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Difference and OrientationAn Alexander Kluge Reader$
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Alexander Kluge and Richard Langston

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501739200

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501739200.001.0001

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The Political without Its Despair

The Political without Its Despair

On the Concept of “Populism”

(p.378) 22 The Political without Its Despair
Difference and Orientation

Alexander Kluge

, Richard Langston
Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses on populism and passivity, making available for the first time in English one of four essays Alexander Kluge penned alone for his third collaboration with social philosopher Oskar Negt, Measured Relations of the Political (1992). Words like “folkish,” “folksy,” “popular,” “populist,” “popularis,” “folk festival,” “national community,” and even phrases like “in the name of the people” not only describe different ideas, but each also assumes a different historical guise. The seriousness contained in the use of these words cannot be found if the shadows, perspectives, and temporal signs accompanying such words are destroyed. Amid falsehoods and instrumental appropriations, appeals to the people revolve around the search for autonomy and distinctive character. What is sovereignty's elemental material? How is the creation of autonomy, if need be by proxy, organized? How is it balanced? Which building blocks are used to construct a community? People pose these questions more frequently at two historical transitions: when they doubt the materials used to construct their community along with the organization of their experience; and when they believe they have reason to be proud of their achievements, like when they succeed at attaining autonomy. With regard to the concept of the political in both positions—doubt and pride—people are currently witnessing a peculiar devaluation.

Keywords:   populism, passivity, Alexander Kluge, Oskar Negt, autonomy, sovereignty, community

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