Byung-Chul Han has written no less than fourteen very different books that defy attempt to pigeonhole them into a single concept. From monographs on Heidegger and Hegel to books on globalisation, death, power and the Western passion story. “Duft der Zeit. Ein philosophischer Essay zur Kunst des Verweilens” [The scent of time. A philosophical essay on the art of lingering] is the title of one publication from 2009 – but woe betide any bookseller who places it among gift books, despite its flowery title! It was namely here that Han so brilliantly formulated his criticism of the restlessness of the animal laborans. In his later essay on the “Müdigkeitsgesellschaft” or tiredness society, Han went on to explain how the never-ending pressure of the active life can destroy us. The realisation that the perseverance slogan of positive thinking, as prompted by the dictates of increased efficiency, makes people sick has long since trickled down to the foundations of self-help literature. Han argues pathogenetically. It stands to reason that a culture which coined “Yes we can” as the self-confident slogan of the eternal “can-do” suffers from sicknesses like depression, borderline personality disorder and burnout syndrome. The cause of this internally rooted set of problems is the positively viewed constant potency of an incessant readiness to perform. The scourge of our time is called voluntariness. No longer is it an external repressive power that even leads to the deformation of society, as even in the previous century. “The disciplinary society,” writes Han “is still ruled by the no. Its negativity creates madmen and criminals. The performance society on the other hand creates depressives and failures.” In short, the problem today is not the other but the self (which constantly and emphatically says “Yes!”).
more from at Sign and Sight here.