Fascism's Return: Scandal, Revision, and Ideology since 1980

By Richard J. Golsan | Go to book overview

Elliot Neaman


Ernst Jünger's Millennium: Bad Citizens for the New Century

In front of the Pompidou Center in Paris stands an ultramodern clock, the Génitron, counting down, with nuclear precision, the seconds, minutes, and hours until the last day of this millennium on 31 December 2000. Peter Sloterdijk, his philosophical finger always on the pulse of Zeitgeist, calls the clock a "messianic calendar, developed to cheer up Europeans threatened by exhaustion, to celebrate the end of the millennium like an advent."1Sloterdijk is right to point to the post- modern hunger for merging the sacred and the profane, exemplified best by the slightly giddy, but also angst-ridden anticipation of the day when our newspapers will carry the date with three gaping zeros. After the parousia failed to materialize in year "M" of the Roman calendar, it dawns upon us to ask the second time around, what are we actually waiting for? Counting the numbers for whom? A redeemer who has missed his announced return by another thousand years?

Ernst Jünger's work, now a century in the making, steps into this void and provides metaphysically and theologically oriented readers with a new set of signposts for an age now experiencing, according to Jünger's admirers, a metamorphosis of the gods ( Gestaltwandel der Götter).2 Like Hegel's philosophy of history, Jünger's oeuvre portends to uncover the occult meaning of time's passage, in abstraction from empirical content, situating human activity in relation to cosmic design or purpose. The contemporary interest in his work, across the ideological spectrum I will argue, has much to do with the enticing diagnosis of a putative end to the bourgeois epoch, a variant of the "end of history."

Some wish to see in the cultural apotheosis of Jünger, which reached new heights when he turned one hundred years old in March of 1995, a sign of German repression of the past, or even worse, a fascist cultural onslaught.3 Here one is reminded of the story of the smuggler who came every week to the Austrian-German border on bicycle, arousing the suspicions of the guards. After repeated searches of his belongings,

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