Ernst Wilhelm Handler: “The Production of Society” – Culture

At the end of the book, Ernst Wilhelm Handler, a former businessman and then a novelist celebrated for his novels on economic life, introduces five types of society. Deren letzte hört auf den schwerverständlichen Namen “Agency-Metaproduktionsgesellschaft” not yet.” But traders seem to expect such conditions. It recognizes the early adopters of such a community in the art trade, especially in the New York Gagosian Gallery, perhaps the most financially successful gallery in the world. Such a company does not only sell art or artists. Instead, it presents a “private realm of art” in which it suspends all criticism and creates its sciences and opens up an infinite space of “intentions and their realization”. This is where artists and clients meet.

The book is titled The Production of Society, and it reminds us of the titles of Niklas Lohmann’s work. But even if Händler initially made it clear that there is no “comprehensive meaning” that emerges from production, his theory contains more historical philosophy than the Bielefeld sociologist would have admitted. Initially, according to the confirmed course of events, production consisted in the manufacture of certain things. They were needed, and technical means were available.

No theory has ever been more compatible, but it’s not more abstract either

But then, according to Handler, the production possibilities increased. The development of finance capital seems to have shown the path of production to ever more virtual worlds, so that economics, the natural sciences, and philosophy have ended up where art has always been, namely in the realm of possibilities. At the end of the merchant theory, the example of exhibition, production alone, should teach us. It no longer matters what it was made of. This production becomes absolute, sovereign, powerful (“agency”), and above all produces production (“meta”).

The “production of society” is supposed to be the theory of this development, in a way corresponding to the subject, that is, the universal production of possibilities: there has been no more compatible theory, more abstract, i.e. separate from all experience, but no.

Ernst Wilhelm Handler: Production of Society. S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2022. 288 pages, €25.

The results are clear: Händler’s volume of work is nearly 300 pages. But in it all that has a place and a reputation in popular theories are taken up: Galileo Galilei, the “most important physicist” of all time, and Stanislaw Lim, who “as a writer had no reservations about the predicates of good and bad, Martin Heidegger, who wanted it to be” a peerless radical”, and of course Niklas Lohmann, who had a “cynical aversion to object-level morality”. There is also talk of a “latest case of cosmology”.

It seems that all of these theories are constantly communicating with each other without mentioning anything concrete. TV series “Battlestar Galactica” appears as a brief outline of production theory (for humanoid robots), GDR because “mathematics standards were basically higher” there, Rihanna’s nail polish and particle accelerator near Geneva because of the presence of Higgs bosons were experimentally proven. Nothing seems alien to production theory.

In “Money Speaks”, money not only appeared in 2019 but also created tokens for itself, for investors and bankers

Ernst Wilhelm Handler has written nine novels and a volume of short stories over the past twenty-five years. They are all about living in an economy that was once called “the free market” and is now increasingly known by its true name: capitalism. “Welt aus Glas,” a novel from 2009, about two New York gallery owners with financial concerns, “München” (2016) looking at the expensive shoes of a rich heiress, and “Das Geld Talks” (2019), the most ambitious literary work In this series, not only money appeared in itself, but also created tokens for itself, in the form of investors and bankers. “I am a perception and an emotion,” the money in this book spoke, a case not so much on the topic as a little rattling reflexology machine. The latter shares the “money” of the novel with the “production” of the non-fiction.

‘Society production’ is the systematic conclusion of Händler’s project to transform economics into a literary agent: a conclusion in so far as recent references to individual cognition and personal intentions are revealed. The principle of “production” must present itself. Since alienation could not be its own thing, it was expressed in mathematical formulas and in sentences that seemed to lose their content: “The ever-increasing social differentiation of the present makes the differentiation of different types and functions of complexity indispensable.” It could not be any other way: a theory that is supposed to include everything is ultimately a theory of nothing.

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