or some time thinkers and social critics have warned that the foundations of modernity have collapsed. In reaction to the current malaise the realm of discourse in American public life has been closed around one particular social project: right-wing hegemony. With the death of the left, the failure of liberalism, the decline of the arts, and the ultimate decline of democratic values, new movements seek explanations and solutions. Most of these, however, consist of either uncritically imposing moralistic agendas, or, denying that foundations are possible. Negations is a journal of social criticism which seeks to expand the realm of discourse in American society through an interdisciplinary approach, drawing upon critical theory and praxis in the areas of art, history of ideas, political and social philosophy, political theology, and literary criticism. The editors of Negations feel that the most acute analysis and praxis lie in recovering the tradition of 20th century social criticism. We have chosen as springboards, points of departure, Albert Schweitzer, Karl Jaspers, C. Wright Mills, and Herbert Marcuse.
Specifically, what these thinkers have in common is the realization that economic forces render the public sphere synonymous with the commercial sphere. Art, religion, philosophy, ethics, political ideals, all else is reduced to "matters of taste" in the private realm. These vital areas of life, therefore, play a mitigated role in governing public discourse. Moreover, the public sphere has come to subsume the private; "matters of taste" become commodified and are themselves mere products. The process of civilized life is reduced to producing and consuming; serious public dialogue is reduced to a form of entertainment. Non-commodified needs, such as artistic expression, ethical values, or reflections upon our ultimate concerns, are marginalized. The closed realm of discourse reduces analysis of the cause of the crisis to a litany of its effects; "cultural relativism," declining "family values," or a failure of the educational system. The real problem lurking behind these symptoms is the inability of ultimate concerns to affect the social realm.
The editors draw upon the tradition of 20th century social criticism as a springboard to understanding this critical period. In bringing together ideas from the arts and Humanities, and from theology, we hope to expand the realm of discourse in such a way as to open up new possibilities and move beyond the current stalemate; a society of warring camps polarized between postmodernism's endgame and right-wing hegemony. As the Marcusian term "negations" implies, we hope to negate the negations of further possibility which close the realm of discourse, and we hope to create a new synthesis out of diverse and marginalized views.
We do not expect contributors necessarily to write about Schweitzer, or any of the four thinkers above, although, we welcome such articles. Negations is a forum for discussions about the state of contemporary society, we use these four thinkers, different as they are, as points of departure for discussion. As a journal, Negations is virtually unlimited in the range of topics which might be selected. Anything from media manipulation, to advertizing, ecology, welfare, literary criticism, historical analysis, cultural criticism, almost all walks of life are touched by commodification.
In general, we seek scholarly articles from the Arts and Humanities, and the social sciences. we use the rubric "interdisciplinary" to describe the range of disciplines form which we seek contributions, and by this term we mean to indicate the openness of the journal to publish a broad range of disciplines. We welcome quantitative work, but ask that it be tied to analysis.
The range of topics will be limited by the approach to commodification. We ask that articles center on one of two things, or both: 1) a critique of commodification (in whatever manifestation it can be seen) and/or; 2) a discussion of transcendent critical principles. That is to say, principles from beyond the commodified realm which may be brought in to form a critique of commodified society (examples include Schweitzer's notion reverence for life and civilization as ethical content). We hope that thisapproach will contribute something to the struggle for fundamental change. We know that we face overwhelming opposition, we are a mosquito trying to drink the ocean, but we hope that all who read this article will lend their support in whatever way they can. We also feel that our contribution to scholarship itself is not minimal. We feel that scholarship need not hide behind objectivity, but that critique, in so far as it leads to understanding, is the best approach of true scholarship. We feel that the academic way of life is in the greatest peril form a commodified society, a society which values only technique and commodifies learning and thinking. We believe that we can contribute in an academic sense, and that the strength of the academy is the best defense against the forces of one-dimensionality. We call for the support of the reader, and the best support the reader can give is to read our journal.
egations is about the way of life we are forced to live in America in the late 20th century (and probably most of the 21st). Yet, analysis of this way of life must not be limited either to the American experience, nor to American thought, because, contrary to the media and our neighbors, we neither rule the world, nor live alone in it. The United States has exported its mass consumer culture all over the world, knocked down the Berlin wall with its consumerism, and corrupted generations of non-Americans with its acquisitive values. Moreover, since American culture did not spring wholly formed from a vacuum, we have inter-relations with other cultures that are still in formation. We share a trans-global consumerism, and a much older international culture of thought, both of which transcend the strictly American scene. It would be too limiting to say that we will only include articles about American ideas by American academics. This is especially the case since our analysis, while not limited to Herbert Marcuse, is certainly inspired in large part by Marcuse and his friends in the Frankfurt school. With these thoughts in mind, we open this issue with an essay by Peter-Irwin Jansen, a German academic, who writes about the history of the German new left. In "Student Movements in Germany: 1968-1986," Jansen depicts the rise of the German new left, its relations to its predecessors in the Frankfurt school, and the relation of its successors in the `70s and `80s to the older theorists. Though it may seem out of place to some, or like ancient history to others, Jansen's essay touches on some important points pertaining to the themes of the journal, especially to themes elucidated in this issue.
Jansen entitles the first section of his article, "Digging Up The Old Theorists," which is pretty much what one might accuse us, the editors of Negations , of trying to do. In this issue especially we might be accused of digging up the old theorists, since we not only name Schweitzer, Jaspers, and C. Right Mills as our other inspirations (in addition to Marcuse), but in this issue we finally get around to publishing articles about the ideas of Jaspers and Schweitzer. The link between Jansen's article and Schweitzer is even more pronounced, as one of the themes of Post-war Germany and the Frankfurt school is the nature of civilization, which is Schweitzer's major theme. Given this link we allow Jansen's essay to suggest a loose theme for this issue, "digging up the old theorists." A great deal of Post-war German thought has concerned itself with the holocaust, with avoidance of talking about the holocaust, or with what it means for German civilization and civilization in general. The new left of Germany in the 1960s was concerned with the nature of a Marxist state, and with Marcuse's notions of an "un-free society" (modern civilized society) and where and how freedom might fit into the picture. Jansen explores this history, as well as the apathy of the `70s, the slight comeback of activism in the `80s, and the final demise of student activism in Germany in the late `80s. He not only explores the literary relation of student activism with thinkers of the Frankfurt school, but their actual contacts with Marcuse and his colleagues. In a general sense, Jansen depicts many similarities between the German new left experience and the American new left, and the subsequent rise of post-modernism. What Jansen demonstrates, though he does not point it out, is the idealism of the 60s and how it burned itself out in an ethic of activism over theory, how the eventual rejection of the "old" theorists hurt the new movement, and finally how a burned out activism transmogrified itself into apathy; culminating in a generational break and a new host of young politicos who were never initiated into the cult ofFrankfurt. Jansen's article is informative and well worth reading, especially in its introduction to a nation's political scene,one which is starting a new chapter of the story with the recent victory of the SPD.
Jansen speaks of the critique of reason and civilization in Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment and its affects upon the new left of the `60s. Since reason had been placed at the service of the oppressors, civilization, the social project of reason, and reason itself serve as tools of oppression. Of course, this was the roots of the Postmodernist attack upon reason. Thought Jansen doesn't mention it, it was as a result of this movement that two young academics, just beginning their work, Derrida and Foucault, were imbibing these sentiments and plotting the overthrow of modernism. This German new left, their SDS of which Jansen speaks, was influential both in the thinking of Derrida and Foucault, and in the thinking of their French new left counterparts who influenced Postmodernism coming out of May `68. As Jansen states, "The eradication of European Jews and the systematic murder of millions of others in the barbaric Nazi concentration camps stood and stands for the possibility of barbarism and for the collapse of human civilization. From that moment on, critical thought could neither do without the critique of reason and civilization, or put it on a course of historical progress." Our second article, presented J.L. Hinman, expands upon this theme of civilization, but steps back to dig up an even older thinker, one totally unconnected with Frankfurt; Albert Schweitzer. Schweitzer is one of the "springboard" figures who we use as an inspirational starting point for analysis precisely because of his work, The Philosophy of Civilization. This work, written between 1909 and 1923 is all but totally forgotten today. Yet it is Schweitzer who raises perhaps the most interesting question about civilization; not the point that it has failed, but the idea that it failed a long time ago, and we can't even remember what it was that failed. Schweitzer traces the death of civilization to the middle of the 19th century, when idealist thinking became so pronounced that its metaphysical constructs took ethical thinking with it when it fell. After that point, we lived in a barbarous society which we took for civilization because the concept had subtly changed and we had forgotten how to think along civilized lines.
Schweitzer began thinking along these lines in 1900, but the horrors of world war I convinced him all the more of their validity. His answer to the Frankfurt school theorists and to the Postmoderns, would be that, "you are beating the wrong dead horse." The Holocaust didn't happen because civilization is a tool of oppression, it happened because of the rise of fascism, which was the logical outcome of a cynical and barbarous society; one that mistook prudential instrumentalist for idealism, and that mistook in-door plumbing for civilization. Even though Schweitzer's tone, vocabulary, and many of his ideas are quaint and outmoded, he anticipates much that Marcuse and some of the other Frankfurt school thinkers had to say. He understood what Marcuse said in One-Dimensional Man, although at a more primitive level, since he worked out his theories of civilization even before the days of radio. He understood the nature of media manipulation, even before it was very extensive, and before television existed. He also understood the nature of fascism and saw its seeds planted in the flowering nationalistic movements of the `20s. He even understood all of this from a quasi-Marxist perspective, and brought to his analysis a perspective based upon the relation of workers to the means of production. Yet, Schweitzer's views are more broad based even than Marcuse's. He is going back to the enlightenment and analyzing developments in ethical thinking from Shaftisbury to Nietzsche. He draws upon the totality of German thought, French and English, but doesn't even stop with the West; he was profoundly well read for a European of his day in the works of Chinese and Indian philosophy. As a good Schopenhaurian he drew as widely as possible upon the East. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Schweitzer's thought, however, which is not so remarkable when one considers that his training was in late 19th century German philosophy and in the late 19th century German University, is his "anticipation" of phenomenology. While Schweitzer was no Heidegger he clearly works out of a phenomenological attitude and outlook.
Schweitzer's notion of civilization is based upon an "elemental" thinking that stems from human experience in life and will to live (Schopenhauer). This he juxtaposes to reductionism or "calculative" thinking, the basis of the er zots civilization. Elemental thinking proceeds from the basis in will to live and seeks to form a bridge to the will to live of others. From this experience-based thinking comes an ethical basis for civilized living, which is itself a sense of social organization along ethical lines. But, with the collapse of metaphysics and the great idealist systems, European thoughtdismissed an ethical basis for civilization in favor of an economic and reductionistic basis. Civilization became the technical progress of material production and its distribution through society. To put the same notion in Marcusian terms, Western society gave up dialectical reasoning and adopted a linear approach which saw technique as the only benchmark of success; in short, society adopted a one-dimensional view of progress. Schweitzer lived until 1965, he was 90 years old when he died. Though he was working as a doctor among lepers in Africa, he never gave up philosophy, nor did he abandon his idealistic hope for civilization; but he was not surprised by the Holocaust. His ideas, despite their outdated innocence and even quainter vocabulary ("no one engages in serious intercourse with his fellows anymore") they offer a strangely contemporary and even futurist appeal. The two most important points we hope to make with this article are: 1) that we no longer understand the idea of civilization, and therefore, the attacks upon it are attacks upon the er zots version of it; 2) while Marcuse is clearly one of our major heroes, Schweitzer offers an even broader and deeper understanding of the nature of one-dimensionality, because he analyzes the problem from a broader base and from a much earlier historical beginning. Perhaps some grain of his thought might be brought up into contemporary vocabulary and used to help re-focus the left.
With our third article Trudy Steuernagel demonstrates how another "old" theorist might be dug out for use in a very contemporary problem, that of bio-technology. In "Marcuse and Biotechnology" Steuernagel asks questions about biotechnology, cloning, fertility, and DNA recombenance from a point of view we will not see on the evening news, that of Marcuse's ecological analysis and his One-Dimensional man. Steuernagel argues that biotechnology cannot be viewed in isolation from the politico-economic system in which it is fostered; but must be understood in the context of a society which commodifies life, as well as all values and experiences of life. In that context, biotechnology is not merely a "scientific tool," neutral and able to be used for either good or ill, but is itself a tool of commodification that may lead to the most extreme commodification of human being. In so arguing, she demonstrates yet again how Marcuse is not merely another "old" thinker "dug up," but, in a certain sense, is a vital part of our current situation. Well known in circles of Marcusian scholarship and feminist scholarship, Steuernagel deals with the relation of feminism to biotechnology and the commodification of humanity. Yet, contrary to the label with which Marcuse was so often unfairly tagged, Steuernagel is no mere doom sayer. She expropriates Marcusian concepts in order to fashion the basis of what might become a "liberating vision of biotechnology, based on a liberating vision of science," which, "would direct our energies to triumphing over pain and disease." Nevertheless, she warns that, "If we are able to extend life, we need to take care that life is worth extending."
Our fourth article is a book review article of Dana Villa's Arendt and Heidegger: The Fate of The Political, by Professor Charles Bambach, of the University of Texas at Dallas. Aside from their obvious biographical connection (as student and teacher, and as lovers) Heidegger and Arendt are likely figures for analysis in Negations because they each developed political analysis from the standpoint of a critique of modernity, and they both figure in the outlook of a Marcusian analysis. Heidegger, especially, was Marcuse's teacher, and despite their break over Heidegger's Nazism, Marcuse tried to develop a left wing Heideggerian approach to phenomenology. Yet Villia's work , according to Bambach, while it does take politics seriously, it does not do so in a narrow ideological sense. Villa sense politics as the center of Heidegger's work. Villa avoids the subject of difficulties in understanding a relationship between a leftist Jew and right-wing Nazi, and instead seeks only to understand their thinking and its relation to a critique of political action and modernity. Arendt's thought broke with the Western tradition of political thought. Western political philosophy privileges Socrates and Augustine in such a way as to privilege contemplation and ascetic-theoretical orientation to political thought. Arendt begins from the standpoint of Aristotle and concludes that politics is action. In other words, this is praxis over doctrine or theory. Bambach points out that Villa emphasizes Arendt over Heidegger, the book is really about the former rather than the latter. Even though Villa's book, as well as Arendt's work itself is theorizing about being less theoretical and more active, Bambach's review offers a penetrating insight into a dimension of political philosophy which deserves coverage in Negations.
In, "The timeliness of Karl Jasper's Thought," Sigrid Koepke reviews Kurt Salamun's Karl Jaspers: The Timeliness of his Thought. The essays, by several important Jasper's scholars (including our own editorial board member George B. Pepper) explore the relation between Jasper's philosophyand his views on the German university. Some of the issues concerning the German university are dated, and do not seem relevant to American life, but there is more relevance than one might realize. Jaspers is one of the "old theorists" which the editors of Negations have named in our manifesto as one of our "springboard" thinkers, along Marcuse, Mills, and Schweitzer. Jaspers was chosen as an inspirational starting point for our analysis because of his work, Man in The Modern Age. Even though this is not one of his major works, the things he says in it reflect a take on modernity long absent from public discussion, and sadly missing even from Postmodern critique. Jaspers looks at the accomplishment of technique in modernity in relation to the content of modern thought. He finds that modern society is running on pure technique; that discursive reasoning has been set aside in favor of technological proficiency. "We have wrapped the world in asphalt," future archaeologists will find a vast network of roads, steel cable, massive steel and concrete structures, Jaspers tells us, yet we cannot be sure they will know anything about our art, our philosophy, or our culture. Of course, when Jaspers penned that passage in the 1930's he didn't know we would CD's and video which can preserve our cultural icons for centuries. Unfortunately, by the time we invented these things, we had so few cultural icons left, future archaeologists will assume our culture was based on Madonna, gangster wrap, Seinfeld and Jerry Springer. Jaspers was not a member of the frankfurt school, he, like Schweitzer, is not one of the "old theorists which Peter-Irwin Jansen has in mind. In fact, he was not really a professional philosopher, and remained an outsider to German philosophical circles, although he was a close friend of both Husserl and Heiddegger. Even though Husserl was not Jasper's teacher in a formal sense, he was a source of great influence, perhaps a teacher or mentor in an informal sense. Jaspers was a psychologist, arguably a positivism, he came to philosophy late in life, and never had a doctorate in the subject. But, it was through his work as a psychologist that he began contemplating the nature of human being as means of understanding alternatives to the imposing and clinical institutional environments in which the mentally ill were sequestered. He began to ponder the nature of the human experience in a philosophical way, and transformed himself from positivism to existentialist. He came to know Husserl and corresponded with him, learning from him about phenomenology. Jaspers was introduced to Heidegger through Husserl and his wife. He formed a lasting philosophical bond with Heidegger.
It is from this stand point that Sigrid Koepke begins her review. She steps back from the narrow aspects of Jasper's work in Man in The Modern Age and looks at this work as a whole, even before she begins her review of the essays in Salamun's book. The essays deal with connections between Jasper's view of the university and his philosophical outlook. Through most of Jaspers' work there recurrent themes of modernity and technology, but all proceed from the position he develops out of the influence of Kant's phenomenology of being, and the influences of Husserl and Heidegger. The Salamun book is important because it brings together some important papers on Jaspers' thought, and it has received little attention in this country. This is why we include Koepke's review of it.
In our book review section we present three short reviews, all by Kevin Mattson of Rutgers University. Mattson reviews Richard Rorty's Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in 20th Century America (Cambridge: Harvard, 1998); Earl Shorris' New American Blues; A Journey Through Poverty to Democracy (New York: Norton, 1997) and; David Thelen's Becoming Citizens in the AGe of Television: How Americans Challenged the Media and Seized Political Initiative During the Iran-Contra Debate (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).
The Rorty book, Achieving Our Country is full of the sort of contradictions one might come to expect from Rorty, but his brazen reversal of past commitments is shocking, even for a long time anti-Rortian. In his former work, Contingency, Irony, Solidarity, Rorty gave a pretty clear impression of commitments to the "politically correct" wing of Postmodernism; in Achieving our Country, however, he not only blames the cultural critique of Postmodernism and gender-based identity politics for destroying the left in America, he also continues to imply commitment to the "PC" agenda, and never does clarify his position. Rorty may not offer any insight, even to his own views, but the issues he deals with, and the outline of the problems confronting the left in Postmodernity at least offer a valuable sketch of what is wrong with the left today, even if, as Mattson shows, we have to learn partly by negative example. One might argue that Rorty himself is one of the problems, and Mattson demonstrates the truth of that statement.
In New American Blues, Earl Shorris tries to go beyond the charts and graphs on the poverty line, and beyond the stereo-types of semi-wealthy welfare cheats growing fat on food stamps (and foranyone who has been on food stamps that really is a joke!) and to penetrate the veil of ignorance; catching a glimpse of what it is like to be poor in America. Just as Michael Herrington uncovered a hidden underside to American life in all of its lost and unseen poverty pockets, so Shorris uncovers a lost and hidden sense of the experience of poverty. Shorris argues that the poor in America are trapped and sequestered in world very different from that of their more prosperous American counterparts in the middle class world. They are harassed, limited, shut into a constat state of panic. In short, the poor are not afforded the luxury of reflective thought, a want which takes a heavy toll upon their lives. Robbed of reflective thought, they cannot understand or enter the political arena in order to fight for the betterment of their own lives (which is actually a point Schweitzer makes in The Decay...). Much of the book deals with a special curriculum in the humanities that Shorris designed for poor people. Thus, the Shorris book is of great value, proving that the arts and humanities are not only more than just snobbish hobbies, but actually enrich people's lives in a concrete way. They enable the poor to grasp the mental bulwarks needed to come to grips with their own situations. Shorris' work offers an important insight into alternative approaches to social science reductionism, and could prove to be a ground breaking book.
In "Democracy at the Watercooler," Mattson examines David Thelen's work. Thelen collected letters to Senators and congressmen around the Iran-Contra hearings. These letters show that, despite the media's engagement with "Olimania" most American's, or at least a great many, were not buying it. While the press told us that North was seen as a hero, and treated the hearings as a segment on Entertainment Tonight, a good many Americans grasped the seriousness of the situation and understood the crimes North had committed. This comes as real news to those of us who were involved the Central American solidarity movement at the time. It raises a lot of interesting questions. First, it may counter the notion of one-dimensionality, apparently not everyone is as one-dimensional as we think. Secondly, it raises the question, if more people than we think understood what was going on, why was the press able to feed us pablum? Why do they want to feed us pablum, and why do we let them? Thelen does more than raise questions, however, he presents an in-depth look at the opinion industry, what motivates it and how it functions. Mattson's reviews of these books are interesting, probing, and amusing. He does a fine job of illustrating the importance of knowing these works.
Our final article, "The Hard Sell of Human Consciousness, (part I)," by Lantz Miller, deals with the brian/mind problem and the approach taken by the cognitive sciences in the last couple of decades. This may not seem like a very likely topic for Negations, but it is really very relevant to what Marcuse was doing in One-Dimensional Man. Not that this is the journal of "Marcusism, " but that work in particular is central to the core of our interests, and one of our missions is to carry on for Marcuse in doing the work he set out to do in that book. Fleshing out a topic which he mentions in passing as an example of linear thought and the influences of one-dimensionality in academic circles is, therefore, of great concern to us. Marcuse undertakes a critique of operationalism. Operationalism is the process by which a term is defined by the set of parameters demarcated to define the term. In other words, "the concept is synonymous with the set of operations" (ODM, 13). If this idea sounds like circular reasoning, that's only because it is. Marcuse himself gives the brain/mind problem as an example. "Many of the most seriously troublesome concepts are being eliminated by showing that no adequate account of them in terms of operations or behavior can be given. The radical empiricist onslaught...thus provides the methodological justification for the debunking of the mind by intellectuals--a positivismism which in its denial of the transcending elements of reason forms the academic counterpart to the socially required behavior" (Ibid.). The one-dimensional aspects of scientific thinking require that one reduce to non-existence any ideas or beliefs which do not fit the ideology. Thus, the mind is mere epi-phenomenon because we cannot account for it in such a way as to further the ideology that the mind is mere epi-phenomenon.
Over the past ten years a host of scientists in the cognitive sciences have decided that they can assure the one-dimensional agenda by "proving" (scientifically! the really true truth) that the mind is just analogous to a computer, and is merely the result of brian function (chemicals in the head). While it is doubtful that many of the brain science people have really thought things through in this manner, it does seem clear that many of them want to reduce all forms of human being to epi-phenomena based upon neural transmitters. Weather by historical accident or design, this plays into the hands of the one-dimensionalizing power brokers. If mind is nothing more than illusory accident caused by chemicalsand electricity, than the thoughts of the mind are nothing more than accidental fantasims produced as by products of a system "designed" to do nothing in particular but which is uniquely suited to the highest and most noble pursuit of counting the bottom line. After all, if mind is illusion, and if nothing is real but that which can be reduce to numbers on a ledger, than what could be more real or more important than bottom lines? If dreams, goals, and aspirations, morality and conscience can be reduced to nothing more than accidents of a biological unit with no higher purpose than empirical research, than these ideal things become nothing more than prompts for sets of behaviors, some of which accord with our agenda conveniently and some of which can be influenced or repressed. The ultimate one-dimensional society is the one which regards humans as nothing more than collections of electrical impulses resulting in behaviors--and controlled as such. This is the situation that is set up by a good bit of the brian/mind philosophizing that is being done--humanity is defined as nothing more than....
There are two alternatives in the way that we can regard people in relation to the brain/mind problem. The first, which we are not willing to tackle at this time, not being metaphysical geniuses, is to regard humans as some sort of spiritual beings, or containing a spiritual dimension. In this sense the mind would be the spirit, or would be linked to the spirit in some way.But, we prefer to save this first solution for a future date, when we start a theology journal, if we ever do. Failing that approach, there is Miller's alternative. Miller argues that the mind is the product of electrical impulses generated by neurotransmitters, but, as he is fond of saying, "those transmitters are doing lots of things..." We cannot reduce humanity or human thought to a set of behaviors, we cannot predict the range of brain-function, and we cannot, therefore, say that what we are and what we feel and what we pursue in life is "nothing more than..." In other words, it is something akin to a wholistic approach. As Davies puts it in God and The New Physics, if we define a neon sign as nothing more than hunks of glass and steel with neon gas and electricity flowing through it, but forget to read the sign and analyze what it means, we are reducing the sign to something less than it is. Miller is very convercent in the science of the subject, having done graduate work in a related field at MIT. He is also convercent in certain philosophical issues involved in the brian/mind controversy. While his article is very long (it has to be broken into two parts and spread out over two issues) it is well worth reading.