Singularity

Politics and Poetics

2021
Author:

Samuel Weber

Singularity

An influential thinker on the concept of singularity and its implications on politics, theology, economics, psychoanalysis, and literature


Bringing together two decades of Samuel Weber’s essays, Singularity hones in on the surprising implications of the singular and its historical relation to the individual in politics, theology, economics, psychoanalysis, and literature. Weber reads the literary writings of Hölderlin, Nietzsche, and Kafka as exemplary practices that put singularity into play, not as fiction but as friction, exposing the self-evidence of established conventions to be responses to challenges and problems that they often prefer to obscure or ignore.

For readers versed in critical theory, German and comparative literature, or media studies, a new book by Samuel Weber is essential reading. Singularity is no exception. Bringing together two decades of his essays, it hones in on the surprising implications of the singular and its historical relation to the individual in politics, theology, economics, psychoanalysis, and literature. Although singularity has long been a keyword in literary studies and philosophy, never has it been explored as in this book, which distinguishes singularity as an “aporetic” notion from individuality, with which it remains historically closely tied.

To speak or write of the singular is problematic, Weber argues, since once it is spoken of it is no longer strictly singular. Walter Benjamin observed that singularity and repetition imply each other. This approach informs the essays in Singularity. Weber notes that what distinguishes the singular from the individual is that it cannot be perceived directly, but rather experienced through feelings that depend on but also exceed cognition. This interdependence of cognition and affect plays itself out in politics, economics, and theology as well as in poetics. Political practice as well as its theory have been dominated by the attempt to domesticate singularity by subordinating it to the notion of individuality. Weber suggests that this political tendency draws support from what he calls “the monotheological identity paradigm” deriving from the idea of a unique and exclusive Creator-God.

Despite the “secular” tendencies usually associated with Western modernity, this paradigm continues today to inform and influence political and economic practices, often displaying self-destructive tendencies. By contrast, Weber reads the literary writings of Hölderlin, Nietzsche, and Kafka as exemplary practices that put singularity into play, not as fiction but as friction, exposing the self-evidence of established conventions to be responses to challenges and problems that they often prefer to obscure or ignore.

Singularity

Samuel Weber is Avalon Foundation Professor of the Humanities at Northwestern University and director of its Paris Program in Critical Theory. He is author of twelve books, including, most recently, Benjamin’s -abilities and, in French, Inquiétantes singularités. He is a founding editor of the Electronic Mediations series at the University of Minnesota Press.


Singularity

Contents


Prefatory Note: Resisting—the Singular


Acknowledgments


Introduction. Singularity: An Aporetical Concept


1. Singularity, Individuality: From Anxiety to Anger


2. On the Militarization of Feeling


3. Bare Life and Life in General: The Question of “Concentration”


4. Psychoanalysis and the Mediacy of the Media


5. Protection, Projection, Persecution


6. The Single Trait


7. Money Is Time: Thoughts on Credit and Crisis


8. Global Inequality: The Question of Birthright


9. Mind the Cap: A Singular Approach to Europe


10. West of Eden: After the Good Life


11. After Its Kind: The Biblical Origins of Economic Theology


12. Like—Come Again?! On Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence


13. The Future of Saussure: A Signifying Moment


14. Anxiety, Psychoanalysis, and the Uncanny


15. The Singularity of Literary Cognition


16. Mis-taking the Measure of Poetry: Hölderlin Asks, Heidegger Answers


17. Towers and Walls: Building the Wall of China


18. Kafka’s Josefine, or How a Phrase Can Turn Out


19. Silencing the Sirens


Notes


Index