All That Is Solid Melts Into Information | NOEMA - Deepstash

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All That Is Solid Melts Into Information | NOEMA

All That Is Solid Melts Into Information | NOEMA


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The Torrent of Time

The torrent of accelerated time without narrative is disorienting our society and fragmenting community, says philosopher Byung-Chul Han. Art can help put the pieces back together.

Byung-Chul Han is a South Korea-born...

Nathan Gardels: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once commented that: “When eras are on the decline, all tendencies are subjective; but, on the other hand, when matters are ripening for a new epoch, all tendencies are objective. Each worthy effort turns its force from the inward to the outward worl...

 Paradoxically, social media in this sense is anti-social, leading to the disintegration of community through a kind of connected isolation. 

What is the dynamic and what are the mechanisms behind what you call “the crisis of community?”

What are the consequences in how we feel and l...

Byung-Chul Han: The inwardly turned, narcissistic ego with purely subjective access to the world is not the cause of social disintegration but the result of a fateful process at the objective level.

Everything that binds and connects is disappearing. There are hardly any shared values or s...

But truth, unlike information, has a centripetal force that holds society together. Information, on the other hand, is centrifugal, with very destructive effects on social cohesion. If we want to comprehend what kind of society we are living in, we need to understand the nature of information. 

 Truth illuminates the world, while information lives off the attraction of surprise, pulling us into a permanent frenzy of fleeting moments. 

We greet information with a fundamental suspicion: Things might be otherwise. Contingency is a trait of information, and for this reason fake news i...

“Bits of information provide neither meaning nor orientation. They do not congeal into a narrative.”

Information goes along with fundamental suspicion. The more we are confronted with information, the more our suspicion grows.

Information is Janus-faced, produces certainty a...

As you suggest in your question, another reason for the crisis of community, which is a crisis of democracy, is digitalization.

Digital communication redirects the flows of communication. Information is spread without forming a public sphere. It is produced in private spaces and distribute...

Digital communities have the form of commodities; ultimately, they are commodities.

“Today, we no longer have any narratives that provide meaning and orientation for our lives. Narratives crumble and decay into information.”

Of course, there was information in the past, too. ...

It was integrated into the Christian narrative of sin.  Today, by contrast, we no longer have any narratives that provide meaning and orientation for our lives. Narratives crumble and decay into information.

With some exaggeration, we might say that there is nothing butinformation without...

People invent narratives to explain a tsunami of disorienting figures and data. Often these narratives are called conspiracy theories, but they cannot simply be reduced to collective narcissism.

They readily explain the world. On the web, spaces open to make experiences of identity and col...

Friedrich Nietzsche once said that our happiness consists of the possession of a non-negotiable truth. Today, we no longer have such non-negotiable truths. Instead, we have an over-abundance of information.

I am not sure that the information society is a continuation of the Enlightenment. ...

 You need to comprehend that without this kind of ignorance life would become impossible, that only on condition of this ignorance can what lives preserve itself and flourish.”

Gardels: As you wrote in your most recent book, societal rituals once created that objective narrative bo...

Now such rituals are under assault by the wrecking ball of deconstruction as nothing more than the designs of the privileged of the past who had the power to impose them.

In today’s horizontal world with no legitimate value hierarchy, subjective projection steps in to fill the vacuum. 


Han: I would not promote a reactivation of past rituals. This is simply not possible because the rituals of Western culture are very closely associated with the Christian narrative.

And everywhere the Christian narrative is losing its power. There is little left of it beyond Christmastime....

Often roles are exchanged: The masters serve their slaves. And the fool ascends the throne as king. This ritualized temporary suspension of the power structure stabilizes the community.

“After the pandemic, what is most in need of recovery is culture.”

In a world that is comp...

The state distributes a drug called soma in order to increase feelings of happiness in the population. Maybe in our brave new world, people will receive a universal basic income and have unlimited access to video games. That would be the new version of panem et circensem (“bread and circ...

After the pandemic, what is most in need of recovery is culture. Cultural events such as theater, dance and even football have a ritual character. The only way in which we can revitalize community is through ritual forms.

Today, culture is held together solely by instrumental and economic ...

What we need most are temporal structures that stabilize life. When everything is short-term, life loses all stability. Stability comes over long stretches of time: faithfulness, bonds, integrity, commitment, promises, trust.

These are the social practices that hold a community together. T...

In “The Little Prince,” the fox wants to be visited by the little prince always at the same hour, so that his visit becomes a ritual. The little prince asks the fox what a ritual is, and the fox replies:

“Those also are actions too often neglected. … They are what make one day...

They give us festive spaces, so to speak, spaces we can enter in celebration. As temporal structures, rituals arrest time. Temporal spaces we can enter in celebration do not pass away.

Without such temporal structures, time becomes a torrent that tears us apart from each other and away fro...

Han: Philosophy has the power to change the world: European science began only with Plato and Aristotle; without Rousseau, Voltaire and Kant, the European Enlightenment would be unthinkable. Nietzsche made the world appear in an entirely new light. Marx’s “Capital” founded a new epoch. 


How can we reverse this development and make sure that philosophy regains its world-changing power, its magic?

My feeling is that art, as opposed to philosophy, is still in a position where it can evoke the glimmer of a new form of life. 

Art has always brought forth a new reality, a...

It is possible that art is nearer to the heart of creation than philosophy.

It is therefore capable of letting something entirely new begin.

The revolution can begin with as little as an unheard-of color, an unheard-of sound.

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