(fwd from Mertz) Re: Middle-earth fascism?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Dec 20 13:35:01 MST 2001

>I have my doubts on Wolin's success.  At least in Ryerson's
>characterization, one of the "taints" is the notion that "the worst
>features of the 20th-century ...[are] extensions of modern democratic
>ideals."  But that claim has a broader standing than any Heideggerian
>roots.  For example, Claude Lefort--whom no one, I think, can imagine a
>Heideggerian--reaches a similar analysis to Marcuse on the relation
>between democracy and totalitarianism.  But even if wrong, the way Wolin
>does it is the right way.
>Yours, Lulu...

I post a lot of things on the list to stimulate discussion (and even
controversy) rather than to sit on judgement on Tolkein, Marcuse or
whoever. Based on David's carefully reasoned reply, I can say this is what
I would have hoped for. I have never really thought that much about
Tolkien, although I read "The Hobbit" back in 1961 and enjoyed it.

A couple of hours after posting the NY Times review of Wolin's "Heidegger's
Children", I had a chance to follow up. Since I was rather close to Hans
Jonas, one of the "children", I was curious to see where Wolin was coming
from. The book is for sale at Labyrinth Bookstore and I thought about
picking it up. A cursory search of Wolin on google came up with some rather
interesting results. He seems to be a radical who is on a rightward course.
At one time he wrote for "In These Times", but more recently he has
appeared regularly in the pages of the New Republic where he likes to bash
postmodernists from the same angle as Norman Levitt. He even has
associations with the Olin Center at the U. of Chicago, which is funded by
the Olin Foundation. This think-tank is a center for neoconservative
thought and includes Leo Strauss and Saul Bellow among its fellows.

I studied Heidegger many years ago at the New School with Hans Jonas. The
graduate philosophy department was very much mittel-Europa phenomenological
and existentialist in its orientation. I took a few classes with Aaron
Gurwitsch, who was considered the premier expert on Husserl in the USA.
After 2 years of this stuff, which was certainly more interesting and even
relevant than the analytical and linguistic stuff being taught at most
schools, I decided to get involved with revolutionary politics. I really
didn't read much philosophy after leaving graduate school and still don't.

Leaving aside Heidegger's reactionary politics, which are hardly germane to
the issue that concerns me (although it is germane to Wolin's rightwing
attack), I do question the use of 20th century phenomenology or idealist
philosophy in general to the task of making a revolution. I am not just
opposed to drawing from Heidegger. I think it is a waste of time to borrow
from Whitehead, as David Harvey does. It's too bad that these sorts of
questions can't be thrashed out on the RPA list, where I met Lulu. (He
defended me from being cast out in ignominy.) But the intellectual dry rot
brought on by tenure militates against that.

Louis Proyect
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