‘Thinking’, ‘Modernity’, and ‘Poetic Acts’
The Theory of Bloom and Destituent Potential was Always a Vehicle for the Religious New Right
What is the connection between ‘thinking’ and ‘modernity’ and ‘poetic acts’? How did Martin Heidegger’s notion of “das Man” (‘the They’) reconstitute itself firstly within Hannah Arendt’s insistence that Adolf Eichmann failed to ‘think’, and then in Giorgio Agamben and Tiqqun’s ‘Bloom Theory’?
‘The They’ is (for Heidegger, Tiqqun, Agamben, and Arendt) the modern human condition, a banal condition in which we lose ourselves. (See Appendix 1)
Heidegger writes (1927): “One’s Dasein is dissolved completely into the Being of ‘the Others’, so much so, that the Others, as distinguishable and explicit, vanish more and more.”
For Heidegger, as with all the ‘anti-modernists’ (by the way, there is nothing wrong with critiquing society, so long as one doesn’t fall into or invoke actual ‘traditionalism’), the central crime of modernity is a lack of thinking:
“The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking” (Heidegger 1954).
Hannah Arendt employs Heidegger’s concept of ‘the They’ in her portrayal of Adolf Eichmann:
“The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal [i.e., they are ‘the They’]… Evil comes from a failure to think” (Arendt 1963).
Following Arendt (who followed Heidegger), Agamben and Tiqqun elaborate on this new, modern, figure of the human:
“Bloom, since he’s not an individuality, doesn’t let himself be characterized by anything he says, does, or manifests” (Tiqqun 1999).
This was part of Eichmann’s (lying) defense of himself as someone who was ‘just following orders’. but his defense is a trick and Arendt fell for it because of her commitment to Heidegger’s ‘anti-modern’ philosophy. The fact that Tiqqun re-assert the supposed truth of Eichmann’s lying defense, as Arendt did, demonstrates their own commitment to understanding the malaise and ‘ruin’ of the ‘modern’ world in Heideggerian terms.
Tiqqun continue their thesis that we are all Eichmann (well, maybe not them, since they are perhaps cleverer than the rest of us) and that, essentially, Eichmann was an ‘innocent’ victim (even if, as Arendt also insisted, he deserved his fate): “But it is precisely to the extent that he is not an individual that Bloom establishes relations with his peers. Bloom [is the] I that is a THEY [and] the THEY that is an I, [which] is the very thing that the fiction of the individual was invented to counter” (Tiqqun 1999). (See Appendix 2)
As Andreas Grossmann writes:
“Heidegger states in the final passages of his Heraclitus lecture  that ‘the greatest and genuine test of the Germans’ is still forthcoming. This is the question as to ‘whether they, the Germans, are in concord with the truth of Being, whether they are strong enough beyond the readiness for death to save the seminal in its inconspicuous adornment from the small-mindedness of the modern world.’ The real danger that Germany is in, he claims, is not ‘the danger of its downfall, but the danger that we, being confused, surrender to the will of modernity and drift towards it.’
“And Heidegger concludes: ‘In order that this calamity not occur, in the coming decades the thirty- and forty- years old who have learned to think essentially are required’.” (Grossmann, 2004)
Compare with Giorgio Agamben, who has made Heideggerian language even vaguer and even more ‘meaningless’:
“For destituent potential it is necessary to think entirely different strategies, whose definition is the task of the coming politics” (Agamben 2014).
“The profanation of the unprofanable is the political task of the coming generation” (Agamben 2005).
Following Heidegger, much of the ‘Vitalist Left’ (or at least those who follow Deleuze and Agamben at an academic level) and extreme-right in Italy, are keen to use Friedrich Hölderlin as some kind of ‘originary poet’ of our ‘destituent times’.
But Andreas Grossmann (2004) identifies how Heidegger misuses Friedrich Hölderlin for his ‘anti-modern’ ends:
“It is because Hölderlin was the first [according to Heidegger] to experience the German plight of being not at home [compare with Camatte, and Emil Cioran’s ‘wandering’], that he alone could pronounce the “law of the Germans’ coming to be at home”. In the plight of history, he is the one who is necessary, the averter of danger, the one who makes a “poetic dwelling” [compare with Tiqqun and Agamben] possible, thus opening the dimension of the “holy” in an unholy time.
Heidegger’s interpretations can only take this line, however, because they forcibly exclude several decisive facets of Hölderlin’s text — such as the allusions to the French Revolution in Andenken or the figure of the Asian East in the same poem as well as in Ister.
In this way, Hölderlin is subjected to a special perspective rooted in a philosophy of history, a perspective that is completely alien to him, and as a result his poetic texts are ‘totalized’.”
(From: ‘The Myth of Poetry: On Heidegger’s Hölderlin,’ Andreas Grossmann, 2004, available on Jstor)
And so, however absurdly, poetry, the ‘poetic act’, and theology have become the new rallying cries of the libertarian left:
“We need to create an outside from within. Imagination, poetry: the act of creation of an outside is the poetic act we need now. Call it, if you want, imaginative transcendence” (Franco Bifo Berardi 2012).
“What critique needs now is poets and theologians” (Tiqqun 1999).
“A poetic life is the one that, in every adventure, obstinately maintains itself in relation not with an act but with a potency, not with a god but with a demigod” (Agamben 2015).
“To be a poet in a destitute time means: to attend, singing, to the trace of the fugitive gods. This is why the poet in the time of the world’s night […yes, sigh, poor Martin, the Nazis had just been defeated…] utters the holy” (Heidegger 1946).
Heidegger is foundational to the present-day ‘neo-religious’ perspectives not only of Agamben and much of the ‘Vitalist Left’, but also of, for example, Gerardo Muñoz and Alberto Moreiras (Infrapolitics: A Handbook, 2020/21), as well as the rising communist academic Kieran Aarons who will soon be publishing with Idris Robinson (a student of Muñoz) in South Atlantic Quarterly. Aarons incorporates, for example, Furio Jesi and the philosopher Father Reiner Schürmann, into his scholarship on ‘destituent power’ and ‘anarchy.’
For more on Heidegger’s misuse of Hölderlin, which, via Italy, has gone down so triumphantly in radical Anglophone academia:
Mickey Moosenhauer 2022
The word banal was made famous in certain circles by the Situationist International, and in Anglophone countries it was a sign of one’s radicality — or ennui towards society — if one could insert it into any written or verbal text (it still is for some, and those who continue to use the word as a badge of credibility are, of course, to détourne Vaneigem, speaking with a corpse in their mouths).
The word banalization (“A mental disease has swept the planet: banalization”) was used by Ivan Chtcheglov in Formulary for a New Urbanism (1953), written while he was a member of the Lettrist International (a pre-cursor to the SI), and printed in the first issue of Internationale Situationiste (June 1958). In issue 7 (April 1962), Raoul Vaneigem published Basic Banalities (Banalités de base). In 1963 Hannah Arendt’s book on the Eichmann trial was published: A Report on the Banality of Evil.
The banalization that supposedly characterizes modern life was described by Chtcheglov as “a mental disease”: “Everyone is hypnotized by production and conveniences — sewage system, elevator, bathroom, washing machine.” Chtcheglov continues:
“This state of affairs, arising out of a struggle against poverty, has overshot its ultimate goal — the liberation of humanity from material cares — and become an omnipresent obsessive image. Presented with the alternative of love or a garbage disposal unit, young people of all countries have chosen the garbage disposal unit. It has become essential to provoke a complete spiritual transformation by bringing to light forgotten desires and by creating entirely new ones. And by carrying out an intensive propaganda in favor of these desires.”
69 years later (2022) Tiqqun (Manifeste conspirationniste) still write the same thing, but with added ‘conspiracy’:
“There is a designer behind each innocent object we use, behind each detail of the pissoir where we urinate, behind each light in every display we approach.”
Martin Heidegger — a more orthodox traditionalist, and one who bemoaned the fact that the Nazis did not go far enough — also disdained modern technology and the ‘hypnotism’ of the masses. He framed this disdain within a discourse of ‘authenticity’ and ‘inauthenticity’, which Jean-Paul Sartre and the Existentialists took up. Heidegger insisted that we must reflect on the “power of the root-unfolding of technology” and “the destruction of language”.
Tellingly, the present-day ultra-left, “critical theory” magazine, Cured Quail bemoans “the aesthetic, social and conceptual prevalence of illiteracy.” Heidegger blamed the rise or acceleration of technology on the Jewish people and claimed that the development of the gas chambers and other infrastructure of the Shoah was a direct result of the Jewish influence on the world (modernity). The Shoah was, according to Heidegger, ‘their fault’, as Donatella Di Cesari explains in Heidegger and the Jews. It was the Jewish people, for Heidegger, who brought, or forced into existence the phenomenon of “the They”. It was the Jewish people, according to Heidegger, who were guilty of making us all ‘unthinking’. He also, as is known, bemoaned the rise of democracy in Ancient Greece.
Why is it that Continental Philosophy, and groups such as Endnotes, Cured Quail, etc, continue to mine this anti-modernity theme? A theme that begins in the same ‘inauthenticity’ of modern life that Heidegger thought could be minimized with the eradication of the Jewish people?
Perhaps it is because they prefer to connect their version of ‘anti-modernity’ to Georg Lukács rather than Heidegger? But it is often argued — it’s not been decided — that Heidegger wrote Being and Time (1927) in direct response to Lukács’ formulations on ‘reification’ in History and Class Consciousness (1923). Certainly, it is true that:
“The two great philosophers of alienation, reification and inauthenticity, who came to fame during the 1920s, [were] Georg Lukács and Martin Heidegger.”
(Rolf Wiggershaus, 1986/95, The Frankfurt School, p95. Also quoted in Mikko Immanen, 2020, Toward a Concrete Philosophy: Heidegger and the Emergence of the Frankfurt School, p27)
And certainly it is also true that Debord’s theory of the spectacle is an elaboration of Lukács’ theory of reification, And certainly it is true that the ‘anti-modernity’ sentiments expressed by Debord are what attracts those on the far-right to his work, such as Aleksandr Dugin (described by Holocaust denier and “Author at CounterPunch.org”, Israel Shamir, as “a master of tools sharpened by Jean Baudrillard and Guy Debord,” 2014) and various other ‘red-brown confusionists.’
Chtcheglov, however, envisioned not a return to the woods in the style of Heidegger (or Jacques Camatte) to solve the problem of technology. He suggested extending it, to make a new ever-changing city expressive of a “continuous dérive” for its inhabitants. But Chtchglov’s fanciful idea never got off the ground. It is much easier just to complain about modern technology and assume the persona of ‘the grumpy old man’.
Heidegger had early (now forgotten) critics, as Américo Schvartzman wrote in 2021:
“Heidegger’s aversion to modernity & technology — repeated today by various philosophers, fashionable or not so fashionable — was already seen in his time as an expression of the conservatism that characterized reactionary thinkers of all periods.”
Lukács, however, appears to have escaped the notice of the scholars, both back then and in our own time.
But, to return to the word banal. First then, it is important to connect the word to the concepts of ‘inauthenticity’ and ‘authenticity’ and ‘the They’ as expressed by Heidegger.
And if we look at what was the most inspiring text for Guy Debord (the one he returned to most often: see Anselm Jappe’s chapter in The Situationist International: A Critical Handbook, 2020), The Critique of Everyday Life by Henri Lefebvre (1947), we can perhaps see directly where Chtcheglov got banalization from and how it went from Heidegger, through Lefebvre, Arendt, Debord, Marcuse, Baudrillard, etc — right to Tiqqun and the present-day ultraleft:
“Intellectuals, ‘cultivated’ men, are convinced in advance (why?) that everyday life has only triviality to offer. In fact this belief plays an important role in so-called ‘existential’ philosophy, which condemns all non-metaphysical life to triviality and inauthenticity.
The study of everyday life shows clearly that people with secrets, with inner lives, with mysteries, lead mundane everyday lives. The myth of the triviality of everyday life is dispelled whenever what seems to be mysterious turns out to be really trivial, and what seems to be exceptional is exposed as manifestly banal” (Lefebvre 1947).
In Metaphilosophy (1965), Lefebvre writes:
“In ‘Being and Time’ , Heidegger shows man and thought cast into the world, into dereliction [i.e. ‘destitute/destituent’]. Man escapes this by concealing his condition of being-for-death … in the inauthentic, in banality.”
And further, compare with the later ‘anti-modernist’ (traditionalist) work of Jean Baudrillard, from ‘Simulacra and Simulation’ onwards, which, along with Camatte and Debord, today also finds favor amongst the far-right and religious conservatives.
Something has clearly gone wrong. But with a little digging it is not so hard to find the origin of the error and how it has been disseminated, and therefore perhaps to rectify it and interrupt the absurdist arc that the ultraleft and those committed to ‘anti-politics’ find themselves on.
Tiqqun’s insistence here that ‘the individual’ is a fiction fails to serve their thesis for two reasons. Firstly, because they indicate that ‘Bloom’ could be ‘an individual’, if ‘he’ wasn’t Bloom (i.e, didn’t live in modern times). And secondly, because they do not situate themselves, as they should, as Bloom themselves in any meaningful or intelligent way, if they did then they would have to explain that everything they wrote was ‘rubbish’. Tiqqun’s failure to be as radical as they think they are is another humorous aspect of the Tiqqun phenomenon. There is no possibility of ‘individuality’ in any society whatsoever — all members of any society are functions and reproducers of that society. Tiqqun’s analysis is by no means radical enough, even though it aspires to radicality and extremism in its colorful and macho-cool language.