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The Dawn of Political Nihilism
Volume I of The Nihilist Order
David Ohana teaches European history at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. He was a visiting fellow at the Centre for European Studies at Harvard University and the first academic director of the Forum for Mediterranean Cultures at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. His books include: A Humanist in the Sun: Camus and the Mediterranean Inspiration (2000), The Promethean Passion (2000), and The Anger of the Intellectuals (2003).
In the turbulent period between 1870 and 1930, the contours on modernity were taking shape, especially the connections between technology, politics and aesthetics. The trilogy The Nihilist Order traces the genealogy of the nihilist-totalitarian syndrome.
Until now, nihilism and
totalitarianism were considered opposites: one an orderless state
of affairs, the other a strict regimented order. On closer scrutiny,
however, a surprising affinity can be found between these two concepts
that dominated the history of the first half of the twentieth century.
Starting with Nietzsche’s philosophy, this book traces the
development of an intellectual school characterized by the paradoxical
dual purpose of a wish to destroy, coupled with a strong desire
to create imposing structures. This explosive combination of nihilist
leanings together with a craving for totalitarianism was an ideal
of philosophers, cultural critics, political theorists, engineers,
architects and aesthetes long before it materialized in flesh and
blood, not only in technology, but also in fascism, Nazism, bolshevism
and radical European political movements.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Georges Sorel, the Italian Futurists, led by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, and Ernst Jünger were all well-known intellectual and cultural figures. Here they are seen and understood in a different light, as creators of a modern political mythology that became a source of inspiration for belligerent ideological camps. Among the ideas propagated by this school, and later adopted by totalitarian regimes, were historical nihilism, a revolt against the rationalistic and universalistic pretensions of the Enlightenment, an affirmation of the dynamism of modern life, and the replacement of the traditional Judeo-Christian values of good and evil by other dualities such as authenticity and decadence. Concurrently there took place affirmation of the technological era, the creation of a ‘new man’ and a violent order, and the birth of a new political style in place of traditional world-views. When channeled into the political sphere, these aesthetic nihilist ideas paved the way for the rise of totalitarianism.
|Paperback Price:||£22.50 / $34.95|
|Release Date:||October 2012|
|Page Extent / Format:||272 pp. / 229 x 152 mm|
Foreword by Yehoshua Arieli
Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction The Nihilist-Totalitarian Syndrome
Chapter One The Nietzschian Revolution
Chapter Two Myth ex nihilo
Chapter Three The Nihilist Utopia
Chapter Four The City of Machine
A provocative and illuminating thesis on Totalitarianism.
Ohana has convincingly shown that a complex
cultural, ideological and psychological syndrome, linking nihilism
to totalitarianism, represented a significant factor in the ‘gathering
storm’ which marked the early twentieth century.
Saul Friedländer, author of The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939–1945
A major contribution to the understanding
of the 'condition humain'.
Yehoshua Arieli, author of Individualism and Nationalism in American Ideology
A turning point in the research
of European modernity.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Ohana presents the
first volume of the trilogy, The Nihilist Order, which explores
the development of the nihilist-totalitarian syndrome. Typically
thought of as opposites, the author portrays these concepts that
played such an important role in the 20th century as very much related
– put simply, as two sides of a coin. The combustible combination
of nihilism and totalitarianism was an ideal of philosophers, cultural
critics, professionals, and aesthetes and aggressive, belligerent
ideological camps well before it appeared as Nazism, bolshevism,
and radical European political movements.
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