Things are picking up. Blink, and you’ve missed the instant change of affairs — but it’s not the tired wear and tear of the yellow press anymore, it feels like a constant rearrangement on the grand crossroads of history. People are afraid of missing the signs of the arrival of something big, threatening and definite.
Standing on crossroads isn’t always a pleasant experience. Oh, the painful burden of choice! Especially when we’re not really sure what junction we’re standing on — are we on the verge of repeating history, or a dark new age where everything is post-something? Whatever it is, and whatever your allegiance — because apparently you need to pick your allegiance when things are picking up — there is one sentiment that can be observed whenever people feel that things are becoming uncertain: It’s the desire to “return to”. It is the sentiment of standing before choices that are all wrong, or, rather, of standing on the wrong crossroad in the first place — if there are really choices to be made, well, that’s a whole other question. It’s the sentiment of having made wrong choices somewhere along the way. It’s the “Ctrl+Z” of everything and we can observe it all around us.
Even though this sentiment finds various expressions, it’s fundamentally driven by a desire to return to a world that made sense. This desire has many faces. It glanced from the war-torn eyes of the existentialists, the technocritical Lebensphilosophen or, in his darkest moments, Heidegger’s Hölderlinian dream of the authentic Volk; and it’s back en vogue nowadays in isolationist nostalgia and the streamlined ratio of transhumanism. He has succumbed to the luring call of cynicism who decries the human yearning for sense, looking at “them” from the safe havens of noli me tangere. Nihilism, wearing the ever-grinning masks of internet trolls and eternal doomsday prophets, feasts on its superiority and discards everything with a sweeping motion. Yet, the return of the “return to” cannot be easily discarded just because we’ve been there already or because we look kind of silly in our desperate attempts to make sense of the world. There is only one question that matters, one criterion: Are you, in your yearning, humane? What cost does sense, as you aspire to it, have?
Beware of easy solutions, maybe that’s what unites the contributions of our September issue.
They polemicize against the problematization of time in contemporary capitalist culture with its tendency to synchronization and micromanaging, which brings back romantic dreams of polychonic life-rhythms.
They confront you with the continuous challenge of upholding interpersonal relations, discounting nativist narratives of enrooted communities. They present you an attempt to saturate the political sphere with dialogue and thought with a repolitization of the notion of truth.
They criticize a reductionist understanding of psychoanalysis that diminishes it to disentangling life-coaching and present you a complex economy of insatiable drives and desires.
They rant against the contemporary scapegoating of the post-modernists, urging you to understand the depth and complexity of socioeconomic changes.
They advocate the work that philosophers could be doing in advancing the culture at large.
In short, our issue is debating the timely phenomenon of the proliferation of simplified and simplifying “returns to”. Hushing from crossroad to crossroad, skimming through the catalogue of easy solutions, might, after all, offer less than a few virtual pages of an online journal. Only a fool would mistake slamming on the brakes for complacency.