Monday, October 04, 2004

"Flirting with fascism - or 'flirting' with Habermas?"

"At the beginning of September, Sloterdijk published an extraordinary letter (Die Zeit, 2 September) accusing Habermas of agitating against him. The tone of the letter is petulant: `you have talked about me with numerous people, never with me.' It appears that Habermas - who has not published anything on this affair - did, however, write letters and make phone calls to criticize the Elmau address. Sloterdijk also accuses him of sending copies of the text to ex-students working in the press, marked with instructions on how to misinterpret it. All of this is summed up in the claim that Habermas `objectifies' Sloterdijk. Habermas's criticisms position Sloterdijk `as a mechanism, not as a person'. This makes Sloterdijk feel free to vent his own spleen: `You belong to the inhuman heirs of the ideology critique style of thought.... You are, in this, only an average supporter of a problematic habit that one once glossed over with the honorary office of critique.' All very entertaining. The letter rises to its hyperbolic finale in which - on the grounds that Habermas chose to discuss his speech among colleagues and not directly with him - Sloterdijk accuses Habermas of performatively contradicting the premisses of his own discourse theory. If Habermas (of all people) achieves his polemical goals in such an underhand fashion, then what remains of the inheritance of the tradition of Frankfurt Critical Theory. Not much, says Sloterdijk.

Critical theory is, on this Second of September, dead. She was long since bedridden, the sullen old woman, now she has passed away completely. We will gather at the grave of an epoch, to take stock, but also to think of the end of an hypocrisy. Thinking means thanking, said Heidegger. I say, rather, thinking means to heave a sigh of relief. (Die Zeit, 9 September)

Even if we take Sloterdijk's letter seriously, it is still a source of surprise that the author of The Critique of Cynical Reason is overcome in the face of the outrage his own provocation has caused. Manfred Frank (Die Zeit, 23 September), himself no fan of Habermas, dismisses Sloterdijk's claims as a `pointless flirtation with embarrassing material'. Ernst Tugendhat, in his contribution, says Sloterdijk's claims are `rubbish', asking `what have things come to when critique must always first obtain the consent of the author?' If significance is to be granted this exchange then perhaps it could be found in elaboration of Sloterdijk's failure to live up to his own call for bold, kynikal, provocation ?" ["more here"

No comments:

Locations of visitors to this page