Cynicism: The Twilight of False Consciousness Author(s): Peter Sloterdijk, Michael Eldred, Leslie A.

Adelson Source: New German Critique, No. 33, Modernity and Postmodernity (Autumn, 1984), pp. 190206 Published by: New German Critique Stable URL: Accessed: 12/05/2010 17:52
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Cynicism TheTwilight of False Consciousness*
by Peter Sloterdijk
Times are hard, but modern. Italian saying And indeed one no longer saw anyone standing behind everything. Everything turned continually about itself. Interests changed hourly. There were no more goals ... The leaders lost their heads. They were drained to the dregs and calcified... Everyone in the land began to notice that things didn't work anymore ... One path left open was to postpone the collapse... Franz Jung, Die Eroberung Maschinen, der 1921. The discontent in culture has assumed a new quality: it appears as universal, diffuse cynicism. The traditional critique of ideology stands by helplessly. It cannot find the lever that would enlighten this cynically alert consciousness. Modern cynicism presents itself as that state of consciousness which follows naive ideologies and their enlightenment. In it lies the real reason for the complete exhaustion of ideology critique, for the latter has remained more naive than the consciousness it sought it expose. Its well-behaved rationality did not follow the twists and turns of modern consciousness toward a cunning, multi-faceted realism. The usual list of forms of false consciousness - lie, error, ideology - is incomplete. The current mind-set demands a fourth addition: cynicism. Speaking of cynicism means trying to find a new entrance into the old building of ideology critique. It is not customary to designate cynicism as a universal and diffuse

*With the permission of the University of Minnesota Press, we are printing here the first two chapters of Peter Sloterdijk'stwo-volume Kritik derzynischen Vernunft (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1983). The complete translation will be forthcoming in Minnesota's Theory and History of Literature series.


PeterSloterdijk 191
phenomenon; in the common conception, cynicism is not diffuse but striking, not universal, but peripheral and highly individual. The unusual adjectives indicate something of its new appearance, which at the same time makes it explosive and unassailable. The ancient world knows the cynic (better: kynic) as a bird that flies solo, a provocative, stubborn moralist. Diogenes in the tub is considered the archetype of this figure. In the picture book of social characters he creates distance with his mockery, a biting and evil individualist who pretends not to need anyone and who is loved by no one because no one escapes unscathed his crudely unmasking gaze. His social origins point to an urban figure who received his cutting edge in the bustle of the ancient metropolis. One could characterize him as the earliest example of a declassed or plebeian intelligence. His 'cynicial' turn against the arrogance and the moral secrets of an established, higher civilization presupposes a city setting with all its successes and shadows. Only in the city, under the pressure of public speech and a general love-hate, can the cynic clearly emerge as the negative profile of the city. And only the city can accept the cynic, who demonstratively turns his back on it, as one of its eccentrics, who attest to the city's penchant for developed, urbane personalities. The fertile ground for cynicism in modernity is to be found not only in urban culture but also in the courtly sphere. Both are dies of an evil realism through which people learn the crooked smile of open immorality. In both, urbane, intelligent minds accumulate a worldly knowledge which moves elegantly between bare facts and conventional facades. From the very bottom, the declassed, urban intelligentsia, and from the top, the height of conscious statesmanship, serious thinking is invaded by signals attesting to a radical ironization of ethics and of social convention. It is as if the general laws were only meant for the stupid, while those in the know smile with fatal cleverness. More precisely: the powerful smile this way, while the kynical plebeians burst out in satirical laughter. In the vast space of cynical knowledge the extremes meet: Eulenspiegel meets Richelieu;Machiavelli meets Rameau's nephew; the loud Condottieri of the Renaissance meet the elegant cynics of the Rococo period; unscrupulous entrepreneurs meet disillusioned outsiders; jaded system strategists meet advocates of refusal without ideals. Since bourgeois society began to bridge the knowledge of those at the top and those at the bottom, ambitiously proclaiming to ground its worldview entirely on realism, the extremes have been coalescing. Today the cynic appears as a mass figure, an average social character in the elevated superstructure. This is the case, not only because advanced industrial civilization produces the embittered loner as a mass



phenomenon. Rather,the cities themselves have become diffuse clumps has whose power to create generally acceptedpubliccharacters been lost. individualization has dropped in the modern The pressure towards climate of cities and mass media. The modern cynic - extant as a mass phenomenon in Germany, since the FirstWorld War is no longer an outsider. But less than ever does he appear as a tangibly developed type. The modern mass cynic loses his individual sting and spares himself the risk of exposure. He has long since ceased to subject his eccentricity to the attention and mockery of others. The man with the clear 'evil eye' has disappeared in the crowd; anonymity now becomes the large space for the cynical deviation. The modern cynic is an integrated asocial characterwhose deep-seated lack of illusions is a match for that of any hippy. He does not regard his own clear, evil gaze as a personal defect or as an amoral quirk to be privatelyjustified. Instinctively, he no longer understands his way of life as something evil, but as part of a collective, realistic view of things. It is the widespread form in which enlightened people see to it that they are not taken for suckers. There even seems to be something healthy in this attitude, as there is generally in the will to self-preservation. This is the stance of people who realize that the times of nalvete are gone. Psychologically, the contemporary cynic can be understood as a borderline melancholic; he is able to keep his depressive symptoms under control and remains more or less capable of work. Indeed, the ability of the cynic to work is decisive in modern cynicism: in spite of everything, after all, especially that. Society's key positions have long since belonged to a diffuse cynicism in boards, parliaments, committees, company leadership, editorial offices, practices, faculties, law and newspaper offices. A certain elegant bitterness colors its activity. For cynics are not dumb, and every now and then they certainly see the nothingness to which everything leads. Their spiritual make-up has become elastic enough to make the constant doubt about their own pursuits part of their quest for survival. They know what they do, but they do it because, in the short run, the objective situation and the instinct for self-preservation speak the same language and tell them it must be so. Others would do it anyway, perhaps worse. The new, integrated cynicism thus even feels itself, understandably, both as victim and as sacrificer. Behind the conscientiously hard fa,ade of collaboration there is a mass of vulnerable unhappiness and the need to cry. Here is something of the mourning for a 'lost innocence,' for the better knowledge against which all one's actions and labors strive. consciousThis yields our first definition: cynicism is enlightenedfalse ness.It is the modernized, unhappy consciousness, atwhich Enlightenment has simultaneously labored successfully and in vain. It has learnt

PeterSloterdijk 193 its lesson in Enlightenment,but it has not implementedit and proband ablywasnot even able to do so. Well-placed miserableat the same time, this consciousness is no longer vulnerableto any critique of ideology; its falsenessis alreadyreflexivelybuffered.
'Enlightened false consciousness': such a formulation seems to strike a blow against the tradition of Enlightenment. The sentence itself is cynicism in a crystalline state. Nonetheless, it claims objective validity;its content and its necessity are developed in this essay. Logically, we are dealing with a paradox, for how could enlightened consciousness be false? This is precisely the issue. Acting against one's own better knowledge is the global situation in the superstructure today. One knows oneself to be without illusions and yet dragged down by the 'power of things.' What appears in reality as an objective state of affairs is thus what we consider in logic a paradox and in literature a joke. This shapes a new consciousness of 'objectivity.' 'Enlightened false consciousness' should not be understood as an incidental phrase but as a systematic approach, as diagnostic model. It thus commits itself to a revision of enlightenment; it must uncover its relation to that which is traditionally called 'false consciousness.' Further, it must revise the course of Enlightenment and the labor of ideology critique, which made it possible for 'false consciousness' to reabsorb Enlightenment. If this essay had historical intentions, it would be to describe the modernization of false consciousness. However, my intention is not historical but physiognomic: the focus is the structure of a reflexively buffered false consciousness. I nevertheless want to demonstrate that this structure cannot be grasped without placing it in a political history of polemical reflections. Without sarcasm modern-day Enlightenment can have no healthy relation to its own history. We can only choose between a pessimism reminiscent of decadence - loyal to its beginnings and a light-hearted disrespect in pursuit of original tasks. As things stand, the only loyalty to Enlightenment consists in disloyalty. This can be partly understood from the position of the heirs, who look back on 'heroic' times and are necessarily more skeptically disposed to the results. To be an heir always carries a certain 'status-cynicism' with it, as we know from stories about inheritance of family capital. The retrospective position, however, does not itself explain the particular tone of modern cynicism. Disillusionment with the Enlightenment is not merely a sign that epigones may and must be more critical than the founders. The pecuof liar hautgout modern cynicism is fundamental: a consciousness diseased with Enlightenment and instructed by historical experience refuses cheap optimism. New values? No thanks! With the passing of



defiant hopes, the listlessness of egoisms pervades. In the new cynicism, we see a detached negativity which scarcely allows itself any hope, at most a little irony and self-pity. In the final analysis, it is a matter of the social and existential limits of Enlightenment. The pressures to survive and the desire to assert oneself have humbled enlightened consciousness. It is ill from the compulsion to accept existing conditions which it doubts, to accommodate itself to them and finally even to conduct their business. In order to survive, one has to attend the school of reality. Certainly. Those who mean well call it growing up, and there is some truth to that. But that is not all of it. Always a bit unsettled and irritable, the collaborating consciousness looks around for its lost na;vetes, to which there is no return, since the attainment of consciousness is irreversible. Gottfried Benn, himself one of the prominent voices of modern cynicism, has probably uttered the cynical formulation of the century, lucid and insolent: "To be stupid and have a job, that's happiness." Only the converse of the sentence reveals its full content: to be intelligent and to perform one's work in spite of it, that is unhappy consciousness in its modernized form, ill with Enlightenment. Being "stupid" and trusting are no longer options, and innocence cannot be regained. Unhappy consciousness clings to the belief in the sheer weight of things, to which it is bound by its instinct for self-preservation. In for a penny, in for a pound. At two thousand marksnet a month, the counter-enlightenment quietly begins; it banks on the fact that everyone who has something to lose comes to terms privately with his unhappy consciousness or engulfs it with 'engagements.' Precisely because it is lived as a private disposition which absorbs the world situation, the new cynicism is not as strikingly noticeable as would befit its concept. It surrounds itself with discretion, as we shall see, a key word of charmingly mediated alienation. The accommodation which knows about itself, having sacrificed its better knowledge to 'objective determinations,' no longer sees any need to expose itself offensively and spectacularly. There is a nakedness which no longer has an unmasking effect and in which no 'bare fact' appears on whose ground one could stand with spirited realism. The neo-cynical accommodation to the given has an aura of plaintiveness; it no longer is selfconfidently naked. For this reason it is also methodologically difficult to render this diffuse, hazy cynicism articulate. It has withdrawn into a mournful detachment (Abgeklirtheit) which has internalized its knowluseless for attacks, like a curse. The great offensives of cynical edge, impudence have become a rarity;ill humor has taken their place, and there is no energy left for sarcasm. Gehlen even thought that not even

Peter Sloterdijk 195 the English can be cutting any more because the supplies of dissatisfaction have been used up and the rationing of stocks has begun. The peevishness which follows the offensives doesn't open its mouth wide enough for enlightenment to take a step forward. That is one of the reasons why, in the second part of this book, a disproportionate amount of'cynical material' is taken from the Weimar Republic - aside from the older documents that are also given attenI tion. In the historical section entitled TheWeimar Symptom, attempt a of an epoch, a characterization of a decade whose first physiognomy heir was fascism and whose second heir we are. Speaking of the Weimar Republic still means dealing with social experience of the self. For citable reasons the Weimar culture was cynically disposed to a highly unusual degree; it yielded an abundance of brilliantly articulated cynicisms, which read like textbook examples. It experienced the pain of modernization more violently and expressed its disillusionment more coldly and more sharply than any present could ever do. We discover in it striking formulations of modern unhappy consciousness, burningly relevant even today. Indeed, perhaps we can only today comprehend them in their full validity. A critique of cynical reason would remain an academic game with glass beads if it failed to pursue the connection between the problem of survival and the danger of fascism. In fact, the question of'survival,' of self-preservation and self-assertion - to which all cynicisms provide answers - touches on the central problem of defending the status quo and planning for the future in modern nation states. From various approaches, I attempt to determine the logical locus of German Fascism in the convolutions of modern, self-reflexive cynicism. So much can be said in anticipation; in German Fascism typically modern dynamics of psycho-cultural fears of breakdown, regressive self-assertion and new-objective, rational coldness combined with a venerable strain of military cynicism, which on German, and especially Prussian, soil enjoys an equally macabre and deep-rooted tradition. Perhaps these thoughts on cynicism as the fourth configuration of false consciousness will help to overcome the peculiar speechlessness of genuinely philosophical critique regarding so-called fascist ideology. Philosophy as a ',discipline' does not have its own theory of 'theoretical fascism' because the latter is considered beneath all critique. The explanations of fascism as nihilism (Rauschning, et al.) or as the product of "totalitarianthinking" remain sweeping and imprecise. The "inauthentic," bastardized nature of fascist ideology has been sufficiently emphasized, and all contents that it "represented" have long since been subjected to a critique by the individual sciences: psychology, political science, sociology, historiography. For philosophy, the



programmatic statements of fascism do "not even" rate as serious, substantial ideology which would pose a serious challenge to a reflective critique. But precisely here lies the weakness of the critique. Fixated on 'serious opponents,' it neglects the task of comprehending the ideological pattern of'unserious,' shallow 'systems.' To this day critique is no match for the modern mixture of opinion and cynicism. But since questions of social and individual self-preservation are discussed precisely in such combinations, there are good reasons to study their composition. One has to approach questions of self-preservation in the same language as those of self-annihilation. The same logic of the repudiation of morality seems to be effective in them. I call this the structure,' of the self-denial of the ethics of high i.e., logic of the 'cynical culture. Clarifying this will elucidate what it means to choose life. as Enlightenment Conversation as Ideology Critique Continuation a of Miscarried with Conversation Other Means Whoever speaks of cynicism draws attention to the limits of Enlightenment. In this respect, the concern with the salient featuresof Weimar cynicism - aside from the advantage of clarity - also promises to be fruitful for the philosophy of history. The Weimar Republic represents in the course of German history not only the belated development of a nation-state - heavily burdened by the Wilhelminian legacy, the spirit of a cynically illiberal government - but also a paradigm for 'failed enlightenment.' It has often been shown that, and why, the protagonists of republican Enlightenment at that time could not have been anything else but a desperate, well-meaning minority (representatives of reason) vis-avis almost insurmountable odds: massive currents of anti-Enlightenment and hatred of the intelligentsia; an array of anti-democratic and authoritarian ideologies which knew how to use the press to achieve their desired objectives; an aggressive nationalism bent on revenge; an unenlightenable mixture of hard-headed conservatisms, extended attitudes, messianic sects, apocalyptic petit-bourgeois (Biedermeier) tendencies, and equally realistic and psychopathic rejections political of the impositions of an uncomfortable modernity. The sores of the World War became infected again and again in the smoldering crisis; Nietzscheanism flourished as the most developed style of thinking marked by a German-narcissistic irritability and a moody, arrogant, 'protestant' relation to the 'bad reality.' In a climate of crisis-like excitement there developed a pervasive psycho-political atmosphere of resentment and anxiety about the future, of tenuous pseudo-realisms and makeshift spiritual responses. If there was ever an era which

PeterSloterdijk 197
demanded an historical psychopathology, it is the one and a half decades between the fall of the Kaiserreich and the establishment of National Socialism. First impressions must be given their due here: whoever sought to carry on enlightenment in such a society was fighting a losing battle. The forces of enlightenment were too weak, for a number of precise reasons. The Enlightenment had never been able to form an effective was alliance with the mass media, and political maturity (Miindigkeit) never an ideal of the industrial monopolies and their associations. How could it have been? Obviously, the Enlightenment is defeated by forces opposed to it. However, it would be wrong to view this only as a question of the arithmetics of power. For Enlightenment is also defeated by a qualitative resistance located in the consciousness of its enemies. The latter, outraged, resist the invitation to discussion, to the "decadent" (zersetzend) talk about truth; even talking itself is resented, because it questions conventional views, values and forms of self-assertion. The interpretation of this resistance as the basis of ideology has become one of the main motifs of Enlightenment. Modernity is not the first historical context in which Enlightenment faces an opposing consciousness which is increasingly resilient to it. In principle, the front can be traced back to the days of the Inquisition. If it is true, as the workers' movement taught, that knowledge is power, then it is also true that not every knowledge is welcomed with open arms. Because there are no truths which can be occupied without a struggle, and because every knowledge must choose its place amidst dominant and oppositional forces, the means by which knowledge is accorded validity seem almost more important than the knowledge itself. In modernity, Enlightenment is revealed as a tactical complex. The demand that what is reasonable also be generalizable draws Enlightenment into the maelstrom of politics, pedagogy and propaganda. Here Enlightenment consciously represses the acid realism of older doctrines of wisdom, which considered it a certainty that stupidity belonged to the masses and reason only to the few. Modern elitism has to encode itself democratically. It is not our task to unfold historically the darkening of the Enlightenment. We know that in the 18th and 19th centuries, in spite of much resistance and contradiction, it knew how to deal mostly productively and with an eye to the future with the ferment of self-doubt as it considered its own achievements and plans. In spite of all hardships and setbacks it could still believe it had the law of progress on its side. Great names of that time stand for great achievements: Watt, Pasteur, Koch, Siemens. One can reject their achievements but that would be more a



gesture of ill humor than of justice. The press, the railway, social welfare, penicillin - who could deny that these are remarkable innovations in the 'garden of humanity'? However, since the technical horrors of the 20th century, from Verdun to the Gulag, from Auschwitz to Hiroshima, experience mocks optimism. Historical consciousness and pessimism seem to boil down to the same thing. And the catastrophes which have not yet happened, which smolder in the undergrowth, feed the omnipresent doubts about civilization. The late 20th century rides on a wave of negative futurism. "The worst was expected," it "only" has to happen. on I would like first to focus on the theme of unfulfilled Enlightenment one point: the question concerning the means of power available to Enlightenment vis-a-vis an opposing consciousness. It is already in a certain way incorrect to ask about "means of power," since Enlightenment is essentially concerned with free consent. That is the "lesson" which cannot be learned under a pressure that lies outside reason. One of its axes is reason; the other is the free conversation of those striving for reason. Voluntary consensus is both its methodological kernel and its moral ideal. This means the opposing consciousness changes its position under no other influence than that of cogent argument. This is a sublimely peaceful event, when, under the fire of plausible reasons, old, superceded opinions are surrendered. Enlightenment thus harbors within itself, so to speak, an original utopia - an epistemological idyl of peace, a beautiful and academic vision: that of free dialogue among those freely interested in knowledge. Here, impartial individuals, not enslaved to their own consciousness, not repressed by social conditions, come together for a dialogue aiming at truth, under the laws of reason. The truth which Enlighteners want to disseminate arises through the force, without coercion, of stronger arguments. The protagonist or discoverer of an enlightened thought took this step only earlier and usually by surrendering a former opinion of his own. Accordingly, Enlightenment proceeds in two steps: the acceptance of the better position and the departure from the previous opinion. This gives rise to an emotional ambivalence: gain and loss. The utopia of a gentle, critical dialogue foresees this difficulty. The loss becomes bearable in the consciousness that it can be accepted voluntarily and collegially as the price of commonality. The 'loser' may view himself as the real winner. The conversation of Enlightenment is thus essentially a struggle of opinions and an exploratory dialogue among persons who, from the start, submit themselves to rules of peace, since they can emerge from the encounter only as winners, winners in knowledge and solidarity. For this reason, the surrender of one's preconceptions is considered bearable.

PeterSloterdijk 199
An academic idyl, as I said; at the same time, it remains the regulative idea of any enlightenment which does not want to surrender the goal of reconsiliation. The fact that reality is different will come as no surprise. In Enlightenment's confrontations with preceding consciousnesses, truth is the last thing at issue: hegemony, class interests, established doctrines, desires, passions, and the defense of'identities.' These preconditions affect the conversation of Enlightenment so strongly that it would be more appropriate to talk of a war of consciousness than of a dialogue of peace. The opponents have not agreed to a peace treaty, but rather confront one another in a competition aimed at repression and annihilation. And they are not free in relation to the powers which make their consciousness speak just so and in no other way. Faced with these sober facts, the conversation model consciously behaves unrealistically. It allows the arch-pragmatic statement,primum to vivere, deindephilosophari, hold only conditionally. For at least it knows that situations will recur again and again where the only thing which can help life further is 'philosophizing.' It is inviting to poke fun at the 'methodological anti-realism' of the dialogue idea, and part of this book indeed tries to give the derisory laughter about every form of foolish idealism its due. However, when all contradicitons have been taken into account, one will return to this beginning, of course with a consciousness which has gone through all the hells of realism. One of the last tasks of philosophy is to preserve the healing fiction of a free dialogue. Of course, Enlightenment itself is the first to realize that rational and verbal dialogue alone will not see it through. No one can feel the stagnations, the distorted conditions of life, the ruptures, the miscarriage of conversation more keenly. At the beginning of ideology critique there is also astonishment about the opponent's stubborn resistance to hearing - an astonishment which quickly gives way to a realistic awakening. Whoever does not want to hear lets others know it. Enlightenment is reminded how easily speaking one's mind can lead to camps and prisons. Hegemonicpowers* cannot be spoken with so easi-

*In thisbookI uniformly designate everypowerwhichrulesas hegemonicpower,in orderto indicatethatthispoweris nevera powerin itselfbut always 'rides,'so to speak, on the backof an oppositionalpower.In a realistic theoryof power,omnipotenceand ideas of power,as the infinitelygreat impotenceoccur only as quasi-'mathematical' and the infinitelysmallwithinpower.Omnipotenceand impotencecannotconfront one another,but hegemonic power and oppositionalpower can. Thatwhich exists possessespower,a positivequantumof energy,whichis centeredin consciousbodies and whichextendsitselfthroughappropriate tools and weapons.Forthis reason,the



ly, and do not come voluntarily to the negotiating table with their if opponents, whom they would prefer behind bars. But even tradition, one may speak of it allegorically, has no initial interest in granting Enlighteners a right to exert influence. From the dawn of time, the old has been held to be true, while the new has always been suspect. This 'archaic' feeling for truth had to be overcome by the Enlightenment before anything new could be plausibly presented as truth. Earlier, one took for granted that political and intellectual hegemonic powers were allied in a conservative front, disinclined to all innovations. Wherever religious reforms took place (I have in mind above all the monastical movements of the Middle Ages and the religious upheavals of the 16th Century), they understood themselves as 'conservative revolutions' which obeyed a call to return to the origins. Finally, beside hegemonic powers and traditions, people's heads - already too full constitute a third instance which does not like to listen to the spirit of Enlightenment innovation. They meet Enlightenment with the resistance of ingrained habits and time-honored attitudes which occupy their consciousness and which can be brought to listen to a reason other than conventional wisdom only in exceptional circumstances. But the vessel of knowledge cannot be filled twice. Enlightenment as critique recognizes in everything which is 'already there' in people's heads its inner arch-enemy; it contemptuously designates these conThe threefold polemic of a critique of power, a struggle against tradition and an attack on prejudices belongs to the accepted understanding of Enlightenment. All three imply a struggle with opponents disinclined to dialogue. Enlightenment wants to talk to them about things which hegemonic powers and traditions prefer to keep silent: reason, justice, freedom, truth, exploration. The status quo is better served by silence. In speaking, one pursues an uncertain future. Enlightenment enters this dialogue with almost empty hands, with the fragile offer of free consent to the better argument. If it could impose itself by force, it would not be Enlightenment, but rathera variation on an unfree consciousness. So, it is true: as a rule, people adhere to old
logic of all-or-nothing is dangerous in the field of politics, even fatal. In Sieyes' statement, "What is the Third Estate? Nothing. What does it want to become? Everything," we see disastrous self-characterization of the oppositional power, a false logification of political struggle, through which the part wants to make itself into the whole. In content, this false all-or-nothing logic has been reproduced in Marxism, which wanted to make the proletariat 'everything.' Is this false concept of power a general legacy of the Leftist opposition? Even the French New Philosophy fails due to this. Walking old paths, it confuses omnipotence with hegemonic power and imposes aManichean ontology onto an evil state of power.

tents: prejudices.'

PeterSloterdijk 201 positionsfor anythingbut well-foundedreasons.Whatcan be done? Enlightenmenthas tried to make the best of this situation.Since it wasnevergivenanybreaks,it developedalmostfromthe beginning,in addition to the friendlyinvitationto conversation,a second, combative stance.It is beatenup, so it strikesback.Some exchangesof blows areso old thatit would be senselessto askwho startedit. The historyof ideologycritiquecomprisesfor a largepartthe historyof this second, Sucha critipolemicalgesture,the historyof a greatcounter-offensive. serves Enlightenmentin a twofoldway:as a of que, as theory struggle, weapon against a hardened, conservativelycomplacent consciousThe opness, and as an instrumentfor practiceand self-assurance. to engage in dialogue creates such an enormous ponent's refusal Whoeverwants no problem that it has to be dealt with theoretically. of Enlightenmentmust have his reasons, and probablyothers part than he is willing to admit. Resistanceitself becomes an object of Enlightenment.The opponent thus necessarilybecomes a 'case,' his consciousnessan object. Becausehe does not wantto talkwith us, we have to talkabout him. As in everycombativeattitude,however,the opponent is no longer thought of as an ego, but as an apparatusin which, partlyopenly, partlysecretly,a mechanismof resistanceis at workwhich makes it unfree and binds it to errorsand illusions. continuationthemiscarried means polemical the dialogue critique of Ideology It means. declaresa war of consciousness,even when it prewithother tends to be oh so seriousand 'non-polemical.'The rules of peace are objectivelyforced into abeyance.At this point it becomes clear that as which is not inter-objectivity well. In there is no inter-subjectivity objectsfor each hittingand being hit, both partiesbecome subjective other. Moreexactly,ideologycritiquedoes not merelywantto 'hit,'but to operatewith precision,in the surgicalas in the militarysense:to outflankthe opponent, expose him, revealhis intentions.Exposingimplies uncoveringthe mechanismof false and unfree consciousness. knowsonly twogroundsforfalsehood: In principle,Enlightenment of the lattercanpossesstheworthiness a subject, errorand Only badfaith. for only when the opponent lies consciouslydoes the 'falseopinion' havean ego. If one insinuatesan error,then the falseopinion restsnot on an ego but on a mechanismwhich falsifieswhat is true. Only a lie for carries responsibility itself,whereasan error,becauseit is mechaniremainsin relative'innocence.'Error,however,quicklysplitsinto cal, two differentphenomena:the simple error,based on logical or perand easilycorrected; the persistent,sysceptualillusionand relatively In ideology. thisway,the classicalseriesof falseconsciousnessarises:lie,
tematic error, which clings to its own conditions of existence, i.e.,



error, ideology. Every struggle leads necessarily to a reciprocal reification of subjects. Since Enlightenment cannot surrender its aim of helping a selfobstructing consciousness to better insights, in the last analysis, it must the 'operate' behind opponent's consciousness. Ideology critique thus a cruel characteristic, which, if it admits to being cruel at all, acquires desires to be nothing but a reaction to the atrocities of'ideology.' Here we see more clearly than elsewhere that 'philosophical' ideology critique is basically the heir of a great satiricaltradition, in which the motif of unmasking, exposing, stripping, has always served as a weapon. Modern ideology critique, however - this is my thesis - has dangerously cut itself off from the powerful traditions of laughter within satirical knowledge, which have their philosophical roots in ancient kynicism. Modern ideology critique appears in the wig of seriousness, and in Marxism and especially in psychoanalysis has even put on suit and tie so as to assume a complete air of bourgeois respectability. It has shed its life as satire in order to conquer its position as 'theory' in books. From the lively form of biting polemic it has retreated to positions wihtin a cold war of consciousness. Heinrich Heine was one of the last authors of the classical enlightenment to defend literarily, in open satire, the right of ideology critique to commit 'just atrocities.' The public sphere did not follow him in this regard. The bourgeoisification of satire to ideology critique was as inevitable as the bourgeoisification of society in toto,including that of its oppositional forces. Serious ideology critique imitates surgical procedure: it cuts open the patient with the critical scalpel and operates under impeccably sanitized conditions. The incision into the opponent is made in public, until the mechanism of his error is laid bare. The upper skin of delusion and the nerve endings of'real' motives are hygienically severed and embalmed. Having come this far, Enlightenment is, it is true, not satisfied, but it is better armed in its insistence on its own claims for the distant future. Ideology critique is no longer concerned with winning the dissected opponent over to its own side; it is concerned with the 'corpse,' with the critical extract of his ideas, which is preserved in the libraries of Enlighteners where one can effortlessly read up on how false they were. It is obvious that one does not come any closer to the opponent this way. Whoever did not originally want to engage in Enlightenment will want to do so even less, once he has been cut open and exposed by the opponent. Of course, according to the logic of the game, the Enlightener will at least have one victory: sooner or later, he will force his opponent to speak in self-defense. Irritated by the attacks and 'unmaskings,' the counter-Enlightener will one day begin to propagate his own 'enlightenment' about the

Peter Sloterdijk 203 Enlighteners, in order to denounce them as human beings and to criminalize them socially. They are then usually called 'elements.' The word is unintentionally well chosen, for it does not seem promising to fight the elements. It will prove inevitable that the hegemonic powers will begin to blabber out of line in their counter-critiques. Then, increasingly irritated, they reveal something of their secrets; generally acknowledged values of high culture are thereby cunningly suspended. In the compulsion of the weakened hegemonic powers to make confessions, as remains to be shown, lies one of the roots of the modern cynical structure. Without really wanting to, 'dissatisfied Enlightenment' has in turn taken refuge behind this front. Threatened by its own fatigue and undermined by the need for seriousness, it often contents itself with from its opponent. In time, the having wrung involuntary confessions practiced gaze will decipher 'confessions' everywhere, and even when the hegemonic power shoots instead of negotiating, one will not have any trouble interpreting the bullets as signs of a fundamental weakness. This is how powers express themselves who have no more ideas and can only cling to their strong nerves and executive organs to save themselves. Arguing behind the opponent's back and through his head has its paradigm in modern critique. The gesture of exposure characterizes ideology critique, from the critique of religion in the 18th Century to the critique of fascism in the 20th. Everywhere one discovers extrarational mechanisms of opinion: interests, passions, fixations, illusions. That helps somewhat to lessen the scandalous contradiction between the postulated unity of truth and the factual plurality of opinions - as long as the contradiction cannot be removed. Under these assumptions, a true theory would be one which not only grounded its own theses best, but also knew how to disarm with ideology critique all essential and persistent counter-positions. In this regard, as one can easily see, official Marxism has the greatest ambition, since the major part of its theoretical energy is dedicated to outflanking and exposing all non-Marxist theories as 'bourgeois ideologies.' Only through this continual one-upmanship are the ideologists able to "live" with the plurality of ideologies. De facto, ideology critique implies the attempt to construct a hierarchy between exposing and exposed theory; in the war of consciousness one desires to be on top, that is, to attain a synthesis of claims to power and better insights. Since critique, contrary to academic custom, does not hesitate to use personal arguments, the universities have probably approached ideology critique with deliberate caution. For the attack from the flank, the is argumentum adpersonam, despised within the 'academic community.'



Serious critique meets its opponent in its best form; it honors itself when it overcomes its rival in the full armor of its rationality. For as long as possible, the community of scholars has tried to defend its integrity against the arm-to-arm combat of ideology critique. "Do not unmask, so that you yourself will not be unmasked," could be the unspoken rule. It is no accident that the great representatives of critique - the French Moralists, the Encyclopedists, the socialists, individually Heine, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud - remain outside the republic of scholars. They all have a satirical, polemical component which can scarcely be hidden under the mask of scientific seriousness. These signals of a holy non-seriousness, still one of the sure indices of truth, will be used here as signposts leading toward the critique of cynical reason. We discover a reliably unreliable travelling companion in Heinrich Heine who better than any other managed to combine theory and satire, knowledge and good cheer. Following in his tracks,I shall try to reunite the capacities for truth in literature, satire and art with those of'scientific discourse.' The right of ideology critique to argue personally was acknowledged even by the strictestabsolutist of reason, J.G. Fichte - aptly compared to Napoleon by Heine - when he says that the kind of philosophy one chooses depends on what kind of person one is. This critique intrudes into the conditionality of human opinion either with compassionate lightheartedness or cruel seriousness. It seizes error from behind and pulls up its roots in practical life. This procedure is not exactly modest, but it excuses its immodesty by insisting on the principle of the unity of truth. What dissection brings to light is the everlasting embarrassment of ideas in face of the underlying interests: human, all too human; egoisms, class privileges, resentments, persistence of hegemonic powers. Under such illumination, the oppositional subject appears not only psychologically but also socio-politically undermined. Accordingly, one can not understand its standpoint until one complements its own self-portrayal with whatever truths lie hidden behind and beneath it. Ideology critique thus makes a claim which links it to hermeneutics: the claim to understand an 'author' better than he understands himself. What at first sounds arrogant can be methodologically justified. The other often perceives things in me which really do escape my attention - and vice versa. He has the advantage of distance, from which I can profit only retrospectively through dialogical mirroring. This of course would presuppose a functioning dialogue, which in the process of ideology critique is precisely that which does not take place. An ideology critique, however, which does not clearly accept its identity as satire, can easily be transformed from an instrument in the

PeterSloterdijk 205 searchfor truthinto one of "beingright."All too often, it hindersthe conversationinsteadof opening it to new paths.Leavinggeneralantiattitudesaside, this explains some of scholasticand anti-intellectual with ideology critique. the currentdissatisfaction Thus it happens that an ideology critiquewhich presents itself as science, because it is not allowed to be satire,becomes increasingly entangledin seriousradicalsolutions. One of these is its strikingtenFalseconsciousnessappears dencyto seekrefugein psychopathology. firstof all as sickconsciousness.Almostall important worksof the 20th century on the phenomenon of ideology do this - from Sigmund Freudto Wilhelm Reich to Ronald Laingand David Cooper, not to mentionJosephGabel,who has drawnthe most extensiveanalogybetween ideology and schizophrenia.Preciselythose postures are suspected of being sickwhich loudly proclaimthemselvesto be the most healthy,normal and natural.A critiquebased on psychopathology, although probablyin substancejustified, risksalienatingopponents more and more deeply;it reifiesand abrogatesthe other'sreality.In the end, the ideologycriticstandsbefore the opposing consciousness likeone of the modern,highlyspecializedpathologists who, admittedcan precisely diagnose the pathologicaldisturbance,but knows ly, nothing about therapies,because that falls outside his area of competence. Such critics,similarto some doctorscorruptedby theirprofession, are interestedin the diseasesand not in the patients. The most humorless reificationof every opposing consciousness hasgrownout of the ideologycritiqueconnectedwithMarx(andI will not commentwhetherthis is a caseof legitimateuse or of misuse).The radicalreification the opponent hasbeen in anycasea factualconseof Marxian quence of the polit-economicalrealismwhich characterizes theory.However,an additionalmotif comes into playhere:if all other exposures lead false consciousnessback to darkelements of the human totality (lies, nastiness, egoism, repression, division, illusion, wishful thinking,etc.), then the Marxianexposure comes up against elements,the lawsof the polit-economicalprocessas a non-subjective whole. One does not uncover'humanweaknesses' when one criticizes ideologiesfrom the perspectiveof politicaleconomy. Rather,one hits on an abstractsocialmechanismin which individuals,as membersof classes, have distinctfunctions:as capitalist,as proletarian,as intermediatefunctionary, theoreticalstoogeof the system.Butneitherin as the head nor in the limbs of the system is there any clarityabout the natureof thewhole.Eachmemberis mystified awaythatcorresponds in to itsposition.Eventhe capitalist, spiteof his practical in with experience seesnotruepicture the totalnetwork, remains necessarily of but a capital, deluded epiphenomenon of the process of capital.



A second shoot of modern cynicism grows here. As soon as I assume, using Marx's formulation, a'necessarily false consciousness,' the spiral ofreification turns further. The heads of humans would then be filled with precisely the errors which have to be there for the system to function - towards its collapse. In the gaze of the Marxist critic there glitters an irony which is a priori doomed to cynicism. For he admits that the ideologies which, from an external point of view, are false consciousness, are precisely the right consciousness when seen from the inside. Ideologies appear simply as the appropriate errors in the corresponding heads: 'correct false consciousness.' One recalls the definition of cynicism in my first preliminary reflection. The difference is that the Marxist critic accords 'correct false consciousness' the chance to enlighten itself or to be enlightened - by Marxism. Then it would have become "true" consciousness, not'enlightened false consciousness,' as the cynicism formula reads. Theoretically, the option of emancipation is kept open. Every sociological systems theory which treats 'truth' functionalistically carries with it an immense cynical potential. And since every contemporary intelligence is caught up in the process of such sociological theories, it becomes ineluctably entangled in the latent or open master cynicism inherent in these forms of thinking. Marxism, at least in its origins, maintained an ambivalence between reifying and emancipatory perspectives. Non-Marxist systems theories of society abandon the last trace of such reservations.In alliance with neo-conservative trends, they proclaim that useful members of society must internalize certain 'correct illusions' once and for all, because without them nothing functions properly. The naivete of others should be planned, It beingmanhimself." is always a good investment to make use "capitalfix of a naive will to work, never mind for what. After all, the systems theoreticians and maintenance strategistsare beyond naive belief from the start. However, for those who are supposed to believe a ban on reflection and a call for stable values are in effect. Whoever provides the means of liberating reflection and invites others to use them strikes the conservatives as an unscrupulous and power-hungry idler, whom they accuse of letting "others do the work." Well then, for whom? Translated MichaelEldredand LeslieA. Adelson by

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