ALEXANDER S. DUFF
Heidegger has powerful adherents in societies as disparate as Russia and Iran. If liberal democracies are to reckon with his followers, they must wrestle with his thought.
Aspecter haunts the post-Cold War liberal order—the specter of radical spiritual malaise. This discontent with or downright opposition to the Western-originated, universalist claims of the broadly liberal cultural, economic, and political order takes diverse forms. One can detect it among Iranian revolutionary theocrats, Russian imperialist ideologues, white supremacist “Identitarians,” European neo-fascists, identity-politics partisans, and anti-foundationalist intellectuals of many stripes. But standing behind some of the leading intellectual and political figures in this mélange of counter-liberalism is one animating mind, that of Martin Heidegger.Since the end of the Cold War, it has been an open question whether any organizing political principle could successfully vie with the liberal consensus of a secular state, limited by democratic accountability and the rule of law. To date, neither the remnants of Soviet-style communism, authoritarian capitalism, reactionary fascism, nor Islamic theocracy have achieved a successful combination of military strength and political legitimacy even among their own citizens, let alone among sympathizers in the world at large. But the political legacy of Martin Heidegger—if the strange and conflicting paths of his influence can be so termed—points to a combination that is sufficiently threatening to liberal democracy to be taken seriously, precisely because of the breadth of its evident appeal abroad and at home.
1Shariati’s employment of the tropes of piety and social justice has been justifiably compared to the Liberation Theology of Latin America. See Ervand Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions (Princeton University Press, 1982).2Mirsepassi is the co-producer, with Hamed Yousefi, of the documentary, “The Fabulous Life and Thought of Ahmad Fardid” (2015).
Alexander S. Duff is the author of Heidegger and Politics: The Ontology of Radical of Discontent and teaches political philosophy at the College of the Holy Cross.