Daniel Wiedner (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin): On Hermann Broch, Totalitarianism, and Political Theology


Monday, September 26, 2016, 4:10pm to 6:00pm


Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies

Daniel Weidner

The earthly absolutes and the paradoxes of Political Theology:

Hermann Broch faces Totalitarianism

 During the 1940ies, Hermann Broch, an Austrian émigré and author of modernist novels, began to develop theoretical reflections on modern totalitarism in his American exile, a project that ran parallel to Hannah Arendt’s Origins of Totalitariansm who had a close correspondence with him. Though Broch was never able to finish his project, the posthumously published papers are symptomatic for the the difficulties of a European intellectual facing Totalitarianism. Particularly interesting is the ambivalent relation of Broch towards the fascination of fascist thought which he concedes and which time and again also infects his own discourse. Broch tries to cope with this fascination by a wide ranging political anthropology in which the totalitarian power of sacrifice and exclusion is countered by a political theology of the ‘earthly absolute’ – a highly paradox category that is unfolded by all strategies of literary modernist, as paradox, association, mythologization etc. Given the recent renaissance of political theology and especially the figure of the homo sacer, the paper discusses Broch’s reflections in the context of the role of the sacred in the understanding of totalitariansm.