The Suppression and Return of Rage

Our British correspondent JP sends some information about a new book by Peter Sloterdijk. He says, “Pertinent to the discussion of the Mohammed cartoon rage is the latest work by Peter Sloterdijk to be translated into English, Rage and Time. I will have to wait until I return to the British Library before I get the opportunity to read it.”

Below is the text from the book’s Amazon page, plus criticism of the work by an Israeli academic.

Rage and Time: A Psychopolitical Investigation

While ancient civilizations worshipped strong, active emotions, modern societies trend more toward peaceful, democratic processes. We have largely forgotten the struggle to make use of the thymos, the section of Plato’s tripartite soul that contains spirit, pride, and indignation. Instead Christianity and psychoanalysis promote the idea that mutual understanding and therapy can settle all conflicts. With a unique collage of examples, from Alexandre Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo to recent Islamic political riots in Paris, Peter Sloterdijk reinterprets the history of Western civilization according to the suppression and return of rage. He proves the fallacy that rage can be controlled. Global terrorism and economic frustrations have rendered strong emotions visibly resurgent, and the consequences of violent expression will determine international relations for decades to come. To better respond to rage and its complex challenges, Sloterdijk, the preeminent posthumanist, dares to break with deeply entrenched dogmas as he forms a new theory for confronting conflict. His approach respects the existence and proper place of rage within humanity and channels the fact of rage into productive political struggle.

About the Author

Peter Sloterdijk is professor of philosophy and president of the State Academy of Design at the University of Karlsruhe, and his numerous works include the best-selling work of philosophy, Critique of Cynical Reason, and the Spheres trilogy.

Comment by Professor Yehezkel Dror:

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This is an important book emphasizing the critical importance of rage as an individual and collective motive and a basis for action. Most of the modern theories of international relations and security ignore this factor and therefore misunderstand reality and arrive at doubtful and often counterproductive recommendations. Accordingly this book is recommended for urgent and careful study by international relations and security affairs scholars and practitioners, and by the interested public as a whole. I will refer to it in my book ISRAELI STATECRAFT: CHALLENGE AND RESPONSE, on which I am working.

However the book has three main weaknesses. The first one concerns the theoretic frame into which the author tries to force his discourse. He considers rage as a kind of phenomenon which can be put into a Bank and then either kept as a treasure or used as an asset producing more Zorn, and which can even be “borrowed”. This is largely incorrect. Rage is not an asset or treasure which can be deposited. Rather, in many and perhaps most cases it dissipates if not translated rather soon into deeds. At least the author should have added a discussion of “remembering rage” to show if and how far it can be kept intact till used.

The second weakness is neglect of leaders as capable of producing rage as a way to mobilize support and activate people. True, there is need for some social conditions enabling mobilizing of rage, but this does not reduce the importance of leaders in producing, using or reducing it — as shown by many studies, including on recent mass-killings in Africa (such as by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen).

Last, but not least, there is a rupture between most of the book and the conclusions which propose a way to cope with rage, focusing on a kind of didactic program. This recommendation contradicts all of the text which presents rage as a very serious and deeply rooted factor which surely cannot be contained by such lame measures. Rather, if one adds to the treatment more thorough consideration of the implications for humanity of rage combined with weapons of mass killing, which is a very realistic scenario, then an unavoidable conclusion may well be that only what I call a “Global Leviathan,”, that is a strict and partly authoritarian global security regime, can prevent calamities resulting from rage combined with mass killing instruments. It is hard to understand the sudden optimism of the author, unless he consciously or subconsciously “forced” himself to conclude the book in a positive vain — however much contradicting his otherwise very pertinent analysis.

The book lacks an index. This is unacceptable in a serious book such as this.

Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Israel

4 thoughts on “The Suppression and Return of Rage

  1. I want to make the point that the following is a load of hooey:

    Instead Christianity and psychoanalysis promote the idea that mutual understanding and therapy can settle all conflicts.

    For modern, liberal Christianity this is probably true. However any form of Christianity that believes in a literal lake of fire really isn’t looking to resolve conflicts through “mutual understanding.”


  2. The first culture or society to be stripped of its rage through brainwashing techniques as implemented in the West’s present education and media systems will be a sitting duck for the remaining barbarians like devout sharia promoting Muslims whose scripture and prophetic example inculcate rage against the other, any other. America and Israel are presently the focus of that rage not necessarily in that order, but there’s enough to spare for Hindus, Buddhists, liberal atheists etc. as well.

    Elimination of (out)rage from one’s defense arsenal means any superiority in weaponry one has is rendered useless.

    This has been the suicidal/homicidal “genius” of the West’s leftists leading mush brained “peaceniks”. There will be great loss of life (3000 civilians on US territory wasn’t enough) on the West’s side before enough non-zombified westerners start fighting back in earnest, not with minimal force.

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