The New Heidegger

All these determinations speak in the Ge-stell. The 'System', Heidegger writes, refers to the gathering together of that set-up (Stellen) that sets up the human itself, that is, challenges it forth, to reveal the real as stockpile or standing-reserve (Bestand). Beings can be envisaged as reserve only to the extent that they have been requisitioned in advance. The militaristic vocabulary I am using and emphasizing here, and the way in which it is mixed with that of our contemporary economy, is not incidental. It is our relation co the world itself — and not just to war — that has become warlike, as the origins of cybernetics reveal. It is the contemporary organization of the system of presence that has become intrinsically violent, marked as it is by a well-oiled and executed chain of control, command, mobilization, requisition and capture of energy, resources and information. Nature now stands in reserve, awaiting to be mobilized. The boundary between war and peace, or between the economy of war and that of peace, has all but vanished. This is because we live under the all-pervasive and all-encompassing demand of technology, which sets man upon nature, and man against man.

With this somewhat detailed investigation into the meaning of the Ge-stell, we can see how the System designates the mode of revealing that unfolds in the essence of modem technology, an essence that is itself nothing technological. We have shown how technology — or rather the essence of technology — designates neither a human activity nor a mere means towards a human goal, but the systematic organization of presence and, with it, the obliteration of the moment of presencing that is intrinsic co —and decisive for— that organization. Ultimately, the System designates the way in which things stand together at the end of metaphysics, in the technological, and especially technoscientific (or cybernetic) age: as part of a vast network regulated by feedback.

As such, the System signals a supreme danger, one that reveals itself to us in two ways. As soon as what is unconcealed no longer concerns man even as object, but exclusively as standing-reserve, and man in the midst of objectlessness is nothing but the systematic organizer of the standing-reserve, then he comes to the point when he himself will have to be taken as standing-reserve, if not as disposal waste. This is the point at which he is denied his dignity. And how many monstrous examples of this commoditization beyond objectification have we had in the last 100 years, from the coalmines to the death camps, from eugenics to ethnic cleansing? At the same time, however, whilst threatened in this way, man comports himself as lord of the earth, as if the earth were there