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Hannah Arendt

In his Bochum lectures, Vilém Flusser recommends Hannah Arendt’s report on Adolf Eichmann (Eichmann in Jerusalem, 1963), who was put on trial as a coperpetrator of the Nazi genocide. For Arendt, Eichmann emerged as the prototype of a functionary whose actions were distinguished by the complete absence of any thinking. He “acted” purely mechanically. Eichmann’s entirely functional action was apolitical, amoral, beyond anything human. There is no interpersonal relationship between “perpetrator” and “victim” here, only a purely instrumental one. The mass murder committed by the Nazis should not be understood as following political orders, but rather as the execution of a technical manual: “How do I turn people into ashes as quickly as possible? How do I profit from it by making soap from the fat left behind?” (Kommunikologie weiter denken, 2009, p. 159; translated from the German)

People were categorically turned into objects, transformed by production and consumption processes. This dehumanization that culminated in Eichmann and Auschwitz stands for a general cultural trend of the late modern, industrialized societies, namely, the end of politics. For Flusser, who took up many points from Arendt’s The Human Condition (1958), the political sphere was at risk of disappearing once and for all, having been invaded by technical images that will “make holes like a Swiss cheese” (Medienkultur, 1997, p. 162; translated from the German) in the private sphere, unless the projects of post-history manage to interweave intersubjectively a new forum and a new form of politics that is no longer based on the traditional, central differences of public and private, power and violence, action, production, and work, freedom and necessity. Thus Vilém Flusser sought to go further than Hannah Arendt as well, who was one of the very few authors he explicitly praised.

Original article by Suzana Alpsancar in Flusseriana

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hannah_arendt.txt · Last modified: 2023/02/27 23:15 by steffi_winkler