The Critical Theory in the Frankfurt School underwent an impressive and substantial Odyssey from its origins in the early 1930s until it reached its climax in the 1960s, exhausting itself in the 1970s. This evolution can be interpreted in the light of the productive inner tensions between two tendencies: a positive optimistic utopianism and a negative utopian pessimism. It will be shown how this negative tendency joins forces with the traditional Jewish conception of redemption.
In its first phase of development, the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt had a pronounced Marxist orientation. In the present context, it is worth dwelling upon two themes typical of Critical Theory's first phase. Adorno and Horkheimer and their colleagues at the Institute denied the legitimacy of criticizing society solely from a philosophical perspective. Their ambitions were principally scientific and revolutionary. The tradition which originated from Marx's firm rejection of utopian socialism perceived socialism as opposing utopianism. So there was hardly room for a utopian project like that of Benjamin whose philosophical and rhetorical images originated from theological sources. My interpretation seeks to demonstrate how this utopian project moved from a marginal status to a central position in later Critical Theory. Adorno and Horkheimer found it difficult to accept some of the main elements which were already present in Benjamin's work. Their later thinking is to be regarded as an implicit return to these themes in Benjamin with a critical development of some of his principal ideas.
Horkheimer discussed utopianism in his 1927
lectures at the University of Frankfurt. There he denounced the utopians
as romantics who regard the past as a golden age, instead of acting in
a concrete way towards shaping the future.(1)
He returned to this topic in 1930 in his essay "Origins of Bourgeois Philosophy
of History."(2) Clearly, the utopian tradition
served merely as a subject of research. In no way did he consider himself
as taking part in such a tradition. Utopia is examined together with the
defamed ideology. While ideology affects reality, utopia enacts "a dream
on a 'right' and 'just' form of life."(3)
Based on the critique of economic reality,(4)
his assessment of the utopian tradition is presented in a clearly Marxist
jargon.(5) Horkheimer described the utopian
alternative as a form of life with common property, distinguished by rationalization
of the process of production.(6) He identified
two aspects of utopianism: the critique of present reality and the
presentation of the worthwhile future demanding realization.
However, the utopians lack the appropriate critical reflection and are unable to perceive themselves as simply a naive response to social reality.(7) On this issue he held a position diametrically opposed to his later thinking.
In a text written in 1930, transcendence served as the basis for rejecting utopianism. "Utopia leaps beyond time... , using means whose existence was determined from the beginning within a given reality, it desires to achieve a perfect society: paradise, a fantasy dependent on its time."(8) This rejection of utopianism has to be understood from Horkheimer's early position, sustaining - like Adorno and Marcuse - what should be termed a positive utopianism. This position was based on a belief in progress, on confidence in the revolutionary role of the proletariat, on humanity's fundamental capacity for improvement, and on rationality which may become a complete way of life in future society.
Yet in 1933, he declared that the goals of the Institute for Social Research did not originate from theoretical motives alone, but from the vision of "a reality better than the one under the control of the given, and this is the theme of the current [critical] theory and praxis."(9) This tendency is exemplified in several essays, like "Traditional and Critical Theory."(1937) Critical Theory is presented as a "moment" of revolutionary praxis, "aiming at new social forms."(10) Horkheimer had difficulty accepting Benjamin's negative utopianism, which was diametrically opposed to his own positive utopianism. Ironically, here Horkheimer confronts an anticipation of his own later thought .
Benjamin displayed two rival aspects in his utopian project. In his essay "On the Critique of Violence," Benjamin presents the positive utopian framework of his thought. Principally, he did not reject political violence, but analyzed its status and its foundations within the pessimistic context. Accordingly, the struggle between the divine and the mythical serves as the cornerstone for the political struggle and necessarily collides with the law. The law, instead of implementing justice, represents the violence which instituted the law in the first place. However, Benjamin implicitly abandoned the naive revolutionary demand for justice, which is satisfied simply by replacing the present laws with others conceived as being more just. Such a demand appears as a mythical, violent contention, opposing the divine one.
The pessimistic dimension in Benjamin's thought
is revealed in his claim that the divine alone enables us
to speak of "justice."(11) Since there is no place in (secular) history (12) for this dimension - sometimes referred to as "messianic" - his utopianism strongly suggests a transformation of the utopian project. Real change is now conceived as possible only by the overthrow of history.
From this perspective, each revolutionary effort to realize utopia - with which he explicitly identifies - is revealed as a vanity of the mythic force that confronts the messianic. In contrast to Horkheimer's and Adorno's positive utopianism, in their early thinking, Benjamin incorporated two elements within the framework of his fundamentally pessimistic negative utopianism: the tradition of thought on redemption, and the utopian tradition.
This pessimism is opposed to positive optimism
and utopianism, but is not opposed to negative utopianism, through
Benjamin recovers the "principle of hope"- as named by Ernst
Bloch. During this period, Adorno and Horkheimer still embraced a positive
utopianism, and explicitly relied on an optimistic conception of progress.
In this matter, Benjamin preceded Adorno's and Horkheimer's second phase
of thought, clearly expressed later in the Dialectic of Enlightenment
(1944) Benjamin's "Theological-Political Fragment" is especially devoted
to encoding the set of relations between these two elements in his thought.
"Only the messiah himself can close all historical events, and he
does so by redeeming, completing, and creating their relation to the messianic
dimension. For this reason nothing historical by itself is able to relate
itself to something messianic. This is why God's kingdom is not the goal
of historical dynamics; it cannot be assigned as a goal. From the historical
point of view it is not a goal but a termination. This is why the profane
order cannot be erected while relying upon the idea of God's
kingdom."(13) Benjamin presented the primacy of the theological dimension in the pessimistic conception of "eternal fall" from paradise into history which promises "happiness."(14) While the locus of the messianic dimension is man's inwardness - secluded, suffering, projected towards eternity- Benjamin regards the messianic world, and not the real political one, as a "world of all around and integral actuality. Only in it is there universal history."(15)
However, even though historical progress turns out to be a vanity, a manifestation of the denounced "principle of individuation" and of "teleology," there is nevertheless room in it for a utopian (positive) struggle. Although valuable, this struggle has to be distinguished from the messianic dimension and from negative utopianism, both of which have a place in history even though their meaning emerges from the attempt to transcend its horizons. Benjamin presents in a figurative manner two "arrows" describing the problem: one secular (positive, utopian), the other religious (messianic, redemptive). "If one arrow points to the goal where the dynamics of the profane is effective, and the other points to the messianic intensity, then, of course, free humanity which is longing for happiness drifts away from that messianic direction."(16)
Benjamin's pessimism is not one-dimensional. The positive dimension of his utopianism derives its essential meaning from its contribution to the Jewish messianic dimension of redemption . It opposes the secular utopian project: "Just as a force by following its route is able to promote another one directed for a contrary route, so also is the secular order of the profane able to promote the coming of the messianic kingdom."(17) The primacy of the theological dimension within his pessimism also becomes clear in light of his philosophy of language. Essentially, the teleological language of "the Fall," is impregnated by the "first sin," and can only conceptualize the "progress" of the self and its goals.
These goals stand in opposition to the struggle for the language of paradise and for varnishing the goal-driven self, history, politics and, implicitly, the concept of revolution contaminated by the present order. The dimension linking positive utopianism and the thought of redemption is clarified in Benjamin's negative utopianism (on which we shall elaborate when discussing his philosophy of history) and in the philosophical struggle (as a serious aesthetic game) for the salvation of the soul, which assumes the state of redemption and demands the negative utopian struggle. However, it is already possible to point to the clearly Cabalistic dimension merging into Benjamin's thought, whose yearning for the eternal, for the completely other, suppresses the temporal, the political, the ever-transient within reality. The appropriate political attitude is defined as "nihilion”.(18)
Eternity - the completely other, presented by Benjamin in the metaphor of the reality of "the language of paradise" - splinters into small fragments. Only by means of the fractures of contingency and of the awareness of absence can we find redemption, standing beyond the indefinite anticipation of the last catastrophe, which appears as the critique of given reality and as its negation. Benjamin followed Franz Rosenzweig on this issue. He knew Rosenzweig's Star of Redemption, and even wrote a review of it. The personal route taken by Horkheimer and Adorno, who needed decades of development for their thinking to mature, was already apparent in Benjamin's dialectic between the conception of utopia and the thought of redemption, and within the thought of redemption itself. Even the late phase of Critical Theory as Jewish negative theology is anticipated by Benjamin’s work.
The utopian dimension in Benjamin's thought has both positive and negative aspects. The positive aspect is largely adapted to the philosophy of history in orthodox Marxism, which requires the conception of progress in addition to the primacy of the proletariat's status as the agent of the revolution taking place within the limits of history. In his article "The Writer as a Producer", he presented his univocal identification with revolutionary praxis, with which the struggle of the intellectual must converge: "Aragon was quite right when he stated [that]... the revolutionary intellectual appears first and foremost as the betrayer of his class of origin. This betrayal consists in the case of the writer in conduct that transforms him from a supplier of the productive apparatus into an engineer who sees it as his task to adopt this apparatus to the purposes of the proletarian revolution. The more completely he can orient his activity toward this task the more correct will be the political tendency, and necessarily also the higher the technical quality of his work."(19) In his negative utopianism, the dominating orientation is clearly anti-Marxist insofar as halting the continuous advance and primacy of violence in history and as being an open possibility at every moment not just a basic dissolution of the reality of evil. Here revolution is conceived as an invitation to an interpretive struggle for hidden knowledge. In the "Theses on History", this version is clearly expressed by the critique of the social-democratic conception of progress in social democracy. Accordingly, redemption turns out to be an interpretive leap into the past, which determines the philosopher's present. The philosopher does not rely on the revolutionary praxis of the exploited class, but on saving the memories of the oppressed unredeemed in the past. With religious devotion he conducts his struggle for the redemption of the defeated: the defeated of the past are redeemed from oblivion, and the defeated in the present are redeemed from manipulation by the current order. Redemption (20) turns out to be the interpreter's aesthetic institution of the "now-time."
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"(21) bursts into the "now-time."(22) 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?
Benjamin's project will seek religious evidence and allegorical play in order to advance through philosophical pessimism into radical negative utopianism. This negative utopianism is but a stage in the development of Judaism and its redemptive Eros. In the "Scheme for Coming Philosophy", the deliberation of true knowledge is stated to be essentially theological, that is, to overcome the delimitation in the mystical sense of the subject and of the object: "This attempt may include religion as a true experience, in which man and God cease to be the object and the subject of experience, and in which experience is based upon the sources of pure knowledge, in which philosophy alone can and must deliberate God."(23) Thus "the difference between the realm of nature and the kingdom of freedom will vanish."(24) Just as with the later Horkheimer, Benjamin's project is already completely erected on the unification of (true) religion and philosophy (the future metaphysics).(25)
Most central to Benjamin's project is the critique
of allegory, understood as a real religious position. In a surrealistic
manner his position is close to the Cabalistic, lacking a positive religious
faith. His pessimism discloses the presence of violent conflict between
two tendencies: a positive optimistic utopian tendency and a pessimistic
- the latter culminating in a negative utopianism and merging into the
tradition of thought of Jewish redemption. His pessimism discloses the
presence of violence within the continuity of "the whole time everything
is the same" as a cosmic fate, a fate grounded in mystic necessity. He
regards reality as essentially tragic, jet not as a partial historical
stage or as an accident, but as normality itself. "The tradition of the
oppressed teaches us that the 'state of emergency', in which we live is
not an exception, but a
rule."(26) The fact that "everything continues as usual" is the eternal "catastrophe," which according to Benjamin discloses the boundless dominance of the mythical. This is the basis of the "Kafka-like situation," which determines the subject as described in the article "Franz Kafka."(27) The "original sin" makes itself present at each moment in history, and according to Benjamin it turns out to be a reaction to the subject's being a victim of cosmic injustice permanently directed against him.(28)
We shall see that Horkheimer later holds a similar position, sometimes using the same words. However, he will present Schopenhauer, and not Benjamin, as the source for his interpretation. In the play of symbol interpretation Horkheimer implicitly continues Benjamin's conception of allegory, and he explicitly identifies with the Christian theologian Paul Tillich. Horkheimer saw Tillich's essential importance in treating Christian tradition and its dogmas as symbols, as objects of interpretation - an interpretation which embodied a "serious" way of life. He praised Tillich for expressing the yearning for absolute otherness to given reality - thus continuing the mystic tradition struggling for exaltation and reunion with God. "I meant that the symbolism is the necessary form of religion... and its struggle to save religion is actually the struggle of western culture for its realization."(29) Tillich interpreted religious symbols as directed towards the infinite, which they represent, and towards the finite, which serves as the medium of representation. Symbols act as agents between the finite and the infinite, opening the holy realm to man and bringing man into the holy dimension.(30) The symbol in Tillich's thought occupies the function, which according to Gershom Scholem is reserved for the mystical sign or for the mystical symbol.
What is at stake is an expressible representation of a reality beyond the realm of expression and of communication - of an inexpressible reality.(31) Horkheimer's appraisals of the mystical dimension in Tillich's thought indicate the presence of the mystical dimension within Horkheimer's own project. Benjamin's sudden suicide terminated prematurely the development of his thinking, and coincided with Horkheimer's and Adorno's period of transition to the second stage of their thought. At this later stage the pessimistic dimension clearly stands out, while at the earlier stage it was most clearly expressed solely in Benjamin's work. The clear expressions of this transition in Horkheimer's thought left their mark on many central issues; first there was the change in his attitude towards Marx's thought and then the reshaping of his position on theology in general and on Jewish thought in particular. One can regard his complete later Critical Theory as a Jewish theology. It should be stressed that Benjamin was not far from a conscious attempt of this kind of approach to Judaism. "'Whenever I shall have my own philosophy,' thus he said to me, 'this will somehow be a philosophy of Judaism,'" Scholem reported.(32) However, this step was taken by Horkheimer alone, whereas Benjamin failed to cross the threshold.
In the first stage of the development of his thought Horkheimer interlaced the goal of Critical Theory within the Marxist revolutionary project. At the second stage not only is the turn away from Marx's main theses conspicuous, but a rejection even of Marx's entire project is indicated. Marx's project is regarded as an element in the positive "utopian" position, which he now completely rejects. I believe that this rejection corresponds to the formation of Horkheimer's pessimism and its explicit emphasis. Schopenhauer replaced Marx, the symbol of "original sin" (which he could have found in Schelling and in Benjamin) replaced the idea of "progress." This change of attitude towards Marx signifies much more than just a critique of some of Marx's disproved predictions, like the theory about increasingly acute crisis occurring at greater frequencies,(33) impoverishment of the workers,(34) and the true revolution of the proletariat.(35) The issue at hand was the transformation of positive utopianism to a negative utopianism; and a discussion with a new agenda, with pessimism serving as the basis (36) for a new religiosity in humanistic thought. After all, Horkheimer saw in Judaism the substratum of true humanism: the solidarity with the other. According to Horkheimer, the Jews created the concept of “the other” and by that also humanism since this concepts includes understanding and being responsible for the other’s life, respecting others in their difference and honoring everything connected to other’s personality. Judaism could serve Horkheimers’ difference of humanism in light of its anti-egoistic commitment.(37) In this respect Horkheimer is developing the humanism of great Jewish philosophers as Herman Choen and Leo Baeck which he studied and which he refers to in his unpublished notes and lectures in college for Jewish studies in LA before returning to Frankfurt.
The later Horkheimer sharply attacks Marx and
his deterministic optimism regarding the possibility of instituting the
"realm of freedom".(38) He also attacks
Marx's attitude to the role of the sciences in the
development of man's control over nature - an attitude which Horkheimer usually identifies with instrumental rationality. He likewise accuses Marx of being a "positivist"(39) who naively continues bourgeois idealism. Furthermore, "certainly, what Marx called socialism is just the administered world”.(40) Marx also envisioned the transformation of rationality into a whole concrete way of life, but in a way that according to Horkheimer guaranteed turning rationality into repression, as expressed in the idea of efficient rational exploitation of nature.(41) One of Marx's major accusations against traditional religion is turned by Horkheimer against Marx himself: the Marxist heritage is presented as a "religion" amongst other dogmatic "religions," which partake in the oppression of the individual. In the final account also Marx's critical theory too is directed against the individual.(42)
In principle the idea is that every revolution
including a successful one, is an expression of violent force. Similarly
justice, after obtaining power, necessarily negates itself and turns into
oppression. Thus, the successful revolutionary in his essence is bound
to become an oppressor.(43) It is important
to emphasize that Horkheimer explicitly described his transition from the
first to the second stage as shaped by his critique of Marx and his preference
for Schopenhauer's philosophy.(44) Contrary
to the basic assumptions in Marxist utopianism, Horkheimer assumed that
as long as some amount of freedom persisted collective violence would also
persist.(45) He equally opposed the idea of
merging freedom and justice in the future ideal society: he argued that
there was no room for positive utopianism because in principle freedom
and justice were opposed.(46) "In the end, whatever
hopes Marx did hold on behalf of true society, apparently they seem to
be the wrong ones, if - and this issue is important for Critical Theory
- freedom and justice are interlaced in a mutual opposition; the more justice
there is, freedom will diminish accordingly”.(47)
Contrary to Marx's idea of progress predicting humanity's constant improvement,
Horkheimer maintains the idea of development towards an administered world
celebrating restrains domination.(48) In diametrical
opposition to Marxist utopianism concerning "the realm of freedom" his
pessimism presents the vision of "the automatic
society”,(49) which for him is synonym with the "verwaltete welt." In my opinion, this is the background for his abandoning the Marxist conception of revolution (50) and of positive utopianism in general. We find in the last lines of his essay "Marx Today" an indication of the negative utopia as an alternative to the positive utopias of the Marxist kind. His negative utopianism is based on his understanding of Judaism and combining it under the influence of Kant’s concept of “the thing in itself”. He denotes Judaism’s favoring of negation and he finds great importance in its commitment for refusing any kind of dogmatism. Horkheimer’s later critique of Marx and his refusal to positive utopianism and positivism is based on Jewish forbiddness of posing the obsolete, the transcendental, as something that can be conceived in positive human concepts.(51) Pessimism is the point of departure for this utopia which unlike proletarian solidarity applies to all human beings - out of recognition of their faintness, their pain and their essentially necessary death - and which in the end is instituted by facing "creation".(52) I think this indicates Horkheimer's metaphysical or theoretical pessimism that is, the conception of the world as essentially evil. In that article this understanding is expressed in a very fluent style. Here a Marxist utopia receives its proper meaning by the affirmation of its rejection by pessimism as the philosophical alternative, which Schopenhauer has formulated.(53)
From this point of view Horkheimer could also go back to Marx and plead his cause. He exaggerated in presenting Marx's thought as "standing under the influence of theology: he wanted the 'good' to be realized, in the sense also meant by theology; that is, in the sense of caring for the other, and for the other's love”.(54) By preferring the Schopenhauerian discourse, from then on it became possible for Horkheimer to present Marx - in complete distinction from his previous position - as one who was not fundamentally a political economist but a searcher groping for truth which could not be discovered in the "evil" society.(55) To a large extent the forces on which Marx placed his hopes constituted the evil in this society: developing technology and rationalizing the exploitation of nature.
Benjamin, Horkheimer, Adorno and Marcuse all presented a very similar critique of the technological society. In this they continued the tradition of cultural pessimism, but they were also influenced creatively by Freud and Heidegger. The mature Marcuse dismissed Heidegger even though he had been his student. Horkheimer aided him, calling Heidegger "a shrewd impostor who read a lot”.(56) Heidegger did not separate true technology, true knowledge and true art: all served as man's "final objective" and expressed his natural "mission." They all protested, like Heidegger, against transforming "techne" into modern technology with its disasters. According to Horkheimer and Adorno technology has not taken control of nature but even of man. Enlightenment's ruinous tendency has even led to the destruction of speculative thought, and to its incorporation within the teleological orientation. Benjamin tried to present this theme in The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproduction. He concluded this essay in saying: "Mankind, which in Homer's time was an object of contemplation for 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".(57) It is worth noting the correspondence of Marcuse's critique - The One-Dimensional Man - and Horkheimer's critique - "the administered world." Both describe a totalitarian reality, a reality encompassing the pleasure industry and technological progress in general.
In my opinion, the crucial issue for Horkheimer, as well as for Adorno and Benjamin - unlike Marcuse - is that this technological society is nothing but a particular historical expression of an element situated at the basis of Being in general. For Adorno "space is nothing but absolute alienation".(58) This is the basis for the whole historical reality of the advanced technological society, in which everything has become "consumption" and life with all its layers and dimensions is nothing but a 'fetish of consumption".(59) Benjamin did not hesitate to designate "the totality" of "modernity" using a distinct name: "hell." Hell returns, again and again, in each innovation, and surely this totality reflects the "eternity of hell upon earth".(60)
Both the Judeo-Christian tradition of religious redemption and the tradition of utopianism needed the idea of "progress" as well as the optimistic historical conscience in general. From the prophets of Israel to Rabbi Cook, from St. Augustine to Hegel and Marx, the idea of progress ensured confidence in the possibility of redemption, or in the realization of the future utopia. Even facing the horrors of life, the individual may have tied his fate to a project beyond individuality, providing meaning and purpose to the joy and pain in his life; and allowing the union of him with his fellow-man, of the present with the past and with the future - if not in reality at least as an idea. In the quest for social revolution positive utopianism demanded the idea of human progress in history. This idea was a re-endorsement of the conception of religious redemption, whose maximalist version emphasized precisely the idea of the leap beyond the horizon of history. In the first phase, Horkheimer's position is simply the development of Kantian utopianism, claiming that "man's principle of morality never extinguishes, and reason does grow permanently by means of ever advancing culture".(61)
In his latter work, many years after Benjamin, Horkheimer presented the thesis contradictory both to Kant's and to the enlightenment's basic position, as well as to the whole humanist tradition which demanded revolution and hoped for it relying on such a conception of progress. Now he claimed that "progress" was nothing more than a vicious circle of horror. In Benjamin's "Theses on the Philosophy of History" such pessimism was expressed in the image of "the angel of history": "There is a picture by Klee, which is called Angelus Novus. An angel is represented in it, who looks as if he was about to move away from something at which he is staring. His eyes are widely open, his mouth is open and his wings are relaxed. Thus the angel of history should appear. He has turned his eyes towards the past. Where to us a chain of events seems to appear, he sees a single catastrophe, piling up continuously ruins upon ruins, and casting them in front of his feet. He might want to remain, to awake the dead and to reassemble what was shattered. But a storm moves in from paradise, which has entangled itself into his wings, and which is so strong that the angel cannot close them anymore. Unrestrained this storm pushes him into the future to which he turns his back, while the piles of ruins in front of him grow up to heaven. What we call progress is this storm.(62)
Without going into the question of Benjamin's direct influence on Adorno and Horkheimer we can point to a close relation between their ideas. Horkheimer discovered in the second phase of his thought a tension similar to the one prominent in Benjamin's thinking: utopianism versus pessimism. Now he did emphasize pessimism - "the tempest", or history as "a one and single disaster." And in contrast he did not emphasize the utopian tendency, which for Benjamin - not unrelated to Cabalistic tradition - stands behind the angel's mission "to resurrect the dead and to heal the wounds."
Four aspects characterize Benjamin's position. First, paradise is the origin of man, and it is also utopian vision of his future redemption. Secondly, there is actually no real progress, and the angel does not deviate from this course of "one continuos disaster." Thirdly, genesis implicitly included its final goal: creation, or paradise, already contained the seed of disturbance. Fourthly, all this does not imply that there is no room for redemption, but only that redemption has to appear "from the outside" as the interruption of history, and it does not take an imminent part in history. At the end of modernity this image of redemption serves the philosopher as a necessary postulate in the struggle for the salvation of his soul. These aspects also characterize Horkheimer's later thoughts. However, his metaphysics is less explicit.
According to Horkheimer, the goal of enlightenment was to free man from the horror of the mythical, and to institute his sovereignity. However, the earth on which enlightenment has exhausted itself radiates a terrifying victory (63) of the enslavement of man to non-intelligible, almighty forces. Modern - and more specially postmodern man - controls nature relentlessly, and such enslavement places him within a reality in which his sovereignity is more limited than that of those men who lived a life of misery and fear in the mythical culture. This position is closely related to Benjamin's conception of the struggle of the divine power with mythical violence. Like Benjamin before him, Horkheimer did not present this reality as a malfunction in the serene march of enlightenment towards the perfection of humanity, but identified its cause in the essence of enlightenment itself and in the essence of existence. He did not locate enlightenment's origins in the 18th century but already at the dawn of western civilization, at the foundation of culture. Culture essentially means oppression. "Culture has developed with the protection of the executioner... All work and pleasure are protected by the hangman. To contradict this fact is to deny all science and logic. It is impossible to abolish...terror and retain civilization. Even the lessening of terror implies a beginning of the process of dissolution".(64)
In this matter Horkheimer is close to Adorno
and also to Benjamin. Benjamin wrote that "the assets of culture are not
only a document of culture without being at the same time a document of
Progress discloses itself as an oppressive regression: "adaptation to the power of progress involves the progress of power, and each time anew brings about those degenerations which show not unsuccessful but successful progress to be its contrary".(66) In Benjamin two conceptions of history are disclosed. The first is a linear conception using a Marxist jargon: here he sometimes slips into the position of the proletariat's future victory,(67) and occasionally he clarifies the weakening of spirit and the dissolution of the autonomous subject. The second conception is circular, and presents the pessimistic vicious circle, which prevents in principle the social overthrow of evil reality. In the later Horkheimer we find similar conceptions.
In notes for himself not meant for publication Horkheimer wrote: "History is just a permanent decline".(68) This tendency reaches its peak in the advanced technological society: technological progress is a display of pure power, and it is involved in the elimination of all the dimensions of "spirit" which do not assist directly the intensification of technological power.(69) He saw a correspondence of progress with the oppression of nature.
This oppression, he claimed, led ultimately to the organization of life within a frozen and "cold"(70) mythical system, which he presented as the "revolt of nature" against its oppressors - the title of a chapter in the "Critique of Instrumental Reason." In this respect, the conception of time is linear and opposed to its optimistic presentation. In this version of the conception of linear time the decline is permanent, while the starting point is the origin of human culture or even the origin of life in general.
I would argue that in addition to the pessimistic conception of linear time, there is in Horkheimer's thought a pessimistic conception of circular time. Both have in common a pessimism regarding the possibilities in the perfection of humanity. The circular conception is the dominant one in his second phase of thought. The linear description of historical time as the story of permanent decline may be interpreted as a slip of the pen, which does not fit into his later philosophical position supporting the circular conception of time. Mythical thought has given birth to enlightenment and enlightenment returns to a more dangerous type of mythical thought than the original one.(71) "Men have to pay for man's domination of inhuman nature by denying the nature within man. Precisely this denial, which is the seed of civilized rationality, is the cancer of mythical irrationality:
While denying nature in man “not only the goal of dominating external nature is blurred and mystified, but also the objectives of man's own life".(72) Nevertheless, there remains an indication of the utopian dimension: Horkheimer, like Benjamin before him, did not completely free himself from the idea of “the objectives of man's life" and saving the anima; the theological concept of redemption as saving the soule is articulated by Horkheimer as the struggle for saving the individual’s aothonomy. Here to, as in other central ideas of late critical theory, Horkheimer is grounding his position on Jewish tradition. He is developing the difference between Jewish and Christian concepts of the soul and redemption in order do distinguish critical theory from traditional utopian and critical models of critique. in “De anima” Horkheimer writes that essencialist, eternalist concepts of the soul are forighn to Judaism. Traditionally, in Judaism the soul is not to be understood something that can be separated from the body. In Christianity, the concept of the soul as separated and transcendental was developed, as an essence that might remain after the vanishing of the body. That is the substratum of Christian egoistic concept of (privte) redemtion. Soul, in Judaism, according to him, is a general concept, it is tayied organically to the collective and its redemption. He claims that Judaism does not separate between the collective and the individual like in Christianity, the struggle from redemption and sufferings.(73) This is a vital dimension of his utopianism which is clearly not a optimistic and not an possitive one.
In this sense it seems that his pessimism is not complete, for we regard complete pessimism as an idea according to which humanity has no goals to strive for. It lacks the elements for coming close to their realization, or at least to fight for the possibility of their realization. Surely, there is no room for this qualification, and Horkheimer's pessimism is absolute. We shall see that while holding on to sublime ideals from earlier bourgeois periods, he did not feel that they might still function as a goal in a social struggle for their implementation. He also felt that there was no room for founding new values, or for the justification of any values at all. However, as a Jew who awaits every day the Messiah, against all realities and “facts” of its futility, he still continued to hold onto "the objectives of human life," which had a completely different status from the ideals of the utopians and revolutionaries in the generations preceding this last stage of "progress." His messianism, as that of Benjamin is not a positive and simplistic one; Horkheimer's historical pessimism ruins the optimistic conception of culture, and dissolves the foundation for any positive utopian position. If in principle thought and culture are mainly interpreted as man's oppression of nature (and of nature within man), then there is no room for progress towards the utopian stage. Like Benjamin, the later Horkheimer has showed that action in the name of and for the sake of progress instead led necessarily to the abolishment of the free subject and to the oppression of man by the system of culture.(74) "The circumstance that the blind development of technology strengthens social oppression and exploitation threatens at every stage to transform progress into its opposite, complete barbarism".(75)
My reconstruction of Horkheimer's position points to a relation of the dissolution of the free subject to the development of evil: "progress" emerges as causing them both. "Progress" brings about an intensification of both knowledge and human domination which are responsible for fostering "the radically evil." Progress is also an expression of such intensification. As man develops the knowledge that doing good does not accompany him - and with it also the knowledge of the good itself - he actually becomes more evil.(76) On the one hand, evil is regarded as effected by the gap between knowing good and doing evil, and on the other hand Horkheimer's whole work is devoted to the effort to expose the progress of knowledge as a pseudo-progress. According to Horkheimer progress widens the gap between knowledge of good and moral action, and in this respect progress is a supreme expression of evil. This discrepancy is the foundation for pessimism since it prevents in principle doing the good, and since the presence of evil is disclosed as unpreventable.
There is also metaphysical support for my conclusion
regarding Horkheimer's concept of evil in history. I think it should be
related to Benjamin's "Theses on the Philosophy of History." According
to Horkheimer, "radical evil asserts its domination over all created beings
everywhere and reaches as far as the sun".(77)
Is there any chance for a change of tide in the course of history? Horkheimer believes that its present course is necessary,(78) and that only a leap out of history is possible. As in the eschatological tradition,(79) this possibility is conditional on the accurence of a terrible catastrophe. "This movement of humanity into the administered world may be interrupted: by catastrophes, by wars or by separation".(80) This understanding, that there is no redemption that is historically framed, is enother central Jewish concept that he develops as a critical dimention of late critical theory.
Benjamin closes his article "On the Task of the Translator" by referring to the special status of the holy scriptures. "Only in the holy scriptures the text is identical with truth".(81) The later Horkheimer thought, as did Benjamin before him, that one should base moral action on theology alone. "The love of fellow-man, honesty, awareness of responsibility - in the absence of any claim to the validity of God's commandment - do not have a more logical foundation than animosity, and the assistance to fellow-men is not preferable to exploitation”.(82) "In the end everything related logically to morality is based on theology. In any case, it lacks secular foundation".(83) Nevertheless, Horkheimer did not regard this relativistic world as senseless - as long as he could rely on a dimension designated as "the space of common understanding." He identified this dimension within the realm of the scriptures. Here too, following Schopenhauer's interpretation of Kant,(84) he implicitly continues in adherence to the pessimistic tradition, which regarded the world merely as a vision and as an illusion. One can see here also the influence of enother Jewish (pessimist) philosopher, Hermann Goitein, that we know Horkheimer was impressed by his thesis of Judaism as a true pessimistic religion.(85) However, at the same time he thought that in light of the latest historical developments theology had lost its pragmatic necessity,(86) he identified the origin of this process already in the renaissance. The foundation of Horkheimer's utopianism is at once the source of his pessimism: on the one hand the world of phenomena is merely a world of apparent facts, an illusion, "a fantasy," "a Maya curtain;" but on the other hand he believed that this world, in which injustice is the rule, is not at all the last one,(87) and he called for this claim to be made the foundation of the philosophical project of a critical social pessimism relevant to the present.
The later Horkheimer did not believe in an
almighty merciful God who would bring redemption, as in the religious tradition.
Nor could he believe longer in the realization of a secular utopia by means
of a revolution. He thus made a decision on an issue, which was so difficult
for Benjamin to resolve despite the encouragement the latter received from
his close friend Scholem: in favor of the theological-philosophical project
and against the political revolutionary project. Yet later Horkheimer did
not abandon on the utopian idea of deviation from present reality
in the light of the completely "other." He continued to cling this idea,
guided by the best tradition of religious redemption. He criticized both
traditions and transformed them into a position involving elements from
both, like Benjamin before him. This development thus serves as an important
turning point, in the development of the tradition of both religious redemption
and of secular utopianism, which diverged from the religious. But
at the same time it is noteworthy that although he could not rely on a
positive concept of "God" Horkheimer only rejected the concept of God in
its use as a
"dogma".(88) "We cannot say that there exists an almighty and good God... instead of the dogmas regarding God we can hold onto the yearning, so that horror will not have the last saying".(89)
The common religions, among which he included Marxism,(90) express the presence of power; and they are basically aggressive because of the special place which is given to dogmas (like the holy trinity), which he found hard to accept and which function as oppressive teleological knowledge. However, theology expresses a principle contrary to the principle of oppression in the sense of being "free of earthly ends".(91) He stressed the differences between his later Critical Theory and dogmatic religious faith, and he marked both the lack of faith in dogmas and the liberation from dogma's inherent necessary aggression as the main differences.(92) We have to emphasize: the difference does not consist in the lack of faith but in the lack of faith in dogmas, and in abstraction from power - even power enlisted on behalf of good.
I regard the Horkheimerian project as a kind
of religiosity demanding the continuation of the utopian revolutionary
tradition - which was defeated - and the memories of this tradition with
the religious one.
He thus continued Benjamin's theme, and often even used a similar jargon, one which he previously - together with Adorno - he severely criticized in letters to Benjamin. He was able to permit himself this interweaving in light of his views on the complete dissolution of religion in the traditional sense and its lack of relevance. In a conversation with George Wolf he said explicitly: "Theology has to be renewed." I interpret this renewal of theology as the task of the final version of Critical Theory.
Nevertheless, for Horkheimer, contrary to Benjamin, this is a theology without a God. Wolf asked him: And what remains of theology in the absence of God? Horkheimer's answer was: "yearning." It is the yearning for the "other," alien to this world;(93) A world which he once designated as "hell upon earth," perhaps under the influence of Benjamin, who preceded him in the use of this image too. When directly confronting the issue of the institution of a new religion his reply was: "No, we cannot form a new religion. Let the old religions persist and let them have influence... let them express yearning, and not dogma".(94) His metaphysical pessimism claims that the absolute is "the evil"' - the world as the expression of ruling power. He continued Benjamin's conception of language. For Benjamin, as a matter of principle language is impotent in the ordinary world. The thing in itself will always remain behind the "Maya curtain" of language. The good will never be fully and directly present in a positive way. However, Horkheimer, like Benjamin, still did not forgo the demand to transcend into a dimension of absolute reality beyond the horizons - "the other," "the good." In light of the good this is not the last world, it is not “the absolute”, and it seems to remain beyond the horizon. Here a tension prevails which he did not resolve. Much more severe is the fact that he never contended with it directly.
I believe that his project must be seen as utopian. The completely "other" is not conceived as "utopia" in the sense of an illusion to be forsaken, but on the contrary precisely in the sense of reality. However, it is always distinguished as a dimension existing beyond the horizon of current reality, which is perceived as unreal and evil. In light of the completely "other," appearing in a negative way as an absence, the liberating philosophical discourse is possible and is not dependent on knowing the "absolute truth," and not even on the assumption of knowing it in the future. Of course there is no assumption of a future "union" with this dimension, like in the positive utopian version of Marcuse.
The context we are discussing is the attempt to supply a foundation for the hope of transgress the totality of reality, within a moral conception given in a general position, which we assume can be named utopian. In spite of everything, negative utopianism in need of hope explains, so I argue, what the later Horkheimer searched for in theology: non repressive knowledge. Marcuse searched for a similar knowledge in his conception of art, and Benjamin attempted the same in his unique project. Only this non repressive knowledge is able to evaluate the oppressive knowledge. Since in Horkheimer's thinking teleological knowledge is conceived as one of the expressions of the principle of individuation,(95) it follows that Horkheimer's pessimism conceived any ordinary knowledge as essentially evil. In Horkheimer's view, theology is a different kind of knowledge, or even, "it is the other to knowledge": "knowledge is ultimately governed by purposes. Theology wants to be free of earthly ends. It is both lower and higher than any form of knowledge".(96)
According to my reconstruction, the hope which emanates from theology is a central element in this special kind of knowledge: "Theology is - and I consciously phrase it carefully - the hope that injustice, which is typical of the world, will not have the last say... a yearning that in the end the hand of the killer will not remain on top of the innocent victim".(97) In this sense Horkheimer's concept of hope is close to Multmann's, i.e. spero, ut intelligam: I hope therefore I understand.(98) This is the touchstone for Benjamin's and Horkheimer's unique negative utopianism: the possibility of saving the purpose in the struggle for the self-constitution of a free individual; a struggle for the clarification of moral causes via social involvement, via political praxis. The philosophical Eros, the love of truth, overcomes the will to power. According to Horkheimer "the good" may shine in spite of everything, not within a positive utopia of Marcuse's kind, but in a stubborn struggle "against the ruling power",(99) a struggle with no self-confidence, and lacking optimism. And this is his route for clarifying the "truth" as "the thought that rejects injustice".(100) However, as for Benjamin, "the path is the truth".(101)
Even in his latter days Marcuse adhered to an optimism regarding the possibilities of revolutionary liberation, and he continued his identification with enlightenment's traditional concept of progress. In the late 1960s he became involved in a confrontation with Horkheimer and Adorno on this issue, and he accused them of not being faithful to Critical Theory's basic principles, on which they had agreed in the 1930s. However, it has to be noted that for Benjamin already during that decade there was no room for such optimism. It seems that such optimism is a harsh naivity. Within the framework of Benjamin's utopian pessimism, we can reconstruct in his position two patterns of hope replacing revolutionary optimism. The first is interpretable within the Gnostic context of his thought, the second within the framework of his conception of redemption. The Gnostic pattern of hope is the one Benjamin finds in Kafka: there is room for hope "plenty of hope, an infinite measure of hope - but not for us".(102) The second pattern of hope is discussed in the framework of the interpretive struggle constituting the "present time," which rescues of evil eternity the moral cause and constitutes the possibility of striving for the truth. This conception we may designate as negative utopianism.
Like that of Benjamin and Adorno, Horkheimer's negative utopianism also extracts from pessimism the hope for a philosophical discourse. It is in this that his whole project finds its essence, not in the Marcusian kind of revolution. To a large degree this later route of Critical Theory was expressed in Horkheimer's interpretation of Judaism, where he emphasized the utopian as well as the pessimistic dimension.
Although in contrast to Benjamin he did not believe in the existence of God, Horkheimer founded "the hope for a positive absolute"(103) on the solitude of man, his finiteness and his distance from "the God": "Man's solitude," "God deserting man" and similar phrases do express, I think, not just a relation to traditional "God" in the narrow meaning of the word, but they comprehend the loneliness of the philosopher, the awareness of the dissolution of the theoretical foundations for his task, his longing on the one hand, for supreme goals and for the sublime, and his recognition, on the other, that the done cannot be undone. The sublime and the variety of ideals and concepts expressing the sublime - all have "deserted" the world of the philosopher, who is left without any certainty at all. However, out of this awareness precisely, out of a skepticism penetrating everything, Horkheimer was able to form a yearning, a new-old "hope" for the absolute, for the perfect one, the absent one. Nor does Adorno's pessimism deny hope: "[the negative dialectic] is the critique of the fact that critique itself, contrary to its tendency, has to remain within the limits of the conception... it lies in the definition of negative dialectics that it will not come registered in itself as if it were total. This is its form of hope".(104) As for Benjamin and Adorno, also for Horkheimer pessimism is the cornerstone stone of a utopianism devoid of naive faith (105) and lacking optimism. On the one hand he (implicitly) identified "yearning" with "hope";(106) but on the other hand he attacked the dogmatic belief, and based the relation of Judaism to utopia on hope and on yearning.(107)
Apparently this is what secured for Judaism
its ability to struggle to suppress the "evil" reality; and this is what
made Judaism's critique of evil reality possible. Practically, this is
the pillar supporting the utopian dimension of Critical Theory itself.
Horkheimer has transformed hope from being just any hope for a positive
absolute to an absolute yearning which lacks any such positive dimension.
Thus he continues
the religious yearning for redemption, which is founded on a pessimistic position regarding the
final judgment. I think that in the later version of his Critical Theory Horkheimer wanted to preserve just this dimension, which constitutes the meaning of traditional theology.(108) This is the cornerstone for true solidarity - replacing what he calls "the caricature of present solidarity - amongst humanity and between humanity and nature".(109)
Such expressions may indicate a yearning for a positive utopia, which the later Horkheimer was committed to reject in order to be faithful to his pessimism. Even though I cannot argue here for my claim, it is still worth presenting: Horkheimerian utopianism forms a special link and is a turning point in the history of utopianism. Pessimism functions as the point of departure for this negative utopianism presenting true solidarity, which emerges out of the realization of the necessity in the endurance of suffering, which links all humans as finite creatures who share the essential existence of life.(110) Like Marcusian utopianism this is a maximalist utopian version. However, in contradistinction to Marcuse, Horkheimer's version is not positive but negative. Already Benjamin shared this conception, and he already merged it into his conception of Judaism. Contrary to the positive utopian tradition in which Horkheimer and Adorno took part till the immigration from Germany, Benjamin presented the negativity according to which "the Jews are not allowed to investigate the future... Thus the magic veil was torn away from the future".(111)
The later Horkheimer follows Benjamin on this issue, or in any case presents a similar position. According to Horkheimer, 'Judaism' did not present God as a positive absolute, and in this regard it was unique. He linked this attitude of "Judaism" to its focusing mainly on man and his essence, and not on the essence of God.(112) His utopianism is negative not only in the sense that he denies the possibility of the realization of utopian visions, and certainly not because of his rejecting their importance and their necessity for the utopian yearnings. Following Benjamin, the negativity of his utopianism is constituted from two elements, which contradict Marcuse's project. The first is the rejection in principle of the possibility of the positive realization of the utopian vision. The second is the inability to imagine a positive picture of the image of future society prior to its realization. In Horkheimer's opinion, Judaism expresses this position,(113) and therefore it is "a non-positive religion," it is a hope for the coming of the messiah.(114)
According to Horkheimer Judaism is a symbol for solidarity exhibiting want of power, a non-violent solidarity,(115) and in this aspect too Critical Theory follows Judaism. On the one hand, he thought that the impossibility of belief in God and in positive utopia led to pessimism as the final metaphysical truth,(116) and on the other hand through this pessimism he came back to the critique of religion in order to maintain the seed of utopia. "We all have to be bound via the yearning that what happens in this world, injustice and anxiety, are not final; that there is something different, which we secure for ourselves within which is called religion".(117)
According to Horkheimer, what is true for religions
in general is true especially for Judaism, in which "suffering and hope
are interlaced and undetectable".(118) Here
he continues the position of Leo Baeck, who said, "The voice of joy in
life is less present and less excited than the voice of pain and sorrow
for this world, which is the Valley of Tears, a place of trouble and despair...
viewing pessimistically reality... nevertheless facing this world, in which
evil is spreading, is not falling into despair nor becoming indifferent
to it... It faced the world out of a will to change it, out of a commandment
to fulfill and shape in it the good".(119)
Horkheimer interprets "Judaism" in such a way that it may be appropriate for the mission of Critical Theory. This approach is also valid for his conception of the implicit relation in Judaism between pessimism and utopia. The effort to define Judaism by the principles of Critical Theory is especially conspicuous within the utopian context.
He indicated that Judaism expresses "a refusal to recognize power as an argument for truth".(120) Judaism is a nonconformism making no compromises.(121) His presentation of Judaism suggests an alternative to the unity between theory and praxis as perceived in the 1930s, and to which Marcuse remained faithful till the end. The uniqueness of Judaism lies in its permanent demand for justice, emerging out of a hope with no real historical anchor: "Jewry was not a powerful state, but the hope for justice at the end of the world".(122) The demand for justice from "Judaism" - namely, from the Critical Theory of Horkheimer - is expressed in the struggle directed against power characterizing the other established religions, which were successful to a certain degree. He thinks that in contrast to them Judaism expresses the idea that "the good is good, not because it is victorious, but because it resists victory".(123) Maybe he borrowed this thesis from Adorno, who presented it as early as August 1940.(124) And it is possible that on this point Adorno embraced Benjamin's position as expressed in the seventh thesis in the essay on the philosophy of history. On the other hand, according to Horkheimer Christianity embodied violence, and this is clearly symbolized by the pictures of the crucified Christ decorating the halls of justice and chambers of torture.(125)
Horkheimer thinks that in the end the horror that the Nazis perpetrated against the Jews "has its origin in the perverted longing for the kindness that has power - in the provocativeness of the good. In that lash of the whip lies the inability to love the good that is impotent, the despair that it has no power. The devil".(126) At the same time Horkheimer emphasized the utopian dimension typical of Judaism: "For Christians the main point of the story about paradise is original sin. For Jews, it is the expulsion and the desire to return".(127)
Judaism, like Critical Theory, expresses within Horkheimer's thought the opposite to power, which seems the ultimate absolute in present reality, be it in the form of idols, worship, the nation, or the leader. The absolute for the Jews is completely "the other" to the given field of power. They are the witnesses for a spiritual God. The belief in him functions as an opposition to the victory of power dominating present reality: according to Horkheimer this is the reason for "their inhalation " - in the eyes of the representatives of power and of success, both dominating earthly affairs. It was not power that unified them against all the evil abundantly directed at them, but an 'idea'".(128) Traditionally, out of the injustice directed against it Judaism has expressed the demand for justice. Thus, the execution of Eichmann expresses what happens to the demand for justice after it obtains power. Horkheimer claimed that in this respect, for the Jews Eichmann became a disaster for the second time (129) as he was put to death by an executioner representing the government of Israel. According to my interpretation this dramatic phrasing has to be understood thus: at that very moment Judaism has showed that it too had assumed its place in the game in the fields of power in current reality and lost its essential uniqueness; and so it forsook power to demand justice, and has lost its faith in the utopian demand for justice and in non violent protest against this world, which was ruled by violence and by endless aspiration.
These issues clearly point to what degree he identified violent power with "the evil," and how this identification is essential to the utopia of "the good" in the Socratic sense. In my opinion, this is the background against which one should understand his - justified - fear that Israel was turning into a modified Prussian model.(130) Principally, according to Horkheimer's pessimism, as interpreted here, the demand for justice cannot be obtain power and integrate into earthly justice, unless by its absolute transformation into its contrary. We think that "violence" in Horkheimer's thought has also to be understood as constituting the "facts" which are declared as an "illusion", against which the utopian "refusal" is directed; the refusal is the domain of the philosopher's expertise, who is also called "the neurotic who refuses to recuperate." He refuses to compromise with reality, to give up his utopianism, on a moral ground and not for a realistic reason, since "only an evil person can live as a realist".(131)
Benjamin preceded Horkheimer in establishing
a metaphysics of language within the negative utopian context - revealing
another dimension of his pessimism. In his article "On language in general
and on human language," the interpretive struggle is distinguished as the
condition for the salvation of the philosopher's soul that is, for the
human who realizes his concept. Benjamin thought that since the Fall man
has been expelled from the realms of pure language. The language of Eden
has merged into a reality in which living words were the things which man
experienced - felt, smelt and saw.(132) In Eden
there was only one language (133) and the knowledge
of good and evil was made possible - without naming. The human word and
the plurality of languages were born at the moment of exile from Eden,(134)
and then began the isolation from pure language and the transformation
of language into a means and sometimes even into a mere
sign.(135) One can say that such a metaphysics of language marks reality as an "illusion" for Horkheimer's later thought. Benjamin presented the possibility of the interpretive struggle as a mode of overcoming the "facts" of reality. This is the basis for a serious play with allegories and for the production of new metaphors, as an effort capable of fracturing the space of common understanding, and of creating a new space. At the same time, in the new space the struggle continues for the salvation of the soul of the interpreter, who refuses to surrender to reality and to engage in the tragic logic of the mere "everything the same all the time." Benjamin pointed out this goal in his essay on Leskov, and compared this task to that of the narrator, who paves the way and penetrates "the innermost chamber of the realm of created things".(136)
Against this background one may understand his identification with Kafka's oeuvre, which turns out mainly to be the rhyming of hints and interpretations in a reality in which the context for this work of art is constantly unraveled and woven afresh,(137) but always piecemeal, with no continuity which may turn into tradition, or progress: forever without concrete foundation. The whole of Benjamin's project relies here on the refusal to identify with the victorious side,(138) which shapes reality and writes its history. Benjamin's religious mission was to fight all opposing forces on behalf of the memory of the past and of its interpretation in the "now-time." The "now-time" expropriates the interpreter's space of existence from within the reality of the continuos march of victory of mere violence, which always wins - necessarily. Horkheimer was he who transformed this theme into an explicit position of Jewish theology, which also determined his attitude to Zionism. Even though one ought not examine Horkheimer's and Benjamin's positions separately, I think that Horkheimer's theological position is firmer in its relevancy to the thought of Judaism and to the critique of Zionism today. First, he deserted positive utopianism and rejected totally the principle of revolution - violence acting on behalf of the "good" contrary to Benjamin who remained faithful to this conception despite all. For both thinkers, the conception of Judaism emerges out as an affirmation of the Diaspora and as a rejection in principle of Zionism, even though from time to time they both disclosed expressions of sympathy with this positive utopian violent project.
There are two layers in the affirmation of the Diaspora as reality and as a metaphor (which represents a negative dimension). On the first layer, historical reality proves to be entirely "an exile" - ever since Eden. Exile has been the ontological condition of man since "the first sin" and since "the Fall." The struggle for redemption is possible only through recognition of the tragic in which earthly time is soaked, and only through preservation of religious awareness of time's commandments. On the second layer, Critical Theory of society (the interpretation of allegories and the metaphorical work of art) is accepted as a struggle for what Benjamin called "the messianic" and Horkheimer called "the other" - completely different from the oppressive reality. Both had an affirmative attitude to "the Diaspora" as a locus of the struggle for redemption from reality, in which oppressive Judaism has become an integral element. This utopian pessimism, yearning for redemption, certainly turns out to be a moment of the attempt to evade spiritual death in the life of mere vagueness, to evade the "everything the same" - the salvation of the philosopher's soul. With both thinkers this knowledge obligates them to an especially political activism. This special pessimism engenders hope and commits them to saving the past from the one-dimensional interpretation of the victorious side, and to a daily struggle for the preservation of the spiritual autonomy of the individual and the preservation of solidarity with the victims.
Here in Israel, this position has a special meaning and it may function as a foundation for a critical educational praxis within current Israeli reality. Principally, both thinkers were opposed to a secularity merely consisting in the murder of God, which transformed thought on redemption into a positive utopian revolutionary project, yearning for more and more violent power, which is supposed to finally secure a pleasant occupation, the prosperity of the victorious side, and the "self-esteem" of knights. Both naturally rejected the bourgeois class which gave up the utopian principle and its moral commandments, and whose passion is devoted solely to accumulating "ever more" of this world's goods. Although both sought a way to merge religiosity with philosophy, a way to merge negative utopianism with the idea of redemption, fro their point of view it is not possible except to reject the coalition of religion and extreme nationalism which flourishes here in Israel. Their thinking implies a rejection of all those religious versions of Judaism that share a confidence in the power of God and in the relief from tragic consciousness - optimism. Judaism as a complete rejection of reality can only exist in the atmosphere of the "Diaspora." The Netura Carta are the last ones to understand this, and they know that more than anywhere else in the world, in Zionist Israel they are at the peak of the "Diaspora," and thus from their point of view life here has a special meaning. From earthy Jerusalem, from "Babylon," they pray for the messiah who at any moment may or may not come into the world. They are the last ones to know - through the power of naivity - that the Zionist state is an utmost expression of the indifference of oppressive politics, to whose rejection Judaism has devoted itself traditionally. Benjamin, Horkheimer and Adorno did understand this from a sober point of view, which does not share the optimism of the positive utopian project, and which is also not at ease in established religion and its conception of redemption.
Like Critical Theory, non-Zionist Judaism is presented by Horkheimer as a negative position towards reality,(139) as a tendency to a non-abstract and non-neutral spirituality, involved in the demand for justice and the rejection of the present reality (140) from within. Judaism prefers smashing the idols instead of presenting a positive picture of the absolute, or of positive utopia. The compliance of the main principles in his Critical Theory to the "essence of Judaism" is completed with the presentation of this preference.(141) Here Horkheimer also found an identity between Judaism and the German spirit.
The linking dimension is utopia: the demand for justice, the "grand refusal," leaning upon truth - to the extent that it is not a "fact" within the space of reality - which is not affirmative, which cannot be positively recognized, but which nevertheless really does exist.(142) According to Horkheimer this truth is more real than the "facts" of reality. He interlaces Judaism's negative utopianism with the positive pessimism of the eternity of suffering and with the absence of perfect appeasement in future society. This negativity was symbolized in the idea of "the first sin," which he declared as a "sublime" idea. "Schopenhauer was justified in accepting the idea of original sin as a profound truth”.(143) "Until today it determined history, and even today it is crucial for thinking about the world”.(144) The conception of original sin which Horkheimer accepts - explicitly by his interpretation of Schopenhauer and implicitly by adopting Benjamin's position on this issue - is interpreted as the rejection "of the affirmation of the private individual, and of the negation of the fellow individual,(145) within the framework of the struggle for the autonomous individual and his solidarity with his fellow-man. 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”.(146)
He compares the real Jews - who were not tempted by Zionism, nor by Social-Democracy or established Communism to "remnants," similar to the true socialists who find their place in his Critical Theory. Also in this respect his thinking turns out to be a conceptual development hiding within it the seed of "Judaism." "The Diaspora is the backwoods. The Jews are remnants. Their situation is not dissimilar to that of Communism and Socialism... Those who adhere to Critical Theory can choose one of the two forms of nationalism... They may also become provincial, romantic sectarians. The realm of freedom is the backwoods. Those who remain loyal to the theory are remnants like those that cling to the Talmud and messianic hope”.(147)
This position looks like an interpretation
or a development of Benjamin's position, which he found so difficult to
accept when Benjamin was still alive. This result can be regarded as an
ironical victory of Benjamin's philosophy. Would Benjamin have agreed to
such an interpretation? Maybe Benjamin would reject the interpretation
and demand in his Critique to disclose the splinters of the defeated truth,
which throw a gleam of light on the philosophical and cultural context
of our interpretive position and its political meaning as an allegorical
game demanding the solidarity partner. The absent.
(1) Max Horkheimer, “Vorlesungen ueber die Geschichte der beuen Philosophie”, Gesammelte Schriften, IX., Frankfurt a.M. 1987, s. 388-391
(2) Max Horkheimer, “Anfaenge der buergerlichen Geschichtsphilosophie”, Gesammelte Schriften, II., Frankfurt a.M. 1978, s. 176-268
(3) Ibid. s. 179-180
(4) Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia, London 1934, p. 237
(5) Horkheimer, Ibid., s. 238
(6) Ibid. s. 244
(7) Ibid. Ibid.
(8) Ibid. s. 242
(9) Horkheimer, “Materialismus und Metaphisik”, Gesammelte Schriften, II. s. 105
(10) Horkheimer, Traditionelle und Kritische Theorie, Frankfurt a.M. 1971, s. 57
(11) Walter Benjamin, Zur Kritik der Gewalt und andere Aufsaetze, Frankfurt a.M. 1971, s. 57
(12) Walter Benjamin, “Theologisch-politische Fragment”, in: Gesammelte Schriften, II.1, s. 203
(13) Ibid. Ibid.
(14) Ibid., s. 204
(15) Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, I.3, s. 1235
(16) Op. Cit., s. 203
(17) Ibid. Ibid.
(18) Ibid. s. 204
(19) Benjamin, “The author as producer”, in: Reflections, New Yorkk and London 1978, pp. 237-238
(20) Benjamin, “Ueber den Begriff der Geschichte”, Gesammelte Schriften, I.2, s. 695-697
(21) Benjamin, Ibid. s. 703
(22) Benjamin, Ibid. s. 701
(23) Benjamin, “Ueber das Programm der Kommenden Philosophie”, in: Zur Kritik der Gewalt und andere Aufsaetze, s. 45
(24) Ibid. s. 47
(25) Ibid. s. 51
(26) Benjamin, “Ueber den Begriff der Geschichte”, s. 697
(27) Benjamin, “Franz Kafka”, in: Illuminations, London 1970, p. 130
(28) Ibid. p. 114
(29) Horkheimer, “Erinnerung an Paul Tillich”, Gesammelte Schriften, VII., Frankfurt a.M. 1985, s. 281
(30) Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, I., Chicago 1971
(31) Gershom Scholem, Od Davar, (One More), Tel-Aviv 1989, p. 41 (Hebrew)
(32) Gershom Scholem, Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship, London 1972
(33) Horkheimer, “Max heute”, Gesammelte Schriften, VIII., Frankfurt a.M. 1985. s. 306
(34) Ibid. s. 311
(35) Ibid. s. 306
(36) Max Horkheimer und Theodor Adorno, Dialektik der Aufklaerung, Frankfurt a.M. 1988, s. 273
(37) Max Horkheimer, “Die Aktualitaet Schopenhauers”, Gesammelte Schriften, VII, s. 130
(38) Ibid. s. 313
(39) Horkheimer, “Marx heute”, s. 311
(40) Horkheimer, “Kritische Theorie gestern und heute”, Gesammelte Schriften, VIII., Frankfurt a.M. 1985, s. 348.
(41) Ibid. s. 421
(42) Horkheimer, “Erinnerungen an Paul Tillich”, Gesammelte Schriften, VII., Frankfurt a.M. 1985, s. 283
(43) Horkheimer, “Neues Denken ueber Revolution”, Gesammelte Schriften, VII., Frankfurt a.M. 1985, s. 418
(44) Horkheimer, “Kritische Theorie gestern und heute”, s. 339-340
(45) Horkheimer, “[Ueber Grausamkeit in der Geschichte]”, Gesammelte Schriften, XIII. Frankfurt a.M. 1989, s. 247
(46) Horkheimer, “Gefaehrdung der Freiheit - Opposition des Geistes”, Gesammelte Schriften, XIII., Frankfurt a.M. 1989, s. 198
(47) Ibid. s. 340
(48) Ibid. ibid.
(49) Horkheimer, “Zur Kritik der gegenwartigen Gesellschaft”, Gesammelte Schriften, VIII., s. 328
(50) Horkheimer, “Kritische Theorie gestern und heute”, Gesammelte Schriften, VIII., s. 341
(51) Horkheimer, “Theismus - Atheismus”, Gesammelte Schriften, VII., s. 185
(52) Horkheimer, “Kritische Theorie Gestern und heute”, Gesammelte Schriften, s. 317
(53) Ibid. s. 308-309
(54) Horkheimer, “Die Rote Garde in China”, Gesammelte Schriften, XIII., s. 169
(55) Friedrich Pollock, “Marx heute” in Max Horkheimer, Gesammelte Schriften, XIV., Frankfurt a.M. 1988, s. 302
(56) Ibid., s. 202, 272, 302
(57) Walter Benjamin, “The work of art in the age of technological reproduction”, in: Illuminations, London 1970, p. 244
(58) Theodor Adorno, Gesammelte Schriften, III., s. 205
(59) Theodor Adorno, Gesammelte Schriften, X., s. 243
(60) Walter Benjamin, Schriften, II., Frankfurt a.M. 1982, s. 676
(61) Immnuel Kant, Zum Ewigen Frieden, 1796, b96.
(62) Walter Benjamin, “Ueber den Begriff der Geschichte”, s. 697-698
(63) Max Horkheimer und Theodor Adorno, Op. Cit., s. 9
(64) Ibid. s. 225
(65) Walter Benjamin, “Ueber den Begriff der Geschichte”, s. 696
(66) Max Horkheimer und Theodor Adorno, Op. Cit. s. 42
(67) Benjamin, “One-way street”, in: Reflections, p. 94
(68) Horkheimer, “[Nachgelassene Notizen 1949-1969]”, Gesammelte Schriften, XIV., Frankfurt a.M., 1988, s. 125
(69) Horkheimer, “Philosophie als Kulturkritik”, s. 93
(70) Horkheimer, Eclipse of Reason, New York 1974, p. 63
(71) Ibid. s. 22
(72) Horkheimer, “Universitaet und Studium”, Gesammelte Schriften, VIII., s. 368
(73) Horkheimer, “Die Sehnsucht nach dem ganz Anderen”, Gesammelte Schriften, VII., s. 401
(74) Horkheimer, “Die Situation des jungen Menschen heute”, Gesammelte Schriften, VIII., s. 356-357
(75) Horkheimer, Eclipse of Reason, p. 134
(76) Horkheimer, Dawn & Decline, Translated by Michael Shaw, New York 1978, p. 162
(77) Ibid. pp. 162, 202
(78) Horkheimer, “[Nachgelassene Notizen 1949-1969]”, s. 141
(79) Amos Funkenstein, Perceptions of Jewish History, Los Angeles 1993
(80) Horkheimer, “Peirode des Uebergang. Zur Krize der
Gesellschaft heute”, in: Gerduan van de Moeter,
Horkheimer ind Italien, Frankfurt a.M. 1990, s. 22
(81) Benjamin, “The task of the translator”, in: Illuminations, p. 82
(82) Horkheimer, “heuber den Zweifel”, Gesammelte Schriften, VII. s. 215
(83) Horkheimer, “Was wir ‘Sinn’ nennen, wird verschwinden”, Gesammelte Schriften , VII., s. 350
(84) Norbert Bolz, “Erloesung als ob: Ueber einige gnostische Motive der Kritischen Theorie”, in: Jacob Taubes, Teligionstheotie und Politische Theologie, II., Muenchen 1984, s. 226
(85) Hermann Goitein, Der Optimismus und Pesimismus un der Judischen Religionsphilosophie, Berlin 1890, s. 111
(86) Horkheimer, “Ueber den Zweifel”, Gesammelte Schriften, VII., s. 215
(87) Horkheimer, “Was wir ‘sinn’ nennen, wird verschwinden”, s. 350
(88) Horkheimer, Dawnn & Decline, p. 239
(89) Horkheimer, “Die verwaltete Welt kennt keine Liebe”, Gesammelte Schriften, VII., s. 362
(90) Horkheimer, Dawn & Decline, p. 158
(91) Ibid. p. 235
(92) Ibid. p. 239
(93) Horkheimer, “Die verwaltete Welt kennt kine Liebe”, s. 362
(94) Horkheimer, “Was wir ‘Sinn’ nennen, iwrd verschwinden”, s. 351
(95) Horkheimer, Dawn & Decline, p. 235
(96) Ibid. Ibid.
(97) Horkheimer, “Die Sehnschucht nach dem ganz Anderen”, Gesammelte Schriften, VII., s. 389
(98) Heinz Zahnt, Die Sache mit Gott, Muenchen 1966, s. 254
(99) Max Horkheimer und Theodor Adorno, Op. Cit. s. 230
(100) Ibid. Ibid.
(101) Horkheimer, Dawn & Decline, p. 212
(102) Walter Benjamin, “Franz Kafka”, Op. Cit., p. 116
(103) Horkheimer, “Die Sehnsucht nach dem ganz Anderen”, s. 386
(104) Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics, London 1973, p. 406
(105) Ibid. p. 149
(106) Horkheimer, “Das Schlimme erwarten und das Gute versuchen”, Gesammelte Schriften, VII., s. 444
(107) Horkheimer, Dawn & Decline, p. 206
(108) Helmut Gumnior / Rudolf Rigguth, Horkheimer, Hamburg 1973, s. 100
(109) Gerd-Walter Kustes, Der Kritkbegriff der Kritische Theorie Max Horkheimers, Frankfurt a.M. 1980, s. 79
(110) Horkheimer, “Die Sehnsucht nach dem ganz Anderen”, s. 386
(111) Walter Benjamin, “Ueber den Begriff der Geschichte”, s. 704
(112) Horkheimer, Loc. Cit.
(113) Horkheimer, “Verwaltete Welt”, Gesammelte Schriften, VII. s. 382
(114) Friedrich Pollock, “Spane. Notizen ueber Gespraeche mit Max Horkheimer”, in: Max Horkheimer, Gesammelte Schriften, XIV., Frankfurt a.M., 1988, s. 331
(115) Ibid. s. 140
(116) Horkheimer, “Pessimismus heute”, Gesammelte Schriften, VII., s. 228
(117) Horkheimer, “Kritische Theorie gestern und heute”, Gesammelte Schriften, VIII., s. 343
(118) Horkheimer, “Zur Ergreifung Eichmanns”, Gesammelte Schriften, VIII., s. 158
(119) Leo Baeck, The Essence of Judaism: Elements and Faith
(120) Horkheimer, Loc. Cit.
(121) Horkheimer, “[Nachgelassene Notizen 1949-1969]”, s. 139
(122) Horkheimer, Dawn & Decline, p. 206
(123) Ibid. p. 207
(124) Adorno in a letter August 5, 1940 to Horkheimer, Max Horkheimer Archiv, VI. 1A 24a
(125) Horkheimer, Op. Cit. p. 222
(126) Ibid. p. 146
(127) Ibid. p. 133
(128) Horkheimer, Dawn & Decline, p. 131
(129) Horkheimer, “Zur Ergreifung Eichmans”, s. 159
(130) Horkheimer, Dawn & Decline, p. 215
(131) Ibid. p. 202
(132) Benjamin, “Ueber Sprache ueberhaupt ind uber Sprache des Menschen”, in L Schriften, II., Frankfurt a.M. 1955, s. 413
(133) Ibid., s. 414
(134) Ibid. s. 415
(135) Ibid. Ibid.
(136) Benjamin, “The storyteller”, in: Illuminations, p. 107
(137) Benjamin, “Franz Kafka”, p. 120
(138) Benjamin, “Ueber den Begriff der Geschichte”, s. 694
(139) Horkheimer, “Nachwort [zu Portraet deutsch-juedischer Geistesgeschichte]”, Gesammelte Schriften, VIII., s. 183
(140) Ibid. s. 182
(141) Ibid. Ibid.
(142) Horkheimer, “Ueber dei deutschen Juden”, Gesammelte Schriften, VIII., s. 170
(143) Horkheimer, “Pessimismus heute”, s. 228
(144) Horkheimer, “Die Sehnsucht nach dem ganz Anderen”, s. 391
(145) Ibid. s. 392
(146) Horkheimer, Dawn & Decline, p. 221
(147) Ibid. pp. 221-222