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The Liquidation of Exile


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220 Pages


A fascinating study into the multiple, complex and changing negotiating processes and bargaining structures constitutive of the intellectual exile of the 1930s.

In a series of focused studies related to the event that has generated the richest literature in exile studies – the intellectual exiles arising out of Nazi rule – this volume reconsiders a number of issues raised by that literature, notably the multiple, complex and changing negotiating processes and bargaining structures constitutive of exile, especially as the question of return interplays with the politics of memory.

Preface; 1. The Study of Intellectual Exile: A Paradigm; 2. Self-Knowledge and Sociology: Nina Rubinstein’s Exile Studies; 3. A German Subject to Recall: Hans Mayer as Internationalist, Cosmopolitan, Outsider, and/or Exile; 4. Exile as Process: The Case of Franz L. Neumann; 5. The Symbolic Uses of Exile: Erich Kahler at Ohio State; 6. First Letters: The Liquidation of Exile? 7. The Second Wave: An Autobiographical Exercise; Notes; Bibliography; Index



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The Liquidation of ExileAdvance Reviews
“No one among our contemporaries has thought more deeply about exile than David
Kettler. His new book illuminates its historical modes, its cultural impact and its personal
cost. Humane without being mawkish, analytical without being cold, The Liquidation of
Exile instructs and inspires the reader in equal measure. Those of us fortunate enough to
have lived peaceful lives in quieter times can only gasp in amazement at what these refugee
intellectuals endured – and achieved.”
—Professor Peter Baehr, Lingnan University
“Having successfully ‘liquidated’ his own exile, David Kettler (né Manfred Ketzlach), a
‘second-wave’ émigré (b. 1930, Leipzig) from Germany to the U.S., and a long-time
contributor to the sociology of intellectuals, has written a critical review of the uses of
‘exile’ in contemporary scholarship. He shows how a coterie of German émigrés, most of
Jewish origins, negotiated their relationship to their former Heimat in the aftermath of the
Holocaust. Some returned to Germany, most did not: Ernst Fraenkel, Oskar Maria Graf,
Erich Kahler, Hermann Kesten, Siegfried Kracauer, Hans Mayer, Franz Neumann, Nina
Rubinstein and Carl Zuckmayer. A must-read is the collection of fi rst postwar letters, which
émigrés sent to German colleagues, renewing contact, beginning a tortuous rapprochement.
The letters provide vivid evidence that, for most émigrés, the liquidation of exile was long
and arduous.”
—Professor Malachi Hacohen, Duke University
“David Kettler has written a fascinating and thoughtfully accessible account of one of the
most devastating and intriguing periods of modern intellectual history.”
—Professor Gerhard Lauer, University of Göttingen
“David Kettler has thought deeply about the meaning and impact of exile. His scholarship
is beyond reproach. Thus, this book makes a signifi cant contribution to our understanding
of an important topic.”
—Professor Jack Jacobs, City University of New York
“In this meticulously researched, interdisciplinary study David Kettler expands on the
conventional understanding of political exile by including the question of return. Building
on new theories of exile, Kettler offers a carefully developed paradigm of ‘political exile’
that focuses on different modes of acculturation as well as the diffi cult negotiations for
a return or at least a reconnection with the country of origin. Insightful case studies of
individual exiles like Nina Rubinstein, Franz Neumann, Hans Mayer or Erich Kahler,
which illustrate different variants within this paradigm, clearly demonstrate the viability of
Kettler’s illuminating approach.”
—Professor Helga Schreckenberger, University of VermontThe Liquidation of Exile
Studies in the Intellectual
Emigration of the 1930s
David KettlerAnthem Press
An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company
This edition first published in UK and USA 2011
75-76 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA, UK
or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK
244 Madison Ave. #116, New York, NY 10016, USA
Copyright © David Kettler 2011
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
Cover photograph entitled “Oedipus at Colonus, bronze sculpture
by Leonard Baskin, Joslyn Sculpture Garden, Omaha”
© Ali Eminov 2009
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above,
no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into
a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means
(electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise),
without the prior written permission of both the copyright
owner and the above publisher of this book.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Kettler, David.
The liquidation of exile : studies in the intellectual emigration of
the 1930s / David Kettler.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-85728-793-9 (hbk. : alk. paper)
1. Germans–Foreign countries–History–20th century.
2. Exiles–Germany–History.
3. Intellectuals–Germany–20th century. 4. Political
refugees–Germany–History–20th century. 5. Germany–Emigration and
immigration–History. 6. Germany–Intellectual
life–20th century. I. Title.
DD68.K48 2011
ISBN-13: 978 0 85728 793 9 (Hbk)
ISBN-10: 0 85728 793 1 (Hbk)
This title is also available as an eBook.CONTENTS
Preface vii
1. The Study of Intellectual Exile: A Paradigm 1
2. Self-Knowledge and Sociology: Nina Rubinstein’s Exile Studies 25
3. A German Subject to Recall: Hans Mayer as Internationalist,
Cosmopolitan, Outsider, and/or Exile 35
4. Exile as Process: The Case of Franz L. Neumann 43
5. The Symbolic Uses of Exile: Erich Kahler at Ohio State 83
6. First Letters: The Liquidation of Exile? 109
7. The Second Wave: An Autobiographical Exercise 147
Notes 171
Selected Bibliography 199
Index 205PREFACE
The studies brought together in this book are integral parts of a project
developed over the past ten years. Many of them were published individually
in various forms and forums, but the framework is the product of the
accumulated work, and the pieces have been adapted to the comprehensive
design. Since the overall “Contested Legacies” project has been a collaborative
one, involving four workshops and a large conference, as documented in a
1number of collaborative publications, I am especially indebted to the many
colleagues who made contributions to these events. None of the chapters
of the present volume appear in these books. They do, however, variously
draw on the following earlier publications: “Antifascism as Ideology: Review
and Introduction,” in Habitus, Identität und die exilierten Dispositionen, ed. Anna
Wessely, Karoly Kokai and Zoltan Peter, 139–159 (Budapest: Nemzeti
Tankönyvkiado, 2008); “Erste Briefe. Zwischen Exil und Rückkehr,”
Zeitschrift fürIdeengeschichte (May 2008): 79–107; “Le prime letteri dei refugees;
una liquidazione dell’esperienza dell’esilio?” Memoria e Ricerca. Rivista di storia
contemporanea 31 (Maggio/agosto 2009): 103–120; “Una ‘primera carta’ de
Siegfried Kracauer,” in Siegfried Kracauer: un pensador más allá de las fronteras,
ed. Carlos Eduardo J. Machado and Miguel Vedda, 171–178 (Buenos Aires:
Gorla, 2010); “Negotiations: Learning from Three Frankfurt Schools,” in
Fruits of Exile, ed. Richard Bodek and Simon Lewis (Charleston: University of
South Carolina Press, 2009), and in German: “Ein unvollendetes Lehrstück:
Meine Verhandlungen mit drei Frankfurter Schulen,” in Soziologie in Frankfurt.
Eine Zwischenbilanz, ed. Felicia Herrschaft and Klaus Lichtblau, 257–281
(Berlin: VS Verlag, 2010); Caroline Arni et al., Hrsg., “Negotiating Exile:
Franz L. Neumann as Political Scientist,” Der Eigensinn des Materials. Erkundungen
sozialer Wirklichkeit (Frankfurt am Main/Basel: Stroemfeld, 2007) 205–224;
“Franz L. Neumann,” in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2nd ed.,
ed. William A. Darity Jr., , 9 vols. (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008);
“A German Subject to Recall: Hans Mayer as Internationalist, Cosmopolitan,
Outsider and/or Exile,” New German Critique (June 2006) 96: 171–181; “The
Symbolic Uses of Exile: Erich Kahler at Ohio State University” in Exile and viii THE LIQUIDATION OF EXILE
Otherness, ed. Alexander Stephan, 269–310 (Oxford, Bern: Peter Lang, 2005);
“’Les émigrés sont les vainçus.’ Spiritual Diaspora and Political Exile,” Journal
of Interdisciplinary Crossroads I, no. 3 (2004), reprinted as “Spiritual Diaspora and
Political Exile” in Neuer Mensch und kollektive Identität in der Kommunikationsgesellschaft,
ed. Gerhard Preyer (Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2008);
“‘Weimar and Labor’ as Legacy: Ernst Fraenkel, Otto Kahn-Freund, and
Franz L. Neumann,” in Die Alchemie des Exils. Exil als schöpferischer Impuls, ed.
Helga Schreckenberger (Vienna: Edition Praesens, 2005); “Self-Knowledge
and Sociology: Nina Rubinstein’s Studies in Exile,” in Intellectual Migration and
Cultural Transformation, ed. Edward Timms and Jon Hughes, 195–206 (Wien/
New York: Springer, 2003).
The project has been supported over the years by several institutions,
whose help has been duly acknowledged in earlier publications, but I want
to emphasize above all my lasting debt to Bard College and its remarkable
president, Leon Botstein, and to Detlef Garz of Johannes Gutenberg University ,
who have been supportive when it most counted. The work is dedicated to my
friend and daily correspondent, Jerry Zaslove of Simon Fraser University, who
has provided intellectual tutelage, challenges, encouragement, and a lot of
laughter for the past twenty years.CHAPTER ONE
The Study of Intellectual Exile: A Paradigm
This is a book about exile. It is also a book about some figures within a cohort
of individuals in a particular time and place to whom the term exile has been
variously applied—persons active in one or another sphere of public space
who were displaced by Nazi rule in Germany between 1933 and 1945—and
whose historical experiences and achievements have been found sufficiently
important to serve as a point of departure for an interdisciplinary field
of studies. While there can be no prohibition against simply postulating a
plausible definition of exile as a preliminary to biographical, historical, or
critical studies of the individuals or groups subsequently classed under that
dramatic label, as is often done in exile studies, such a proceeding entails costs.
Exile has a rich and contested history as a concept in political, literary, and
religious reflection—a history that enters as well into the recognition of self
and others among those involved in the instances under study. The aim of the
present study is to take some chapters in the historical inquiry into the 1930s
exile as the locus for an investigation of the phenomena and issues at stake in
the contested uses of exile in social inquiry.
The Concept of Exile
What work does the term exile do in the contemporary language of cultural
and political self-reflection, so that interpreters find it worthwhile to quarrel
about its scope and application? Well, exiles in that context are always special.
They are suspended between two places. In one place, they are denied, either
by threat of violence or by some other insupportable condition; in the other
place, they are only conditionally accepted: they find asylum, not a home.
They are at a distance from both places. Moreover, in almost all uses of the
term, even exiles who are literally banished retain the special status only so
long as they continue to identify themselves—or to be identified—with this
suspension between the two places, the refusal wholly to abandon the one or
wholly to accept the other. The focus of their attention is on their unfinished
business between them and the first place, not their limited business with the 2 THE LIQUIDATION OF EXILE
second. Exiles accordingly appear unlike ordinary people whose ordinary
needs and ambitions regulate their lives. Exiles are not rarely a reproach to
those who stay behind, even though exiles may also reproach themselves for
their departures, whether willing or coerced. To be an exile is to have a project,
to be a thoroughly untrivial person, however absurd your beliefs and conduct
may appear to outsiders. To be an exile is to be interesting, in the way that
a refugee or victim or traveler or immigrant cannot be supposed to be. Exile
is a status that gives a right to a special kind of hospitality, a right to asylum,
and that exempts the beneficiary from the ordinary rules of reciprocity. It is
not a surprise, consequently, that the meaning of exile is a bone of contention
among both social scientists and cultural commentators. It implies a lot about
the person(s) to whom it is applied. The status makes claims and excuses, while
it also implies separation from and uncertain loyalty to the place of residence
and the company of others who are there. Exile, it might be said, is politics
in extremis. It tests the capacities of political life when such life is deprived of
most of its institutional supports.
Like many similar terms, exile is used both to refer to a condition and to
persons or groups who are identified with that condition by contemporary
observers, commentators, or themselves. There is controversy about both
aspects. In the case of the condition, there are disputes not only about its
distinction from states characterized by terms like cosmopolitan, wanderer,
stranger, emigrant or refugee but also about its relationship to the language of
political life, where the concept poses especially hard questions. In the case of
the exemplars, the questions are about the applicability of the term over time:
when and how does one become an exile, how does one sustain the condition,
and when does one stop being an exile in any important sense?
Dictionary definitions are either too narrow—as when exiles are equated
with those banished from their native lands—or they are too broad—as when
all sorts of displacements from any state deemed native are included. Outright
banishment is not altogether irrelevant to exiles in the era of the modern
state, but it comprehends only a fraction of the cases where individuals see no
acceptable alternative to departure from the scene on which they have been
active. In a time in which identities are inwardly and outwardly contested, the
concept of native land is also too restrictive to capture the bounded domains in
which individuals operate and which they may be constrained to leave. When it
comes to the question of return, moreover, no concept suffices that is not open
to basic transformations in the place of departure. The many figurative and
metaphorical conceptions of exile, on the other hand, are constantly at risk of
rendering everyone an exile in some sense, and thus forfeiting the opportunity
of specifying the complex that constitutes the condition of exile in the sense
that has posed difficult questions in social, political, and ethical analysis. THE STUDY OF INTELLECTUAL EXILE: A PARADIGM 3
The condition of exile takes multiple forms and requires in any case a study
that attends to its susceptibility to conflict and change. In recent years, in fact,
the trope of exile has stood high. To judge by some recent writings in literary
criticism and cultural studies, exile appears as a transcendent status, beyond the
ambiguous supports of historical circumstance, and beyond even the painful
sense of its loss. Exile appears as an enabler of the most profound thought,
art, and literature—an empowerment. And yet if we look in the newspapers
for exiles, we find stories of pain, criminality, maneuver, burden, and racking
contradictions. Exile here looks like something historically overdetermined,
constricting, distorting, closely bound to the threat, suffering, and infliction of
violence. A preliminary approach to the wider scope of the concept is provided
by a survey of the current use of the term in the New York Times, considered
here as I collected them for a month in the recent past.
There are eight items that involve exile. Two refer to leading figures in
active external opposition to the clerical regime of Iran, with a noteworthy
emphasis on the contrast between them and the opposition mobilized in the
country against the outcome of the recent elections there. In the first instance,
in an interview with the son of the last Shah, “the exile,” as he is called in the
title of the selection, he in effect disparages the internal opposition insofar as
it really thinks that the choice of one candidate rather than the other could
matter, likening them to people who preferred one successor to another in the
last days of the Soviet Union. Only the introduction of secular democracy can
make a difference. In response, the interviewer probes skeptically whether the
exile is not really an instrument of the American CIA, which he angrily denies.
She pushes also whether the repressive practices of the present regime were
not in fact modeled on those of his father, whereupon he says in his father’s
defense only that he accepted exile rather than inflicting more bloodshed,
a context in which the concept of exile stands for justly imposed punitive
exclusion rather than principled opposition. Or perhaps, to stretch the point,
we are implicitly asked to consider the possibility of the former kind of exile
turning into the latter, if only in the second generation.
The second article relating to Iran, which is also an opinion piece, does
not sound quite as many changes on exile, but similarly signals ambivalence
about the role of external exile groups in relation to internal protest in
that it suggests that the latter may be damaged by the self-identification
of any external exile groups with their principal symbols, especially in
the light of some past political maneuvers by the exiles. What comes
across, leaving aside the complication introduced by the concept of exile
as (merited) punishment, is the contested status of exiles in relation to the
internal politics of dissent and opposition, a contest that echoes in the very
connotations of the term. From the standpoint of an internal resistance 4 THE LIQUIDATION OF EXILE
to an oppressive regime, exiles may appear as absconders and outsiders,
while exiles may in turn distrust the scope of opposition represented by
those who remain within the bounds.
This ambiguity is less present in the third article, comprising a series
of comments on the twentieth anniversary of the violent repression of the
Tiananmen Square protests, where exile is initially used merely to mark the
difference in location between present-day oppositionists within China and
those without. As the article proceeds, however, it becomes clear that exile
is thought of as a special kind of collective social entity with an inner life—
“the” exile, as it were, so that it makes sense to speak of exile publications
and exile culture, and to consider the potential value of its productions as
well as its harmful disposition to internal conflict. Interesting in this context
is also the notice of an “exile series” of publications in connection with one
of the exile journals, where the work of Havel is translated, although he was
never in fact an exile from the Czech Communist regime, so that exile in this
sense appears to refer quite generally to a distinctive style of trans-national
oppositional political thinking.
In the fourth and fifth articles to be considered, exile figures in its quality
as a punitive sanction, as in the references to the Shah in the first piece
considered. “Political justice,” after all, is not always wrong. One of the
articles is quite straightforward. It refers simply to the “exile” of Philippine
president, Ferdinand Marcos, which was imposed by his successors after a
successful popular rising against a manipulated electoral result, as part of a
process of political pacification. Both the Iranian and Philippine examples
may be considered as a function of political justice, although both instances
resulted as well from ad hoc political interventions by more powerful third
parties, but the quasi-juridical character of the penalty is more marked in the
case treated at length in the next article to be considered. It deals with the
relations between an American journalist and a Palestinian militant charged
with impermissible violence. In this case, exile is a restrictive regime formally
established and enforced by agreement among members of the European
Union in an attempt to break into the cycle of violence between Palestinians
and Israelis by preempting the power to punish someone marked for death
by the Israelis. A striking feature of this case is that the Israelis—and then the
Americans, after evidence is uncovered of the man’s complicity in the killing
of an American—refuse to concede the status of exile, so that the exile regime
must not only constrain the Palestinian to prevent his return to the opposition
at home but also protect him against assassination by Mossad and abduction
by the CIA. This illustrates the contested character of the exile status, even
when it is in some measure formalized by a recognized process of political
justice, and its deep political core. THE STUDY OF INTELLECTUAL EXILE: A PARADIGM 5
The remaining three uses of the term involve extensions of exile beyond
the realm of politics. One is an almost trivial metaphor for the isolation that
the film director Werner Herzog seeks from his collaborators in film making,
as he fully immerses himself in the location of the film. What makes it worth
noting is that it focuses on the separation from associates that is not thematized
in the political uses examined earlier, although the conditions so designated
would more generally include this element. A similar shift in emphasis occurs
in the use of exile as an attribute of an author who is the protagonist of a
novel, where the case would appear to be one where the term in its most
common minimal political sense would apply but the point of the concept
in this case is to prepare for a characterization of the author as “misfit,” who
comes to resemble Joseph Conrad by virtue of his outsider’s exquisite mastery
of the alien English language. In both of these cases then, exile is associated
with an opening to cultural achievements not available to those who remain
inside of the context from which they are excluded—or exclude themselves.
This association between exile and transfiguration is epitomized, then, in the
final use of exile to be considered. A Greek journalist speaks rhapsodically of
the supposed universalization of the highest values that is a concomitant of
the “exile” of the Elgin marbles from their localized settings in Athens, the
opening that the condition provides to cosmopolitan humanism.
Symbolic Exile and Political Understanding
As we move from this preliminary survey of the rich complexity of
contemporary uses of exile, we begin with this final class of unpolitical
meanings because of its current vogue outside of the concrete settings of
journalistic discourse. Two seminal texts exemplify the prime disjuncture in
the contemporary cultural meaning of exile. The author of one has been
a principal advocate of one of the most poignant and bitter exiles of our
time and the author of the other is best known for his brilliant exposé of the
captivity from which he fled. They speak with authority. Edward Said’s brief
1article, “Reflections on Exile,” immediately became a classic. A comparable
2essay “On Exile” is drawn from Czeslaw Milosz’s Nobel Prize address. What
makes these two pieces especially interesting is, first, that both authors write
with an acute sense of the “terrible” pain of exile, the deep and not rarely
irreparable harms inflicted by defeat, dislocation, and disorientation. Second,
their concepts are grounded in concrete experiences of people leaving their
homelands because they must, making it clear that the borderline between
exiles and refugees is fluid. These grave features of their thinking quite
rightly put the burden of proof on those who have transformed it “so easily,”
as Said says, “into a potent, even enriching, motif of modern culture.” 6 THE LIQUIDATION OF EXILE
The commonplace figurative identification of the modernist artist (or
postmodernist or post-colonial intellectual) with “exile,” by virtue of their distance
from—their elevation above—the ensnared multitude, risks the reduction of
the claim to exile status to a self-dramatizing gesture, not unlike the Romantic
poses familiar to the nineteenth century, as mere dramatizations of the heroic
unseasonableness (Unzeitgemässheit) claimed for the poet by Schiller no less than
by Nietzsche. Said and Milosz both recognize that risk but both nevertheless
seek to explain—and conditionally to justify—an extended, symbolic sense of
exile; in Said’s words, an understanding of the condition as an “alternative to
the mass institutions that dominate social life,” an alternative that both Said
and Milosz articulate in the language of Christianity.
Said opens with a firm rejection of the idea that exile somehow serves
humanism, as some sort of school for virtue—along the lines, perhaps, of
the consolatory philosophizing conventionalized in the Roman literature of
3exile in the Imperial Age : “Is it not true that the views of exile in literature
and, moreover, in religion obscure what is truly horrendous: that exile is
irremediably secular and unbearably historical; that it is produced by human
beings for other human beings; and that, like death but without death’s ultimate
mercy, it has torn millions of people from the nourishment of tradition, family
and geography?” Said passes by with scant respect what he calls “the modest
refuge provided by subjectivity” to the literary “exiles” of Paris and New York,
and assimilates exile rather to the condition of the hopeless refugee in Cairo,
Beirut, or Mexico City. A distinctive double bind of exile in the most recent era
is nationalism, which is both bred by exile and conducive to generating new
exiles. After developing numerous brilliant insights into the tortured condition
of exile, however, Said returns to his initial question: “How is it that the
literature of exile has taken its place as a topos of human experience alongside
the literature of adventure, education, or discovery?” His answer, citing
Simone Weil and Theodor W. Adorno on the atrocious costs of alternatives to
exile, circles back to the exile as symbolic embodiment of subjectivity. Exile,
it seems, is good for us after all, just as the humanists thought, because “exiles
cross borders, break barriers of thought and experience.”
At the crux of the essay is the vision of a twelfth-century associate of the
monk, Abelard, who projects a mystic sequence, which culminates in the
perfect state where all love of place is extinguished and the entire world is
seen as a foreign land, quite in the spirit of Augustine’s City of God. Said
backs off from this outcome and proposes instead a “contrapuntal” play of
home against strangeness, a “life led outside habitual order.” “It is nomadic,”
he concludes, “decentered, contrapuntal,” and constantly subject to new
disruptions. Somewhere in all this invocation of phrases that sound sweet
to modernist poetics the hopeless refugees have gotten lost again, as has the THE STUDY OF INTELLECTUAL EXILE: A PARADIGM 7
exile with the kind of political project that occupied Said himself in his other
persona. It is the paradoxical depoliticization of exile that is troubling about
this attractive and influential reflection, which ends up devaluing the sufferings
of the defeated and excluded, whose pitiful state is initially mobilized against
humanistic glorification of the exile.
Milosz, for his part, having poignantly depicted the loss of orientation that
follows the loss of the rhythms of life at home, moves towards a characterization
of exile by recalling a Polish hymn, “Exiles of Eve, we beseech Thy help,” and
its implication that we are all ultimately homeless. He next recalls the sense
in which we are all in any case “exiled” from our childhood and earlier years,
and appears to be moving towards a vision where all are exiles. Yet he abruptly
brings the discussion back to the realities of the “condition of exile in the
geographical sense,” as he has himself suffered it, and then fluctuates between
a sober, questioning recital of some consolations that exiles offer themselves
and an invocation of Nietzsche’s exaltation of “the freedom of height, of
loneliness, of the desert.” The latter is introduced by an artistic possibility that
Milosz illustrates by references to Mark Chagall, Isaac Bashevis Singer, James
Joyce, and Igor Stravinsky but expounds by reference to Christian hermits in
the desert, with “the only remedy against the loss of orientation” being “to
create anew one’s own North, East, West and South and posit in that new
space a Witebsk or a Dublin elevated to the second power. What has been
lost is recuperated on a higher level of vividness and presence.” Yet this flight
is followed immediately by a somber review of the many names by which
“the exodus of people from their countries” has been familiarly known in our
century, calling the roster from Russian émigrés to Vietnamese “Boat People.”
The rest is anticlimax: “One thing is certain: people leave their homelands
because life there is difficult to bear.” The next, concluding paragraph is full
of awkward manifestations of pain. He asks whether we can hope for a world
without exile, and admits that this goes against all the signs. Then he cautions
people that there may be nothing better than the life that is “difficult to bear,”
but admits that people will always hope. He ends with a lame joke about the
refugee who asks the travel agent for an alternative to the lands on the globe.
It is precisely the ever more weary scanning of possibilities that makes Milosz’s
essay such an invaluable document of and about exile, a literary enactment of
its dismaying portrayal of exile.
I emphasize the Christian rather than anti-Christian allusions in both Said
and Milosz because in this matter Nietzsche is at one with the Fathers. The
exile that matters is a condition of diaspora where any sense of return other
than the ultimate, unimaginable, transcendent one is a betrayal. The condition
of exile in this sense is itself as close to transcendence as it is possible to come.
The paradigm case is the early Christian universalizing of the theme that 8 THE LIQUIDATION OF EXILE
the Talmudic Jewish teachings give a more particular and concrete doctrinal
4form. Both authors, notwithstanding their starting points in concrete political
events, end with an uneasy consolatory spiritualization of exile. As is true of
both the Christian and anti-Christian thought of Nietzsche, their standpoint
is ultimately disrespectful, if not simply hostile to the world of political action.
This may be considered a paradoxical result, since both Said and Milosz are
best known as authors of works with great political impact, Said’s Orientalism
and Milosz’s Captive Mind. Yet even these works appear as a sort of denial
of politics, inasmuch as they render impossible the modes of alliance and
joint action that constitute political practice. Said attacks the world of cultural
civility in which the exile with which he identifies finds its allies as well as its
foes, and this in a manner and with regard to matters, moreover, that are
effectively irrelevant to the inner politics of the Palestinian exile behind the
walls, which can hardly be helped to orient itself by the consideration that
Jane Austen may have been tacitly complicit in imperialism. Milosz in turn
absolutizes the breach between the exile and those who have remained behind
by choice or necessity, a dilemma for every exile, and a burden on those who
are eventually vouchsafed the chance of return.
The Classical Model of (Political) Exile
To help with an evaluation of the ultimately unpolitical construction of exile,
it is useful to look at a contrasting model, derived from the example of Cicero,
who is banished from Rome, de jure as well as de facto. Here, exile cannot be
transcended. It originates in defeat, and it can only be a scene of struggle or
an abandoned project—or, more commonly, a complex, unhappy negotiation
between these two. This is the model recalled by the most common uses of the
term in our earlier survey of current political commentary.
The story of Cicero’s exile and return, 58–57 BCE, is hardly an inspiring
one, notwithstanding Cicero’s rhetorical effort to make it appear so, and its
5subsequent incorporation as a minor moment in his Humanistic legend. It
begins in the violent political world of the First Triumvirate. The veteran
politician, Cicero, rejects Julius Caesar’s wooing and defies the triumvirs,
whereupon they connive in the election of Cicero’s most bitter political enemy
to the potent position of tribune. Clodius Pulcher uses the powers of the office
to initiate legislation to outlaw persons who have inflicted the death penalty
on citizens without legal process, as Cicero had done in his consulship, in his
boasted triumph over Catiline under self-assumed emergency powers. “Let
the wicked depart,” Cicero had proclaimed in one of his noted orations of
self-justification, epitomizing the wall and death strip sometimes erected by
Now he is himself targeted for outlawry. Cicero flees, and he is pursued
by an edict of exile and expropriation. The time of exile is documented by
his accusing letters to his friends and pleading, demanding letters to his wife,
herself a proprietress and member of a powerful family. A year later, a political
split between Pompey and Caesar creates an opening for a maneuver to restore
Cicero, and he is welcomed as a potential savior, especially in the provinces,
which he has always favored. On his return, Cicero addresses the diverse elite
constituencies in Rome in their prime institutional settings, putting forward
the claim that he was never in exile, since the processes which condemned
him were mere acts of force. His seeming compliance with the act of exclusion
he characterized as an act of statesmanship, a “magnanimous self-sacrifice,
accepted to avoid bloodshed” among the loyal citizenry, and a maneuver to
allow time for the civic mobilization that rendered his enemies powerless. In
the event, it is far too late for a republican restoration and Cicero, as well
as his political standing, are too damaged by his exile to play Brutus, not to
speak of his hopes of repairing his political project by mentoring Octavian.
His death at the hands of Marc Antony’s political thugs is politically without
point. Yet his is the paradigm case of exile-and-return in the political sense
that is the prime subject of this book and whose paradigmatic elements will
be considered below.
Socrates’ Choice
Political exile figures prominently in many core texts of the Western political
theory canon, beginning with Plato’s account of the dramatic climax around
which he orients all his political writings, the trial and subsequent execution
of Socrates. In the Apology, Socrates dismisses the choice of exile as alternative
to execution on the grounds that he would be ashamed to spend his old age
expelled from one town after another, since strangers in other cities would
never tolerate his speaking to young men, as he must do, especially if they
6know that his fellow citizens had fiercely rejected his conduct. The question
is brought to a head in the Crito, where Socrates’ friend and well-wisher
has arranged to bring him to safety among friends in another city. Many
commentators are agreed that Socrates’ argument against this scheme of
exile as amounting to a breach of a tacit contract between Socrates and
the “laws” of Athens contains many weak, conclusionary, and inconsistent
arguments, whose appearance in the text is commonly accounted for by the
dramatic necessity of having Socrates respond kindly to a generous friend
with a conventional cast of mind; but there are instructive disagreements
about the ultimate validity of Socrates’ case against exile. The most
interesting recent dispute, not accidentally resonating with issues that recur 10 THE LIQUIDATION OF EXILE
in the twentieth-century historical cases we will be examining, is between
7Steven Johnston and James Boyd White.
In keeping with his general method, White treats the Crito as an account
of performative transactions, in the course of which, according to White, the
discursive exchanges between the principals about obligations and lawfulness
are ultimately displaced by Socrates’ enactment of the binding emotional
and ethical bond between himself and his fellow citizens, which provides
justification for his actions and meaning to his life—and death. White titles his
collection of essays “Acts of Hope” and likens Socrates’ refusal to abandon his
visionary constitutional project for Athens to the eloquent refusal of Nelson
Mandela, for the sake of the South Africa for which he hoped, to flee the
8prosecution that led to his many years of imprisonment. At issue, White
maintains, is ultimately the creation of authority without which no humane
order can take form. Exile is not an acceptable option.
Johnston agrees that the discursive arguments within the dialogue cannot
by themselves sustain Socrates’ conclusions, but he challenges White’s benign
reading of the non-rational elements underlying the exchange. He argues
that Socrates’ rejection of exile, notwithstanding the continued opportunities
it would give him to investigate and to teach justice, is the product of his
patriotism. And patriotism, in Johnston’s view, is a destructive and
selfdestructive emotion that is epitomized—as Socrates’ own argument to the
jury makes clear at key points—in the death-dealing of warfare. A democratic
character, Johnston contends, requires precisely the qualities that would come
into play in an exile devoted to resistance to the injustice that rules in Athens,
a possibility that Crito had opened to Socrates. Johnston’s universalistic plea
for the choice of exile is paradoxical inasmuch as it actually implies a rapid
displacement of exile by a cosmopolitanism that renders the status otiose.
Some recent writers find quite simple formulas for resolving the conflict
between viewing exile as an evasion of responsibilities and an opening to
effective resistance made manifest by this brief discussion of the Platonic text.
Writing more than twenty years ago in an annual dedicated to exile studies of
the 1930s emigration from Germany, Theo Stammen proposed a theoretical
comprehension of the social-political phenomena that he thought generally
intended by the term, whose special pervasiveness and significance since the
beginning of the twentieth century he insisted upon, by means of a political
9theory with both explanatory and normative dimensions. He proposed a
synthesis of Albert Hirschman’s analysis of organizations in “Exit, Voice, and
Loyalty” and Juergen Habermas’ examination of discourse and authority, and
he concluded that the induced displacements central to exile are a function
of the failure of a political structure to be open to dissent, however loyal the
protesting voice, and that exile is thus a measure of both an incapacity for THE STUDY OF INTELLECTUAL EXILE: A PARADIGM 11
learning and a precursor of illegitimacy in the political system. The effective
political exclusion of dissidents is thus the core of exile and inherently a
measure of political pathology. The condition of exile, accordingly, is to be
understood first of all as a kind of witness, which may in fact be mute, whose
significance is not conditional upon the designs or achievements of the exiles.
Stammen’s approach comprehends, at least implicitly, the inspirational
aura then surrounding the paradigmatic twentieth-century exiles he has in
view, especially in Germany, as well as the attempt to characterize the event
in terms that would also apply to other political systems that generated
a comparable outflow, notably the Communist regimes, but it cannot be
said to help with many ordinary applications of the term in historical or
contemporary studies today, or to explore the many other issues about political
and cultural life exposed by reflection on the phenomenon. He presupposes as
given the existence of settled political entities whose boundaries, structures of
organization, memberships, and claims are not in dispute, as well as a body of
persons whose shared and presumably fixed character as excluded dissidents
establishes their common condition as exiles. This takes as settled most of
the questions that exile studies are in fact required to address. The political
meaning of exile cannot be comprehended by a straightforward analytical
formula; the framework of analysis must be open to diverse and changing
constellations of elements.
Elements of Ciceronian Exile
To frame the more focused studies in the chapters to follow, I shall first draw on
the Ciceronian model to identify three features common to political exiles as
I understand them and then offer an outline overview of an inclusive schema
for the study of exile, which will also help to identify the historically limited
range of situations we are considering.
The three features I want to emphasize I will sum up under the headings of
“status activus,” “political justice,” and “political émigré.” First, then, whatever
the impostures and anachronisms in Cicero’s rhetorical enactment of his
position, there is no question that his expulsion drove him away not from a
land passively enjoyed as sacred or familiar home, as in the evocations of
exile’s starting point in both Said and Milosz, but from a scene of power and
resistance in which he was an active participant, with allies and enemies, with
projects and resources. The Rome from which he was expelled is not simply
Cicero’s “native land” but above all the active political life of the republic.
Even his frantic anxiety about his private interests during exile has to do above
all with the prospects of his family, the basic unit of Roman politics. Cicero
was beaten and stigmatized. The effective exclusion from the play of power 12 THE LIQUIDATION OF EXILE
and resistance deprived him of the locus of his strongest self-presentation
and self-actualization. His counter-moves in exile were limited to attempts to
press weak levers of influence through his wife’s family and his friends’ pity.
His relations with those who remained behind were damaged irremediably,
whether or not they supported his restoration. The magnanimity emblematic
of Cicero’s political standing simply does not blend with the desperate
struggles of exile and its aftermath. Even if the political disintegration had not
been as far advanced as it was by the time of his return, it is highly doubtful
that his rhetorical recasting of the story could have made him once again
credible as the “statesman,” the role he had brilliantly invented to legitimize
his virtuosity in internal security within a political setting that normally prized
only generalship, and that had given him play for a while in the harsh contests
of Roman constitutional politics.
As is suggested by the case of Socrates, the Ciceronian model of the status
activus must be considerably expanded to comprehend all the activities that
may variously count as public in character. That case shows as well that the
boundary lines are often contested—or as subtly drawn as they are by Socrates
and his friends, who steadfastly deny that their discourses are political in the
sense of the polis and its politics. Of special and increasing importance in the
modern era beginning in the eighteenth century are the actions of intellectuals
in the realm of the public. Where philosophical, literary, artistic, and sometimes
even scientific productions are viewed from the perspective epitomized in the
twentieth century by the concept of ideology—as interventions in the discourses
of legitimacy and public policy, whatever their manifest designs—the public
engagement of intellectuals is not limited to express political advocacy or
performance. Still, the Ciceronian element of public performance remains as
the defining point of departure.
The concept of “political justice,” especially as developed by Otto
10Kirchheimer comprehends the special relationship between juristic and
(other) political elements in Ciceronian exile. There is admittedly an element
of self-contradiction in the expression, something like “military music,”
but the complex cannot be written off as a bitter ironic jest. The juristic
component, variable in its degree of relevance or authenticity, implies a mode
of legitimation that may be as real in its effects as the other power resources
that are brought into play in an act of banishment. The decision made by a
decent political regime to expel rather than to execute a tyrant is as much an act
of political justice as are the despot’s decrees disenfranchising and deporting
his political enemies. In a larger sense, the formation and reformation of
constitutional legality is itself a process of political justice, articulations of
power and resistance in the by no means empty language of legality. In the
constitution of exile, political justice may function not only in the manner of THE STUDY OF INTELLECTUAL EXILE: A PARADIGM 13
displacement but also in the process of asylum-seeking and exile existence, as
well as in the conditions of homecoming. The point is not to posit legalism
against political analysis, but to have sufficiently subtle political theory of the
juridified relations and their dynamics. Even Hobbes, who cannot be suspected
of power-blindness—especially Hobbes—pointed to the difference between
violence mediated in the form of (legal) punishment and in the form of war
11and other un-normed expressions.
Taken literally, exile is a legal status. Because the legal quality in this
case belongs to the domain of political justice, attention to this dimension
is an opening to realistic analysis, not a distraction from it. Exiles typically
make claims, either upon their hosts or upon their erstwhile fellow-citizens
(or fellow-subjects); the question of justice is almost always on the table,
however limited or utilitarian the negotiations of exile become, and questions
of justice in state formations are commonly construed as questions of law.
This does not mean, of course, that the actual status of exile from our
standpoint can be determined by legal decisions, whatever the character of
the system. The point is simply to require attention to the play of political
justice around any exile we choose to study. As is the case with all aspects
of the political, this is a play of power and resistance. A critical focus in any
study of exile, accordingly, is the changing balance between these elements
during the duration of the condition.
12I take the concept of “political émigré” from Nina Rubinstein. Rubinstein
wrote about the aristocratic émigrés of the French Revolution and, in asides,
about their Russian counterparts after 1917, although her heart was with
the Menshevik Russian exiles who formed her extended family, but whom
she loyally excluded from the category of “political émigré” on reasoning
similar to Cicero’s denial that he had in fact been in exile, conceding their
claim to be still actively—if only virtually—present in the as yet unresolved
revolutionary struggles at home. The condition of being a “political émigré”
bears all the marks of deprivation that Said and Milosz also emphasize,
but it has an additional debility, according to Rubinstein, which is the
very opposite to the distance and insight, that intellectual and spiritual
transcendence, that many other writers see as a unique possibility—if not
inevitably concomitant—of exile. Rubinstein contends that the “political
émigrés” become enclosed in a bubble of time that renders them unable to
comprehend the historical changes underway, in their land of refuge as in
their homelands. They may be brilliant and productive in many respects, but
their efforts are constrained again and again to circle back on the reification
13of their problematic exile state. The demanding counter-effort to this
individual and collective threat of self-enclosure, more pertinent to the case
under study in this book than to the case of the French aristocratic émigrés 14 THE LIQUIDATION OF EXILE
that Rubinstein studied, consists of a sustained investment in negotiations
with appropriate individuals and networks in their places of asylum, as well
as in their places of origin, especially when the question of return comes
14on the agenda. Since the generation and utilization of diverse negotiating
structures is critical to the contests about political justice as well as to this
struggle against cognitive enclosure, this dimension of exile activity looms
especially large in the studies comprising this book.
Political exile as we propose to study it, in short, is not a static condition.
One might speak rather of an exile process, while cautioning against the
expectation raised by this term of a kind of automatic sequence caused by
invariant forces. Perhaps it would be better to speak of the trajectories of
exiles in recognition of the historicity and variability of the phenomenon. In
the cases of the intellectual political exiles from Germany, which are our prime
concern, the practical conduct that precipitates exile, the recognition of exile
in relation to political justice, and the constraints shaping the exile’s projects
obviously belong to a common historical setting, but they cannot be understood
without close attention to the sources of diversity in their formation, shape,
and outcome. That is the justification for the case-study approach pursued.
A Paradigm for the Study of Political Exile
The next preliminary step is to situate the historical parameters of the exile
we are studying in relation to the wider scope of the concept and to several
related types of exile. We might speak of a paradigm for the comparative study
of political exile. Methodologically, the aim is to show first the importance
of historical, differentiated treatment of any complex exile situation, and to
provide, second, some characteristic elements of exiles, which may assist in
lending structure to a historically bounded configuration of exile.
For these purposes, we begin with constituents of the most familiar definition
to circumscribe the domain, while taking care to leave open all the constituent
terms we know to be historically variable and analytically problematic.
Political exile, then, is about the displacement and exclusion of
individuals or groups from their familiar scenes of public action
by purposive acts, their actions and circumstances elsewhere
in consequence of this condition, and their relationships to the
prospects of return.
The Starting Point of Exile
At the starting point, this presupposes a power structure capable, as in the
Greek polis, Roman republic or modern state, of bounding such a locale,