Peter Sloterdijk’s Kristalpaleis

Recently read Peter Sloterdijk’s Im Weltinnenraum des Kapitals. Für eine philosophische Theorie der Globalisierung. That is to say, I read the Dutch translation which is entitled Het kristalpaleis. That is to say: I read through it, to get the gist of it, enjoying Sloterdijks prose. While reading I did not act as someone who thinks with, and critically against what he’s reading. Take this as a disclaimer for the following notes ;-)

Sloterdijk’s not really on my list of philosophers with whom I’d like to spend a lot of time, though I would like to know and understand his position. I will probably never get around to read his Sphären-trilogy.

There are some reasons to read Sloterdijk, when doing research on writing and new media. Sloterdijk often refers to writing and media — for instance when he, famously, notes that doing philosophy, or writing books, is like writing long letters to a community of friends. If you are searching for a complete philosophy of the modern and contemporary world, in which the prespective of media theory is taken into account, Sloterdijk is one of the authors that you can look into.

For me, reading Sloterdijk is mostly about getting some ‘context’.

I am very ambiguous about Sloterdijk. The only really good piece I read of his, is his Regels voor het Mensenpark, a text that was misinterpreted so radically that one wonders, so many years later, if some of the commentators ever read the text itself. Sloterdijk is wonderfully controversial sometimes. That is nice. But he’s also ‘bloody’ conservative in a lot of respects, especially in this book Kristalpaleis, and often in not a very provocative way.

Anyway, first of all, I still see Sloterdijk as he emerged on the scene, early eightes. He was into Baghwan at that time. Okay, people can make the wrong decision for the right reasons, but still, some of Sloterdijks conservatism has a funny smell that I cannot de-attach from the media-person he is, or was.

Second: Sloterdijk refers mainly to german philosophers and texts in Kristalpaleis, and if he refers to texts written in english of french he almost always quotes from the german translations. He is emphatically a German philosopher, a heir to Hegel and Heidegger. (Which does not mean he’s a Hegelian or Heideggerian of course. He’ too kynical for that). If Sloterdijk provocatively states (in Kristalpaleis) that there is no philosophy of Globalization, he means that there is no philosophy of Globalization in the Hegel – Heidegger – kinda – philosophy. Okay, he mentions Negri and Hardt, but hmm, there’s more than that I’d say, if one lives in another philosophy-community.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading Kristalpaleis, and the general thesis that Sloterdijk builds up is enticing enough, thanks to his great knowledge of ‘globe’-imagery and ‘globe’-metaphors. But well, then he states that with the end of Globalization, History ends. That is, again, History in the Hegelian sense — History with an (imagined) telos. Hmm, yeah, well. Of course Sloterdijk writes some good bits that sort of make you realize how much we are still attached to the old ideas, how they have not gone away, and that we still have to make an effort at remaking a philosophy for the world we are part of. That universalism cannot be thrown away so easily. It’s not that Sloterdijk wants to make the statement that History is ended, he’s concerned with designing a Philosophy for our times, and wants to do away with the misunderstandings raised and easy solutions put forward the champions of new philosophers who think we are beyond History. But he makes some sweeping statements that are, I would say, pretty damaging or, to say it differently, show what a ‘bloody/dangerous’ conservative Sloterdijk is. Near the end (I cannot find the reference now) he counteracts the idea that trade has become globalized, that we have to look at economical and environmental problems at a world level, with the fact that most of the trade does still take place between neighbouring countries. Clearly saying, we shouldn’t exaggerate the impact of globalization too much. That I think, is a damaging thought. I do not think he’s being provocative there. He simply downplays the globalized effects. His statement can be easily counteracted with quoting the beautiful passage from Richard Powers’ novel Gain in which he tries to describe the provenance (that the word?) of all the ingredients of a piece of soap (was it soap?). Which turns out to be pretty impossible and sends you on a journey all over the world.

Of course, a lot of Sloterdijks analysis of the contemporary rich world as a ‘crystal palace’ is spot on. But i’d prefer a ‘total shattering’ ;-) of that ‘crystal palace’ instead of the ironic (?), sarcastic (?) zynikal(??) resigned analysis of that condition.

Hmm, it’s not that I am dismissing Sloterdijk because he’s in the wrong side, politically, am I? Nah, I think he’s one of those writers who provoke me to disagree, while when reading better, I’d have to admit I should agree more with what he writes than I would want to.

en,reading matter,research | April 3, 2006 | 14:36 | Comments Off on Peter Sloterdijk’s Kristalpaleis |


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