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History of the Human Sciences

http://hhs.sagepub.com Modern mythology: the case of 'Reactionary Modernism'


David E. Cooper History of the Human Sciences 1996; 9; 25 DOI: 10.1177/095269519600900202 The online version of this article can be found at: http://hhs.sagepub.com

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HISTORY OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES

Vol. 9 No. 2
25

© 1996 SAGE (London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi)

Modern mythology: the case of Reactionary Modernism


DAVID E. COOPER

I We did not, wrote St Peter, follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of his majesty (II Peter 1 :16). The implication is clear: if it were

myths that the Apostles were broadcasting, no credence could be given them. The OED agrees with Peter: reference to a story as myth, it tells us, implies that it is false. This raises a problem concerning the devising of myths - mythopoeia. How can anyone openly promulgate a myth, for to do so, it seems, is to offer for acceptance something which, by calling it a myth, one admits is false? Myths, surely, dare not speak their name. As Roland Barthes put it, the mythologists relation to what he recognizes as myth must be one of sarcasm (1973:157). Of course, writers may use myth in scare-quotes, as it were, to refer to a story that is generally held to be false, when they themselves want to leave open the question of its truth value. But, even then, it seems odd to describe ones own view as myth, for myth has several connotations, beyond that of falsity, which make it a pejorative term. The Greek or Hindu myths may be amusing and charming, but they are also - so we assume - accounts which have no scientific basis, are typically anthropomorphic in conception, and so on. These are not features, surely, which people - modern people, at any rate - could want the views that they promulgate to be accused of having. Open, self-confessed mythopoeia, then, sounds to be an incoherent enterprise. To proffer ones view as a myth is, at worst, to invite people to accept what is implied to be false, and at best - only somewhat less paradoxically - to be accusing ones own view of various epistemic sins. Despite this, there have been many self-confessed 20th-century mythmongers. The problem posed by this

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26

mythmongering is, doubtless, part of a much wider one with which we are now familiar. Over the last century and a half, there has been no shortage of thinkers who, while announcing the relativistic or perspectival character of all claims to truth, are not shy to advance their own claims. The question of the status of their own claims, therefore, inevitably arises. How, for instance, are we to take Nietzsches doctrine of the will to power given his insistence that any such doctrines can only represent perspectives? The wider problem is a very large and heady one, and perhaps there is mileage in approaching it by focusing on the narrower one of self-conscious mythmaking. Perhaps there is mileage, too, in examining and reflecting on a particular example of recent mythmaking, rather than in beginning with the quite general, abstract question of how self-conscious mythopoeia might be an intelligible exercise. In this paper, therefore, I focus upon a particular group of thinkers - mainly, but not exclusively, Germans in the first third of our century who were certainly in the business of mythmaking. They belong to a larger group of thinkers neatly labelled reactionary modernists by the historian Jeffrey Herf, who has called attention to their importance as a distinctive tendency within right-wing fascist or National Socialist thought. I have nothing startlingly novel to say about these thinkers; my aim, rather, is to organize and articulate their positions as instances of modern mythopoeia. Nor, having done so, is it my ambition to apply the lessons learned from such an examination in solving the problem of reconciling the making of truth-claims with relativism or perspectivism. My ambition in the present paper is the more modest one of attempting to understand how, at least in the view of the thinkers who will concern us, the paradox of self-conscious mythmaking might be dissolved. It is not, I believe, a view to be lightly dismissed; hence it is one which deserves, so to speak, to be put on the table for any full-scale debate on the wider problem. Statistically, Barthes tells us, myth is on the right (1973 : 148), and it is of course a clich6 that, as one German historian says of his country, logos capitulated before ... myth, notably that of race, blood [and] nation (Glaser, 1964: 83). Attention has focused, however, upon the predilection for myth of the most conservative, anti-modern writers on the German right, nostalgic for a past they wished to retrieve. Thinkers like Lagarde and Langbehn with their romantic sky ... populated by mythic figures ... and ancient deities (Fest, 1977:143); or members of the poet Stefan Georges effete circle, such as Ernst Kantorowicz who believed in the legends of the 13th-century Hohenzollern Emperor Friedrich II as deep truths and in the mysterious return of the Emperor as the saviour of a suffering Germany (Gay, 1968: 51); or indeed, Stefan George himself, who also subscribed to the myth of the sleeping leader who will be once more lord lead[ing] his band of liegemen to ... [the] founding of the New Reich (quoted in Fest, 1977:153); or the Nazi ideologue Rosenberg, author of The Myth of the 20th Century, with its proclamation of the
-

...

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27

myth of blood, the belief in defending the divine nature of man through blood (Glaser, 1964:143). How this motley crew of poets, romantic historians and muddled autodidacts would try to respond to the problem I raised - of the coherence of self-confessed mythmaking - I do not know. But they are not my concern, which is, rather, with thinkers of a different hue, the reactionary modernists. These included the political theorist Carl Schmitt, the economist Werner Sombart and, for a spell, arguably, the philosopher Martin Heidegger. But it is upon two best-selling serious German authors of the 1920s, Oswald Spengler and Ernst Junger, that I
focus, but with occasional references, too, to the Italian Futurist and fascist F. T.
Marinetti. For in these three cases, we find a self-confessed or less overt, in their colleagues.

mythopoeia lacking,

II I

It was, perhaps, Thomas Mann who first appreciated the distinctive and important role played by reactionary modernism in the aetiology of fascism. The really dangerous aspect of National Socialism, he wrote, was its highly technological romanticism (quoted in Herf, 1984: 2). For, as Herf explains, the most salient feature of this tendency was the embrace of modern technology by German thinkers who rejected Enlightenment reason. They succeeded in incorporating technology, he continues, into the symbolism and language of Kultur - community, blood, will, self, form, productivity, and finally race - by taking it out of the realm of Zivilization (ibid. : 1, 16). Among them, there was nothing of Stefan Georges horror at a satanic technological ant-world, nor
most

another conservatives sense that mechanization and industrialization was the terrible catastrophe to have befallen mankind (H. S. Chamberlain, both quoted in Zimmermann, 1990: 9-10). They were, nevertheless, reactionaries. At any rate, they were nationalists implacably opposed to liberalism and democracy. The day when parliamentary democracy collapses, proclaimed Junger, will be our greatest day of festivity (Glaser, 1964 : 99). Belief in progress, utilitarian ethics, and more generally Enlightenment confidence in rationality are rejected. The Futurist, demands Marinetti, must break apart the old shackles of logic and hate the intelligence (1972:88-9). War is not only inevitable, given that human beings exist in a natural state of struggle, but to be welcomed. For Junger, it provides the theatre in which real men, brought together in masculine camaraderie, may best exercise the traditional virtues, so alien to the bourgeoisie, of hardness, bravery and self-sacrifice. In these respects, however, the reactionary modernists were no different from other currents of right-wing thought. Their main distinguishing mark, as noted, was their enthusiasm for technology and industrialization. It is this, above

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28

all, which makes them an interesting phenomenon, for we have been conditioned
of thinkers on various points of the leftist spectrum - from Lukics to Dahrendorf - to associate that enthusiasm with progressive modernist thought. Even skilled commentators have tended, at least until very recently, to lump fascist intellectuals together as people responding to a deep fear of modernity (Gay,1968: 96) or overwhelming anxiety in the face of industrialization (Fest, 1977:139). Such generalizations are immediately punctured when we encounter Spenglers heroizing of those modern Faustian men, the engineers; or Jungers conviction that the age of... machines represents the gigantic forge of an approaching empire [for] which ... every decline ... [has been] a preparation (Junger, 1964: 85); or Marinettis dithyrambs to the vibrant nightly fervour of arsenals and shipyards ... deep-chested locomotives ... [and] sleek flight of planes (1972:42). The modernist tone of such pronouncements contrasts vividly with that of other, conservative fascists of the Weimar Years: for example, with the attitude of the influential Ludwig Klages, for whom modern technology, the rape of nature by humanity, demonstrates that man... has torn himself apart along with the planet which gave him birth (quoted in

by generations

Schnadelbach, 1984:150).
There is a further respect in which some, at least, of the reactionary modernists were modernists. Junger, Marinetti and others were important figures in the literary avant-garde, both calling for and, in their own writings, exhibiting new forms of literary expression. Junger, for example, practised a magical realism, icily detached descriptions of horrors that transform them into a peculiar form of beauty for the reader; while Marinetti both advocated and used a bizarre range of syntactic and figurative devices. This compounds, perhaps, the puzzle over their overall ideological positions, for we tend to assume an intimate connection between the artistic avant-gardism of the time and predilections for individualism, freedom, even anarchism. Even the connection between modernism and technological enthusiasm is not one which has simply been foisted on us by unperceptive left-wing commentators. Prima facie, there is indeed something puzzling about vitriolic critics of Enlightenment embracing that flagship product of Enlightenment reason and science: technology. If there are general puzzles about the coherence of reactionary modernism, these become more acute in the case of those thinkers belonging to the movement who unabashedly wrote in the language of myth. I must forgo exploring the question of how writers attuned to progressive trends in literature could want to see their own works placed in such an ancient category as that of myth. I focus instead on the question of how some reactionary modernists, notably Spengler and Junger, could reconcile their vision of themselves as mythmakers with their unmitigated enthusiasm for ... steam, chemistry and electricity (Herf,

1984: 69).
That Spengler and Junger saw themselves as persuading their readers of views which they want regarded as myths, there is no doubt. In The Decline of the

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29

West, Spengler refers to his own morphology of world-history as a lifesymbol or universal symbolism, possessing significance, but not eternal truth (1939:1,41ff.). Symbols, he tells us, should be regarded as myths: not to do so is itself a symptom of decline. Mythopoetic power, he insists, is the ability to fill the world with shapes ... symbols (I, 399): precisely what Spengler himself is doing in his morphology of world-history. Junger, likewise, describes his stance [as] a symbolic one: he is not reporting on how things objectively are, but comprehend[s] every act in the modern world as a symbol of a unified and unchangeable being (quoted in Zimmermann, 1990: 50). To understand and cope with the age of machine-guns and factories is a matter of one deciphering [a] secret, [a] now as at all times mythical law and using it as a
...

weapon (Junger, 1964:145).


III I

help if I briefly sketch the respective and related myths which Spengler and Junger advance. The central theme of The Decline of the West (1917, revised 1922) was world-history as the marvellous waxing and waning of organic [or morphological] forms according to an inexorable logic of time (1939:I, 22). These forms are whole cultures, all aspects of which - from painting to science, from mathematics to religion - are organically related expression-forms of the wholes which give them their stamp (I, 6, 21). A culture declines when it becomes a civilization: when its forms become ossified and lose significance,
It will

when it looks outward instead of inwards for its resources, and so on. The latest culture to have waxed is the Faustian one, which began in mediaeval Germany, but which is now, both in Europe and America, waning. Spengler was interpreted by some as holding technology and industrialization responsible for the decline. But that was not at all his point: technology is indeed devilish, but then Faust made a pact with the devil. The Faustian vision of energy, the will-to-power in Nature (I, 387) is nowhere better manifested than in technology and industrialization. Decline will be due to their atrophy, a point made clearer 12 years later in Man and Technics. There the characterization of technical thought, as the attempt to Faustian culture as the victory of forces in a grim, pitiless no-quarter battle enslave and harness [Natures] very is reaffirmed of the will-to-power, (1932: 77, 84,16). Unfortunately, technology breeds the elements that will destroy it and with it Faustian culture. The will-to-power, it seems, began to make its decisive mistakes at the end of the 19th century: democracy and the money-economy, for example, and the initiation of coloured peoples into a technology which they will use against the Faustians. Worst of all, perhaps, the Faustians themselves turn against technology : the masses, uncomprehending, begin to care only about material well-being and resent processes they cannot understand, so that eventually
...

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30

the born leaders, unappreciated, take to flight from the machine (1932: 97). Despite differences between the two writers, notably over the question of the impending doom of technological culture, J3ngers myth is, in large part, a continuation and radicalization of Spenglers. For him, too, in his main theoretical work, Der Arbeiter (1932), history has the destiny of forms [Gestalten] for its content (1964: 42). Where a Gestalt obtains, everything and everyone bears its stamp under the compulsion of iron lawlikeness (159). Corresponding to a Gestalt is the type (Typus) of human being who is thus stamped. The Gestalt of our age is that of the worker, and the worker, no longer a person or individual, is its type. By a worker, Junger does not mean the man in a cloth cap, but the person - be he a factory worker, soldier, or engineerwho bears the stamp. His favourite example, indeed, is that of the anonymous soldier, a mere cog in a totally mobilized war dominated by machinery. It is in and through technology that the stamp is received, for technology is the mobilization of the world through the Gestalt of the worker, the concrete expression of a metaphysical will-to-power which mobilizes matter (164,126). Machinery is at once the symbol of our time and the image of a power, the new and unlimited influx of elemental powers which have once more taken possession (42, 64). Here, in the age of the machine, is the approaching empire for which earlier declining cultures have been a mere preparation and which,
even

unlike Spenglers Faustian

era,

is with us to stay.

IV

Neither Spengler problems I raised

Junger gives prolonged and explicit attention to the in Section I concerning self-confessed mythmaking: hence their response to them is an interpretative task. Those problems, recall, were the following. Myths, as we usually understand the term, are false: hence it seems self-defeating to promulgate a view as a myth. Second, myths typically have further features - an anthropomorphic character, for instance - which are
nor

generally deemed objectionable and which, therefore, seem to preclude anyone from wanting their own position to be classified as myth. Our main protagonists strategy with these problems is as follows: first, they try to return the charge of paradox by holding that, in a sense, all theories, not just their own, are myths; second, they deny that the alleged objectionable features of myth are objectionable. I approach the first stage of their strategy indirectly. In a much discussed youthful essay, the philosopher who, by their own admission, most influenced Spengler and Junger - Friedrich Nietzsche - wrote that all so-called truths are really metaphors, and hence, strictly speaking, falsehoods. No statements report how the world objectively is, for they presuppose structures, classifications and

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31

meanings that we have not found in the world, but have imposed upon it. Within all these metaphors, of course, important distinctions must be drawn: notably, between those live ones which we all recognize as metaphors and which therefore retain vibrancy, and those dead, clich6d ones which Nietzsche compares with coins that have lost their faces, illusions which we have forgotten are illusions (1990: 85). Crucial, too, is a distinction between those metaphors or truths we ought to, or cannot but, accept because they contribute to the increase of our power, and those we should reject because they do not. Nietzsches views were exploited, in the following century, by Ernst Cassirer and others in their discussions of myth and science. Myth is not distinguished from science as the true from the false, Cassirer writes, since all schemata [are] arbitrary schemes, none of which expresses the nature of things (1953:7). Myths and scientific theories alike are symbols... each of which produces and posits a world of its own. They are organs of reality, constructed to achieve various purposes, like control over nature (8). Just as, for Nietzsche, statements do not report objective experience, so, for Cassirer, myth is not superadded to experience, since the latter is already steeped in the imagery of myth (11). One way in which myth does differ from science, says Cassirer, is in its holistic character. To the mythical consciousness, items are not separately given, as to the analytic scientific mind, but have to be derived from the whole (13). All the elements of Cassirers Nietzschean treatment of myth, albeit in cruder and more inflated forms that he would subscribe to, are, I believe, implicit in Spenglers and J3ngers positions, and often rise to the surface. To begin with, there is their insistence that all theories are essentially mythic or symbolic in status. There are no eternal truths, proclaims Spengler, only life-symbols. Science is a sum of symbols: even mathematics is an early and deep myth (1939: I, 41, 427). Jnger concurs: thinkers are merely the organ through which [a] language is spoken, so that their products are merely expressive symbols - at one time spiritual ones, and later, as now, technical ones (1964:170). Second, myths are not symbolic simply because they do not, impossibly, report the objective world. In addition, they confer meanings and hence render the world itself symbolic. Jungers type recognizes everything about him as a symbol: even he himself is a parable (161, 50). The difference between the mythopoet and others, explains Spengler, is that the former knows he is in the business of symbolizing, and decline sets in when people forget that this is what they are doing. Science is, so to speak, ossified mythology, comparable with Nietzsches faceless coins. (Cassirer, it should be noted, would demur: the philosophically
...

alert scientist - the one who has read his Kant - will not mistake his theories for

objective reportage.) Third, we must distinguish between those vibrant myths which properly serve the will-to-power and the static ones which no longer do so. Truth, if we are to retain the concept at all, can only be construed, says Junger, as the expression of the will-to-power (76). Faustian science, for Spengler, was distinguished by its masterful questioning of nature (1939 : 382), its conscious

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32

purpose of harnessing and enslaving nature. If the West is to decline, it will be in no small part because that purpose is forgotten and replaced by ideals of

objective truth and pure thought. Finally, if there is a genuine difference between myths and other theories, it is because of the holistic character of the former. What the person who grasps a Gestalt recognizes, says Junger, is that a whole... encompasses more than the sum of its part, and is subject, not to a law of cause and effect relating the parts, but to a law of stamp, marking each part as an ingredient in the whole (38). Likewise, for Spengler, Faustian man does not perceive the world as a collection of independent things, unlike Classical man. God, not gods, and magnetism (a cosmic force), not magnets (individual things), are the currency of Faustian thought. There is, then, no paradox for our protagonists in deeming their own positions to be myths - no more, at any rate, than for anyone else, for truth in the classical sense of correspondence with how things are is a chimera. Rather there is an honest recognition that their own visions do what every theory does: impose holistic order and meaning on the world in service to the human will-to-powers
urge to control and dominate nature. Since this has been the purpose of what we conventionally recognize as myths, the name of myth is not something to blush
at, but to welcome.

There
ones

were, however, other charges made against myth besides that of falsity, which, if conceded, would preclude a thinker from regarding his own

products as myths. How might Spengler and Junger deal with these? We would not, of course, expect them to be embarrassed by the charge that their positions, like myths generally, are supported by little in the way of evidence and reason-giving. Junger, as one commentator indicates, did not see himself as constructing an argued philosophical system, for whoever has a vision of what &dquo;The Worker&dquo; is about does not require to have it demonstrated: and whoever lacks such a vision (e.g. the bourgeois) will never understand it anyway (Stern, 1953:46). He and Spengler, like most reactionary modernists, would have endorsed Marinettis call to break apart the old shackles of logic and the plumb lines of bourgeois thought, so that intuition might be reawakened (1972 : 889).

charges remain, three of which I shall discuss: those of anthropoof morphism, treating what are historical human products as if they belonged in the destined order of nature and, relatedly, of justifying the status quo. Each of these features, though hardly definitive of myth, can reasonably be regarded as
But other

typical. Anthropomorphism is, of course, prevalent among ancient myths. The world is populated with gods and other beings modelled on people, and the processes of

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33

typically explained by reference to the machinations of such creatures. Spengler and Junger are by no means unsympathetic to such modes of explanation. For the latter, for example, the Nordic sagas rightly register a wonder at a mighty magic operating in the world, and at elemental dangers unfathomable by ordinary science and reason (1964:53, 56). But their main response to the charge is that anthropomorphism, in some shape, is unavoidable. It is an illusion, says Spengler, to think we can ever set up &dquo;The Truth&dquo; in the place of &dquo;anthropomorphic&dquo; conceptions, for no other conceptions ... exist at all (1939: I, 381). The concepts of modern physics, for instance, are heirs to the mythological concepts of our Germanic ancestors (I, 47), since force, energy and the like are intelligible only on the basis of the will which Faustian men are
nature are
aware

of

at

work in themselves. The very notion of

Gestalt - the proper

explanatory schema - is derived from those paradigms of wholes which are something more than the sum of their parts - the human face and organism. The second charge against myth is one which several notable 20th-century writers have in mind when criticizing various conceptions and ideologies as myths. As Barthes puts it, myth operates the inversion of anti-physis into pseudo-physis: it turns reality inside out... empty[ing] it of history and ... fill[ing] it with nature (1973:142). One of Adornos reasons for labelling Enlightenment thought mythical was its tendency to construe the historical as natural: a point he applies to Spengler, who is accused of inventing a second nature by presenting human products as if they were the result of extrahuman forces (Adorno, 1973: 351 ff.). Our protagonists way with this charge is not to rebut it, but to disarm it by welcoming it. World-history, says Spengler, is indeed an aimless process over which human beings, whether individually or collectively, have no real control, subject as they are to an organic logic of time that produces the waxing and waning of cultural forms (1939: I, 22, 26). We are all, he declaims in Heideggerean tones, in the silent service of Being (1939: II, 507). Junger, meanwhile, never tires of telling us about the inner lawfulness of the world to which we are subject, of the raging process in which we are inscribed (1993:134,128). A ruling Gestalt is indeed something that has destiny and is in the deepest sense independent of circumstances over which individuals or collectives have control (1964: 40, 89). The human being is not the goal of our present technology, but the means employed by the Gestalt of the worker: he or she is subject to the new order as the will to total mobilization (1964 : 50). History, then, no less than nature, is physis if this means that its processes, like those of the latter, are in the final analysis destined to roll on irrespective of peoples best-laid plans. An important reason for Adornos and Barthess complaint against myth for rendering the historical natural is that, by doing so, it serves to justify the status quo. We reach the third of the charges I mentioned, then. The mythic process, Adorno and Horkheimer complain, tends to legitimate factuality (1979: 27): a point echoed by Barthes, when he accuses myths of providing a natural
...

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34

justification

for what

are

in

reality

historical

intentions3 (1973 : 142).

It is

familiar, if bland, observation about ancient myths that they do typically serve to reconcile people to their condition, construing it as the requirement of fate, the
will of the gods, the demand of cosmic justice, or whatever. But it may seem a strange charge to level against Spengler and Junger, both of them enthusiasts for processes of technological modernization which will surely transform the conditions of human existence that have hitherto obtained. Indeed, Spengler refers to a quite new phase of human existence (1939: I, 34) and Jnger to a new life ( 1993:138). Neither thinks it either desirable or possible to keep things static, let alone to turn back the clock in the manner of reactionary conservatives. Nevertheless, it is the intention of the two writers to vindicate the fundamental human condition as it stands, if only by dismissing religious, Enlightenment and other dreams of transforming or transcending that condition. Ernst Nolte famously defined fascism as resistance to transcendence, to attempts to correct nature in the name of transforming ideals. The pursuit of such ideals not only fails ultimately, but threatens to destroy the familiar and the beloved (1969: 529, 538). For Hitler, the worlds woes are due to attempts to transgress the laws of nature for the sake of illusory ideals, like universal justice (quoted in Nolte, 1969 : 529). Noltes definition has, to be sure, been challenged, most recently by Roger Griffin: but what Griffin has in mind by a fascistic urge to transcendence, a desire for self-transcendence through, say, identification with [a] suprapersonal entity like the Volk (1991:188), is perfectly compatible with what Nolte had in mind when speaking of resistance to transcendence, namely resistance to endeavours to transcend the confines of Nature and of ones Culture. Noltes characterization applies to our reactionary modernists as well. Not all of them would subscribe to Marinettis bleak statement that, as the life of insects demonstrates, everything, including human life, comes down to reproduction at any cost and to purposeless destruction (1972:150): but they share the view that our lot can only be to conform to the reigning Gestalt that fate or nature has dispensed. Nothing, says Spengler, allows us to become dissociated from the conditions imposed by blood and history (1939: xiii), and when we try to dissociate ourselves, we produce civilization and so go into decline, ripe for replacement by a new culture. Or, as Junger put it in one of his novels, when the pattern fades to which our innermost life must conform, we sway and lose our balance and enter upon periods of decline (1970 : 33). The worker can only express the Gestalt in which he is inscribed, not attempt to reform or replace it. It is true, of course, that at a certain level human life alters radically, and that succeeding cultures may be incommensurable with one another. But, at another level, it is all just more of the same - different expressions of a will-to-power that human beings in essence are. Man is a beast of prey, declares Spengler, and life is a no-quarter battle of the will-to-power, and when people endeavour, pathetically, to deny this, to live in a completely anti-natural

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35

way, the

writing is on the wall. Their culture is in decline and will soon lie in fragments, forgotten (1932: 19, 16, 76, 103). There is, then, a status quo, that of
the fundamental human condition, which our writers wish to vindicate: but then, from their perspective, those who complain of this, like Adorno and Barthes, are merely in the grip of other and less realistic, less life-enhancing myths.

VI I

Although most of my discussion has focused on certain reactionary modernists, they have been serving as a test case, an illustration of a general problem, that of how modern thinkers can engage in open, self-confessed mythopoeia. Indeed, they thereby serve as a test case, as noted in Section I, for the still wider problems raised by relativism and perspectivism. What are the lessons for addressing the problem of mythopoeia which can be learned from my illustration? I suggest that anyone intelligibly engaged in open mythopoeia must make at least the same broad moves as Spengler and Junger. If the name myth is to be at all appropriate to ones position, and if it is not to be paradoxical or otherwise bizarre to want that label attached to it, then something like the following must be advanced. First, the mythical perspective is no worse off than any other. Indeed, these other perspectives are themselves myths in the sense that they too fail to depict reality as it objectively is. Second, within the class of myths in this wide sense, distinctions need to be made; some, including ones own, are to be preferred, since they are, for example, life-enhancing or effective devices in the pursuit of power. Third, ones own position is holistic, and hence cleaves closer to our fundamental experience than the artificial abstractions of analytical science and reason. Fourth, reason and logic are not to be privileged over other epistemic strategies, such as the cultivation of intuition. Fifth, ones position must, like typical myths, render as natural or destined what many people would regard as the intended and controlled products of human historical purposes. Finally, and relatedly, the human condition so subject to nature or destiny is not one that
we can or

should try to transcend. Whether or not a position possessing these features can be intelligibly advanced, I do not here judge. But such a position is not obviously absurd, or, if it is, then it is absurd in a sense that would be welcomed by those who advance it. If so, open, self-confessed mythopoeia may not be the suicidal enterprise it at first seemed. Do the six broad moves just catalogued which our reactionary modernists make in order to draw the sting of accusations of paradox have wider application? Are they, that is, of a kind which relativists or perspectivists at large must also make if their advancing positions of their own is not to be incoherent? I suggest that moves closely akin to the first four listed certainly need

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36

be made by all such thinkers. They must, that is, show that their positions are off than any other; that by some criterion such as life-enhancement, these positions are preferable to rival ones; that they remain closer to our basic experience of the world than rival ones, especially the esoteric constructions of the sciences; and that the elevation of certain perspectives to the status of objective truth is due to an invidious preference for certain epistemic methods. The two remaining moves, however, seem on the surface only to be required by people anxious to have their own positions regarded as myths in some serious sense of that term. Why else should it be important to show that ones position deflates the role of intention and control in history and that it preaches resistance to transcendence? Nevertheless, several philosophers who have not used the vocabulary of myth, but who have - whatever their intentions - spawned relativist or perspectivist viewpoints, have made moves of this kind, and it seems to me unsurprising that they should have done. Thus the Heideggerean tone of Spenglers pronouncements is no accident: for it is important to Heideggers critique of scientific reason, and of its claims to issue in a privileged account of reality, to show that it belongs to a destined history of Being. For to show that science developed as the result of certain much earlier, unreflecting turns in human beings vision of the world is to puncture the image of science as the product of peoples belated recognition and controlled application of rational criteria of knowledge (see for example, Heidegger, 1977). Again, it should occasion no surprise that many relativists seek inspiration from the works of someone whose resistance to transcendence is total - Ludwig Wittgenstein. There can, for him, be no appeal to justificatory criteria that transcend our actual, basic practices, themselves rooted in our natural history. The language in which we think is not based on grounds. It is not reasonable (or unreasonable). It is there - like our life (1969: 559). Such resistance to a transcendence which, if feasible, would hold out the promise of achieving a standpoint from which all but one perspective could be ruled out is, surely, a natural strategy for any perspectivist to adopt. Arguably, then, even those moves of our reactionary modernists specifically designed to warrant their boast of promulgating myths are of a kind which others must also make if they are to reconcile a perspectivist outlook with advancing positions of their own.
to
no worse

University of Durham,

UK

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

presented at a conference, Modernism and Mythopoeia, organized by the Centre for Research in Philosophy and Literature at the University of Warwick. The author is grateful to the editors of
An earlier version of this paper
was

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37

the proceedings of the conference, in permission to publish it in this journal.

which this paper will also appear, for

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