The Agony of Eros

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Byung-Chul Han is one of the most widely read philosophers in Europe today, a member of the new generation of German thinkers that includes Markus Gabriel and Armen Avanessian. In The Agony of Eros, a bestseller in Germany, Han considers the threat to love and desire in today's society. For Han, love requires the courage to accept self-negation for the sake of discovering the Other. In a world of fetishized individualism and technologically mediated social interaction, it is the Other that is eradicated, not the self. In today's increasingly narcissistic society, we have come to look for love and desire within the "inferno of the same."

Han offers a survey of the threats to Eros, drawing on a wide range of sources -- Lars von Trier's film Melancholia, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde,Fifty Shades of Grey, Michel Foucault (providing a scathing critique of Foucault's valorization of power), Martin Buber, Hegel, Baudrillard, Flaubert, Barthes, Plato, and others. Han considers the "pornographication" of society, and shows how pornography profanes eros; addresses capitalism's leveling of essential differences; and discusses the politics of eros in today's "burnout society." To be dead to love, Han argues, is to be dead to thought itself.

Concise in its expression but unsparing in its insight, The Agony of Eros is an important and provocative entry in Han's ongoing analysis of contemporary society.

This remarkable essay, an intellectual experience of the first order, affords one of the best ways to gain full awareness of and join in one of the most pressing struggles of the day: the defense, that is to say -- as Rimbaud desired it -- the "reinvention" of love. -- from the foreword by Alain Badiou

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About the author

Alain Badiou teaches philosophy at the Ecole normale superieure and the College international de philosphie in Paris.

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Additional Information

Publisher
MIT Press
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Published on
Mar 31, 2017
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Pages
88
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ISBN
9780262339254
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / General
Social Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Byung-Chul Han
The shitstorm represents an authentic phenomenon of digital communication. -- from In the Swarm

Digital communication and social media have taken over our lives. In this contrarian reflection on digitized life, Byung-Chul Han counters the cheerleaders for Twitter revolutions and Facebook activism by arguing that digital communication is in fact responsible for the disintegration of community and public space and is slowly eroding any possibility for real political action and meaningful political discourse. In the predigital, analog era, by the time an angry letter to the editor had been composed, mailed, and received, the immediate agitation had passed. Today, digital communication enables instantaneous, impulsive reaction, meant to express and stir up outrage on the spot. "The shitstorm," writes Han, "represents an authentic phenomenon of digital communication."

Meanwhile, the public, the senders and receivers of these communications have become a digital swarm -- not a mass, or a crowd, or Negri and Hardt's antiquated notion of a "multitude," but a set of isolated individuals incapable of forming a "we," incapable of calling dominant power relations into question, incapable of formulating a future because of an obsession with the present. The digital swarm is a fragmented entity that can focus on individual persons only in order to make them an object of scandal.

Han, one of the most widely read philosophers in Europe today, describes a society in which information has overrun thought, in which the same algorithms are employed by Facebook, the stock market, and the intelligence services. Democracy is under threat because digital communication has made freedom and control indistinguishable. Big Brother has been succeeded by Big Data.

Albrecht Koschorke
Hitler's Mein Kampf was banned in Germany for almost seventy years, kept from being reprinted by the accidental copyright holder, the Bavarian Ministry of Finance. In December 2015, the first German edition of Mein Kampf since 1946 appeared, with Hitler's text surrounded by scholarly commentary apparently meant to act as a kind of cordon sanitaire. And yet the dominant critical assessment (in Germany and elsewhere) of the most dangerous book of the twentieth century is that it is boring, unoriginal, jargon-laden, badly written, embarrassingly rabid, and altogether ludicrous. (Even in the 1920s, the consensus was that the author of such a book had no future in politics.) How did the unreadable Mein Kampf manage to become so historically significant? In this book, German literary scholar Albrecht Koschorke attempts to explain the power of Hitler's book by examining its narrative strategies.

Koschorke argues that Mein Kampf cannot be reduced to an ideological message directed to all readers. By examining the text and the signals that it sends, he shows that we can discover for whom Hitler strikes his propagandistic poses and who is excluded. Koschorke parses the borrowings from the right-wing press, the autobiographical details concocted to make political points, the attack on the Social Democrats that bleeds into an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, the contempt for science, and the conscious attempt to trigger outrage.

A close reading of National Socialism's definitive text, Koschorke concludes, can shed light on the dynamics of fanaticism. This lesson of Mein Kampf still needs to be learned.

Byung-Chul Han
The shitstorm represents an authentic phenomenon of digital communication. -- from In the Swarm

Digital communication and social media have taken over our lives. In this contrarian reflection on digitized life, Byung-Chul Han counters the cheerleaders for Twitter revolutions and Facebook activism by arguing that digital communication is in fact responsible for the disintegration of community and public space and is slowly eroding any possibility for real political action and meaningful political discourse. In the predigital, analog era, by the time an angry letter to the editor had been composed, mailed, and received, the immediate agitation had passed. Today, digital communication enables instantaneous, impulsive reaction, meant to express and stir up outrage on the spot. "The shitstorm," writes Han, "represents an authentic phenomenon of digital communication."

Meanwhile, the public, the senders and receivers of these communications have become a digital swarm -- not a mass, or a crowd, or Negri and Hardt's antiquated notion of a "multitude," but a set of isolated individuals incapable of forming a "we," incapable of calling dominant power relations into question, incapable of formulating a future because of an obsession with the present. The digital swarm is a fragmented entity that can focus on individual persons only in order to make them an object of scandal.

Han, one of the most widely read philosophers in Europe today, describes a society in which information has overrun thought, in which the same algorithms are employed by Facebook, the stock market, and the intelligence services. Democracy is under threat because digital communication has made freedom and control indistinguishable. Big Brother has been succeeded by Big Data.

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