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From Gestalt to Ge-Stell: Martin Heidegger Reads Ernst Jünger - Wolf Kittler

From Gestalt to Ge-Stell: Martin Heidegger Reads Ernst Jünger - Wolf Kittler

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Published by Paul Sid Wren
Cultural Critique, 69, Spring 2008, pp. 79-97 (Article)
Cultural Critique, 69, Spring 2008, pp. 79-97 (Article)

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Published by: Paul Sid Wren on Apr 07, 2014
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12/29/2014

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From Gestalt to Ge-Stell: Martin Heidegger Reads Ernst Jünger
Wolf Kittler
Cultural Critique, 69, Spring 2008, pp. 79-97 (Article)
Published by University of Minnesota Press
DOI: 10.1353/cul.0.0007 
For additional information about this article
 Access provided by Manchester Metropolitan Univ. (24 Mar 2014 08:03 GMT)
 
Cultural Critique 69—Spring 2008—Copyright 2008 Regents of the University of Minnesota
FROM GESTALT TO GE-STELL
MARTIN HEIDEGGER READS ERNST JÜNGER
Wolf Kittler 
E
rnst Jünger’s book
 Der Arbeiter
 (The Worker),
1
which waspublished in 1932, is his last and
 W
nal re
X
ection on the battle
W
eldexperience in the trenches of World War I. Having joined the Germanarmy as a young volunteer in 1914, Jünger was, at the end of thewar, one of only a handful of young lieutenants who had managedto achieve two goals that had proved elusive for almost everybodyelse: to receive the
 Ritterkreuz
 and
 Pour le mérite,
 the army’s two high-est medals, and to survive the machine-gun barrage of the
 W
rst daysof the war, the gas attacks that came a year later, and the
 Material-schlachten
ofthe
W
nalandunsuccessfulGermanattackontheWesternFront in 1918. The aura of invincibility resulting from such an excep-tional fate is described in Jünger’s work.Shortly after the war, Jünger turned his war diaries into a seriesof books, which earned him a solid reputation as both a modern heroand a literary author from the early days of the Weimar Republic on.What distinguishes
 Der Arbeiter
 from such books as
 In Stahlgewittern
(StormofSteel)or
Das Wäldchen 125
(Copse125)istheleapfromcrispand lucid descriptions to a treatise that reads like a manifesto andthat, not content with a diagnosis of its own world historical situa-tion, aims at predicting the future destiny of mankind on the planetearth in the age of technology. It is a remarkable symptom that noEnglish translation of the book is available to this day because thecopyright has been blocked by the author himself.Reading
 Der Arbeiter
 together with Heidegger’s essay “Ques-tioning after Technology” after many years, in the
 W
rst decade of the twenty-
W
rst century, I was struck by the number of parallels in both the arguments and the terminology of these texts, not only withBenjamin’s essay “On the Origin of the Work of Art in the Age of 
 
Mechanical Reproduction” but also with his “Theses on the Philoso-phy of History.” It is, of course, easy to locate Benjamin, on the oneside,andngerandHeidegger,ontheotherone,totheso-calledLeftand Right of the political spectrum, but in doing so we should at least be aware of two facts: One, Jünger’s work rejects such simple clas-si
W
cations, which more often than not amount to a refusal to think.And two, his book places itself explicitly above and beyond thisdistinction because it dates back to the seating order of the FrenchConvention, the foundational body of bourgeois societies.Granted, the way in which Jünger appropriates the socialist term“worker” for his own purposes amounts to a violent gesture. The factthat he chooses to use the German
 Arbeiter
 instead of “proletarian” isa political statement in itself. But it is also true that one of his crownwitnesses for the new order of the world he is proclaiming is noneother than Lenin. Such terms as “total mobilization” and “imperialdictatorship” are coined in reference to that author.For Jünger, the world political map splits into three parts. Thereare the liberal–bourgeois societies of the West: France, the UnitedStates,and—withcertainresiduesofaristocracy—GreatBritain.Then,there is the socialist society of the Soviet Union. And,
 W
nally, there isGermany. What we now call the Third World
 W
gures as “colony” andas such takes part in Jünger’s world political game only as far as thecolonized people, in the name of universal human rights, are giving alot of trouble to the victorious nations of World War I.
 Der Arbeiter
openswiththeclaimthat,sinceGermanyneverreallywasabourgeoiscountry, it is the nation in which the advent of a new world order isreadytohappen.Thereisonlyoneothernationthatisequallyengagedinwhatngercallsarevolution
sans phrase,
arevolutionthatdoesnotneed an ideology because it is justi
W
ed in and of itself. This nation isnevernamedexplicitly,butitiseasytoguessthatitistheSovietUnion.Although such terms as nationalism and socialism are outdatedforngerasbelongingtothenineteenthcentury,theforcesthatuniteunder their banners belong to a future that will terminate the rule of the bourgeois and initiate that of the worker, whose rule is explicitlyde
W
ned in terms of the communist movement’s will to international,or, to use Jünger’s word, planetary power. If that alliance sounds likea strange breed, one should keep in mind that, in his claim to stayabove the political squabbles of his time, Jünger carefully avoids
WOLF KITTLER
80

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