CFP: Subjects of Destruction (Journal special issue)

The newly established peer-reviewed Journal Zeitschrift für kritische Sozialtheorie und Philosophie seeks abstracts for articles and reviews in German or English for its theme issue “Subjekte der Vernichtung / Subjects of Destruction”.

Subjects of Destruction

The significance of social and philosophical theorising ultimately depends on whether it proves capable of reflecting upon the historical catastrophe marked by the name of Auschwitz; and beyond that, whether or to what extent it may comprise regimes of extreme violence and destruction as products of modern society.

Over decades, such an understanding had been upheld principally by the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School. Under notably different conditions, though, addressing questions of genocide, destruction, and violence has very recently become a topic of interest in various fields of research. Some, for instance, are calling for a new theory of violence (Wolfgang Sofsky, Trutz von Trotha, Christian Gerlach, Jan Philipp Reemtsma et al.), others, more modestly, for a sociology of international conflicts (Hans Joas, Wolfgang Knöbl, Hamburg Institute for Social Reasearch et al.). Furthermore, scholars demand an understanding of the ‘New Wars’ (Mary Kaldor, Herfried Münkler et al.), a social-psychological exploration of mass murders, particularly the destruction of the Jews (Leonard Newman, Harald Welzer et al.), and an interdisciplinary study of the perpetrators, covering historiographical as well as biographical, sociological, cultural, and philosophical approaches (Raphael Gross, Michael Wildt et al.).

Since the 1990s, research has focused primarily on the subjects of destruction, i.e. the perpetrators of mass murders. In the course of this, important historiographical and social-psychological inquiries into both the motives of the perpetrators and the specific practice of violence emerged. These studies have after all demonstrated the untenability of the assertion that those perpetrators were mindless, or chiefly career-minded, technocrats. Notwithstanding their merits, however, these empirically grounded contributions on their part reveal some considerable theoretical shortcomings. Notions such as the ‘ordinary’ perpetrators, for example, and also the way in which the situational conditions of their actions are pointed out seem questionable. Theoretical reflections upon these particular conditions remain either wholly absent or insufficient. While anti-Semitism and a particularly National Socialist morality are being stressed as causes of the war of extermination, the causes themselves linger unexplained. Unless one obtains the plain information that those men and women killed Jews because anyone else in their place would have presumably done the same (see the Milgram experiment), the answer is that the perpetrators precisely wanted to do it, or that they were obedient to an ideology which governed their actions. But why was it that so many people, possibly entire segments of society shared such a willingness to kill? Social and philosophical theorising might look for answers beyond both determinism and voluntarism.

The first issue of the Zeitschrift für kritische Sozialtheorie und Philosophie shall contribute to this question. It would be desirable to summarise the results of recent research on the perpetrators of extreme collective violence in order to confront these results with insights from social theory, philosophy, and psychoanalysis which have largely been ignored thus far within the framework of that research. A critical theory of society would have to be alert not only to rationally functioning subjects and systems, but also to those subjects of destruction that are equally characteristic of advanced capitalist societies. Scholars from all pertinent fields of research are kindly invited to submit abstracts for articles.

Possible issues include:
– Development, achievements and shortcomings of the social-psychological research on perpetrators (e.g., a critical survey of the theoretical development of Harald Welzer’s works)
– Volksgemeinschaft: Ideology and/or reality?
– Is there something like a National Socialist morality? What explanatory approaches do Jean-Paul Sartre and the Critical Theory (or others) provide?
– National Socialism und Anti-Semitism. Rethinking Moishe Postone: What Foucault, Sartre, and psychoanalysis might add to a materialist theory of Anti-Semitism
– Violence and the Shoah. A critical look at recent theories of violence (Han, Reemtsma, Joas, Wieviorka, Gerlach, etc.)
– Historical enlightenment of ethics? Ethics after Auschwitz
– Sartre’s Reflections on the Jewish Question. An ambivalent contribution to the understanding of Anti-Semitism
– What’s left of the theory of the Authoritarian Personality?
– Displays of irrationality: What is it to say that the destruction of the Jews was irrational or an end in itself?
– Toward a critique of Hannah Arendt’s paradigm

Articles may be written in English or German. All submitted articles are subject to anonymous peer review.

Deadline for abstract submissions: 15.04.2012

Deadline for article submissions: 1.12.2012

Reviews should refer to recently published books. Though in omnibus reviews, older publications could also be included. Reviews of books related to the central topic of the issue would be particularly welcomed.

About the Journal
The newly established Zeitschrift für kritische Sozialtheorie und Philosophie shall provide a forum for a multidisciplinary academic discussion of critical social theories. Taking up an initial idea of the Frankfurt School, it seeks to combine various disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, psychology, history as well as cultural and media studies with a contemporary approach to the critique of political economy, thereby not confining the idea of critical social theory itself to a particular scholarly tradition. Rather, different and controversial positions are invited to to enter into dialogue with one another. All submitted articles are subject to anonymous peer review.

Sven Ellmers
Institut für Sozialtheorie e.V.
Poststelle GB
Universitätsstr. 150
44801 Bochum


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