Dasein and the Fourth Political Theory | M Millerman

This paper will argue that the Russian thinker Alexander Dugin, who tracks Heidegger much more closely than other theorists do, should be included in the list of philosophically serious and important political-theoretic Heidegger receptions. Including Dugin among receptions of Heidegger brings to light forgotten or suppressed possibilities of Heideggerian political philosophy not reducible to Nazism. Dugin’s use of Dasein in particular provides a fruitful starting point for comparisons with liberal, leftist, and other uses of Dasein among political theorists.

Philosophical Field Report feat. Michael Millerman

 

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Dasein and the Fourth Political Theory: Towards an Adequate Critique of Alexander Dugin’s Political Theory

Introduction

Martin Heidegger’s influence looms large over the field of political theory. Leo Strauss, Jacques Derrida, Hannah Arendt, and others are among Heidegger’s sometimes rebellious, sometimes reverential intellectual offspring (Wolin, 2015; Fleischacker, 2008). But on the whole they and other political theorists responding to Heidegger tend to depart from his account of philosophy or his ideas about the relationship between philosophy and politics.

This paper will argue that the Russian thinker Alexander Dugin, who tracks Heidegger much more closely than other theorists do, should be included in the list of philosophically serious and important political-theoretic Heidegger receptions. Including Dugin among receptions of Heidegger brings to light forgotten or suppressed possibilities of Heideggerian political philosophy not reducible to Nazism.

First, I demonstrate the slowly but steadily increasing recognition of Dugin as a philosopher and political theorist, grounded specifically in his Heideggerianism. Second, I situate Dugin in a comparative examination of Heideggerian political theory by looking at the role that Dasein plays in his thought, compared to the role it plays in leftist and liberal Heideggerian political theory. Third, I criticize aspects of Dugin’s account of Dasein. Fourth, I briefly limn the relationship between philosophy and ideology in Dugin’s thought.

I. The Growing Recognition of Dugin as a Serious (Heideggerian) Thinker  

Following the 2012 translation of his book The Fourth Political Theory and his increased media profile after the election of Donald Trump, whom he supported with enthusiasm, Alexander Dugin, a prolific Russian writer and political activist, has started to come to the attention of political theorists (Dugin, 2012; Meyer and Ant, 2017; Sweeney, 2017; d’Ancona, 2016; Matthews, 2017).

Writing in First Things, Reno notes similarities between Dugin and canonical figures Burke and Tocqueville, Catholics Gilson and Maritain, and various First Things contributors, thus situating Dugin at the table among acceptable thinkers, at least with regards to his criticisms of liberal triumphalism, American neoliberalism, and global technologism (Reno, 2017). With far less sympathy but still recognizing his importance, Beiner has called Dugin a “fellow philosopher” to Heidegger and acknowledged his competence as a reader of Heidegger (Beiner, 2015; Dugin, 2014).[1] Wolin (2016) cites both The Fourth Political Theory and Dugin’s first Heidegger book in the latest edition of The Politics of Being (l-li). Duff (2015) calls Dugin “perhaps the most remarkable” among meta-politicians influenced by Heidegger (10).

Now, to be fair, these favorable judgments are by far the nicest things the cited authors have to say about Dugin amidst a barrage of damning criticism, including for instance claims about his early “admiration for Nazi racial politics” (Wolin, 2016: l). Still, they do suggest that the first elements of a positive evaluation lie buried beneath denunciations, and they represent the first time that mainstream academic political theorists are paying any attention to Dugin at all.[2]

The new attention being given to the philosophical and political-theoretic character of Dugin’s thought is welcome, for reasons to be explained below, even when it continues to criticize Dugin’s thought as fascistic, as earlier work in other fields has done. Previously, Dugin has been a figure of interest primarily to scholars of post-Soviet studies, and especially to scholars of post-Soviet nationalism and fascism, mainly for his role as a theorist of Russian or Eurasian geopolitics.[3] He continues to be the subject matter of such studies.[4]

Although works situating Dugin in post-Soviet, nationalist studies are important in their own right, however, they often overlook the philosophical and political-theoretic bases of Dugin’s thought. Dugin probably bears some responsibility for that fact, since he does not always present those bases accessibly, transparently or academically.[5] He has been accused of having an “ad hoc, often anti-intellectual worldview” (Tolstoy and McCaffray, 2015) and, at best, of mixing occasionally plausible analysis with “a great deal of foolishness” and “fantasy” (Reno, 2017). Among those aware of him, his legitimate theorizing is rarely the first thing to strike the eye.

Owing to the character of the writing that has been available in English so far, but also admittedly due to the tenor even of the Russian writings, it may be more natural and commonsensical to criticize the troubling, strange, outrageous statements he makes in his media appearances or on his websites, or even to fault him the company he keeps, than to try to disinter for discussion his solid, scholarly arguments and ideas.[6] Statements of the former kind do of course merit attention, analysis, and critique, and they might well cast a shadow over the rest of the corpus. But once it has been admitted that in addition to the “witch-craft dispensing” and “ideology-mongering” Dugin, there is a “philosophical” Dugin as well, who can be inscribed in the field of competent, politically-significant Heidegger receptions, philosophical interest in Dugin’s Heidegger should become fair game, whether or not we take the additional step of correlating his Heidegger to his “witchcraft” and ideological activism (Beiner, 2015).[7]

It is therefore becoming increasingly impossible to ignore the properly philosophical aspects and bases of Dugin’s thought. The publication of The Fourth Political Theory made it clear that Dugin is at least partially versed in Heideggerian philosophy, the legal theory of Carl Schmitt, and even, as Reno laments, “Deleuze and other po-mo litterateurs” (Reno, 2017). The publication of his first Heidegger volume has done even more to suggest that in addition to his media appearances and to other sorts of writings that might convey the opposite impression, whatever else he might be, Dugin is also a serious philosopher.

Forthcoming translations promise to help further develop our understanding of the academic and theoretical Dugin (Beiner 2015).[8] In addition, untranslated Russian texts that are not yet forthcoming but that do provide important information on the bases of Dugin’s broader ideological work may begin to be consulted by Russian-language scholars with a growing interest in those bases.[9] Twenty-six volumes of Dugin’s writing have been published in Russian since The Fourth Political Theory was published in Russian in 2009.[10] It would be surprising if nothing of political-theoretic or philosophical significance were to be found there, if as early as 2009 such things (his development of Heideggerianism, especially) were found in that book, even according to his critics – especially since some of those volumes are on precisely Heidegger.[11]

The English reception of Alexander Dugin’s thought is likely to pass through the stage of criticisms based on his non-academic and unphilosophical writings towards an understanding of the philosophical bases of his thought that includes efforts both to link them to his ideological and political activism, on one hand, and, on the other to subject them to independent critical analysis, by which I mean analysis of the philosophical positions independently of their significance for or connection to any ideological positions.

My goal here is primarily to contribute to the independent critical analysis of the serious theoretical and philosophical bases of Dugin’s thought, focusing on his reading of Heidegger – Heidegger’s Dasein, especially. In section four I also briefly address the ideological connection as an avenue for future research.

II. Heidegger’s Dasein, Itself (Briefly) and Along the Political Spectrum

Heidegger’s project in Being in Time arises from a radicalization of phenomenology. Phenomenology had made three important discoveries, according to Heidegger: intentionality, categorial intuition, and the apriori (Heidegger, 1985). Intentionality was recognized as the being-toward structure of experience, allowing one to examine the being of the intended (for instance, I am being-toward the whole cup of coffee; I am not being-toward an image of the cup of coffee or only towards its visible side) and the being of the intending. Categorial intuition refers to the fact that phenomenologically given objects include the givenness of categories that are not as such accessible through mere sense perception. Heidegger calls the more complete act of perception simple perception, which includes both the sensory and the ideal. Phenomenological analysis shows that ideal structures are situated not in the subject, but in the object, which is disclosed, not constructed, in perception. The existence of objective ideal or apriori structures is the third major discovery of phenomenology, for Heidegger (1985: 31-107).

But Heidegger criticizes phenomenologists for being too dogmatic. Specifically, instead of attending to proper examination of the apriori structures as they appear to phenomenological analysis, they imposed foreign structures of interpretation onto the phenomena. Most problematically, they erred in taking consciousness as the field for phenomenology, without subjecting the notion of consciousness to rigorous analysis (Heidegger, 1985: 128-29).

The discovery of the apriori, Heidegger argued, was effectively equivalent to the discovery of the question of being in ancient Greek philosophy, the path towards which was blocked by the unphenomenological use of Cartesian concepts. “Phenomenology radicalized in its ownmost possibility,” he concluded, “is nothing but the questioning of Plato and Aristotle brought back to life” (Heidegger, 1985: 136). More exactly, he thought that radicalized phenomenology led to the question of what “being” means. Heidegger argues that the being that asks the question of being – Dasein – is the being providing privileged access to the meaning of being. Such access is provided through an analysis of Dasein’s apriori structures, called existentials. Accordingly, as rigorous inquiry into the meaning of being, radicalized phenomemology requires an analytic of Dasein, which is what Heidegger (2010) executes in Being and Time.

The first structure he identifies in that work is being-in-the-world. That structure means that Dasein is not a worldless subject that is somehow separately “in” something called a world. Rather, being-in-the-world is a unified structure, where world is always together with being, and being is always together with world, distinct from the subject-object division. Dasein is not in the world like a cup of coffee is in the world. Rather, some things (“innerworldly” beings) are in the world that way, deriving their meaning from being-in-the-world (Dasein) as an existential structure.

Heidegger (2010) identifies and examines important aspects and features of that structure, including being-with: Dasein is always-already with others; even when they are not physically present, innerworldly things refer back to them (115). He writes that Dasein can be authentic or inauthentic with regards to its various aspects and features (117-24). It is authentic when it is properly disclosed to itself in ways that it has chosen for itself. It is inauthentic when its self-disclosure is covered up or given by an unthought tradition or everydayness.

Dasein is attuned and understands, and these modes of its being are “determined by discourse” (130). In what we ordinarily regard as moods, Dasein discloses being. Dasein also does so through understanding, which discloses Dasein as being-possible. Dasein projects its possibilities of being onto the existential structure of the world as the total referential system. It thematizes its understanding through discursive interpretation (hermeneutics), such that “what is encountered in the world is always already in a relevance which is disclosed in the understanding of world, a relevance which is made explicit by interpretation” (145). Discourse is of such importance in the correctly executed analytic of Dasein that Heidegger thinks the determination of the human being as animal rationale led far astray from the older, better characterization of the human being as zoon logon echon, which contained discourse (logos) in its formulation and was therefore phenomenologically more precise.

There are other important themes in the analytic of Dasein in Being and Time, including that Dasein is not only being-in-the-world, but also and more completely “being-ahead-of-oneself-already-being-in-the-world,” which Heidegger calls “care.” Heidegger also discusses being-toward-death, anticipation, resoluteness, and destiny, concerned as he is not only with Dasein’s apriori, existential structures, but also with their analysis against a temporal horizon of Dasein’s historicity. It is beyond what is possible in this paper to give a total account, but also beyond what is necessary; so I propose to turn now to a brief sketch of the place of Dasein in political theory.

Heidegger’s Dasein and Political Theory

Heidegger’s book has had and continues to have tremendous influence in the fields of political philosophy and theory. Rockmore could write in 1997 that, “at present Heidegger and Heidegger alone is the dominant influence, the master thinker of French philosophy, and that his thought is the context in which it takes shape and which limits its extent” (Rockmore, 1997: 249, 280). Thirteen years later Pawling (2010) observed that, “if there is a philosopher who is invoked as a touchstone for contemporary critical debate, it is just as likely to be one-time member of the Nazi party, Martin Heidegger, as Karl Marx” (590-91). Some of the most famous names in political theory, including Arendt, Strauss, Levinas, Derrida, and Habermas, are inextricably bound to their encounters with Heidegger’s thought (Fleischacker, 2008; Wolin, 2015; Rockmore, 1997: 272). Analytic political philosophy was in part a response to the perceived political inadequacies of Heideggerian phenomenology (Rorty, 2006: 36).[12]

Despite this enormous impact, for the purposes of this paper I want to draw only on a few explicit invocations of Dasein by political theorists, in order later to compare and contrast them with Dugin’s.

Heidegger’s Dasein and Leftist Political Theory

Heidegger’s analytic of Dasein has been drawn on explicitly as a positive theoretical resource by thinkers in the leftist tradition. Some postwar leftists argued that Heidegger’s analysis of authenticity and inauthenticity could supplant the usual economic emphases of Marxist analysis, to critique the inauthenticity of the late-capitalist world. Marcuse before them had experimented with the possibilities of combining Heidegger’s analysis of situated Dasein with Marxist concerns (Pawling, 2010: 593). Developing the notion of Dasein’s being-thrown (as always already there) and projecting possibilities upon the world-structure, he argued that the proletarian revolution amounted to “an act of self-creation,” not mere self-awareness (Pawling, 2010: 593). The task of interpreting Marxist concerns with themes from Heideggerian analysis is ongoing even now (Wainwright, 2015: 160-176).

Some on the left refused to make use of Heidegger or of ontological talk of being, due to concerns that such talk paves a path to reactionary politics, the perception of Heidegger’s project not having yet shifted to the view that his primary concern was the destruction of traditional ontology and metaphysics, not the discovery of an essential, fixed ground. But Heideggerian themes like the critique of the subject-object distinction, based on Dasein as the unified structure of being-in-the-world, and Dasein’s interpreting or hermeneutic character now permeate the “neo-left,” even giving rise to projects of “hermeneutic communism” (Strathausen , 2006; Vattimo and Zabala, 2011; Vattimo, 1996: 5-21).

One explicit invocation of Dasein for a project that departs from Heidegger’s reading of it is Jean-Luc Nancy’s (2008) “The being-with of being there.” Nancy focuses on the existential of being-with. Heidegger has been faulted for forcing the category of being-with, on phenomenologically unjustified grounds, into the reactionary semantic field of “the people” (Volk) and “the community” (Gemeinschaft) (e.g. Fritsche 1999).[13] Nancy criticizes Heidegger for failing to follow the recognition of the priority of being-with to its full philosophical conclusions, as Nancy sees them.

For Nancy (2008), being-with could be mere “banal Being-alongside,” a “sharing of properties,” or a “communional or collective” shared structure, with the first correlated with democracy and the last with totalitarianism. He wishes to navigate between the two facts that Heidegger has, on one hand, as critics charge, “always been a communautaristic or communional thinker in the hypernational and hyperheroic style that Lacoue-Labarthe qualifies as ‘archo-fascism,’ and in which the individual has no weight at all, except…in so far as the individual measures up to a destiny and a civilization,” and, on the other, that he nevertheless has “penetrated into the enigma of Being-with” more deeply than any other thinker.

Nancy (2008) thinks Heidegger leaves an unbridgeable gap between the authentic being-with of the people and the inauthentic being-with of the “anyone” or the “they.” He suggests “being-the-there-with” as a corrective. Being-the-there-with describes “a multiplicity of other theres,” that are neither inauthentic nor authentic, “neither improper nor proper,” where “there must be a contact, therefore a contagion and encroachment, even if minimal, even if only as an infinitesimal drift of the tangent between the concerned openings.” Nancy writes of “another regime [that] must largely go beyond Heidegger, though start from him,” which describes well both the research program of the neo-left, and that of certain hermeneutic liberals.

Heidegger’s Dasein and Liberal Political Theory 

Leo Strauss (1995) once reflected in the following way on the relationship between Heidegger and liberal thought: “I am afraid that we shall have to make a very great effort in order to find a solid basis for rational liberalism. Only a great thinker could help us in our intellectual plight. But here is the great trouble, the only great thinker in our time is Heidegger” (304). Though less so than on the left, Heidegger’s Dasein has been drawn upon as a theoretical resource by liberal and left-liberal political theorists, who have tried to respond to the “great trouble” Strauss identified by liberalizing Heidegger.

Unlike Nancy, Salem-Wiseman (2003), for instance, argues that, “the communitarian label does not fit Heidegger’s thought in Being and Time” (533-557). He tries to show instead that “Heidegger’s description of Dasein is remarkably true to recent liberal conceptions of the self,” that “Heidegger’s existential analytic of Dasein furnishes a richly detailed portrait of human being within a social context,” and that “Being and Time can actually help liberals confront various communitarian objections to the interpretations of the individual in contemporary liberal theory” (534). Just as the writers in the previous section did for their cohorts, he wants to employ “the extraordinary resources of fundamental ontology” for the benefit of his fellow liberals.

Liberals tend to focus on an individual’s capacities to choose meaningful ends for themselves, rather than imposing specific ends on individuals (535). According to their critics, their notion of the individual is excessively “unencumbered or de-situated” (535). Heidegger’s analytic of Dasein offers rich theoretical grounds for explicating both features of the liberal perspective:

the non-teleological conception of the liberal self is ontologically grounded in Heidegger’s claim that the essence of Dasein lies in its existence [and…] the independence of the liberal self from communal attachment corresponds to Heidegger’s complex description of how authentic repetition opens up the possibility of Dasein rejecting, affirming, or creating new possibilities in response to its particular ‘heritage.’ (537).

 

Liberals are free to reject aspects of Heidegger’s account of Dasein that “[go] beyond the needs of liberal theory,” but they should not ignore the aspects that serve those needs, both for instrumental reasons and for substantial ones: Heidegger’s claims “actually explain why any metaphysically determined, substantive conception of the self from which a politics of the common good could follow is a serious interpretive error” (537).

According to Salem-Wiseman’s (2003) reading of the sections on Dasein’s historicity, Heidegger’s account meets the communitarian demand for a situated self and preserves the liberal claim that individuals can renegotiate the meaning of their situation, distancing themselves from it, reflecting on, modifying it, rejecting it, and engaging in other sorts of revisions of it (547).[14] His reading emphasizes Dasein’s freedom to choose, against readings that “discern sinister [‘conservative revolutionary’] undertones” in Heidegger’s descriptions (547).

Salem-Wiseman (2003) opposes the reading of being-with as illiberal. He finds an isomorphism between the notions of autonomy and authenticity, on one hand, and heteronomy and inauthenticity on the other, arguing that Heidegger’s account implies that paternalism is inauthentic (551). Dasein is paternalistic when it decides for others. But when it acts authentically with others, it does not “leap in” to decide for them, but rather “leaps ahead” to help another “grasp itself not in terms of that with which it is presently concerned but in terms of its own existence, its openness to both its past and its future” (551-552).  He thus sees the possibility in Heidegger for an account of authentic social relations under circumstances protecting various liberal freedoms (552).[15]

Heidegger’s Dasein and the Fourth Political Theory

Leftists and liberals have thus invoked Heidegger’s Dasein as a potential theoretical resource for their respective projects. Sometimes these invocations look like and are even announced as mere weaponizations, without special theoretical merit.[16] But sometimes, however much the political preference of the authors might be apparent from the outset, the engagements are theoretically sophisticated and constitute valid contributions to our understanding of Heidegger, his texts, and the fundamental issues.

Nancy might well have been on guard against all forms of “archi-fascism” long before ever encountering Heidegger, yet his reading of being-with is not a mere weaponization or deployment of Heidegger for preconceived purposes: it is a plausible identification of an important oversight in the analysis of one of Dasein’s co-primary existentials. Salem-Wiseman might perhaps be a long-since convinced liberal, yet his careful explication of strands of Heidegger’s thought as comprising a sound response to communitarian criticisms of liberalism is not mere machination. In short, Heidegger’s Dasein is open to interpretation.

A distinction between left and right-Heideggerians has been advanced in the literature. Clark (2011), for instance, calls right-Heideggerians “those thinkers for whom Heidegger offers a view of life as the Poem of Being, calling for the homecoming of the human essence, an ethic of non-exploitative relation to the earth and each other.” Left-Heideggerians, by contrast, emphasize the critical potential of Heidegger’s destruction of the tradition of metaphysics (for instance, his overcoming of the subject-object split and of essentializing tendencies) (144). If leftists, and liberals, try to read Heidegger in ways that avoid or correct the politically and philosophically reactionary aspects of his thought, for instance as Nancy tried to do concerning Heidegger’s völkisch, destinal reading of authentic being-with, we can predict in our Mendeleev’s periodic table of Dasein interpretations the discovery of elements characterized by an absence of the political-philosophical motivation to avoid or correct Heidegger in those and other regards, or, stated positively, by a political-philosophical embrace thereof, varying in intensity. Positions thus described can be formally indicated as right-Heideggerian, in order to contrast clearly with readings that emphasize one-sidedly the critical potential of metaphysical destruction.

In that respect, the fourth political theory is a species of right-Heideggerianism. Dugin (2017) has explicitly rejected that label, writing that, “I am simply Heideggerian, trying to be as close as possible to this greatest thinker in order to understand him better. I am neither left nor right” (222). But as long as we are cautious not to get overly attached to the label such that it becomes a shorthand replacement for thinking matters through, the notion of right-Heideggerianism can be an important conceptual corrective to what may be called the Heideggerianization of the left, which often leaves the impression that the only options are either hermeneutic communism (or socialism) of some sort, on one hand, or vulgar Nazi-like “philosophical” politics, on the other, with liberal Heideggerians situated awkwardly in-between.[17] Right-Heideggerianism, to repeat, would formally indicate the space for Heidegger interpretation that is not selectively creative in the service of leftist or liberal philosophical-political projects.[18]

The basic idea of the fourth political theory is that it is neither (1) liberal, nor (2) social-democratic or communistic, nor (3) fascistic, Nazistic, or nationalistic (Dugin, 2012). Accordingly, assuming it proceeds with theoretical consistency, a fourth-political-theoretic reading of Dasein will not be on the right in the sense of being reducible to the “third political theory,” i.e. fascism, broadly speaking. More likely, it will resemble, if not reproduce, Heidegger’s own “secret resistance” to Nazi politics, though it may not need to be as secret, given the difference in the hermeneutic situation between the two cases of Nazi Germany and post-Soviet Russia (Polt, 2007).[19]

The assumptions of theoretical consistency and the legitimacy of the basic idea of the fourth political theory are contestable. Wolin’s (2015) judgment, for instance, is that “for all practical purposes, ‘the fourth political theory’ differs from fascism in name only” (l). Just as liberalism, though essentially incompatible with Heidegger taken in toto, as Wiseman-Salem notes, may nevertheless be enriched by Heideggerian analyses, so too, perhaps, fascism, like communism and Marxism, though ultimately inconsistent with a thorough-going Heideggerianism, may yet be “enriched” thereby, and maybe, one might argue, that is just what Dugin’s project amounts to: fancy philosophical ornamentations masking, and ultimately serving, political projects.

It is not be possible to evaluate the validity of that criticism without first having a complete picture of the claims of the fourth political theory before us, together with an adequate account of fascism, and at present, at least in part because of the relative dearth of primary material about the philosophical and political-theoretic bases of the fourth political theory available in English, it seems best to withhold judgment on that particular question.[20] I suggest temporarily bracketing the fascism question to focus instead on a positive reconstruction of the place of Dasein in the fourth political theory, followed by a critical appraisal.[21]  Dugin talks about Dasein in both his popular and in his more properly philosophical writings (Dugin, 2011; Dugin, 2012; Dugin, 2014). Here, I wish to focus on the latter.

Dugin (2014) is emphatic that middle-period, beyng-historical Heidegger is the key to the complete Heidegger, including Heidegger’s Dasein.[22] He is critical of the sorts of leftist and liberal appropriations of Heidegger that ignore or downplay the middle period, since in their writings, we most often deal with a simulacrum (if not to say a caricature) of his thought, not with the thought itself (Dugin, 2017: 216-217). Consistent with his claim about the importance of the middle-period, in his first Heidegger book (Dugin 2014) he presents Dasein in its beyng-historical significance throughout. Since he is introducing Heideggerian thinking into Russian and trying to give a complete presentation of it, he does not deny that Dasein can be examined phenomenologically, with respect to its existentials, separately from its beyng-historical significance. Besides an overview of its existentials, though, what is most interesting in the discussion of Dasein in his book is its correlation with beyng-historical thinking, and the invitation not to treat it as a concept, but to enter into it completely, to be transformed by it.

Thus, Dasein is not simply a theoretical resource for Dugin (2014). It would be such a resource if it were approached merely from without. But Dugin encourages his readers to try to “undergo” Dasein, to be initiated into it, as it were, “to dwell in Dasein,” which he calls “the first, principal, and, essentially, sole axiom of Heideggerian philosophy.” For Dugin, Dasein is the beating heart and key word of the fundamental-ontological other inception:

Fundamental-ontology does not make the mistake of all philosophical ontologies and does not advance any additional authorities (ideas, essences, a creator, subject, object, etc.) outside of Dasein, over it, around it, under it, or even in it.  Fundamental-ontology is thinking abiding in the being of Dasein, in its midst, not begetting dualities and relations, singularities and correspondences – nothing of that which could be placed opposite one another.

 

Even in the analysis of authentic and inauthentic Dasein-modes, what matters is “not to condemn the inauthentic and break through to the authentic” – though Dugin does write that that, too, is important – but rather “to comprehend how inauthentic Dasein is responsible for the process of the unfolding of all Western European philosophy,” such that “under the majestic and nihilous edifice of this philosophy and its consequences […] we…everywhere and all over discern its [concealed] main hero,” Dasein.

Neither Nancy nor Salem-Wiseman correlates Dasein to the beyng-historical narrative, and the Heideggerian-left in general is much more likely to stop at Destruktion than it is to embrace inception or the new, fundamental-ontological beginning, as Dugin does, as signaled not only in his arguments, but in the title and structure of his first Heidegger book.[23]

In his second Heidegger book, Dugin (2011) advances beyond what he intends as the first adequate presentation of Heideggerian philosophy in Russian to the experimental analysis of the significance of Heideggerian philosophy for the question of the possibility of Russian philosophy.[24] Dasein plays a major role in that analysis.

Dugin argues that Russia is structured by a “hermeneutic ellipse,” the two foci of which are European and Russian. He suggests taking the European focus as the center of a European hermeneutic circle, comprising the Western philosophical tradition. The Russian focus, by contrast, is merely hypothesized on the basis of a study of Russian literature and thought: something in Russia’s noetic-sociological structure exerts a hidden hermeneutic influence, drawing the European hermeneutic circle towards itself and thus making itself felt, if not known. Consistent with the presentation of Heidegger developed in the first book, Dugin explores the claim that Heideggerian philosophy, specifically Dasein, is the key to dismantling the archeo-modern structure and making the felt presence of the Russian focus more explicit, but although the thought is ventured, the outcome is not guaranteed, and what the book offers are highly interesting experimental analyses, not foregone conclusions.

Dasein can be the key to the question of the possibility of Russian philosophy if Dasein is the source of the Western philosophical tradition without itself belonging to that tradition, since in that case the destruction of the Western philosophical tradition leaves (non-Western) Dasein available as the potential source for the inception of Russian philosophy.

Whereas in his first Heidegger book, Dugin presents Dasein and its existentials in the most fitting Russian terms he can find for the German equivalents, often wrestling with relevant differences between the languages (Russian has a few words for “here,” for instance: tutvotzdes’: which should be used to translate the German Da?), in his second Heidegger book, he drops the assumption of direct translatability and begins to attend more exactly to the differences in the existential analytic that arise between the languages.

On that basis, he leaves open and actively studies the question whether there is one and the same Dasein referred to and described existentially in two languages, or rather an existential plurality of Daseins, such that Russian Dasein is existentially, and not just existentielly, distinct.[25]

Thus, in discussing Dasein’s existentials, he observes that in many cases, formulations that require clumsy neologisms in German can be expressed with Russian terms that are relatively familiar from everyday use. For instance, the following common Russian words contain the root of the Russian word for being, bytiye, byt, and are possible existentials of the Russian being-in-the-world or Byvaniyeubyvaniye, prebyvaniye, ot-byvaniye, po-byvaniye, pere-byvanyie, dobychya, izbyvaniye, sbyvat’, sobytiye, obyvanyie, za-bytiye.[26]

Listening into what is revealed in the Russian formulations, Dugin tentatively concludes in favor of the possibility that Russian Dasein is not just a translation of Dasein, but a unique case with its own existential structure. He likewise explores the question whether the Da and the Sein are the same or not in each case, considering various permutations and possibilities.

Although he does not close the question, he does find evidence enough to consider Russian Dasein the basis for a first Russian inception, making actual the hypothetical Russian focus or arche. Accordingly, later parts of his book comprise a rereading of certain concepts and figures from classics of Russian thought (e.g. figure of Sophia in sophiology [Solovyov, 2009]) from a newly gained Heideggerian foundation, thus seeking to develop a properly Russian hermeneutic circle, around the Russian focus, on the basis of Russian Dasein and its existentials, mapped onto middle and late period Heideggerian discoveries, including the fourfold, which he treated in part two of Heidegger book one.

It is important to note that whatever the relation between his invocation of Heidegger’s Dasein and his ideological, political activism in other works, in his Heidegger book the philosophical work is explicitly prioritized to such an extent that doubt is cast on the possibility of the political project altogether:

Attempts to advance a “Russian doctrine,” a “Project Russia,” a “National Idea,” and so on […] all lack much value, since all initiatives to develop such general systems can under present circumstances give no results and only sow the seeds of an empty and conceited dogmatism. It is much more constructive to honestly admit that there is something we don’t know, that something is missing, that we need something, and to try to learn about it, to acquire it, to discover it, rather than pretend that everything is in order and that only some purely external factors, “evil forces” or “competitors,” hinder the realization of self-evident steps and plans. There are no such steps and plans. There is no Russian philosophy. There is no Russian national idea. And there won’t be until we take upon ourselves the task of beginning by digging to the fundament, which we tried to do by studying Russian Dasein. (Dugin, 2011: 448).

 

Just as throughout his Black Notebooks Heidegger criticizes Nazi talk of the “people” for its lack of philosophical sensitivity, arguing that only genuine philosophical questioning about the truth of being can make space for the philosophical constitution of the people, so too does Dugin criticize Russian talk of a national idea for its failure to recognize that not external enemies, but the lack of genuine philosophical questioning is the primary hindrance to the emergence of a uniquely Russian political project (for instance Heidegger, 2017: 24-25, 183, 219, 284, 296-297, 331-332).

Inasmuch as for Dugin Heidegger is the heart of genuine philosophical questioning, and Dasein is the heart of Heidegger’s philosophy, in the next section, I zero in on Dugin’s account of Dasein as the strongest starting point for an adequate critique of the philosophical bases of his work.

III: Towards an Adequate Critique of Dugin’s Account of Dasein

Dugin’s approach to Heidegger is to give him the complete submission required by an initial, steadfast (though revocable) assumption of Heidegger’s eschatological and prophetic significance. There is something to the argument that only that sort of complete immersion can prepare us in any given case for an adequate critique based on genuine understanding. Even the moderate Heidegger critic Leo Strauss (2006) wrote that with thinkers like Heidegger, “refutations are cheap and usually not worth the paper on which they are written,” since they do not require that the refuting writer has understood the ultimate motives of the adversary” (133). Understanding might require initial submission to an author’s claims, using a hermeneutic method that “deepens one’s understanding of a text through replicating the perspective of adherence” (Ignatov, 2014).

But even if complete understanding is desirable, it is impossible in this case due in part to the relative inaccessibility of the bulk of Dugin’s writings on Heidegger, and it may be impossible in all cases due to hermeneutic undecideability and openness. In any event, although the major task of reconstructing Dugin’s understanding of Heidegger has barely begun, let alone been completed, we may still benefit from a first pass at the adequate contextualization and critique of it.

My first criticism is structural. Earlier, I argued that it is useful to categorize the fourth political theory as a species of right-Heideggerianism, leaving it open whether right-Heideggerianism is strictly equivalent to Heideggerianism proper, if there is such a thing.[27] The “right” in right-Heideggerianism is not positive but negative. It says that the fourth political theory is neither liberal Heideggerianism, nor neo-left or Marxist Heideggerianism. We should also regard Dugin’s right-Heideggerianism as not fascistic or nationalistic, applying the basic meaning of the fourth political theory as something other than liberalism, leftist-communism, and fascism-Nazism-nationalism (political theories one, two, and three, according to Dugin’s model).[28]

Even before turning to the specific role of Dasein in the fourth political theory, it is possible on the basis of the very logic of right-Heideggerianism to make the structural criticism that this species of Heideggerianism, which is explicitly a rejection of the three political theories, risks being deaf from the outset toward resonances of those political theories in Heidegger’s thought, perceiving in first, second, and third-theoretic Heideggerianisms only a “simulacrum” and “caricature,” rather than genuine sensitivity toward the political-theoretic multivalence of the existential analytic.

Though in principle a liberal, leftist, or fascistic reading of Heidegger could be a mere weaponization amounting to little more than a caricature, a careful, genuine reading might disclose, not impose, liberal, leftist, and fascistic resonances in the text that would be missed by an over-zealous, over-confident initial negation of liberalism, leftism, and fascism. (Similarly, though, first, second, and third-theoretic readings risk overlooking certain resonances, including, it must be said, resonances that are not well categorized as either liberal, leftist, or fascistic, and that together comprise in part “Heidegger’s secret resistance” to the third political theory, from somewhere beyond all three of them).

Indeed, Dugin is so concerned to present Heidegger beyond the interpretative constraints of the three political theories that he appears to find little to no merit in such readings, stating that “[Heidegger] cannot be understood by liberals or communists (new leftists). They will criticize him or pervert his thought” (Dugin, 2017: 216). But he might be on better ground in this regard in his assessment of Rorty’s reading of Heidegger, for instance, which he dismisses as “very superficial,” “quite idiotic,” “[having] no value at all in understanding deep Heideggerian thought,” and “ridiculous,” than he is more broadly when he states that, “acceptance of some aspects of Heidegger by Sartre, the French New Left, or postmodernists can be valid in nothing if we really want to understand [Heidegger’s] own thought” (Dugin, 2017: 216).

As noted above, though it is legitimate to wonder about what is lost or distorted during the transposition of Heidegger into a leftist political-theoretic context, it also seems fair to grant the possibility that some new left thinkers who took Heidegger seriously on philosophical grounds might deepen our understanding of Heidegger precisely by fastening onto and developing aspects of his thought that run against the grain of what would call itself a “proper” interpretation or understanding of Heidegger.[29]

A non-structural criticism of the role of Dasein in Dugin’s fourth political theory arises upon closer examination of his existential analytic of Russian Dasein. To be fair, Dugin’s tentative, experimental exploration of whether the existentials of Being and Time map strictly over onto a Russian-language analytic of Dasein is just that: tentative, experimental, and exploratory. But perhaps for that very reason, despite the fact that it is executed with nuance and ingenuity, there may be false positives among the discoveries he makes. For instance, discussing the structural differences between Russian Dasein and the Dasein examined by Heidegger, Dugin emphasizes the divisive character of the latter:

Such Dasein is always tragic, problematic, and asymmetrical. It always hangs over an abyss; it is always finite, it is mortal, seized by anxiety, driven from itself. And it does not matter on what side of the border we place being and in which side non-being. We can place being inside, in the domain of the spirit, of the subject – then it hangs over the abyssal non-being of the external word…or we can recognize being as external…but then non-being (nothing) will arise within the subject and will start to ‘nihiliate,’ to annihilate the surroundings with the help of technique, Gestell, the will-to-power (Dugin, 2011: 214).

 

Russian Dasein, by contrast, is not so radically divisive. It is “entirely inclusive,” “a border that does not separate anything.” Russian Dasein lacks a radical other (215-216). In this context, Dugin writes that care, thrownness, and projection are not existentials of the Russian Dasein.

But what are we to make of that claim? In Heidegger, care names Dasein’s being-ahead-of-oneself-already-being-in-the-world. It is related to Dasein’s temporal structure. Thrownness emphasizes the “always-already” nature of Dasein’s existence, which knows not where it came from, and the project-structure describes how Dasein projects its possibilities of being onto the referential structure called world. Elsewhere, far from rejecting the notion of Dasein’s being-ahead of itself and projecting itself as possibilities, Dugin (2014; 2017) explicitly relates the temporality of the fourth political theory to Heideggerian notions of temporality and to the event as an existential project. When comparing his claim that Russian Dasein lacks the existentials of care, thrownness, and projection to his other works, an inconsistency arises, since those works invoke those existentials implicitly or explicitly; on its own terms, without comparison, the claim likewise is either insufficiently developed and explained, at best, or just impossible.[30]

Dugin departs from the emphasis on time in his second book, to be sure, noting that a tome about Russian Dasein could well be called Being and Space, given the importance of existential spatiality for Russian Dasein – an interesting connection to his geopolitical theories, incidentally (Dugin, 2011: 247). And that and other aspects of his analysis are, to repeat, often compelling and ingenious.[31] But that is not to say that every experimental analysis he undertakes or hypothesis he advances survives adequate philosophical scrutiny.

Another related seeming inconsistency concerns the above-mentioned claim that whereas (Western?) Dasein is divisive, Russian Dasein is inclusive, or divides between same and same, rather than same and other. This tentative observation is not tracked consistently. There is comparatively little in Dugin’s account of Dasein, not to mention other elements of his political philosophy, that adequately demonstrates Russian Dasein’s distinction in this regard. Instead, radical divisions are introduced rhetorically and theoretically between the authentic and inauthentic existence of Russia-Eurasia. The question for Russia is “to be or not to be” (Dugin, 2012: 11); Eurasian people are faced with the choice “either to awaken or die” (Dugin, 2017: 220). Dugin (2017) does have a plausibly “inclusive” perspective when he states that, “the Eurasia I dream of could one day turn into the existential ground for the meeting of these two families of Dasein – Western and Eastern,” (220) but a such examples don’t change the point. I am not saying that he never gives any indication of Russian Dasein’s distinction in this regard, only that he rather often does not do so.

One of the greatest challenges facing a philosophically adequate reconstruction and critique of the serious bases of Dugin’s thought may well be the experimental character of some of his speculations, which produces ingenious but often diverging if not completely incompatible lines of thought. What is the status of tentatively advanced hypotheses when many serious questions and alternatives are explicitly left open, yet often decided for, to an extent, in practice? It is not easy to say.

IV: Conclusion (The Fourth Political Theory as Philosophical Orthodoxy)

Due to the radical influence of his thought on fundamental thinkers from left to right, much of contemporary political theory can be read as consisting implicitly or explicitly of responses to Heidegger. Although the comparative study of encounters with Heidegger can proceed on the basis of a number of key themes, the idea of starting with a comparative analysis of uses of Dasein in particular holds promise. Liberal and leftist interpretations of Dasein have been developed and examined in the literature. But the place of Dasein in Dugin’s fourth political theory has not received sufficient analysis, either in itself or comparatively. The benefit of such analysis is that we begin to get a better understanding of the fourth political theory as a unique, genuinely philosophical approach to political theory, while at the same time elaborating latent possibilities in Heidegger’s thought that may have been occluded by well-intentioned yet over-zealous theoretical responses to his Nazism.

Of course, once the philosophical dimension of the fourth political theory has been detected and brought to light, the question naturally arises, how the philosophical dimension relates to the better-known and often more evident ideological dimension of Dugin’s thought, not to mention other dimensions of his thought (Beiner 2015).

Dugin himself has said that the relationship between philosophical questioning and ideological dogmatism and activism in his work is hierarchical: “Philosophy first, ideology later.”[32] Ideology, he claims, is concerned with doxa, which “in the best case [can be orthodoxy,] approximation of truth [and] in the worst case [allodoxy, the] farthest withdrawal from the truth.” Unlike other political ideologies and political theories, “the Fourth Political Theory and Eurasianism, or Dasein-politics, or existential politics,” he says, “are the names for philosophical orthodoxy.”

That means that an interpretation of Dugin that proceeds on the basis of his self-understanding must analyze and correlate the ortho-aletheiac and ortho-doxic in his works. Because of its centrality for both the doxic (ideological) and the aletheiac (philosophical) elements, the Dasein-theoretic character of Dugin’s thought must be one of the main pillars of an adequate grasp and critique of his thought.

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[1] Beiner is highly critical of Dugin in almost every other respect, however.

 

[2] A brief but good treatment of some aspects of Dugin’s Heidegger in the secondary literature is Love and Meng (2017: 307-320).

 

[3] See for instance Tsygankov, 1998; Shlapentokh, 1999); Ingram, 2001; Kipp, 2002; Dunlop, 2004; Umland, 2010.

 

[4] Umland, 2016; Shlapentokh, 2016; Clover, 2016.

 

[5] Though sometimes he does. Dugin, 2011; Dugin 2011b; Dugin, 2014.

 

[6] He recently appeared on Alex Jones’ Infowars (February 10, 2017. Available at http://katehon.com/article/alexander-dugins-interview-alex-jones [accessed April 26, 2017], perhaps providing grist for the critical mill. Beiner (2015) has criticized him for the company he keeps as follows: “Dugin himself decides which toxic intellectual sources to draw upon for his own ideological activities, and these are the vile comrades with whom he chooses to collaborate. Choosing to align yourself with Julius Evola (one of Dugin’s arch-fascist intellectual heroes) and Arktos Media [the publisher of The Fourth Political Theory] is decidedly a mode of self-disclosure and is probably our most reliable point of access to what Dugin is really about. Representative websites include 4pt.su, katehon.com, and arctogaia.com/public/engl1.htm. In a 1995 question and answer session following the publication of an interview with him, a Russian audience was already asking Dugin whether or not he is a fascist (Dugin 1995). Obviously, their question, based entirely on Russian sources, cannot be blamed on what is or isn’t available in English.

 

[7] Beiner rests his critique on the first two Dugins. By contrast, my effort here is to make a case for the relevance of the third Dugin, the philosophical one.

 

[8] Forthcoming translations include Ethnos and Society, comprised of parts of his lengthy textbook Ethnosociology, as well as Platonic Politics, featuring essays, interviews, and conference papers available online in Russian from the website platonizm.ru (accessed August 8, 2017). Ten chapters of Dugin’s original Russian version of The Fourth Political Theory that were not included in the 2012 English translation are now available (Dugin, 2017).

 

[9] One would expect, for instance, Dugin’s (2011) second Heidegger book to be treated in the literature before too long. There are four volumes in Dugin’s Martin Heidegger: The Last God. Only the first is translated into English.

 

[10] That count does not include the fourteen-volume Noomachy series, published between 2014 and 2017. Publication information from the Russian Wikipedia entry on Dugin, available at https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/_____,___________________ [Accessed April 26, 2017].

 

[11] Another interesting line of research will examine the place of Durand’s sociology in Dugin’s thought (Dugin, 2010; Dugin, 2015).

 

[12] “The logical positivists thought that fascism was associated with antiscience, and that respect for science and scientific method was the mark of antifascism in philosophical thought. Heidegger’s identification with the Nazis was important for Carnap because he saw Heidegger’s ‘historicity of Being’ and his Nazism as somehow connected. When Carnap came to the United States he imported the belief that philosophy had to be defended from historicism and Nazism by avoiding thinkers like Plato, Hegel, and Nietzsche. Karl Popper presented the same view in his book The Open Society, which was an extremely influential book in America. Popper thought that Plato, Hegel, and Marx were totalitarian thinkers and that we had to avoid their style of thought and embrace a more modern, up-to-date, and scientific way of thinking. This was a very powerful ideological rhetoric, still believed by most American philosophers, who are convinced that political and moral decency is a matter of respect for scientific rationality.”

 

[13] See for instance Fritsche, 1999.

 

[14] This position is shared Polt (1997).

 

[15] For a critical account, contrasting Heidegger’s “dark anthropology” to “core tenants of the theory of the liberal state,” see Mahlmann (2003).

 

[16] Rorty (1991), for instance, writes of weaponizing Heidegger for a presupposed social-democratic aim (129, 136-37). I am not claiming, however, that all weaponizations lack theoretical merit, nor do I mean to suggest a necessary division between theoretical and political concerns.

 

[17] The phrase “Heideggerianization of the left,” is constructed on the basis of Bloom’s (1987) notion of a “Nietzscheanization of the left” (217-226).

 

[18] As I note below, the idea of a reading of Heidegger that does not depart from him, that is completely propr and appropriate to him, that is just Heidegger and nothing more, may be inherently problematic. But to decide that now would beg the question, so I mention it in passing and leave it open on this occasion.

 

[19] Whether and to what extent Heidegger resisted Nazi ideology is disputed. For the source of the claim of “resistance,” see Polt (2007).

 

[20] I have already noted that much of the discussion about Dugin is currently situated in the field of post-Soviet nationalism and fascism studies. The aim of this paper is to try to get a preliminary handle on Dugin’s invocation of Dasein in context of other political-theoretic invocations of Dasein and to begin to suggest a few possible philosophically adequate criticisms. Threads of the fascism debate, besides those cited above, can be picked up on at, for instance, Umland (2004).

 

[21] Bracketing the fascism question is perhaps structurally equivalent to executing a phenomenological reduction. Bracketing the Dasein component, by contrast, is a reduction of another sort, worth naming and analyzing – elsewhere.

 

[22] All quotations are from Dugin (2014: part 3) my translation.

 

[23] The title: Martin Heidegger: The Philosophy of Another Beginning; the structure: the book begins with an emphasis on the middle period, followed by a part on the late period, and only finally on Dasein and Being and Time, and the discussion of the middle period is structured precisely by the inceptual thinking of Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy (of the Event) and related writings. See also Millerman (2014).

 

[24] Dugin’s other Heidegger books include Martin Heidegger: The Last God (2014b) and Martin Heidegger: Metapolitics. The Eschatology of Being (2016b). In addition, his multi-volume Noomachy series is “inspired by the idea of the multiplicity of Daseins” (Dugin, 2017: 223).

 

[25] Fundamental-ontologically, not just ontically; or, if it helps, essentially, not accidentally.

 

[26] For his analysis of being-towards-death, Russian speakers may consult Dugin (2013).

 

[27] At least one extremely philosophically-politically relevant encounter with Heidegger, Derrida’s (1982), is an explicit departure from the theme of the proper in Heidegger (54-5).

 

[28] I would suggest also that the concept of right-Heideggerianism is a way station for political theorists on the way to fourth-political-theoretic Heidegger, beyond left and right, consistent with Dugin’s statement that, “Left and right are essentially modern. So [as I am anti-modern] they have nothing to do with my comprehension of being in its political dimension.” (Dugin, 2017: 217).

 

[29] Rorty (2006) had said of Derrida that Derrida has “too much respect for philosophy” merely to treat philosophy as a handmaiden to politics (22). In this, Derrida surely distinguishes himself from Rorty’s superficiality vis-à-vis Heidegger.

 

[30] Interestingly, Dugin (2016) includes the existential of care in his description of Dasein elsewhere (24-38). Also interesting are Heidegger’s (2017) statements about “Western care,” including the statement that “Care is Western care” (141).

 

[31] Dugin’s general hermeneutic ingenuity has been noted by, for instance, Clover (2016).

 

[32] This might understandably bother some who in speech if not in deed would prefer philosophy only, ideology never.

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