed service and labor service, he is emphasizing the significance of a  third factor over and against Junger's talk of "war front" and "labor front." If after the failure of his Rectorship he reflects on Heraclitus and Holderlin, he is thinking decisively beyond the horizon in which jiinger's attempt to conceptualize the age moved. Thus, too, in the following decade Heidegger interspersed his lecture courses with critical remarks about jiinger, e.g., that adventurism is not the same as daring, that for junger even language is nothing but armament, etc. A sharp criticism is inserted into the second Holderlin lecture course of winter 1941-42.: "The adventur-ous man can conceive care only as weakness and annoyance since he only thinks subjectively, i.e., metaphysically, and ostensibly loves sever-ity. If this fails he takes flight into some kind of intoxication, be it only the intoxication of blood." Heidegger may be thinking of those passages in the 192.1 essay Der Kampf als inneres Erlebnis which see a  kind of pleasure even in the horror of annihilating slaughters-battle for the sake of battle: "The appearance of the foe brings, in addition to ultimate horror, also redemption from heavy, unendurable pressure. That is the voluptuousness of blood which hangs over war like a  red warning flag over a  black galley, comparable only to love in its limitless ardor." The conclusion to the Nietzsche lecture course of summer 1939, which could not be delivered because of the impending outbreak of war, termed "total mobilization" the "organization of unconditional meaninglessness by and for the will to power. "In the winter of 1939-40 Heidegger again turns to discuss Der Arbeiter in a small circle and notes that in the book "Nietzsche's metaphysics is in no way grasped in thought; not even the paths toward comprehension are hinted at. On the contrary, instead of becoming questionable in a genuine sense this metaphysics becomes self-evident and seemingly superfluous." (p.211)


Heidegger, Germany, National Socialism, Nazi, Twentieth Century, National Socialist Education, Junger, Nietzsche


On Jünger, Jünger

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