Despite their opposed cultural agendas, the critic and journalist Siegfried Kracauer and the poet Gottfried Benn pursued similar projects of undermining traditional conceptions of the self. Kracauer, a leftist who was never aligned with a party, sought to push aside older notions of individualism that drew on the ideals of personhood and rationality to reformulate the relationship between the individual and the collective. For a brief moment, Benn—the more conservative of the two—appears as a fellow traveler in this project, both in his rejection of the rational self and in his repudiation of doctrinaire visions of the collective. This dimension of Benn's work is what drew Kracauer to engage with him, an engagement attested to by their meeting of early 1932 and by the surprising similarity of their judgments on the work of Sergei Tretjakow and Bertolt Brecht. This sympathy of views demonstrates how the critique of individualism could be mobilized for opposed political agendas. For Kracauer, this meant a redefined subjectivity that would contribute to social critique; for Benn, an acquiescence to National Socialism, which he saw as a form of historical fate.
Harry T. Craver; Dismantling the Subject: Concepts of the Individual in the Weimar Writings of Siegfried Kracauer and Gottfried Benn. New German Critique 1 February 2016; 43 (1 (127)): 1–35. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-3329175
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