Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Terror from the Air

Virilio, der Derian, and now Sloterdijk. But will this upcoming contribution be absorbed into journals such as War & Culture, or rendered persona non Grata on account of Sloterdijk's past excesses? (not least The Human Zoo, with its platonic vision of biotech. Or how about the other expressed fondness for the philosophy of a certain notorious Indian "love guru"?). None of this is enough to curb my enthusiasm though, as I can't wait to find out if this new work brings together Sloterdijk's genetic focus with the military strategy of targeting the enemy's "environment".

Is it possible to anticipate the likely critical reception in certain quarters, especially those where the governing assumption is the primacy of politics? I've found another book recently I'm keen to discuss in these terms (which I can then illustrate with an Alphonso Lingis quote, and in turn contrast with David Stove's quotation on Acheron's sidebar). But sticking to the topic at hand, I think a prime representative example is this critical assessment of Cooper's thesis of the commodification of regenerative medicine as equivalent to a new form of speculative surplus value. Randy Martin's Empire of Indifference is viewed likewise in the same review.

To anticipate Sloterdijk is not to claim that the review of Cooper and Martin lacks merit though. So until Sloterdijk's book materialises, one is free to enjoy Mute's satire of Martin's approach:

And so to the description of Terror from the Air:

Product Description

According to Peter Sloterdijk, the twentieth century started on a specific day and place: April 22, 1915, at Ypres in Northern France. That day, the German army used a chlorine gas meant to exterminate indiscriminately. Until then, war, as described by Clausewitz and practiced by Napoleon, involved attacking the adversary's vital function first. Using poison gas signaled the passage from classical war to terrorism. This terror from the air inaugurated an era in which the main idea was no longer to target the enemy's body, but their environment. From then on, what would be attacked in wartime as well as in peacetime would be the very conditions necessary for life.

This kind of terrorism became the matrix of modern and postmodern war, from World War I's toxic gas to the Nazi Zyklon B used in Auschwitz, from the bombing of Dresden to the attack on the World Trade Center. Sloterdijk goes on to describe the offensive of modern aesthetics, aesthetic terrorism from Surrealism to Malevich—an "atmo-terrorism" in the arts that parallels the assault on environment that had originated in warfare.

Foreign Agents series
Distributed for Semiotext(e)

About the Author
Peter Sloterdijk (b. 1947) is one of the best known and widely read German intellectuals writing today. His 1983 publication of Critique of Cynical Reason (published in English in 1988) became the best-selling German book of philosophy since World War II. He became president of the State Academy of Design at the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe in 2001. He has been cohost of a discussion program, Der Philosophische Quartett (Philosophical Quartet) on German television since 2002.

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