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"We Cannot Not Know History": Philip Johnson's Politics and Cynical Survival

Kazys Varnelis
Journal of Architectural Education (1984-)
Vol. 49, No. 2 (Nov., 1995), pp. 92-104
DOI: 10.2307/1425400
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1425400
Page Count: 13
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"We Cannot Not Know History": Philip Johnson's Politics and Cynical Survival
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Abstract

In this essay, I analyze the extreme right-wing political philosophy developed and promoted by Philip Johnson between 1932 and 1940 and compare it to the Nietzschean architectural politics he has promoted in the postwar period. Johnson's intellectual legacy, in particular the architectural theory of Peter Eisenman, is discussed in terms of the "aestheticization" of politics and history. This analysis proceeds in light of German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk's conception of post-1945 "survival" through cynical reason in which one knows that what one is doing is wrong but does it anyway to survive and get ahead. In opposition to Eisenman and Johnson's cynical reason, I propose a return to what Sloterdijk describes as kynicism: the disclosure of the falseness of the cynic and the false structure of cynical society.

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