University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History > Roots of the Concept of the Anarch in the Weimar-era Writing of Ernst Jünger

Roots of the Concept of the Anarch in the Weimar-era Writing of Ernst Jünger

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As John Locke wrote, “the actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.” Yet, in the compelling case of Ernst Jünger, scholars have struggled to make sense of the relationship between his actions and his often mercurial political thought. This paper will argue that a concept only articulated late in Jünger’s long career, that of the “anarch”, a kind of anti-heroic ideal that forms the theme of the 1977 novel Eumeswil, can be read as a crystallization of an important strand of his thought with roots stretching back to his first publication, 1920’s In Stahlgewittern. Crucial to this concept, this paper will argue, is a collapsing of the distinction between ruler and ruled through a perspective that views human agency as a material force and a concomitant valorization of the absolute distinction between the particular and the general, with separate sets of laws applying to each. The concept of the political espoused by Jünger’s friend and interlocutor Carl Schmitt is, in the concept of the anarch, reduced to a singularity wherein the individual retains an irreducible power over life and death. This paper will trace the roots of this concept to Jünger’s Fronterlebnis, within which the anarchic sense of self-determination, experienced with utmost intensity within the no-man’s-land on the border/front between warring states, provides an experiential basis for a concept of individual sovereignty that can be seen to inform Jünger’s development through Weimar, the Third Reich and beyond.

This talk is part of the Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History series.

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