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You Must Change Your Life

Peter Sloterdijk

ISBN: 978-0-745-64921-4 January 2013 Polity 500 Pages


In his major investigation into the nature of humans, Peter Sloterdijk presents a critique of myth - the myth of the return of religion. For it is not religion that is returning; rather, there is something else quite profound that is taking on increasing significance in the present: the human as a practising, training being, one that creates itself through exercises and thereby transcends itself. Rainer Maria Rilke formulated the drive towards such self-training in the early twentieth century in the imperative 'You must change your life'.

In making his case for the expansion of the practice zone for individuals and for society as a whole, Sloterdijk develops a fundamental and fundamentally new anthropology. The core of his science of the human being is an insight into the self-formation of all things human. The activity of both individuals and collectives constantly comes back to affect them: work affects the worker, communication the communicator, feelings the feeler.

It is those humans who engage expressly in practice that embody this mode of existence most clearly: farmers, workers, warriors, writers, yogis, rhetoricians, musicians or models. By examining their training plans and peak performances, this book offers a panorama of exercises that are necessary to be, and remain, a human being.

Introduction: On the Anthropotechnic Turn 1

The Planet of the Practising

1 The Command from the Stone 19
Rilke’s Experience

2 Remote View of the Ascetic Planet 29
Nietzsche’s Antiquity Project

3 Only Cripples Will Survive 40
Unthan’s Lesson

4 Last Hunger Art 61
Kafka’s Artistes

5 Parisian Buddhism 73
Cioran’s Exercises

Transition: Religions Do Not Exist 83
From Pierre de Coubertin to L. Ron Hubbard

I The Conquest of the Improbable: For an Acrobatic Ethics

Programme 109

1 Height Psychology 111
The doctrine of Upward Propagation and the Meaning of ‘Over’

2 ‘Culture Is a Monastic Rule’ 131
Twilight of the Life Forms, Disciplines

3 Sleepless in Ephesus 160
On the Demons of Habit and Their Taming Through First Theory

4 Habitus and Inertia 175
On the Base Camps of the Practising Life

5 Cur Homo Artista 190
On the Ease of the Impossible

II Exaggeration Procedures

Backdrop: Retreats into Unusualness 211

6 First Eccentricity 217
On the Separation of the Practising and Their Soliloguies

7 The Complete and the Incomplete 243
How the Spirit of Perfection Entangles the Practising in Stories

8 Master Games 271
Trainers as Guarantors of the Art of Exaggeration

9 Change of Trainer and Revolution 298
On Conversations and Opportunistic Turns

III The Exercises of the Modern

Prospect: The Re-Secularization of the Withdrawn Subject 315

10 Art with Humans 331
In the Arsenals of Anthropotechnics

11 In the Auto-Operatively Curved Space 369
New Human Beings Between Anaesthesia and Biopolitics

12 Exercises and Misexercises 404
The Critique of Repetition

From the Re-Embedding of the Subject to the Relapse into Total Care

Outlook: The Absolute Imperative 442

Notes 453

Index 487

"Breathtaking ... A superb and wide-ranging analysis of those moderns who have refused to be pampered or to dwell in capitalist decadence."
The Guardian

"Make(s) it possible to begin to come to grips with Sloterdijk as a stirring and eclectic thinker, who addresses himself boldly to the most important problems of our age."
New Republic

"A tour de force that engages the history of philosophy, religion, and thought, both Western and Eastern, in ways that make you think deeply about the evolution of the human being these past few thousand years."
Los Angeles Review of Books

"Sloterdijk is both seriously learned and brilliantly creative, and he has a talent for wit. He deserves shelf-space alongside Nietzsche, Heidegger and Foucault."
New Humanist

"Sloterdijk has constructed in this beautiful text a supreme heterotopology - a place from which to think and see differently."
Eduardo Mendieta, Stony Brook University

"A challenging, powerful, and at times frustrating read. Sloterdijk ranges widely across literatures and topics, inspiring and provoking in equal measure. He is fortunate to have Wieland Hoban as his excellent translator. A very good antidote to the chicken-soup banalities of other life-changing philosophy."
Stuart Elden, Durham University

"Challenging the pious and self-righteous alarm of those who have declared war on the return to religion, Sloterdijk – in his typically original irreverence – argues that we cannot see today’s religiosity as any sort of return. What is really at stake is the formation of the self through practices. Charting a path beyond liberal critiques of religion and post-secular pseudo-returns to spirit, Sloterdijk provides a genuinely twenty-first century approach to the problem of life-formation. This book opens up new ways of thinking about life after humanism without lapsing into the simple affirmations of the post-human."
Claire Colebrook, Penn State University

"Peter Sloterdijk has assembled in this book the most amazing series of practices invented in history to hold humans souls suspended to a virtual hook slightly above their head. The result is a totally original analysis of religion by the most important philosopher or rather educator of today."
Bruno Latour, Ecole des mines, Paris