Heidegger As A Political Thinker

Harries, Karsten. "Heidegger As A Political Thinker." The Review of Metaphysics. Vol. 29, No. 4 (Jun., 1976), pp. 642-669.


Asked whether, in the light of recent attempts to use philosophy to change our goals and to help transform society, he saw a social mission for his philosophy, Heidegger gave a negative reply: “If one wants to answer this question, one has to ask first: what is society? and consider that society today is only the absolutization of modern subjectivity and that from this perspective a philosophy which has overcome the stand-point of subjectivity is not even permitted to participate in the discussion.” What rules out such participation is the fact that Heidegger’s thinking, as he himself interprets it for us, has pushed beyond his own time in such a way that given all that the age considers important it must seem beside the point. The work of the later Heidegger is an extended untimely meditation. This untimeliness helps to explain the apolitical character of this work.

Heidegger has not always understood his thinking in this way. The actions and words of 1933 and 1934, especially the Rektoratsrede, his inaugural address as rector of the University of Freiburg, speak of a quite different conviction. They force us to raise the question: what, if any, relationship is there between the apolitical stance of both Being and Time and the later works, and Heidegger’s political engagement in 1933?