Mechanized Warfare and the Fate of the Individual

“The vastness and deadly desolation of the field, the long-distance operation of steel machines, and the relay of every movement in the night drew an unyielding Titan’s mask over the proceedings. You moved toward death without seeing it; you were hit without knowing where the shot came from. Long since had the precision shooting of the trained marksman, the direct fire of guns, and with it the charm of the duel, given way to the concentrated fire of mechanized weapons. The outcome was a game of numbers: Whoever could cover a certain number of square meters with the greater mass of artillery fire, won.”
—Ernst Jünger, Sturm, describing the Battle of the Somme, whose centenary is this year.

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Mechanized Warfare and the Fate of the Individual

“The vastness and deadly desolation of the field, the long-distance operation of steel machines, and the relay of every movement in the night drew an unyielding Titan’s mask over the proceedings. You moved toward death without seeing it; you were hit without knowing where the shot came from. Long since had the precision shooting of the trained marksman, the direct fire of guns, and with it the charm of the duel, given way to the concentrated fire of mechanized weapons. The outcome was a game of numbers: Whoever could cover a certain number of square meters with the greater mass of artillery fire, won.”
—Ernst Jünger, Sturm, describing the Battle of the Somme, whose centenary is this year.

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The Failure of the Body Politic

In her exploration of Wittgenstein’s elusive and scattered commentary on community, Chantal Bax notes the absence of an explicit understanding of community in the philosopher’s work. Though Wittgenstein often invokes communal concepts, he rarely provides any details regarding the exact nature of a proper community, or the maintenance and governance a just society requires. Bax highlights the one place where Wittgenstein succumbs to the “unfortunate metaphor” of the body politic: he suggests the Jews, marginalized by European society, resemble a “‘kind of disease, anomaly,'” a “‘swelling'” which can “‘only be considered to be a proper part of the body when the whole feeling for the body is changed'” (105). Bax reads this as a tragic and empathetic lament: Wittgenstein doubts the possibility of a renewed, welcoming society that nonetheless adheres to this same vocabulary of the political body. And it is this prophetic doubt that intensifies the crisis of community that reiterates the necessity of Wittgenstein’s rethinking of life together.

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