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Assessing the Benefits. “Unemployment” in Nietzsche and Arendt

Friday, December 6, 2013, 6:30 p.m.

Deutsches Haus at NYU

The Department of German at NYU presents its annual graduate student conference. The conference, entitled Work/Ethics, explores the field opened up by the concepts of “work” and “ethics.”
Setting out from Hegel’s “Herr-Knecht-Dialektik” in the Phenomenology of Spirit, the conference will raise questions about creative autonomy, and self-subjection. As well as the concept of “work,” the idea of “non-work,” of being “out of work,” will be discussed. This is the focus of Martin Jörg Schäfer’s talk Assessing the Benefits. ‘Unemployment’ in Nietzsche and Arendt, which will be the keynote speech opening the conference at Deutsches Haus at NYU.
The conference will continue on Saturday, December 7, in the Silver Center (Room 401).
For more information click here

In different fashions, Friedrich Nietzsche and Hannah Arendt were among the first to state the emergence of what they call the “laboring society”: a society organized by work and labor as its guiding principles and overarching practices. In such a symbolic order, “unemployment” does not just suggest a state of material and social deprivation. Being unemployed rather becomes tied to the threat of falling out of the symbolic order altogether. Consequently, “unemployment” has long been regulated by a politics of fear that frames it as a problem of individual work ethic. However, Nietzsche’s and Arendt’s theories of culture provide a different angle: By dispensing with the politics of fear (Arendt) or competing against it (Nietzsche) they disentangle “unemployment” from fear, thus offering a different outlook on the predominance of the “laboring society.”

Martin Jörg Schäfer is Heisenberg fellow in German & Comparative Literature at the University of Erfurt. His books include Die Gewalt der Muße. Wechselverhältnisse von Arbeit, Nichtarbeit, Ästhetik, 2013; Szenischer Materialismus. Dionysische Theatralität zwischen Hölderlin und Hegel, 2003; Schmerz zum Mitsein. Zur Relektüre Celans und Heideggers durch Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe und Jean-Luc Nancy, 2003.

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