There is no definitive summation possible. Whether a man conflicted by what he may have perceived himself to becoming, or merely conflicted by pushing the boundary of the public intellectual into new realms, or simply enamored by the literary aesthetic and living the form with only slight variations on the content. Behind this even, was a conception of the world as intrinsically evil. The basis of this interiorized conflict is that, the posited notion that as long as some amount of freedom existed, as conceived in Western thought, then a persistent collective violence would also manifest itself, seek outlets for that expression and provide the foundation for capitalist and market economies.
Add to this Hitchens and a Franz Kafka position of original sin; the individual subject, sometimes narcissistically Hitchens himself, being a victim of injustice, cosmic injustice, injustice permaently and forcefully directed against him. Hitchens could be called a negative utopianist where his particular concerns for salvation and redemption requires a negative utopian struggle. Within this conception, violence then becomes a cosmic fate, cynically, a manifest destiny- a cornerstone of American exceptionalism- a fate anchored in mystic necessity; one where reality is seen as both tragic and highly normalized. Part of an eternal catastrophe, where the violence, the destructive component is everything continuing as usual like it always has, like it always will, continually postponing, creating an indefinite anticipation of the definitive catastrophe.
What is more inherent in Hitchen’s conflict, and to this can be added that the atheism angle is, essentially trifling, though its publicity value strikes value, is Hitchen’s view of freedom and justice within what could be taken as an ideal society. Where the rubber hits the road, a utopia, a harmony is antagonistic, antithetical to the principles of freedom and justice which are hostile to it. Like the religious jews he may also want a messiah now, albeit an atheistic one. Freedom and justice are interwoven in a mutual opposition. That is, the more social and economic justice that can be brought to bear, the more freedom will recede. This is the basis of Hitchens break with Marxism, or Trotsky. Whatever. There is no idea of progress predictably leading humanity’s constant improvement on a leash. Development in this view only on the basis of an administered world, the technocracy favored by Veblen as opposed to the Dewey view which maintained a position of positive utopianism. So, pessimism is Hitchens point of departure; something quite universal since it applies to all individuals, recognizing their pain, suffering and their essentially necessary death.
For Hitchens, culture, and the forces of culture, essentially meant the institution of oppression. Culture derives its prostelyzing capacities only with the protection of an executioner, and its pleasures are protected by the hangman as we watch his beautiful daughter or son. Did Hitchens feel it was impossible to discard terror and retain civilization? Again interwoven, in that the calming of the terror alert begins a process of fragmentation and dismantlement.If Paradise is the origin of the individual, and the basis of future redemption, then there can be in the Hitchens world no real progress since the goal already contained the seed of disturbance. The pertubation was built into the American Dream. To juxtapose Walter Benjamin onto this, we cannot reject a role for redemption, but only that it has to manifest itself from the margins, out of left field as an interruption of history, as an actor with no part in history.
The goal of enlightenment, as articulated by Voltaire and others, was to liberate the person from the atrocities of the mythical, and create a sovereign individual.Something in that conception was amiss, incomplete since lives are still continually shattered. Through economic torture and anxiety, Veblen’s invidious comparison,we end up punishing as many people as possible through consumerism.Neoliberalism that does not marching forward, but wrecks everything in one spot. What Hitchens never really questioned was whether such enslavement places us within a reality in which our sovereignity is as limited as those people who lived a life of misery and fear in the mythical culture. Theocracy versus democracy. This is similar to Benjamin’s postulation of the battle of the divine power with mythical violence, something continually cracking a serene voyage of enlightenment or is its cause in the essence of enlightenment and our conception of the essence of existence.
The Church’s enemies forgot that it does not have adherents because of its personnel, but as an ark of faith. The atheists, though often articulate and courageous and knowledgeable, and heavy-laden with the ammunition provided by the fatuity and hypocrisy of much Christian history, can never deal with the insuperable evidence of spiritual forces, miracles and any ecclesiastical concept of grace. Nor can they surmount the challenge of man’s inability to grasp the infinite, the absence of an end and beginning of space or time. In these vast areas, notions of the supernatural and the deity will always circulate, no matter how great dissent may be. ( Conrad Black )
…For Hitchens, you could see, decades after his days as a student socialist agitator, he was conflicted by what he had become. This is obvious in much of his recent writings: a constant effort to reassure himself that he hadn’t really morphed into what he had once despised. If nothing else, he was consistent in his hatred of Henry Kissinger, and I for one, regret that the aged war criminal outlived his most effective foe…. Read More:http://www.thenation.com/blog/165194/being-spit-upon-literally-christopher-hitchens
Benjamin moves to the claim that both positive and natural law are dependent on a paradox. It runs as follows: in both cases, justice must be found in an alignment between means and ends, where the attainment of one will establish legitimation through the guaranteed attainment of the other. And yet in either case, this can only be obtained through inquiry into one half of the nexus at the expense of leaving the other entirely undetermined. Both traditions are for
Benjamin engaged in a kind of sleight of hand whereby a relation is claimed to be established between two terms, when what in fact takes place is simply the elimination (or bracketing out) of one of them. [If] positive law, as Benjamin puts it, is blind to the absoluteness of ends, natural law is equally so to the contingency of means. There is a double circularity in operation here that undermines the claim of either party to a coherent concept of justice. Benjamins strategy, then, is to break this circular argument of the justification of means through sole reference to ends or the justification of ends through sole reference to means. Importantly, though, Benjamin does privilege one side of the antinomy: natural and positive law may be tied up together in double circularity, but Benjamin will never
His interest in this text is not in the justification or justifiability of violence, then, but rather in the questions raised by the very fact that we make a distinction between just and unjust violence in the first place. His desired goal is not to resolve the antinomy of means and ends but rather to deploy it in the development of a philosophico-historical view of law that would completely undermine it. This is why the discussion turns to legal problems surrounding the legitimation of certain forms of violence. It can be formulated as a general maxim of present-day European legislation, says Benjamin, that all the natural ends of individuals must collide with legal ends if pursued with a greater or lesser degree of violence. Individuals do not possess the legal right to use violence for the sake of their own ends; as in the Hobbessian vision, it is precisely the right to the use of force in obtaining its ends that the citizen gives up to the sovereign for the sake of its own protection. Thus the state sets up, in all areas where individual ends could be usefully pursued by violence, a legal system in which these ends can be pursued by non-violent, sanctioned means. Benjamin goes on: From this maxim it follows that law sees violence in the hands of individuals as a danger undermining the legal system. The use of violence by individuals must be curtailed by the state because only the state may have the monopoly on violence: violence, when not in the hands of the law, threatens it not by the ends that it may pursue but by its mere existence outside the law. Law must maintain the monopoly on violence if it wants to preserve its status as law, its very claim to legitimation. Violence threatens law not in spite but because of the fact that law has its origins in violence. Benjamin points to the figure of the great criminal and explains its historical ability to both horrify and captivate the masses in precisely these terms. Such figures confront the violence of law with the threat of declaring a new law. This link between the violence of acting outside or above the law and the foundational violence of positing a new legal order makes such figures intolerable to the state. It is what sees them exert their strange fascination over ordinary citizens. Read More:http://www.biopolitica.cl/docs/abbott_benjamin.pdf