finite voices

Subjective rationality is a very elusive term; an alternative conception of rationality that could shed light and propose some resolutions to the pathologies of modern society. Its basis is a belief in the decline of individuality in favor of the collectivity of the person where any personal meaning and value arises only to the extent that they service instruments that society had laid out. The individual as a vending machine. You put some shitty product in it, pay for it and all the profits go to the state or spending on mainly other frivolous trinkets.But the pathologies that Max Horkheimer saw, could easily be deciphered by a Veblen as coherent and integral to the system of invidious comparison that makes a consumer society run. But, to make it run, it needs sacrificial victims, martyrs, cultural icons to justify and reinforce a linear conception of time and a predisposition for proxies of mourning and remembrance on which to walk on their hallowed name.

Horkheimer wrote that Jews are outsiders because they held  a basic common experience in which no degree of conformism and ass licking was enough to make one’s position as a member of society safe and secure. To which could be added a multitude of others sharing the same sense of alienation and perceptual ethic on the nature of personal fragility within the face of the mass and normal. Unlike Baudelaire’s flaneur who was almosst mezmerized by the crowd, there is sort of transgressive position of avoiding the mass and leap into the experience of a tenacity of social alienation.

---In his opinion Judaism expressed this idea when it adhered to its claim for justice and to its hope for social redemption, and was not content with the salvation of the private soul. However, according to Horkheimer, the founding of the state of Israel expressed the elimination of the essential characteristics of Judaism. Judaism has become a "religion" in the worst sense of the word, as an expression of violent force and a desire for ever more. "The dream of the messiah, the dawning of justice on earth which holds together the Jews in the Diaspora, is over and done with. It created no end of martyrs, caused untold suffering - and gave hope. Now the persecuted have gone to Zion without a messiah, have established their nation and their nationalism like other peoples, and Jewry has become a religion”--- Read More: image:

The real individuals of our time are the martyrs who have gone through infernos of suffering and degradation in their resistance to conquest and oppression, not the inflated personalities of popular culture, the conventional dignitaries. These unsung heroes consciously exposed their existence as individuals to the terroristic annihilation that others undergo unconsciously through the social process. The anonymous martyrs of the concentration camps are the symbols of the humanity that is striving to be born. The task of philosophy is to translate what they have done into language that will be heard, even though their finite voices have been silenced by tyranny.

Max Horkheimer – Eclipse of Reason

---Birkenau. Painting of Königsgraben from the ceiling of the penal company barrack at Birkenau. Photo Credit: Florida Center for Instructional Technology--- Read More:


The interpreter seeks his own salvation, as he is in danger of annihilation with the vagueness and the void resulting from current false consensus. In Benjamin’s thought, as in traditional Judaism, “the messianic time” bursts into the “now-time.” However, in his philosophy it momentarily penetrates the continuity of the vain progress of catastrophic time and creates in it a special extra-temporal point, at which time ceases to flow and a redeemed space of time is constituted, and at which it is possible to try to call things by their true name and to fight the “evil”‘ celebrating its victory. The struggle for knowledge turns out to be a moral struggle for the good life by an isolated individual, who at most can hope to break the continuum which in principle is always victorious, and to which historical “progress” has been handed over ever since the “first sin.” Within this context, redemption is disclosed as an overcoming of history, and as a rescue of the very possibility of moral struggle for the institution of authentic selfhood through the defeat of the principle of individuation and by regarding the other as an object for manipulation for the sake of realizing selfish goals. This salvation proves dependent on a kind of knowledge different from the teleological, the violent, the victorious knowledge, which is always produced out of the vain progress. What is the source of this power of truth and what is the status of our present ignorance that enables us to identify and recollect this messianic appearance in the vanity of the present continuum? What in our continuum, we should ask Benjamin, enables us to decide what is the voice of the myth and what is the appearance of the messianic since we are imprisoned in the present where myth is the sole prince of reality? In such a present we cannot trust “proofs” and “evidence.” What, then, will be the ontological and epistemological status of Benjamin’s conception of redemption? Read More:

---They got their revenge: they were no longer subhuman victims of men, but men were subhuman victims of them. It was a perfectly symmetrical dystopia—a balance of nihilisms. They used their sexuality to survive in an alien world in which they were treated like objects with no inner life, and as such with no individuality let alone identity—they were in effect non-persons--just as Lurie used his sexual fantasies to confirm that he had an inner life, and thus was not the non-person the Nazis thought he, and every Jew, was. No failure of nerve in them, and in Lurie’s daring use of them in his art. It is clear that his art is a major achievement in the face of adversity, and stands on its own as a major contribution to the broad tradition of Expressionism, all the more so because his melancholy women have an affinity with those of Käthe Kollwitz and his vehement handling with that of Wilhelm de Kooning. --- Read More:

Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation of the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. –Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age
of Mechanical Reproduction”
It is no accident, as the art critic Harold Rosenberg observed, that the great majority of innovative American artists in the postwar period were Jews. As Max Horkheimer points out, because the Jew by definition can never fit into Christian society, however hard he tries to assimilate and conform, he is by definition a nonconformist, and has the opportunity of becoming a creative nonconformist—a nonconformist who can transform society by introducing unexpected ideas and new possibilities into it. In a sense, the Jew is destined to be avant-garde whether he wants to be or not. Read More:

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