The control of society and the unruly

LATE MODERNITY: People today are gaining more and more control over their surroundings – but are losing touch with the world. Where is the limit for measurements, quality assurances, quantifications and bureaucratic routines?

The Uncontrollability of the World
Author: Hartmut Rosa
Publisher: Polity Books, UK

Hartmut Rosa has distinguished himself as a classic critic of modernity, but with new approaches. His first major work, which came out in English under the title Acceleration, was followed up last year by another major project, Resonance, which forms the basis of the new – and far shorter – book The Uncontrollability of the World.

In the introduction to the English edition, Rosa notes how the main concept from the German original, «Unverfügbarkeit», is almost untranslatable. In Norwegian, we might want to talk about unruliness (or «inflexibility»), or something that is not at our disposal. The unruly thing is, for Rosa, in the experience that resists our impulse to control, our desire to master and predict the world and thus make it our own. If this human impulse is nothing new, Rosa rightly emphasises it is in modern times that we have really become control-free on a large scale: The military mapping of modern times and the colonisation of the world came together with the subjugation of nature through science. This ideology, embedded in ever new systems of administration and technical tools, becomes an aggressive attempt to subdue not only the wild and foreign, but also the random and incomprehensible, our own lives and the world around us.

what disappears is the acceptance of, and the ability to, enjoy and live with the uncontrollable.

What disappears is the acceptance of, and the ability to, enjoy and live with the uncontrollable, . . .

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Anders Dunker
Dunker is a Norwegian philosopher, and regular contributor.

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