Workshop in Berlin
29 Jun 2017 – 30 Jun 2017

Ethical Idealism, Charisma, and Cultural Critique: Prophetic Politics in the Weimar Republic

Venue: ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Seminarraum 303
Organized by Nitzan Lebovic, Daniel Weidner

In his Science as a Vocation (1918) Max Weber warned of the »Kathederpropheten« [ex-cathedra prophets] who advocated a new form of sacred or healing teaching in their classes. A year later, Hermann Cohen identified the prophets as the founders of modern historical thinking, while Karl Jaspers examined prophetic philosophy as the only possible reformer of thought. It is already in the early stages of the Weimar Republic that one notes the barefoot prophets (Ulrich Linse), the healers and inflation-apostles. Prophecy has become an important model for different forms of intellectual politics.
The renaissance of messianism in the Weimar Republic implies also the revival of prophetic charisma. In that new reality, the prophet embodies, as a revolutionary or a reformer, the radical discourses of moral politics and shapes a whole set of related epistemological claims.
The fascination with prophetic tropes goes, of course, further back. It belongs to the core differentiation between the faiths. In the context of modern Germany, it resurfaced in a powerful way with Adolf von Harnack, the Hermann Cohen and Ernst Troeltsch debate, and the rise of Cultural Zionism with Martin Buber, to take just a few obvious examples.
An analysis of prophetic politics is a topical issue at a time of de-secularization of politics and of a fashionable revival of Carl Schmitt’s political theology, by both conservative and progressive thinkers. From the perspective of prophetic politics, it is not sufficient to talk about religious rhetoric in relation to concepts such as hegemony and control; it is as important to consider its appearance in law and different forms of popular resistance, and then not only as mere gesture, but in the form of specific rhetorical practices.
Our workshop will lay the foundation for a transatlantic cooperation about prophetic politics in the twentieth century. For the prophetic figure that evolved from the Weimar Republic was transformed with exilic intellectuals such as Martin Buber, Abraham J. Heschel, and Paul Tillich, and then again with the rise of a new set of tropes in »American Prophecy«.
In the first workshop in Berlin, a first set of case studies will help us to map the field of inquiry and prepare the way for the second workshop, scheduled for September 2017, in New York.


Thursday, 29 June 2017


Nitzan Lebovic (Lehigh University), Daniel Weidner (ZfL): Prophetic ways and the power of Words. Annäherungen an Prophetische Politik


Dana Hollander (McMaster University): Re-Politicization of Law (Gesetz) in Hermann Cohen's Religion der Vernunft

Sylvie Ann Goldberg (EHESS Paris): Time of Prophecy vs Time of Mankind, an excursus into rabbinical literature


Dominique Bourel (CNRS Paris): Propheten in dürftiger Zeit. Buber und Heschel im Dialog

Martin Treml (ZfL): Martin Buber und die Poltische Theologie


Friday, 30 June 2017


COMMON READING: Excerpts from Paul Tillich Kairos (1926)


Lukas Pallitsch (Universität Wien): Das Drama um den Propheten. Stefan Zweig und Franz Werfel

Lutz Greisiger (ZfL): Selbstauflösung und Größenwahn. Der Künstler als messianisches Subjekt am Beispiel des Oberdada Johannes Baader (1875–1955)


Eugene Sheppard (Brandeis University): Schatten der Geschichte. Valeriu Marcu and Prophetic Politics in the Weimar Republic

Sarah Pourciau (Princeton University): God's Mouth(s): On Genre and Geschichtsphilosophie in Schoenberg's Moses und Aron

ROUNDTABLE: The Future of Prophetic Politics