By James Phillips
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Additional info for Heidegger's Volk: Between National Socialism and Poetry (Cultural Memory in the Present)
In its indifference to matters of public doctrine and in its devotion to genealogy, the Nazi movement applied itself to the mass detection of forerunners. Hence, even as it declared the national revolution in 1933 and set about the provision of schooling in race doctrine (Rassenkunde) for the people that had come, the new regime still urged its consanguinity with incompatible previous formulations of the notion of the German Volk. That Heidegger could have sought admittance to the NSDAP despite his rejection of its biologism is largely inexplicable without this amorphousness of the ofﬁcial ideology.
What he musters against racist imperialism is the spreading of an idea: the conscience-salving myth of the cultural benevolence of French colonialism receives a new lease on life through the comparison with Hitler’s territorial ambitions. Having no idea to propagate, and thus having nothing to offer the subject peoples in an “exchange,” Hitler is able to aspire to nothing more than a universality maintained by an external and inscrutable force. 38 Introduction Since for Lévinas the desirability of universality is never doubted, the deliberate act of offering that which cannot be accepted and rendered universal is nonsensical.
The nationalism to which Heidegger could be read as exhorting the people of the center is thus less the assertion of a given people’s distinct identity among the distinct identities of neighboring peoples than the assertion of the nonuniversality of a people against global anonymity. What is at issue in this nationalism is not the identiﬁcation and documentation of unique properties, but instead that which in a people as such sets it apart from the uniform organization of reiﬁed humanity. Such a nationalism must ask after that which is not present-at-hand.