Friday, Feb 2, 2007, 10:30 AM

Heinz Dieter Kittsteiner

Professor of Modern European History, Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt an der Oder

Die Angst in der Geschichte

By increasing their control over nature, humans not only lost their fear of once unmasterable forces; they also lost the forms in which that fear was given concrete expression. What is more: despite humanity’s progress, the process of civilization has taken place within historical structures that cannot themselves be mastered. So fear remains with us. Not the fear that Freud called Realangst — anxieties produced by concrete external factors — but a traumatic fear that presents no basis for human action. The classical philosophers of history coined terms such as “the invisible hand” and “natural intention” to describe the instances supposed to act for us instead, though by the mid-nineteenth century even these conceptions had reached a state of crisis. Fear in history is fear of a history that has become unmanageable. The main alternative technique developed to cope with our fears is repersonalization, by which diffuse fears are transformed into concrete ones, which because they can be confronted can also be overcome. The repersonalization of anonymous structures occurs mostly in the form of strikingly condensed images: synergistic allegories and heroic figures believed to be at work underneath the historical surface. In the political posters and billboards of the early 20th century, these condensed images appeared as the Proletariat, the Soldier, the Capitalist, and the Jew.

Heinz Dieter Kittsteiner has been Professor of Modern European History at the Europa-Universität Viadrina since 1993. Previously, he held the Friedrich-Schiller Chair of History at the Universität Jena (1993), was a fellow at the Institute of Cultural Studies in Essen (1991-93), and an assistant in the history de-partment at the Universität Bielefeld (1983-85) and in the philosophy department at the Freien Universität Berlin (1980-83). His research areas include the philosophy of history, the history of ideas, and modernity. He is the author of Naturabsicht und Unsichtbare Hand. Zur Kritik des geschichtsphilosophischen Denkens (1980); Gewissen und Geschichte. Studien zur Entstehung des moralischen Bewußtseins (1990); Die Entstehung des modernen Gewissens (1991); Listen der Vernunft. Motive geschichtsphilosophischen Denkens (1998); Out of Control. Über die Unverfügbarkeit des historischen Prozesses (2004); Mit Marx für Heidegger. Mit Heidegger für Marx (2004); and Wir werden gelebt. Formprobleme der Moderne (2006).