From The Immanent Frame:
“Man dies again.” Or so might one entitle a tabloid version of Stefanos Geroulanos’s excellent work on the history of antihumanist thought in twentieth-century France. The phrase, of course, echoes a New York Post headline—“Pope dies again”—that supposedly appeared when Pope John Paul I died in 1978, a mere 33 days after Pope Paul IV’s passing. Like that likely apocryphal tabloid title, the simplistic formula is an apparently contradictory, but perhaps telling, misreading. First, it drastically reduces the density, richness, and rigor of Geroulanos’s argument, which retraces multiple—at once overlapping and competing—formulations of atheistic critiques of humanism in the politically and intellectually turbulent decades following World War One. And second, it draws an associative link between the Post’s unintentional précis of papal political theology and those strains of French thinking which most insistently worked against the divinization of “Man.” Both the condensation and the displacement at work in the phrase seem to distort the book’s aims and claims beyond recognition.
And yet, the exaggerated brevity of “Man dies again” does encapsulate what I take to be one of the central—and powerful—claims of this book, namely, that the “Man” who has been called into question by antihumanism is not always the same Man, but rather a historically shifting intellectual and political construct. Precisely because these philosophies do not always have the same target at the same moment, Man’s imminent effacement is invoked repeatedly, rather than once and for all. What might be understood as a negative anthropology in one context—for example, Kojève’s 1930s account of man’s negation with the end of history—is radically revised and reinterpreted as a Marxist anthropology in the postwar era.