Robert Musil’s "Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften </I>as a Critical-Utopian Project
Conclusion: Working Through the Symptoms of Modern Life; Musil’s Critical-Utopian Project
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Working Through the Symptoms of Modern Life; Musil’s Critical-Utopian Project
In Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften and his other writings, Robert Musil undertook an extensive and razor-sharp dissection of a condition his society had been suffering from since the end of the nineteenth century. This condition reminded him of patients suffering from a pathological affliction, as he had witnessed in Rome. It had grown in the wake of the relentless and vertigo-inducing acceleration of modernity, transforming society and people’s lives as they had always known them. History seemed to have become an overwhelming and incomprehensible force, which swept society along towards an unknown and unforeseeable destination. Modern life became increasingly complex and incomprehensible, accelerating the specialization and atomization of different domains. In such a society which at the same time produces monstrous forms of order and organization and unleashes powerful forms of entropy and disintegration, what role was left for a human being? What could a man or woman do who does not want to be a mere passive cog in the unfolding of history or a part of a community that was like a ship of fools racing eagerly towards its own catastrophic downfall?
This question becomes even more difficult if we look at the particular nature of the condition society was in. Modernity drastically transformed the lives of people in all its aspects, from their living conditions to the meaningful order of society in which everything has a well-defined...
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