The Philosophy of Life and Death
Ludwig Klages and the Rise of a Nazi Biopolitics
New Books in European StudiesNew Books in Genocide StudiesNew Books in German StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network February 14, 2014 Todd Weir
Thomas Mann referred to Ludwig Klages (1872-1956) as a “criminal philosopher,” a “Pan-Germanist,” “an irrationalist,” a “Tarzan philosopher,” “a cultural pessimist… the voice of the world’s downfall.” Yet, Walter Benjamin urged his friend Gershom Scholem to read Klage’s latest book in 1930, at a time when Klages was increasingly bending his anti-Semitic philosophy of life (Lebensphilosophie) in a political direction. It was, Benjamin wrote, “without a doubt, a great philosophical work, regardless of the context in which the author may be and remain suspect.”
Nitzan Lebovic, historian at Lehigh University, has set himself the task of unfolding the ways in which Klages’s philosophy became both an inspiration for Nazi cultural politics and a subterranean source in the history of critical philosophy from Benjamin to Giorgio Agamben. In this podcast, we discuss his book The Philosophy of Life and Death: Ludwig Klages and the Rise of a Nazi Biopolitics (Palgrave Studies in Cultural and Intellectual History, 2013).