Peter Sloterdijk is a celebrated and controversial German philosopher, cultural critic and TV host known for his reflections on globalization. “Stress and Freedom” is among his most recent books. He spoke this week with WorldPost Editor in Chief Nathan Gardels.
WorldPost: You have spoken about the conundrum of a synchronized world without a common narrative. Absent that common narrative, the world is breaking up into tribes like the shattering of the Tower of Babel, each with their own narrative, often nationalist and nativist. What is the root of the resurgence of this tribal mentality?
Peter Sloterdijk: Let’s first ask if the rumor of the return of the tribes is justified. It is true that different civilizations resort to vastly different narratives to describe their place in the present day world. Just as we observe a profound multitude of calendars — among Orthodox Christians, in the Muslim cultures, China or Iran, which depart from the Gregorian calendar that dominates in the West — we encounter an even larger number of different local narratives describing events in world history. These are not limited to mythology; even in the historical narratives where they have been witnessed, one can expect a fair degree of radical perspectivism.
It is therefore incorrect to claim that the world is breaking up into numerous tribes, as if these had ever been united in an all-inclusive synthesis at any point in history. What is actually happening today is the disintegration of the American camp.