Saturday, May 14, 2016
The Committee of Public Safety on the self-assertion of the German uni.
Heidegger recasts the terms of the entire debate on higher education by showing that the functional imperative of fitness for purpose, appearances notwithstanding, underlies both the liberal humanist and the technocratic university. The difference is not one of principle but merely of degree of generality of the end in question. Both models of education are strictly vocational in the sense of naming the body according to a functional identity. In the former case, the body becomes politically fit subject of the state, while in the latter, the body becomes economically fit commodity for circulation in civil society. In coordination and contradiction, political formation for subject-value and economic formation for exchange-value are, for Heidegger, twin expressions of a generalised will to will in education, where the aim is ultimately to increase the manipulation and control of the body for its own sake. Thus, neither state nor capital, self-aggrandising social forces that bend higher education to their interests, is fundamentally explanatory of the university, because they are but technologies of modern warfare against the body characteristic of an age under the rule of technique. This is a pivotal point in Heidegger's analysis, which can easily be obscured. The mediated political or economic determinism of education which Heidegger brings into relief is itself always rooted in the metaphysics of the will to power. So the twentieth-century shift in the formative task of the university from subjectivity to commodity is, in Heidegger's view, a function of something more general, namely, increased efficiency of control, which raises the fitness-value of the body as manipulable object. Indeed, the logical perfection of this functional idea of fitness for purpose, then, is that fitness comes to take itself as object, turning education into a matter of fitness for fitness, of pure technique devoid of substantive purpose.
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