P. 1


|Views: 33|Likes:
Published by Timur Shabaev

More info:

Published by: Timur Shabaev on Sep 28, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less
















I t




iJ I




Atmospher.ic Poli ics 1

Peter Sloterdi.j k


"' ,

I would like, to present a few informal considerations that focus on the atmospheric premises for a democratic communit,y,

In Other words, 1 am talking about the oondlnons that make demoaacy possible, but I amAOt addressing rhe subject in l<antian tams, according to which this political life form should be reg~ as a by-product of citizens exercising thc:irpowers of judgment. Inseead, I would claim that the conditions are an effect of '\vaiting power' - meaning borh the ability to wait and to let others ,va«. Furthennore, deln.o<::racy is based on the proto-architeceonic ability to buiJdi waiting rooms, not to mention. the proto-politieal ability todisa.nndd~ zens, I would like in what (oUoo'S to intimate how these two abilities are intendated. With a view to the swordless George ~gin:g over us, 2 the ques-tion must surely be wh.ether there are other ways of persuading citizens to lay down their swords and under what conditions such a ~e·c;an be carried our. In faa,such.proce.dures do indeed exist, and I wouldllke to remind. you of th.tm. by way of rem.iniscing tim on the history of ardlit,eoture and then on the logic of the media.

In the firsc two decades of the nineteenth cenrury English garden architects started creating houses that: were hybrids of glass and east iran dedicated exdusiveJy to housing a population of extremely sensitive -plants. It is a wen-known fact that this marked a clear caesura in (he history of building. The first so-called hothouses iniriaUy obeyed only the principle of whim, because the prosperous inhabitants of the British Isles indulged in the imperialist caprice of declaring [heir country a place to which plants that were sensiti'~-:c to the climate could immigrate, And I beg your indulgence if here I am polidcttlltg the fatc of planes, as it were, a language gaDl¢ that can at least lay claim to being based 00 Bl1.U1Q latour's concept of an expanded eo~ectiv,e. The immigcuion of pbm:s to


Europe in the nineteenth century can be,rcitdaS.a pattern for a new politics of trans-hlUlWl '!N1nhlln-\:' sis .. The engineers concerned themselves problem of climatic structures in light of th~ djtiol:lsof solar radiation quitt some \~XI'Ii'.,nl')ntfor the equator. The invention 01 bent glass ...... ~them decisively in this regard, as did the .I,llqodll~ tion of prefabrication based on StalilOtl~te{1 ments, The latter was it technology emi.q~dy suleed to enabling the erection of brge ensemblesin a "ery shott $pace of time; consider th.< ad\-'t:O'ture of Crystal Palace in 1851, \V"bicb (althQugh Jt was to emerge as b)f far the largest ·edi£ke in W histo!J" ot architecture to that date) ,~ built ~ {ik

amazingly short time of ortIy 10 months. -,

Only graduaUy did nineteenth-a:ntury minds grasp the paradigmatic signillcance of ooOstr;ucting glass houses. Sum edifices took into ac~' thar organisms and climate zones ref~.rence. eam other as if wer-e a priori and tbat the .random uprooting of organisms to p!antthem dsew~

- could only oocurif the dimati.ccondinons transpo·sed aI.ons: with. theru, Thcimperial Eng._~,

, lishmen bad of cowsc noticed that some of the . most beautiful plants had the irritating habit' or only wanting to flourish under non-British skies. and some creative thinking was necessary if one wished to welcome thes-e guests 10 the British Isles. Lf, foe example, you re~ly want to make a palm tree feel u.nhappy, then force it (0 spend a winter in En,gland without the protection of an artificial skin that shrouds i!t in its native clanate; British politeness excluded this ugly hypothesis and inseead enabled the mass immigration of palms from an early date by creating a new type: of building" namely the palm house <something rhat to tills very day om be considered one of the rn 0 r

1 ~ OD.,1 ~ hdd lit a ronfe«flce on "Af~eres (of F~om. Tow.ud'§ an Ecology of Good GOVmvMll[~ in [h. ((II.U$e oflhe "DW.oghi ell San Giorgio," o~ by the Giorgio -Qn~ founcboo", Vmicc:, Scptanber '5-17. 2.004-

:) RefC'td'lC'C to rbe $t3t1ile of Sr. George on lop of I he (1lp .. ,b , $.:In Gio.rgio ~-UUiore. Vcnke, see figure on p, 1.4 III {hi, \:oll.lm .




beautiful achievements of world architecture. Wherever we now encounter such buildings (be they the classical palm houses or orchid houses or camellia hcusesor, finally, the greenhouses for Vic/oriaregia. that most famous of water lilies), we likewise encounter the materialization of a new view of building by virtue of which climatic factors were taken into account in the very structures made. Modernism in architecture has always also implied the transition of the climatic into the age of its explicit presentation and production. Archi· tecrure responds with its means to a neW form of . mobiliry that now indudes DOl only human and aJlimal movement but also p~a.nt migration. For reasons of space, for furtber details on this complex swath of phenomena, allow me simply to refer you to Alfred w. Crosby's well-knowastudy, Ecologtalllmperialism: The Biological Expdn.sion o{Eurape.

Following the initial breakthroughs in devising an elaborate system for harboring plants alien to me localdimate, it was to be another two or three generanons before theoretical biology responded at the conceptual level to the new practices of uprooting plants. It bears considering that it wa.s the afore-mentioned exercise of granting plants hospitality that first created the conditions under which it became possible to fomuiline a concept of envi1:oomenl. I can of c.ome forgo providing -;;Y~tailed '~lanation. of hm r and why the concept of"envirorunent" as coined by biologiSt Jacob \rOD Ue.xkii1l in 1909 (in his book Umwelt rmd Irutenwelt der Tiere, second edition, 192.1.) was one of those twentieth-eenrury innovations in logic that was to have the greatest impact. Not only do large stretches of modem bio ogy depend on it but also both ecology as a whole and systems. theory. If post-Uexkiill the talk was of "'environment," then this meant thinking: not just of the natural babibtoi exotic animals and plants but also of the prceedures for the technical! reproduction of that habitar in alien surroundings. It was i.nitiaIly this reconstructive imperative that we have to thank for the fact that a general concept of the environment was formulated From the historical viewpoint, the destructive imperative was no less significant, because modem warfare (such as commencedwith the inuoduction of gas as a weapon in Ypres in Aprill9lj) was likewise based on the







insight that the enemy's environment. the space occupied by him, could be destroyed.

Among the first to respond to the provocation mnate in the concept of the environment was Manto Hcidegger, who as early as the mid-19l.OS grasped the ontological implications of the new biology. I would go so far as to say that his funnulation of "being-in-thc-worid" constitutes a philosophical response to the shock he felt when confronted by the biological concept of the environment. He intended the USe of the preposition "in"' to d"stinguish onrologically between man's ecstasy, in the original Greek sense, in the world and the animal's ensnarement in. a specific habitat. Now the experience of original displacement plays a dedsive role here. When Heidegger speaks of the G8WQrfimheit ("thrownncss:~) of being. this expression brings co mind the risk of a sudden dis-alignmem of organism and environment, such as a palm tree of African origin faces if it were to unfortunately find itself in England prior to the invention of the greenhouse. The vegetative counterpart to Geworfenheit would then be "'enracinatlon . In the one as in the other case what ..... ore have IS a situation in which the human or plant is surrounded or embraced by a cirde of incompatibility. Assistance in such a case would be if the surroundingls) were themselves to adjust to accommodare the entity projected into their midst. In the case of plants, suchan adjustment ensues \\idt a greenbouse geared to recreating the pliant's original conditions; in the case of humans, the SOlutioll. would be to embed the newcomer in the host's language as the "house of being" - in other words in the ontological versioa of the greenhouse, an environment impregnated by mysteriousness and nothingness. Whereas for the organism the meaning ,ohhe "en" in environment or the "sur" in surrounding consists of the pertectlycaJibrated dependence on the origjnru stimuli, in the case of existence in the world they signify an abyss above which one hangs, or a transcendence into which one is suspended

Now, in order to highlight the relevance of these considerations for political theory, a110w Ole to show that the phenomenon of greenhouses in nineteenth-century architecture actually had a predecessor in older urbanist or polis theories. Thus, prior to its explicit formulation in the early

'twentieth century, the concept 0'£ environment has an impljcit pre-history, which, as we shell see, stretches back as flu as classical Greece. Thanks to Bruno Latour, we are familiar wi_th the art of posing epistemologicaUy bizarre questions, suchas, "'Where were the microbes prior to Pasteur?" ~ wish to adopt this pattern and ask ~7here in the world couldthe environment have been prior to Uexkiill?" I shaD initially search for an answer among the pest-SccrarleGreek philosophers. who 1 believe] can show wen: in their own way already theorists of the greenhouse and ipso facto etrvironmenrlll theorists. 10. actual mCft the birth of ancient Greek political theory implied for them a doctrine of living main artifidal construct, \Vha[ the early philosophers termed polls is in essence nothing other t~n a"n artiikial construct ruled. by notnQ$ and amounts tome practical atlS\Vet to the challenge posed by the improoobiJity of bringing numerous strangers together to coexist bebin.d shared. walls. The word polis itself" if one listens c:ardUlly to .it, has a (:enain ring to it tremini'icent of greeahouse theory. Anyone using it professes to believe that itisposSibllt: for mangers and persons who are nor related to one another to come mgeth.er in one place and natural.ize in a shared elimate, The G1i'eek city was a gtanho-use for people who agreedto be uprooted from the modus v:ivendi of living in separation and instead be planted. in the disarming modus vivendi of lning t1>gether. If the word polis alway.s retains a certain astonishing ring to it, it's becaise those w-ho fu-st used it were aev;crable to, quite forget thai the city as a fom oflii& always stood out like a social wonder of the world against the background of pretUf:,;m conditions.

Let Wi assume that the (oWlders of classical pbOO~ sophy would ba've (~spon.ded to these problems conceptually. And let me simply imagine that Arisrode, that great techni~ composed a dialogue entitled. DaedaltiS - or the Art of Buildiflg Cnies, a text ,that along witih all his other dialogues has been lost because tra.dirion in its barren sel.ectivity did not wish to preserve any of them. After a~ Aristode is said to have authored as many such piecesas did Plato. And let us funner assume mart a team of archaeologists recently succeeded in unearthing a copy of the Lost text inside a. vase buried. in the sand outside Alexalldria. Let me <dso

assume that] had the privilege, al.ongside a ()earn ' of papyrologists, classical scholars, philosopl:lcrs and security men. of gaining an initial, impression of the newly~found document, purring me in thlli: fortunate: position of beingable to present a few', ple~iminary observations 0.0 the sensational: . object. . •

The initial decoding of the text led to a key finding thar I can sumsnarize: Aristotle has. the . mythical builder of [he Cretan labyrinth discuss the art of building cities with Hippodamos of. htilet, me inventor ot town planning by grid, Both attribute the :hist.orr o·f the city to an event that is known by tlbe name amoikism6s. This expression designates the decisions b,y smaller viUageand fortress communides, originally scattered around the connt,ryside and ruled by m;)!ble:s, to place memselv~ under dIe protection of shared walls and in future suhject themselvesto sbared laws. Unlike Plato, however. Aristotle does not fed it necessary co resort here to some diluvian myth" and he abo knows nothing of some: primordial assembly fol1owing the cataclysm. According to Aristodc1 it was nat the social drive of .survivors of the ~ natur:d disaster that gave rise [0 t.M polis 1 but the .msight on the part of the prospective citizens tba.t aeceperaeive constitution could be advantageous fOI them compared with. the pmr modus, vivendi. What is interesting about these coD£idcra:ti:ons is less their quasi proto-pragmatic 'r:ib.nJst titan Aristode's expressing of a view otherwise sddom encouatered in classical anliquiry, namely that polis-like coexistence is fun.damen-· tally a very an:i£i.ciaJ way for people to live together. This does not, incidentally, contradict his renowned blrpothesis that man is at zOOh poli&ikon. as in this centexr the epithet poUtik6s spedficaUy does not imply a refereneete urban culture but quite simply pinpoints the biological fact that we live in g~ups or packs. Instead, what is striking is dun Aristotle I,udges: that the synoftsfa of people in the city is the result of their special psycho-political treatment. Humans are, he suggests" by 110 means uroanites by nature but have to be turned into such; they cannot simply be posised as df},,-dwellerst because a simple decision by individual v.~l does not suffice to 5tabi]ize such an improbable seare of affairs as the coexistence of the man)" in the polis. So there must logically be a

third terrn that CO.iUeS between. narure and such an assumed act of will, one that would be strong enough ro neutrah2.e [he powers people have to repel one another and to overcome their aversion to invo·lulltary neighborhoods. The moral enigma of the city is that it rests on the creation of people who turn away from 3! certain natural phobia of neighbors. aad instead champion 3. highly aniiici3l xenophilia in the most confined of spaces; it isa t:l:1iewn01'l'hosisth<'llt can be: compared with the moral alchemy of Christendom, with the difference being that what we heave here is love your neighb.- or not -.rour nexr _ f t"l_.

} ... _ 0 tuI!

Engineer Daedalus, aftet whom the dialogue is named, had various suggestions as reg'ros the third term, and they will raise a few eyebrows among the theorists of democraej; To put it briefl:y, instead of nature or ty:mnny. tbe democmtic psycho"POUtks i$< based on rituals that: we must invariably consider tire skilful application. of anti -misanthropic procedures. In the dialoguet it is above aD Daedalus whoeountees Hippgdamos the tationlilist by.arguing shat urbanpJanningis aecessary at tv.'O' levels. As long as the tWQ .arcrntieCt.$ talk about ehe walls and gates, the piazzas. the temples and th.e buildings, for the magistrates, die ideas of these rust. explicit city-makers remain more or less CODventlonal m thrust; the same is true when they taclde war;, institutions and civil ethical behavior. By contrast, the: references to

.. psychic urban p]moin:g: are strikin,g: instructions QIl the ritu31s that need lobe ~blilih;i ~ order [0 genenue orstr:engthen the cit1z.eJ'!iS' ~lise o{ F commonaiity. When describ~these prooedo.rcs of u.rb;mizadon" theauthOt of the dialogue almost turns into apoct.lt is as if he: wished 'to compete

.. with Raw in the odd the latter was so strong in.

Aristotle introduces m'o aUcgories intO the discus-

I sian of political issues that bave good prospects of .becoming established alongside the well-known :Platonic parables. The first is the d}fefs parable, which is evidentLy coustructed to contrast deliber"

. arc1y with Plate's weaver's parable in the States- man dia.logue, while the second, the fountain. parable, essentially contains the proposal for a political ritual.

With his dyers parable. Aristotle moves into . ter:rainoccupied by Platm JUSI as the Iatrer in his PoUtiko$ had termed the "royal technique" the

capacity tOmeanj.ngfuUy interweave the two socially beneficial, basic moods of Ill;}Sculinity (the courageous/aggressive and the' sclfcontroUcdlbarmonizing mindsets) as a weaver makes his fa:brlc using woof and warp) so in the Daedalus Aristode defines the "democratic technique" asa procedure to immerseall citizens of the commonality in the same dyer's vat until they are imp~ated down to [he very innermost fiber of their being. He believes s:yHbikismos will in this way penetrate the citizens' most basic omotional strands, This vat of dye impregnames the citizens \vitb a shared p.ride in the freedom of their own poUs as well as with respect for the be~utifulacts of ml!galopsychia, or, to couch it in modem tetnl.S. the generosity thanks to which some citizens stand out fromorhers. This pride and respect must precede an other stafements. of a pontica1 nature in th,e city. Farfrom Iendering the city monochromatic and reducing it to some one-dimensiooal consensus., it is these p.m-political "undertones" that en:J.b1~thosepolychrolUabclayen; CO be added by dint of whiclt cadI rvibmnt d1}r can. become a forum for debate, parry foundations and rivalry among friends. The implicit argument in this paraMe is interesting because iit points to the pre-Jogial orpre-discurSNe: premises. of the an of UIban. coexistence. To again resoft to modem ~mIS, wecoidd say dlat herethe philosopher for die first time gives voice to the. dimaricot ~cho-i?Olitical conditions for social n!_!thesis.

~-.:n; same is perhaps true of the fountain P3la,bleand possibly to an even greater extent. There, Dae.da1ustecomrnends that all citizens of the polis bathe: together once in spring and once in. the aUbmlnin a. special pool tb:l't needs to be buikfoJr this purpose on the agora - the so-called city fountain. Now, while we can obviously imagine dns to be something of an erotic group escapade or balneological carnival:, quite as if Aristotle had already read Bakhrin, the key point in both procedures is the fact that there is no discemible direct reference to political! d.ialogue,. to logical argument and to an explicit political semantics, Rather. the allegories express procedures on how to diroct the p'(C-symbolical dimension of the coexistence of citizens.

Incidentally, wecould be forgiven suspecting here that the fountain ritual also possesses acer-


tain link to a competing Platonic text, because we should not forget that in his own way Plato is familiar with the myth ofbathin,g in the fountain of democracy, although, if we ignore its metaphorscal traits, there the funt exhibits essentially aristocratic and cynical overtones; I am of course thinking of his doctrine of the noble tie as presented in the Politeia" according to which the pre-discursive unanimity of the citizens can only be upheld securely in a city riven by class differences thanks to a legend of their being related to one another. Aooording to it, the great mother of the Athenian dty gave birth to three types of children - the golden, the silver and the bronze - and expects of them that they frarerniz~ with one another the WilY one would expect of siblings - me birth of fra~ te:rniti from the spirit of inescapable deception. In this case, the joint balh with strangeJ($ is replaced by immersion in an im.aginary family milieu.

The thrust of my deliberations should now be dear; there is no ftu:ther reason to explain it furthee by detours througb parables. So let me simply answer the question as to the atmospheric basis 1ha~6rs£ enables democracy in terms of spatial and media theory. The space of the poJis is e>.;dendy a

-- place of enhanced improbabilities. In order for pol/ itics to consohdare as the art of the improbable, procedures have to bedeveloped from which citizens arise as me agents of coexistence in the imp,robable. Tbe two "Aristotelian" anegocies were meant to allude to the fact that the polis as such constitutes a specific space that we would custOmarily teon a "'pubJict> space. J would like to stress the inunersivecharaaer of staying in this space. ~e public ~licre is not just the effect of _e_eople. assem~~!>._~:L~ fact _g~9.._~J!ck tE_!h~, ~nstru~ti_on _~~~~_g;_!9__~on~!he~~~ .. ~ ~\thi~~_!~e.._.~C?~.!?~<!.~~_?~~_¥_~_~t ._~~I~_ !~~ assemble. 1be agorn is the manifest urban. form

ti;;-;or but we can only gain an adequate notion of its function if we construe the coming together of persons in this space as. an installadon. Installations such as those with which we are familiar from contemporary art have the task of developing {;'Om_prorni~ between observation andj?artici- . pation, Their meaning is to transform the position

~of jumposed observation into an immers.h·e re~ tionship' to the _milieu fhat surrounds the erstwhile beholder. By means of installations, modern artists

endeavor to strengthen. the position of the work vis-a-vis the observer: If, in regard to conventional art. objects, isolated sculptures or pictures, hung OR a wall, the beholder essentially holds 3. position of strength (to the extent that he can be satisfied with casting a fleeting glance in passing), the installation forces him to take a far less dominating role and compels him to enter the work. Thus, the opportunity to experience art shifts from the pole of the beholder to that of the participant,

in this process, we: can discern an insight that is vaguely comparable with Plaronic psycho-politics. No open commonality can be constructed on the basis of a single affect - e.:" .. eeepr that of tyraonical phobocracy,. which functions only with the primary color of fear (although as a rule ambition is assigned to it as a secondary color). Instead, commo.wility presumes a compromise between at least two primary moods. Plam speaks with good reason of the fabric woven from courage and selfcontrol {dndreJa and sophmsyne). We could in like manner say that the atmospheric premises of democracy must be formed from 3. parallelogram of observer's virtues and participant's virtues. The cit!_z~~as a highly improbable artificial figure of

. political anthropology would thus first become possible by a eombinarien of !:.C!Q~~~~.pecta~ in a sin e· n, and thsr said, the entire public domain would have to consist of this type of agent. In this synthesis the mOl'e difficult half - and here we part company with the idea of the installation - without doubt involves the creation of the viewing or observing h:alf~ lor if humans are beings that by nature have instincts, passions and interests, then only by mote or Less elaborate cultural techniques can they be persuaded to activate their possible analytical or theoretical intelligence. In order to do justice to the pre-:political conditions of democ.ra.cy.a deep link must be forged between the polis culture and theoretical behavior. It is no coincidence that Athenian democracy appears to be the first literate collective on the stage of culrural history. Its features included the fact that the viewer virtues were not generated or strengthened by Dionysian theater and the art of rhetoric alone but also by the invention of philosophy. which, in terms of political signjficanee, was nothing other than the development of a universal logic of the coexistence of humans in a double assembly

room, whereby the first was called PoNs and die second PhJ'sis.

Theessence of the written and representational media is that they allow users, to manipulate the temporal axis thanks to wbich diachronic sequences can be teansfonned into s)rt1chronk images, It: is but to think hetl'e of me phenomenon of spoken speech. Siuce the verr beginnings, members ot the Homo sapiens species have been fruniliar \\ith the experien<;c of a stream of sounds i1o\viog from a speaker>s mouth only til disappear forever after an acoustic presenoe of a few fractions ofa seeend, The inscription of the spoken wordenables this flow to be halted 5.'0 that the water level rises on. the inner $ide of this symbolic dam. One must accept the idea that the art of writing (that is, of creating a reservoir or pool of language) is the cultural t'emnique that has con~ tributed most to the 'etnerg,eIlce of democ;mcy. By giving the spa:ken word a.spatial presence, it ooroes even the most deeting thing in. the world to tany with us a while long" than." would be possible in the purely and world. The recorded OJ" petrified world can tbm be repeated, and. in this way new mental objects can be brought to life - of p9rticulac sigpmca:nce among themaee, on the one hand, scbolarly theorems and, On the other, political! opinions. I would now claim thatthe art of polis b\uldingreslson expansions of this mediaia.aor.. If the polis was the first his.Qrical answer to the qu.estion of how to make thing.s, public. thenthe key means to' render political objects public is Swd}f thecitizoos' ability to captul:e the "things"

_ fOIi posterity. The res pubJ!ka. arises from. this act of captw:ing objects. If you do not possess suitable techniques for arresting themJ then you cannot

IL !1!._. fl . . d ..

stallwze . ect.l.qSi ~vcntsao· CIt:l1l:U>I gt1i<t'V01Ce to

them. in the political domain. To this e.xtent, demoqa.c.yisprccc.eded by a pre-polidcal dimension in which. the means to slow down the flow of speeeh/es is made available. It maybedlat plillosophy in its Pla.tonic var.iant so exaggerated the dema<::racy~enabling effect in the face of transience that a new type of anti-democratie effects inevitably arose (La tow: has: uncovered it in his inexorable deconstsuceionof the Socratic techniqttes of silencing others, by a "'surfeit of rea-

_ son"3). FundamentaELy"R!!ilosQFhy and dem~ mey have their joint: source in the same te.cbniqu(!S

- - -- - . ~ - _. - -- ~ ~-


Jor sl.o,!!~ l:t~guag~ dm,,:~~ through. the ,impact of which sufficiently slabT~ theoretical and political objects can first arise that are viable for public use. In other words, the_pQIllsj! a reseNoir_f~rsl'mQo~~

_~bj~~~hat"ar:e to be ~!.ei1 a "longe.!.l!r~s"!l~.e ~ ~

~~jhar~d c~!Ul~_(koinon).. !\

A£SYCno-eOlitiC<ll foundation ror the ci!X must - ~

be 3Hfed to the media-based foundation of the u

_._ ... _ 11"1

ROlls hy lIte urban media {writing .. theater, ~go.t'a ~

;betoric, plUlosopb}r} thar serve to prevent .spoken i utterances dmining away in:to n()thingness (or ~t? !

the formJessness of memories), The psycho"pollitl~ ~

calunderpin_nings function Co spare the citiz:en's pride and to render the aristocratic impatience at the former landed gentry compatible with the slowness of democratic procedures, The significance of this care paid by rhe citizens ,(0 the pride ·of the greatsi is brought iJJto locus if we rem.ember that the city founders and agents of the $YnQik~ ism&. 'were by no' means so'me poor settlers who closed. raeksour of weakness; they were Attic Ularlordsand lords of keeps. who were fully in. possession of their power to lay claim to respect. Such charac:tus can only resolve to coexist on the condition that their standards as regards tlrymos are

d'uly taken into account within the city, or, put differently, that they can continue to operate at a

'lerr high level as regards their claims to scMrespect: and public .1tatlcc. This wiD eWle.ndy

only succeed if roles ace found thanks to which the standpoints of competing honol' QUl be respected

in dealings between omens.

In my opinion, the introduction of a list of speakers a.tthe agora marks the hour when democracy' was truly born> because not until this simple and so"inOuential aid was introduc-ed was mete any guarantee th.1.t all mose wishing. [0 speak would be able to' speak. Even more imPQrtant is the fact that with tbe Ilist it was no longer important whether I spoke first, second. fifth, ortenth; there was no humiliation involved in stepping onto the rostrum last. The simple device of the list of speakers itself is based on a far less simple psycho-serniotic premise: the audience's ability eo, as it were, fend the temporal sequence of speakees a spatial dimension. in. 'the sense thal we have just indicated as regards the relationship between the spoken and written word. meaning that here. too,

the temporal sequence is transformed into syn-

chrony It is easy to concede that such an exercise can probably only be achieved by a literate audience. This transposition into sy:nchronicitr. lays the basis for weighing up the opposing political objects - the "opinions· or proposals - against one' another, The well-known anecdote of the Athenian negotiator in the Spartan. camp shows the degtee to which this is a fairly improbable achievement and must first be nurtured in its own right. In reply to the Athenian"s rhetorically masterful petiDon~ 'dte Spartan teadm are said to have clai~d: We cannot reply to your long speech, becailJ.S:e fI.OW, at me end of it, we have fotgOU'eo what you said at the beginning, Now that is a reply that implies any number of possibilities but certainly does not attest 'to a democrnrir; oudook or, to be more precise, democ::raEic t.taining.

Democ:ra9" de ends ~~ _!he ab ~. to ~ ! ~ djl!leJ!ili~.!L t~ th~ said one after the other; it therefore implies constant training in p~e. Only he will take this upon himsdf who can be. $UIe that it willfiot impair his honor to wait for the moment when be is given the word.Bnsuring chat such w.nring is nor felt to entail humiliation can be considered an incomparable: cu1t:u.tal achievement. To this day, populist and fascistic uprisings can often be .recognized by the fact that they commence with a revolt against the list of s~.

Let me close with a eemark of a more general naWle. Many havecb.imtd that mcient Grc:ek. culture was primarily one of the eye, while old Israel stood out as a culture ohhe ear... Against the background of my above remaibf to my mind it becomes e\'roent that £his cliche call. 0..01)' be used with great restraint, It seems more advisable to typiCy cultures in termS of how they deal with the time of judgment and ooDsequendy distinguish between patient and impatient systems. In this respeee, me Atheni.anodrure ofpadenee can probably lay claim to a quite singular position. What the Greth m.ean.t by the expression .sopbrosym!. a term usually poo.rly translated as «Self-control" or "prudence." can in a broader sense be attributed to che Impact of a. written culture, in the practice of the polis this not only indudes the ability to. exercise the £arulty of judgment, but" and more important, the abilit}r to liSten, the ability to wait and ler others 'Wait, indeed the resolve to compel others to

wait to the extenr that is needed in order to disatm any overly heady sentiments among the citizens.

Greek psychology; which hinged on the basic eoncept of tJrymos., takes note of the fact that real persons always constitute complexes of pride/reacor (raoregenerallytof !&i!~i~~) and of argu" meats. Now if you. wish to establish democratic {mrns ofliviDg; you must ensure that if the thymos is agitated this does not direcdy result in action(s). This can only be achieved by establishing the

. virtues of observation - and the key notion here would not come into sight if we discuss this: process simply in terms ofcatcbwords such as self-control or dissimulation, An intelligentsia of observers is fostered in a city only .if this is preceded by the theatralization of agitated feelings. or, put differently, it I'cquires thtlt a stage be ereGted .for mutual observation by people who know that their respective opinions are in pan defined by their thymes.

Anyone wanting democracy had to strengthen the observes, alb~.it not with the means of medita .. lion such as were charad:eristic of Eastern spirituality but \vith the- means of the urbanagon and irsspe.cific pedOmtanccs. This includes the principle of the equal power of agentsl ar-guments or isosthenia, and it was the early Nietzsche who pointed to the significance of this (or the way the Greeks saw life. Only in a srabilized atmosphere conducive to isosthenia can agents practice the democr.rtic virtue k~ exocben. for which there is no completely adeQlJate expression in out vocabulary: We could paraphrase it in light of the above to read as pride-infused inter-patience between powerlul individuals. NO\IV that is of course nor a very seductive label, but it does have in its favor that it avoids the. vapidity of expressions such as tolerance and cooperarion. One of the pre-political premises of life in the polis was to put in place a matrix {or a broader distribution ofpowers in which repeatedly new isosthenic situations could be practiced. Thanks to this focus on isosrhenia, a creative liaison arises between power and opinion, as a consequeace of which each agent (understood here as a local conglomerate of power and opinion) adjusts to the fact mat he will enCQUD[eI' agents and observers who are his equal in rhis respect. It is nor communication or the freedom

3 IBruoo Latom:~ "A PoIi.t1cs Freed from Sci nee. The Bod)' Co$mopoliti.:.,in: P..vtdara's Ho~, E.wrts OJf tbe Rtdiit), of Sdetu Stl4dies., H:uwrd UniNenily Press, Cambeidgr, MA, [1199, pp- 1'36--165.

of speech as such that make democracy possible, but the ability of the agents to prevent themselves mutually from acting out unilateral pretensions.

This is the Core of the anti-despoticaffect in the citizen of a polis. Despate« is the man who wishes to comport himself in the city as if within his own four waDs: He confuses public and private space and desires to act on the agora as does an owner on his own grounds. (Daedalus would say: The despot did not take part and bathe in the polis fountain; he has not been impregnated

. down to his innermost fiber by the dyer's tub of commcnaliey.) The Greeks despised tyranny quite simply because they considered the tyrant to be an agent who lacl~ a wonhy opponent, some-

one who possessed the same powers as he did. The shortfall in isosthenia robs the polis of its deci-

sive atmospheric premise: Where there is no space for a countervailing power, there fear, constraint and slavish observation rule (in other words. pitiful thoot)' from below). Tyranny is the success phase of a lack of opponents; after all, (he Greeks believed they knew that such phases were by their very narure condemned to be short. By contrast, democracy hopes to enjoy a long life as the success phase of procedures that prevent the various sides from abusmg th~ir freedom of speech, without championing an absence of power. The atmospheric premises of liberty include the athletic love of effort, or ponophjJ~ and it was the polis culture of classical antiquity that offered it its first platforms on which to practice.



You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->