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The Scent of Time: A Philosophical Essay on the Art of Lingering

por Byung-Chul Han

In his philosophical reflections on the art of lingering, acclaimed cultural theorist Byung-Chul Han argues that the value we attach today to the vita activa is producing a crisis in our sense of time. Our attachment to the vita activa creates an imperative to work which degrades the human being into a labouring animal, an animal laborans. At the same time, the hyperactivity which characterizes our daily routines robs human beings of the capacity to linger and the faculty of contemplation. It therefore becomes impossible to experience time as fulfilling. Drawing on a range of thinkers including Heidegger, Nietzsche and Arendt, Han argues that we can overcome this temporal crisis only by revitalizing the vita contemplativa and relearning the art of lingering. For what distinguishes humans from other animals is the capacity for reflection and contemplation, and when life regains this capacity, this art of lingering, it gains in time and space, in duration and vastness.

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The Burnout Society

por Byung-Chul Han

Our competitive, service-oriented societies are taking a toll on the late-modern individual. Rather than improving life, multitasking, "user-friendly" technology, and the culture of convenience are producing disorders that range from depression to attention deficit disorder to borderline personality disorder. Byung-Chul Han interprets the spreading malaise as an inability to manage negative experiences in an age characterized by excessive positivity and the universal availability of people and goods. Stress and exhaustion are not just personal experiences, but social and historical phenomena as well. Denouncing a world in which every against-the-grain response can lead to further disempowerment, he draws on literature, philosophy, and the social and natural sciences to explore the stakes of sacrificing intermittent intellectual reflection for constant neural connection.

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The Transparency Society

por Byung-Chul Han

Transparency is the order of the day. It is a term, a slogan, that dominates public discourse about corruption and freedom of information. Considered crucial to democracy, it touches our political and economic lives as well as our private lives. Anyone can obtain information about anything. Everything—and everyone—has become transparent: unveiled or exposed by the apparatuses that exert a kind of collective control over the post-capitalist world. Yet, transparency has a dark side that, ironically, has everything to do with a lack of mystery, shadow, and nuance. Behind the apparent accessibility of knowledge lies the disappearance of privacy, homogenization, and the collapse of trust. The anxiety to accumulate ever more information does not necessarily produce more knowledge or faith. Technology creates the illusion of total containment and the constant monitoring of information, but what we lack is adequate interpretation of the information. In this manifesto, Byung-Chul Han denounces transparency as a false ideal, the strongest and most pernicious of our contemporary mythologies.

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In the Swarm: Digital Prospects

por Book 3

A prominent German thinker argues that—contrary to “Twitter Revolution” cheerleading—digital communication is destroying political discourse and political action.The shitstorm represents an authentic phenomenon of digital communication.
—from In the Swarm
Digital communication and social media have taken over our lives. In this contrarian reflection on digitized life, Byung-Chul Han counters the cheerleaders for Twitter revolutions and Facebook activism by arguing that digital communication is in fact responsible for the disintegration of community and public space and is slowly eroding any possibility for real political action and meaningful political discourse. In the predigital, analog era, by the time an angry letter to the editor had been composed, mailed, and received, the immediate agitation had passed. Today, digital communication enables instantaneous, impulsive reaction, meant to express and stir up outrage on the spot. “The shitstorm,” writes Han, ”represents an authentic phenomenon of digital communication.”
Meanwhile, the public, the senders and receivers of these communications have become a digital swarm—not a mass, or a crowd, or Negri and Hardt's antiquated notion of a “multitude,” but a set of isolated individuals incapable of forming a “we,” incapable of calling dominant power relations into question, incapable of formulating a future because of an obsession with the present. The digital swarm is a fragmented entity that can focus on individual persons only in order to make them an object of scandal.
Han, one of the most widely read philosophers in Europe today, describes a society in which information has overrun thought, in which the same algorithms are employed by Facebook, the stock market, and the intelligence services. Democracy is under threat because digital communication has made freedom and control indistinguishable. Big Brother has been succeeded by Big Data.

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The Expulsion of the Other: Society, Perception and Communication Today

por Byung-Chul Han

The days of the Other are over in this age of excessive communication, information and consumption. What used to be the Other, be it as friend, as Eros or as hell, is now indistinguishable from the self in our narcissistic desire to assimilate everything and everyone until there are no boundaries left. The result is a 'terror of the Same', lives in which we no longer pursue knowledge, insight and experience but are instead reduced to the echo chambers and illusory encounters offered by social media. In extreme cases, this feeling of disorientation and senselessness is compensated through self-harm, or even harming others through acts of terrorism.

Byung-Chul Han argues that our times are characterized not by external repression but by an internal depression, whereby the destructive pressure comes not from the Other but from the self. It is only by returning to a society of listeners and lovers, by acknowledging and desiring the Other, that we can seek to overcome the isolation and suffering caused by this crushing process of total assimilation.

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Shanzhai: Deconstruction in Chinese

por Book 8

Tracing the thread of “decreation” in Chinese thought, from constantly changing classical masterpieces to fake cell phones that are better than the original.Shanzhai is a Chinese neologism that means “fake,” originally coined to describe knock-off cell phones marketed under such names as Nokir and Samsing. These cell phones were not crude forgeries but multifunctional, stylish, and as good as or better than the originals. Shanzhai has since spread into other parts of Chinese life, with shanzhai books, shanzhai politicians, shanzhai stars. There is a shanzhai Harry Potter: Harry Potter and the Porcelain Doll, in which Harry takes on his nemesis Yandomort. In the West, this would be seen as piracy, or even desecration, but in Chinese culture, originals are continually transformed—deconstructed. In this volume in the Untimely Meditations series, Byung-Chul Han traces the thread of deconstruction, or “decreation,” in Chinese thought, from ancient masterpieces that invite inscription and transcription to Maoism—“a kind a shanzhai Marxism,” Han writes.
Han discusses the Chinese concepts of quan, or law, which literally means the weight that slides back and forth on a scale, radically different from Western notions of absoluteness; zhen ji, or original, determined not by an act of creation but by unending process; xian zhan, or seals of leisure, affixed by collectors and part of the picture's composition; fuzhi, or copy, a replica of equal value to the original; and shanzhai. The Far East, Han writes, is not familiar with such “pre-deconstructive” factors as original or identity. Far Eastern thought begins with deconstruction.

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The Agony of Eros

por Book 1

An argument that love requires the courage to accept self-negation for the sake of discovering the Other.Byung-Chul Han is one of the most widely read philosophers in Europe today, a member of the new generation of German thinkers that includes Markus Gabriel and Armen Avanessian. In The Agony of Eros, a bestseller in Germany, Han considers the threat to love and desire in today's society. For Han, love requires the courage to accept self-negation for the sake of discovering the Other. In a world of fetishized individualism and technologically mediated social interaction, it is the Other that is eradicated, not the self. In today's increasingly narcissistic society, we have come to look for love and desire within the “inferno of the same.”
Han offers a survey of the threats to Eros, drawing on a wide range of sources—Lars von Trier's film Melancholia, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, Fifty Shades of Grey, Michel Foucault (providing a scathing critique of Foucault's valorization of power), Martin Buber, Hegel, Baudrillard, Flaubert, Barthes, Plato, and others. Han considers the “pornographication” of society, and shows how pornography profanes eros; addresses capitalism's leveling of essential differences; and discusses the politics of eros in today's “burnout society.” To be dead to love, Han argues, is to be dead to thought itself.
Concise in its expression but unsparing in its insight, The Agony of Eros is an important and provocative entry in Han's ongoing analysis of contemporary society.
This remarkable essay, an intellectual experience of the first order, affords one of the best ways to gain full awareness of and join in one of the most pressing struggles of the day: the defense, that is to say—as Rimbaud desired it—the “reinvention” of love.
—from the foreword by Alain Badiou

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Topology of Violence

por Book 9

One of today's most widely read philosophers considers the shift in violence from visible to invisible, from negativity to excess of positivity.Some things never disappear—violence, for example. Violence is ubiquitous and incessant but protean, varying its outward form according to the social constellation at hand. In Topology of Violence, the philosopher Byung-Chul Han considers the shift in violence from the visible to the invisible, from the frontal to the viral to the self-inflicted, from brute force to mediated force, from the real to the virtual. Violence, Han tells us, has gone from the negative—explosive, massive, and martial—to the positive, wielded without enmity or domination. This, he says, creates the false impression that violence has disappeared. Anonymized, desubjectified, systemic, violence conceals itself because it has become one with society.
Han first investigates the macro-physical manifestations of violence, which take the form of negativity—developing from the tension between self and other, interior and exterior, friend and enemy. These manifestations include the archaic violence of sacrifice and blood, the mythical violence of jealous and vengeful gods, the deadly violence of the sovereign, the merciless violence of torture, the bloodless violence of the gas chamber, the viral violence of terrorism, and the verbal violence of hurtful language. He then examines the violence of positivity—the expression of an excess of positivity—which manifests itself as over-achievement, over-production, over-communication, hyper-attention, and hyperactivity. The violence of positivity, Han warns, could be even more disastrous than that of negativity. Infection, invasion, and infiltration have given way to infarction.

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Good Entertainment: A Deconstruction of the Western Passion Narrative

por Book 18

A philosopher considers entertainment, in all its totalizing variety—infotainment, edutainment, servotainment—and traces the notion through Kant, Zen Buddhism, Heidegger, Kafka, and Rauschenberg.In Good Entertainment, Byung-Chul Han examines the notion of entertainment—its contemporary ubiquity, and its philosophical genealogy. Entertainment today, in all its totalizing variety, has an apparently infinite capacity for incorporation: infotainment, edutainment, servotainment, confrontainment. Entertainment is held up as a new paradigm, even a new credo for being—and yet, in the West, it has had inescapably negative connotations. Han traces Western ideas of entertainment, considering, among other things, the scandal that arose from the first performance of Bach's Saint Matthew's Passion (deemed too beautiful, not serious enough); Kant's idea of morality as duty and the entertainment value of moralistic literature; Heidegger's idea of the thinker as a man of pain; Kafka's hunger artist and the art of negativity, which takes pleasure in annihilation; and Robert Rauschenberg's refusal of the transcendent.
The history of the West, Han tells us, is a passion narrative, and passion appears as a killjoy. Achievement is the new formula for passion, and play is subordinated to production, gamified. And yet, he argues, at their core, passion and entertainment are not entirely different. The pure meaninglessness of entertainment is adjacent to the pure meaning of passion. The fool's smile resembles the pain-racked visage of Homo doloris. In Good Entertainment, Han explores this paradox.

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What is Power?

por Byung-Chul Han

Power is a pervasive phenomenon yet there is little consensus on what it is and how it should be understood. In this book the cultural theorist Byung-Chul Han develops a fresh and original perspective on the nature of power, shedding new light on this key feature of social and political life.

Power is commonly defined as a causal relation: an individual’s power is the cause that produces a change of behaviour in someone else against the latter’s will. Han rejects this view, arguing that power is better understood as a mediation between ego and alter which creates a complex array of reciprocal interdependencies. Power can also be exercised not only against the other but also within and through the other, and this involves a much higher degree of mediation. This perspective enables us to see that power and freedom are not opposed to one another but are manifestations of the same power, differing only in the degree of mediation.

This highly original account of power will be of great interest to students and scholars of philosophy and of social, political and cultural theory, as well as to anyone seeking to understand the many ways in which power shapes our lives today.

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Against Surfing: On Lingering with Byung-Chul Han

He is the author of sixteen books and has been translated into over a dozen languages. He looks at our current drives to performance and transparency and its ...
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BYUNG-CHUL HAN is as good a candidate as any for philosopher of the moment. Though it has been 20 years since his rst book appeared — a ...
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Han is among the most widely read cultural theorists in Germany, with his books addressing aspects of culture with an undeniable currency and part of many ...
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THE BURNOUT SOCIETY - Theory Tuesdays

Marston Book Services Ltd, Oxfordshire. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data. Han, Byung-Chul, author. IMüdigkeitsgesellschalt. English].
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BYUNG-CHUL HAN'S EXPULSION OF THE OTHER - DergiPark

German philosopher Byung-Chul Han has ... Expulsion of the Other (2018) is the newest of ... The book progresses through an examination of.
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