Nietzsche, Irrationalism, and the Cruel Irony of Adorno and Horkheimer’s Political Quietude (Contemporary Political Theory; Vol. 20, No. 3, 2021: 481-501)
Adorno and Horkheimer’s legacy is incomplete without reference to their infamous political quietism. To thinkers such as Habermas, this was the unfortunate consequence of their alleged evacuation of reason. In this article, I argue that attending to the treatment of Nietzsche in Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno and Horkheimer’s most popular book, illuminates the distinct irony of such charges. Nietzsche is presented as precisely that which they praised him for warning against elsewhere: an advocate of cruelty animated by a reactionary morality. I contend that this exaggeration is not accidental, but rather illustrative; the authors present a consciously hyperbolized version of Nietzsche in order to articulate how he made possible his own misappropriation, and to distinguish themselves sharply from Nietzsche given their disagreements about the necessity of reason. Ultimately, however, even though Adorno and Horkheimer performatively differentiate themselves from the nihilism they saw in Nietzsche, their alternative would ironically be subject to precisely the same charges of irrationalism and political aporia that they sought so desperately to avoid.
Frankenstein, the Frankfurt School, and the Domination of Nature (Philosophy & Literature; Vol. 45, No. 2, 2021: 416-434)
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has been read and re-read for decades as a cautionary myth about science. The interpretation is well known: a gentler, gradualist science is preferable to the aggressive Enlightenment rationality that spawned the Creature. However, I argue in this essay that such a distinction between ‘safe’ and ‘dangerous’ science is already largely effaced in the novel itself. By reading Frankenstein alongside Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, I aim to demonstrate that Shelley levels a radical critique of how modern science mediates our moral world by dissolving the boundaries between civilization and nature, enlightenment and barbarism.
Making Liberal Use of Kant? Democratic Peace Theory and Perpetual Peace (International Relations; Vol. 33, No. 1, 2019: 109-128)
The work of Immanuel Kant has been foundational in modern democratic peace theory. His essay Toward Perpetual Peace gives three prescriptions for attaining peace between democracies: republican institutions, a pacific union between states, and an ethos of universal hospitality. Contemporary democratic peace theory, however, has warped the Kantian framework from which it draws inspiration: the third prescription has been gradually substituted for commerce and trade. I argue that this change in emphasis produces tensions between Perpetual Peace and the body of democratic peace theory literature it spawned. Moreover, I contend that a look back to Kant’s essay sheds light on why this transformation occurred. Finally, I use this new look back at Perpetual Peace to reformulate the relationship between peace, democracy, and commerce so as to offer a new perspective on the democratic peace theory/capitalist peace theory debate.
The Gaya Scienza and the Aesthetic Ethos: Marcuse’s Appropriation of Nietzsche in An Essay on Liberation (Constellations; Vol. 24, No. 3, 2017: 356-371)
In his Essay on Liberation, Marcuse draws on Nietzsche explicitly in his formulation of the gaya scienza, or the aesthetic ethos of liberation. This paper argues that Marcuse’s Essay indeed harbors and utilizes myriad Nietzschean themes, among them the self-undermining logic of modernity, the repressive effects of entrance into society, and the Great Revolt (or Transvaluation of all Values) that may bring about a new mode of human life. Despite these deep continuities, Marcuse’s work also marks a radical break with Nietzsche, mediated by the historical changes between the two thinker’s lifetimes. Among these differences are their opposed attitudes towards suffering, conception of solidarity, articulation of ‘aestheticism’ and attitude on the status of social possibility. Given these overlapping continuities and differences, an Aufhebung of the two thinkers is offered: Marcuse’s socialism and Nietzsche’s individualism are brought together through a conception of self-fashioning that is inextricably bound up in one’s culture. Further, an alternative formulation of solidarity is offered that would both satisfy Marcuse’s socialism and maintain Nietzsche’s perspectivism. Finally, a middle way between Marcuse’s claim that an aesthetic ethos is inevitably political and Nietzsche’s general rejection of the state is articulated by offering a view of socialism and democracy that are qualitatively different from the type of democracy and socialism that Nietzsche critiqued. In the final analysis, this paper seeks to show that Marcuse’s project of aesthetically transcending the oppressive forms of domination embodied in the market is commensurable with Nietzsche’s critique of the middling tendencies of modernity.