Sunday, January 06, 2008

Kulchural Studies III: Ereignis

I want to use the word Ereignis (event) to capture the process of metaphysical transformation or, as Heidegger puts it, the "adaptation" of Being (Sein) to changing cultural contexts. This is what makes it relevant to kulchural studies.

One of the most important metaphysical transformations is that of "modernity" (Neuzeit): the human being becomes a subject, the world becomes a picture (Gebild). Another is the technological "enframing" of human experience (Gestell).

"The danger is the epoch of Being coming to presence as enframing." ("The Turning", p. 43)

There is a "gathering" of pictures and structures that condition (both drive and restrict) our vision and our motion. We must understand their effect on us. (They constitute what Pound called "the process now going on" that we must "get wise to".) Today, we can safely call our (Western) societies something like technologically advanced liberal democracies. (I live in a so-called "social democracy", but the basic cultural assumptions are today much more those of "liberalism". In any case...)

This is what makes Ereignis both interesting and "dangerous" (in a sense that resonates with Heidegger's but is not quite what he means.) There is that infamous reference in the Introduction to Metaphysics to the "the inner truth and greatness" of National Socialism: "namely, the encounter between global technology and modern humanity" (IM 152).

Lewis and Pound also believed that there were alternatives to democracy as a response to "modern" conditions. Pound openly supported Italian fascism and Lewis wrote a sympathetic treatment of Hitler.

Pound talked about the "genius of Mussolini and Hitler". He was not simply "wrong" about this. It's a bit more complicated than that. Kulchural studies is based on the disturbing possibility that the "encounter" between humanity and technology is the "greatness" of fascism. Certainly, that encounter is still going on.

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