For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Heidegger on Machination, the Jewish Race, and the Holocaust"

by Fritsche, Johannes (2018)


In the Black Notebooks, Heidegger ascribes in 1938/9 to the Jewish race an empty rationality and calculative ability,? in his view the cause of its worldlessness. To assess this characterisation, I present Heidegger?s theories of history as a decline in Being and Time and in his later history of Being. For this purpose, I discuss his notions of Rechnen (reckoning), Machenschaft (machination), and Geviert (fourfold), several existentialia from Being and Time, and Heidegger?s identification of modern machination and modern technology. Furthermore, I examine Heidegger?s attitude toward the Jews and the Holocaust. I present his alignment of the unconcealment of modernity and the Jewish race, and compare his theory of machination with the texts Positionality (1949) and The Question concerning Technology (1954). Heidegger?s notes about the Jews in the Black Notebooks after 1944 confirm that he tried ?to silence Auschwitz silently, as I already argued in a paper from 1995.

Key Passage

In §26 of Being and Time, Heidegger introduces three modes of being-with-other Daseine, a “deficient” one and two “positive” ones,as he says in a variation of Hegel’s terminology.28 At the very beginning of §26, referring back to the sections on handiness, he pictures the pre-modern world: the craftsman in his workshop, the tailor cutting clothes to the figure, the corn fields referring to our friends and acquaintances, the boats in theriver doing the same, and sometimes an “‘alien boat’.” Without this pre-modern world, the three modes in §26 would be unintelligible. The world of the craftsmen, or community, is historically the first mode of being-with-other-Daseine, and it is the one in relation to which the historically second mode, the deficient one, is deficient. This deficient mode is the world of subjects, society, or liberalism, having fallen away from community. Especially since “distantiality [Abständigkeit],” the first characteristic of the They in the respective section §27, means in Heidegger capitalist competition and not, as Dreyfus and many others have it, conformity and conformism, one can safely take the proverbial Manchester capitalist as an example for the deficient mode – and realise that the concept of machination is more or less fully at work already in Being and Time. In Heidegger’s vocabulary of reckoning and machination, the capitalist posits himself as “subject”: as not being obliged to anyone or anything and as point of reference for everything else. In doing so, he posits profit. But he posits it as a value, as something in the light of which he can use everything and everyone else, including the profit itself, as so many means toward his in-principle infinite self-increase and empowerment. As such a “grabber” of profit, he “reckons” with other people and things: because he sets them up as objects of a specific “expectation,” namely as competitors, suppliers, consumers, workers, and material; or, as means or obstacles for his profit maximisation. He “reckons” insofar as he must calculate costs and revenue, and his reckoning is “reckless,” “empty,” or no longer adverbially qualified, because it is no longer embedded in the “concernful taking care” or “taking care of concern” for the other Daseine and the concern for the work and its employment and presence within a community. Thus, the other Daseine matter only “as numbers” on his balance sheets. Furthermore, even in a pre-modern village one cannot necessarily unreservedly trust each of one’s fellow-villagers, but one can “count on” them in cases of emergency and necessary, cooperative works. In addition, the villagers socialise for the enjoyment of communal life, in the local bars, at the Schützenfest (riflemen’s meeting), and other festivities. By contrast, the capitalist does not “count on”the workers, and he does not want “to have anything to do” with them. Recklessly reckoning, he treats all of his professional and otherrelations as means of his profit maximisation and his own self-empowerment. (p.316)


Heidegger, Technology, Machination, Machenschaft, Modernity, Judaism


Technology, On Heidegger

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