what if the true Event was 1913?

The Great War was not the traumatic break that shattered late nineteenth-century progressivism, but a reaction to the true threat to the established order: the explosion of vanguard art, science and politics that was undermining the established world-view (artistic modernism in literature—from Kafka to Joyce; in music—Schoenberg and Stravinsky; in painting—Picasso, Malevich, Kandinsky; psychoanalysis; relativity theory and quantum physics; the rise of Social Democracy …). This rupture—condensed in 1913, the annus mirabilis of the artistic vanguard—was so radical in its opening up of new spaces that, in our speculative historiography, it is tempting to claim that the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 was, from the “spiritual” standpoint, a reaction to this Event. Or, to paraphrase Hegel, the horror of World War I was the price humanity had to pay for the immortal artistic revolution of the years just prior to the war. In other words, we must invert the pseudo-profound insight according to which Schoenberg et al. prefigured the horrors of twentieth-century war: what if the true Event was 1913? It is crucial to focus on this intermediate explosive moment, between the complacency of the late nineteenth century and the catastrophe of World War I—1914 was not an awakening, but the forceful and violent return of a patriotic slumber destined to block the true awakening. The fact that the fascists and other patriots hated the vanguard entartete Kunst is not a marginal detail but a key feature of fascism.

Slavoj Žižek, Absolute Recoil: Towards A New Foundation Of Dialectical Materialism





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