“THESE GOOD EUROPEANS”:
THE ADORNO-HORKHEIMER-GADAMER CONSENSUS
However far language might slip into a technical function, as language it holds the invariable things in our nature fast, those things which come to be spoken of in language again and again. And the language of philosophy, as long as it remains language, will remain a dialogue with that language of the world.
GADAMER, Hegel's Dialectic
Everything that is thought, written, painted, composed, even built and formed, belongs either to monologic art or to art before witnesses. Among the latter is to be taken into account even that apparently monologue-art which involves faith in God, the entire lyric of prayer: because for the pious there is as yet no solitude—this invention was made only by us, the godless. I know no more profound difference in the entire optic of an artist than this: whether he looks out from his work in progress (at “himself”) with the eye of a witness, or whether he has “forgotten the world,” which is the essence of all monologic art. It is based on forgetting, it is the music of forgetting.
NIETZSCHE, The Gay Science
Let us now turn back to the year 1950 as the symbolic and actual halfway point between the death of Nietzsche's corpse, the concomitant birth of his
Nineteen fifty marked the half century after Nietzsche's death with several public events. Above all, in retrospect, there was Bataille's remark that “Nietzsche's position is the only one outside of communism”—a thought whose repercussions have only now begun to be played out in social as well as intellectual history, for we find ourselves in a situation in which, assuming “the death of communism,” Nietzsche and Nietzscheanism have become totalitarian, globally hegemonic. Nineteen fifty also saw the affirmation and reaffirmation of Nietzsche as an “existentialist” philosopher, albeit one working in basic solidarity within the antifoundational tradition of enlightenment critique. This interpretation was codified philosophically in the recent republication and discussion of the 1936 Nietzsche book by Karl Jaspers, and publicized in the English-speaking world by Walter Kaufmann's obsessive and influential rehabilitation of existentialism and especially of Nietzsche. Particularly in Germany, 1950 celebrated Nietzsche with several more public occurrences, including two major radio shows. The second of these remains relatively well known (at least in Germany), namely, Gottfried Benn's broadcast entitled “Nietzsche—nach fiinfzig Jahren” (Nietzsche—after fifty years). It was transmitted from Berlin on August 25, fifty years to the day after Nietzsche's death. Benn not only depicted Nietzsche hyper-bolically as “the most far reaching giant of the post-Goethean epoch” but also radiophonically as “die groBte Ausstrahlungsphanomen der Geistes-geschichte.” Which we can now translate as “the greatest phenomenon of radiation, of radio and radioactivity, in the history of consciousness.” A year earlier Benn had celebrated what he called Radardenken (radar thinking). He now turned, on radio, to Nietzsche. Benn not merely affirmatively constated Nietzsche's commitment to “monologic art,” he also reperformed it in his patented monotone, producing a hagiographic levitation rite around Nietzsche's corpse. The first radio show on Nietzsche had already taken place at the end of July, and is today almost wholly unknown or forgotten. Whereas Benn's broadcast was a self-conscious monologue about a monologue, the first broadcast was to have been a dialogue. In other terms, Benn's format was far closer to the spirit of Nietzsche than had been the first transmission; if the latter had been designed as a proleptic strike against Benn's position, it failed miserably. In this respect it has justly sunk into virtual oblivion.
That an unacknowledged consensus with regard to Nietzsche cuts across virtually all ideological differences is succinctly illustrated by this second broadcast, “Uber Nietzsche und uns: Zum 50. Todestag des Philosophen”
Now, specifically German philosophy—as well as mutatis mutandis continental European philosophy in the last three-quarters of the twentieth century, its high-modernist moment—was defined by three texts published in a half-decade of the Weimar period: Wittgenstein's Tractatus logico-philosophicus in 1921; Lukacs's History and Class-Consciousness in 1923–24; and the never-completed torso of Heidegger's Being and Time in 1927. “These three works, the most influential philosophical writings of this century, originated from, and defined themselves in relation to, certain traditions which they themselves brought to an end.” The effect of National Socialism, on at least German academic philosophy, was to eliminate or radically diminish—and not just temporarily between 1933 and 1946—the impact of two of these three seminal works, their traditions and legacies. Both the analytic, postpositivist, and latter common-language tendency and the Hegelian-Marxist tendency were both effectively terminated or deformed during the Third Reich and its immediate aftermath. All that remained more or less intact was the Nietzschean-Heideggerian tendency, most notably represented after World War II by Gadamer. When analytic philosophy and Marxism belatedly began to return, as the latter did in the work of Horkheimer and Adorno's Frankfurt School of Social Research, they were critically but indelibly effected by the Heideggerian—hence Ni-etzschean—tendency. This, then, is the sociological explanation for the symptomatic and exemplary modern “virtual consensus” that I identify as Radio Nietzsche. But mere sociology is never adequate even to describe, let alone explain, such complex issues.
In the 1950 Frankfurt “conversation,” despite minor differences of opinion about Nietzsche (having to do, I would argue, with different views of Heidegger), there turned out to be remarkably few real bones of contention. In short, yet another consensus under capitalist hegemony. What was really at stake, in other words, was already the German complement to the
Now, remarkably, this is the philosophical version of the social “convergence theory” that has deep, and problematic, roots in nineteenth-century German conservative thought. As recently as the 1930-5, for Heidegger and (other) Nazis alike, this theory had held that the United States and the USSR had developed into an “in-essence-the-same” syndico-technical form of society. This entailed the proposition that Germany, “the heart of Europe” (Holderlin), must seek its proper “third way” between and beyond the “pincers” of “Americanism and Bolshevism.” (Similar national and social self-legitimations were global, most visibly in Japan.) In this matter, there was also a difference. Our three German panelists concurred that “Americanism” (read: pragmatism, Fordism, Taylorism, pluralism, multiculturalism, liberal democracy, culture industry and mass culture, and so on) necessarily entails the instrumentalization of language and the latter's “reduction to statements and propositions” (as Horkheirner put it). By contrast, under Soviet communism, “every word is a thesis for which one can die, if taken at one's word.” But these “two cultures” have one tertium quid that Nietzsche is said by the consensus to expose, critique, and properly reject—definitively.
On the consensus view, the relentless, unreflecting tendency of both “rival” cultures is “to take language literally” (in Horkheimer's words), rendering it “simply impossible”—de facto et dejure—even to read a Nietzsche who, as Horkheirner, Adorno, and Gadamer all simply presuppose, used language in a “radically different” manner from the “American-Russian” paradigm. Gadamer prefers to say that Nietzsche was a “parodist,” while Adorno (and, years later, Rorty) favors “ironist,” but in the matter of celebrating Nietzsche it all amounted to the same thing. And it may not have mattered much, ideologically, if others had been invited to the Frankfurt studio that evening in 1950. “When everyone is invited, it is not the hoped-for new science that is being invited (for it is never the result of a gathering of specialists who are ignorant of it), but a character no one has invited—and whom it is not necessary to invite, since it invites itself!—the common theoretical ideology that silently inhabits the ‘consciousness' of all these specialists: when
On this consensus assumption, Nietzsche never quite meant what he said, never could mean what he said. In short, a prohibition performatively becomes a constated impossibility. So it is, for the Frankfurt consensus, that both the Nazi “misappropriation” of Nietzsche and the “whitewashing” of his elitism by well-meaning liberal-existentialist philosophers (meaning Jaspers and especially Kaufmann) were equally misguided, equally literal, potentially “totalitarian” even. Such were the explicit terms employed in the Frankfurt studio. Paradoxically, however, this same ideological consensus holds that in one matter we can read Nietzsche literally, after all. That is, his own remarks ought never to be taken … literally. To be precise: Sometimes we can read Nietzsche literally, sometimes figuratively, or we can conflate the two, but in any case we don't need to get exercised about his intentions, because the one thing we can take at face value is his own claim to be a “free spirit,” “smasher of all idols,” “perspectivist,” “parodist,” “ironist,” “thinker on stage,” “enlightener,” “great emancipator of humankind,” and so forth, ad infinitum et nauseam.
This a priori “logic” with regard to reading Nietzsche is thus at root benevolent about what he intended to say, in spite of the subsequent “misrecog-nition” by all others who take him too literally in one literal direction or another. Yet this “logic” itself remains binary and dualist, rendering it impossible for Nietzsche ever to have said something different or more radical than the consensus can ever see and hear. And what it cannot see and hear is his One Aim, his ruse of reason. This “German consensus” “left,” “right,” and “center”—there are equivalent national variants everywhere, from the French Derrida and Deleuze to the North Atlantic Rorty and across the Pacific—tacitly embodies Nietzsche/anism, never worrying why “we” ought to take him literally only when he might ordain it. If by stating propositions as conclusions without premises we fall short of philosophy, then the Nietzschean consensus falls short o/Radio Nietzsche because it is already always informed and incorporated by Radio Nietzsche. This is not avant-garde radio but slapstick radio—philosophically speaking, speaking with the esoteric Nietzsche himself. He would have had as little use for Gadamer as he would have had for Adorno and Horkheimer (or Benn)—except insofar as he was effectively using all of them to prevent access to any alternative way of approaching him.
What matters most in Radio Nietzsche cannot be perceptible at the level of theme or dialogue. This includes even the fact that what he meant by “fateful” is the task to split future humanity in two by subliminal rhetorical means up to and including suicide and euthanasia. Rather, what matters are his illocutionary means to this end and their actual perlocutionary effect. In other terms, all auditors and speakers within Nietzscheanism—alongside capitalism
Here is Horkheimer introducing the radio broadcast “On Nietzsche and Us”:
Nietzsche predicted that in Germany one would erect monuments to him when he could no longer defend himself. Radio he could not have foreseen. What would he have indeed said if he had foreseen that we-you Mr. Gadamer, and you Mr. Adorno—would sit together and solemnly converse about him on the fiftieth anniversary of his death? Why are we really here?
These remarks at the half-century mark of Nietzsche's death were imprecise if not simply mistaken. The question remains, as we have passed the centenary of that death: Are we any less imprecise and mistaken about Mr. Nietzsche? In any case, the reason Horkheimer, Adorno, and Gadamer were “really here” was that they had gathered unconsciously to embody Nietzsche's corpse and voice. They all “overheard”—and hence reiterated—all the “punctuation marks” of Nietzsche's centrum.
If you listen to the finale of the 1950 broadcast you will hear-more or less unconsciously-not Hans-Georg Gadamer but Pastorsohn Friedrich Nietzsche ventriloquizing the voice of Gadamer, intoning platitudes about Nietzsche's place of birth and burial in the context, or “horizon,” of “world history.” Whereas Benn was simultaneously to perform and constate his embrace of Nietzschean monologue, Gadamer's voice performed precisely the monologue that his own philosophy explicitly rejected at the level of con-statation. This Nietzschean voice-not its message or content but its Stimmung—makes serious critical confrontation with Nietzsche as impossible as does the excited, sharper, and apparently more critical theoretical voices of Adorno and Horkheimer. All are modulations of Nietzsche's own voice. All Nietzscheans speak in his medium, Radio Nietzsche, as mediums for this near-blind living or dead man, and never fully in their own voice. This Adorno-Horkheimer-Gadamer broadcast in 1950 was not a “conversation” or “dialogue” about Nietzsche at all—except on an exoteric level handicapped in advance by Nietzsche exo/esoterically. And not by chance, this broadcast was yet another preliminary, performative celebration of “the death of communism.” The “only” difference between the way Gadamer on the one side and Adorno and Horkheimer on the other received Radio
So I agree with Kqjin Karatani's attempt to shift the drift of what he calls “secular criticism” (at the end of a twentieth century globally marked by the purported death of communism and the factual resurgence of religious fanaticism and theocratic states) away from literary criticism, much psychoanalysis, and cultural studies toward philosophy and proper psychoanalysis (a shift I find more properly informed by Althusser, Lacan, and Karatani than by Derrida or Deleuze). Alluding to Marx's critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Law, Karatani interprets Marx to be arguing “that it is impossible to dissolve any religion unless the ‘real suffering’ upon which every religion is based is dissolved. There is no reason to criticize religion theoretically, because it can only be dissolved practically.”Pace Karatani, however, I do not regard Nietzsche as an immediate ally in any argument. Nietzsche and his repercussions are a form of religion across the ideological spectrum. But this difference aside, I tend to concur with Karatani's thesis that, in our times, “religion, albeit as Schein, has a certain necessity inasmuch as man is an existence of passivity (pathos); it functions ‘regulatively’ as a protest against reality, if not a ‘constitution’ of reality.” Karatani continues:
Although communism as well is a mere Schein, to criticize its “illusion” means no more and no less than “to call on [people] to give up a condition that requires illusions.” And religion will be upheld so long as this state of affairs endures. We can never dissolve fundamentalism by the criticisms or dialogues motivated by enlightenment, precisely because to criticize the “illusion” of the latter is “to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.” The advocating of the collapse of Idee and the insistence on its realization are, in fact, intertwined and inseparable, and both are Schein that represent, each in its own way, the real (the thing-in-itself) of world capitalism, of which they themselves are members.
It is this real that Nietzsche—and the consensus of all Nietzscheans—ultimately monologically has closed off from any “conversation” or “dialogue.” If, as I argue, Nietzsche and Nietzscheanism—Nietzsche's corps/e—constitute the radically unquestioned ideological support—the Idee—of the fundamentalism known as late capitalist hegemony, then this would also confirm per negationem Bataille's 1950 thesis that communism remains the only position outside of Nietzscheanism. For worse or for better.
Closer inspection of Nietzsche's writing than is normally granted it across the ideological spectrum would reveal that it is too simple to say that he was “against” socialism or communism, at least not in any easily identifiable sense. After all, Radio Nietzsche is programmed not to be part of any enlightenment problematic, except exoterically. Here what we consciously hear is incepted to appear different from what we unconsciously get. There
No matter how the public face of a text like Beyond Good and Evil might appear to anyone, the esoteric intent was crystal clear in Nietzsche's mind, the mind of this prototypical “good European.” In 1885 he wrote to himself in his now patented telegraphic mode:
These Good Europeans that we are: What distinguishes us from the Men of the Fatherland? First, we are atheists and immoralists, but for the time being [zunachst] we support the religions and morals of the herd instinct: for these prepare a type of human that must one day fall into our hands, that must desire our hands. Beyond Good and Evil, but we demand the unconditional maintenance of the herd morality. We hold in reserve many types of philosophy that need to be taught: Under some conditions the pessimistic type, as hammer; a European Buddhism might perhaps be indispensable. We probably support the development and maturing of democratic institutions: They enhance weakness of the will: We see in “Socialism” a goad that in the face of comfort ———Position toward nations [or peoples: Volhern]. Our preferences; we pay attention to the results of interbreeding …. By possessing a dis-ciplina voluntatis, we are in advance of our fellow men. All strength applied to the development of will power, an art that allows us to wear masks, an art of understanding beyond affects (also to think a “supra-European” manner on occasion).
That Nietzsche wears illocutionary masks is hardly news. What is at issue is the kind of mask he adapts as the occasion demands, the fact that he intended these masks to look like one thing and yet have another effect entirely, and the more or less unconscious effect—“beyond affect”—that his masks have on “readers” and “viewers”—but above all “listeners” who for him should better die than live. And not just listeners in Derrida's sense of otobiographie or “biography of the ear,” who still appeal to the considerable, but still merely rational, powers of deconstruction, and thus delude themselves into thinking that they can thereby deconstruct “Nietzsche's teaching” and “politics of the proper name.” As our nom-du-pere, to speak La-canian, Nietzsche has no proper name.
Any broadcaster is not only Machiavellian but also ‘Jesuit” or ‘Jesuitical,” in the extended Gramscian sense, who declines, in principle or in practice, “to elaborate a modern ‘humanism’ able to reach right to the simplest and