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Month: July, 2021

The Daemonic: Concept of a Negative Philosophy of Religion (Löwenthal, 1921)


First Published: in Gabe – Herrn Rabbiner Dr. Nobel Zum 50. Geburtstag, J. Kauffmann Verlag Frankfurt a. M. in 1921; Source: Leo Löwenthal Schriften. 5 Bände – Band 5: Philosophische Frühschriften, Suhrkamp Verlag Frankfurt am Main, 1987; Translated from German: P. Alexander Schneider; Redaction and Markup: P. Alexander Schneider, @stadtstaat.

Editors’ NoteDas Dämonische was originally written in 1920 as a seminar paper for Karl Jaspers’ [12] seminary in Heidelberg. It was mainly dedicated to the second chapter “Weltbilder” in Jaspers’ recently released Psychologie der Weltanschauungen. It was not a mere reproduction of Jaspers’ thought but a philosophical treatise with messianic aspiration. The text reveals many features Löwenthal would maintain during his career such as his relationship to Marxism, to Psychoanalysis, and to a messianic interpretation of the religious. He is also concerned with orienting himself after the leading thinkers of his time such as Bloch and Lukács, but also figures such as Husserl, Goethe, Xenokrates, Kierkegaard, Wilhelm Wundt, and even the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury. Löwenthal is one of the founding members of the Frankfurt School and many of the ideas which would later become influential in creating Critical Theory can already be found here making it not just interesting to those studying Löwenthal or negative philosophy of religion, but the history of Western Marxism as a whole.

The text was first published in 1921 in remembrance of Rabbiner Dr. Nobel’s 50th birthday, one of Löwenthal’s most important mentors. The subsequent Suhrkamp publication is entirely based on this and apart from updating some spelling, changing the German quotation marks to French comillas, and adding real italics where the original couldn’t due to technical limitations remains unchanged. Due to this there were no footnotes for the entire text, let alone for quotes. These were most carefully recreated to the best of our abilities; we also added footnotes to explain certain translation decisions and give more insight into the terminology used in the text most likely alien to the average reader. We tried to orientate ourselves with the translations of authors Löwenthal cited to maintain a coherent vocabulary for those familiar with the English translations of the aforementioned works. When this did not work we tried to find good neologisms and did our best to explain these using footnotes.

This translation would not have been possible without @stadtstaat.

This translation is dedicated in loving memory both to Leo Löwenthal and Helmut Dubiel without whom I would have never had the pleasure of reading, yet alone translating this text.

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Walter Benjamin and the Red Army Faction (Wohlfarth, 2006)


by Irving Wohlfarth, Radical Philosophy 152, 153, 154 (2008-9)

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

Benjamin and the Red Army Faction – is the subject even worth discussing? Its background, or underground, has, it is true, hardly been broached in the secondary literature. Yet both sides claimed that violence was needed to avert disaster; and Benjamin underwrote an ethics which did not shrink from the ‘revolutionary killing of the oppressor’. But a difficult question remains. Does any kind of fuse or trail lead from his words to their deeds? If so, it would mark a striking instance of the general problem: how responsible is a thinker for the fate of his/her ideas? Such questions were hardly foreign to Benjamin. He had, he wrote only a year before Hitler seized power, not yet considered what meaning might be extracted from Nietzsche’s writings ‘in an extreme case’. But who, or what, determines, precisely when such a case obtains? Does the trajectory of the Red Army Faction (which will here henceforth be termed the RAF) raise in retrospect the question of the political meaning that might be wrested, in an extreme case, from Benjamin’s writings – especially since such states of emergency were their common concern?

Theses Against Occultism (Adorno, 1947)


by Theodor Adorno, from Minima Moralia

I. The tendency to occultism is a symptom of regression in consciousness. This has lost the power to think the unconditional and to endure the conditional. Instead of defining both, in their unity and difference, by conceptual labour, it mixes them indiscriminately. The unconditional becomes fact, the conditional an immediate essence. Monotheism is decomposing into a second mythology. “I believe in astrology because I do not believe in God”, one participant in an American socio-psychological investigation answered. Judicious reason, that had elevated itself to the notion of one God, seems ensnared in his fall. Spirit is dissociated into spirits and thereby forfeits the power to recognize that they do not exist. The veiled tendency of society towards disaster lulls its victims in a false revelation, with a hallucinated phenomenon. In vain they hope in its fragmented blatancy to look their total doom in the eye and withstand it. Panic breaks once again, after millennia of enlightenment, over a humanity whose control of nature as control of men far exceeds in horror anything men ever had to fear from nature.

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Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century (Braverman, 1974)


by Harry Braverman


The transformation of working humanity into a “labor force,” a “factor of production,” an instrument of capital, is an incessant and unending process. The condition is repugnant to the victims, whether their pay is high or low, because it violates human conditions of work; and since the workers are not destroyed as human beings but are simply utilized in inhuman ways, their critical, intelligent, conceptual faculties, no matter how deadened or diminished, always remain in some degree a threat to capital. Moreover, the capitalist mode of production is continually extended to new areas of work, including those freshly created by technological advances and the shift of capital to new industries. It is, in addition, continually being refined and perfected, so that its pressure upon the workers is unceasing. At the same time, the habituation of workers to the capitalist mode of production must be renewed with each generation, all the more so as the generations which grow up under capitalism are not formed within the matrix of work life, but are plunged into work from the outside, so to speak, after a prolonged period of adolescence during which they are held in reserve. The necessity for adjusting the worker to work in its capitalist form, for overcoming natural resistance intensified by swiftly changing technology, antagonistic social relations, and the succession of the generations, does not therefore end with the “scientific organization of labor,” but becomes a permanent feature of capitalist society.

Statistics and Socialism (Paul Mattick, Jr., 2016)


On Otto Neurath

Paul Mattick Jr. (presentation at Anton Pannekoek conference, Amsterdam 2016) PDF

One of the preconditions of the creation of socialism, Otto Neurath wrote in 1925, is that society ‘must know from which conditions it starts at a certain moment and what it can undertake.’ To have such information, ‘above all the labour movement needs a statistics of the conditions of life. Its object should not be to establish total consumption or average consumption—these are of little significance—but the ‘standard of life’ of the main social groups and classes.’[1] Of course, it is not ‘society’ that will create this new order: ‘Socialism in practice … will be brought about by the political victory of the proletariat …’[2] hence ‘Statistics is a tool of the proletarian struggle! An element of the socialist economy, the delight of the advancing victorious proletariat and, not least, a foundation for human solidarity.’[3]

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