Against American gigantism: on Peter Trawny’s Heidegger & the myth of a Jewish World Conspiracy. (Gerardo Muñoz)

Trawny Heidegger Jewish 2016

One of Peter Trawny’s main theses in his new book Martin Heidegger & the myth of a Jewish world conspiracy (University of Chicago Press, 2016), if not the central one, is that the expansion of machination at world scale was identified by Heidegger not only as the invisible power in the hands of a “dangerous band of Jews” (as Jaspers writes in his Philosophical autobiography), but also as “North America”, understood as the hyperbolic location for the fulfillment of wordlessness calculation. “Americanism” was tacitly interpreted by Heidegger as completion of nihilism, due to a “gigantism” that surpassed even the English overseas imperial trade. America lacked a proper destiny.

Against the idea of Empire built on the thriving commercial rationality, Heidegger counter-posed a non-biological conception of race ingrained in the possibility for a German turning vis-à-vis the poetic, the gods, and “the encounter in which each learn through what is respectively foreign” (Trawny 2016, 52). Whereas the “other beginning” for Germans was marked by the event of being-historical, continues Trawny, “Americanism is simply incapable of a beginning because it does not know the “origin”, because it is the offspring of an English that pursues its “gigantic business” (Trawny 2016, 37).

Taking distance from American machination also implied an open anti-Semitism within the history-of-being, conditioned by a fear due to loss of ground and a-locational fissure of dwelling. If this is Heidegger’s position in the recently published Black Notebooks, one could read here a paradoxical conjunction between Trawny’s first book Freedom to fail: Heidegger’s anarchy (Polity, 2015)- where errancy signaled not just momentary slippages of thought, but constitutive phases of his philosophy – and now errancy as privation of historical destiny. It seems as if between Trawny’s first and second book on Heidegger’s Black notebooks, what we get are really two types of errancy: the first that has to do with the site of the philosopher’s thought in opening of the Ereignis and second phase, where errancy is externalized and deeply connected to the anti-semitic a-locational dwelling in America.

It is here where one could partially inscribe a distance against Heidegger’s anti-Americanism, and establish an alternative anti-anti-Americanism, which would neither affirm the dismissal of America as the site of nihilism in the name of “Destiny” or lack thereof, nor uphold a populist or American imperialism in the name of modern mass consumerism and historical exceptionalism. Rather, it is precisely the a-locational errancy which one could affirm as a third space of an American experience of freedom. This will be the Marrano freedom, both at the level of politics as well at the level of the work within the university (knowledge).

What is crucial here to understand seems to be that Heidegger’s dismissal of America as gigantism went beyond the well-known aristocratic resentment against modern industrial society, exemplified by poets such as Stefan George or R.M. Rilke; or reactionary conservatives such as Erik Peterson, Carl Schmitt, or Julius Evola. What differentiates Heidegger’s anti-Americanism revolves around the fear of errancy and foreignness that is predicated on “race” (Judaic domination and reproduction). As Trawny quotes Heidegger:

“World Judaism spurred on by the emigrants let out of Germany, is everywhere elusive. In all the unfurling of its power, it need nowhere engage in military actions, whereas it remains for us to sacrifice the best blood of the best of our people” (Trawny 2016, 30).

It would be wrong to infer from this annotation that Heidegger is making a plea for a sacrificial substance within the German history-of-being. In fact, as Trawny reminds us, Heidegger’s anti-Americanism is accompanied by a deep regret against Germans who, instead of following the path of poets and thinkers (the conference on Holderlin’s Ister was given during the war), were deceived by the “rootless foreignness” who reckoned unto German ground in Jünger’s total mobilization (Trawny 2016, 53). What fundamentally perturbed Heidegger, however, was not the errancy of the German destiny, but the fact that American machination had turned the “rootless foreign” in all directions and spaces. Returning invisibly to the very German ground.

Why was the radical thinker of finitude unable to comprehend the horizon of democracy as consistent with the tragic condition of thought? This seems to be the limit of Heidegger’s intra-war politicity. A limit that Reiner Schürmann and Hannah Arendt’s problematize in their respective endorsements of aprincipial democracy. Against an easy dismissal of Heidegger’s thought, Schürmann’s Broken Hegemonies could well be said to affirm the a-locational errancy of democracy through the development of two of his master concepts: singularization to come and the releasement of tragic denial effectuated in hegemonic order. Beyond Heidegger’s another beginning based on Parmenides, Schürmann’s destitution of henology is reworked precisely in the name of a tragic democracy.

It is interesting that both Schürmann and Arendt were thinkers committed to different projects of post-heideggerianism in United States and that neither affirmed an Anti-Americanism of North-American gigantism, nor assumed the conventional anti-imperialist anti-Americanism sentiment of so many Cold War Lefts. It would be naïve to say that Arendt or Schürmann “fixed” Heidegger’s anti-Semitic anti-Americanism, but both definitely rework the nexus between the democratic stature and the place of thinking against the grain of onto-theology. Trawny’s book do not take up these issues, but allow us to commence to discuss them.

Our task leaves us with the necessity of affirming Heidegger’s dismissal of a-locational foreignness as a space of freedom of thought, if we are to remain committed to what in recent times Alberto Moreiras and Miguel Abensour have called savage democracy. America could well be said to be the name of that inheritance that is no longer in need of affirming a destiny or “a people”.

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