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Flexibility starts in our heads!

In 1987, Peter Engelmann founded Passagen Verlag in Vienna, the first press in the German-speaking world  devoted to translating key texts of postmodernism and deconstruction into German. In 2012, the year of its 25th anniversary, the backlist contains more than 850 titles. With its independent cross-genre program, Passagen Verlag offers current positions on sociology, literature, art, and philosophy, striving to advance and spread reflective attitudes that promote flexibility and tolerance as much as possible.

Before founding Passagen Verlag, Peter Engelmann established Edition Passagen in 1985, featuring the translations of six groundbreaking works of French postmodernism and deconstruction, thus ushering in a new era of social and cultural discourse in the German-speaking world, meeting on the one hand strong opposition from advocates of the Frankfurt School, and on the other hand the enthusiastic approval of a readership that was open to new theoretical appoaches beyond academic and disciplinary boundaries.

The translation of books by Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, Sarah Kofman, and Jean-Luc Nancy provided the textual basis for a more objective approach to the controversies over contemporary French philosophy and, furthermore, for a broader perspective of our critical discourse. This has been Passagen Verlag's objective since its inauguration.

It is hard to imagine from today's perspective the difficulties the Passagen project faced in the mid-eighties. Critical intellectuals in Western Germany were caught in a web of occidental Marxism. French texts on différance and deconstruction, also described as postmodernism, were read by a small minority, villainized in the philosophical community as anti-progressive and irrational, and politically villainized as conservative and right-wing.

Although in the United States, the works of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida or Jean-François Lyotard had been an important part of philosophical discourse for quite some time, Western German intellectuals, who until then had been uncontested, felt their monopoly jeopardized, and mobilized all their political and cultural influence, revving up important publishers and the media against the new French philosophy. This marginalization of the new thought of différance was justified by the flimsy argument of a threatening “neo-irrationalism” and “neoconservatism.” But restricting German critical discourse to Habermas’s version of Western Marxism at the time proved more and more outdated, because it not only stripped us of many possible directions of thought, but, moreover, limited our scope of action. Ultimately, the price society pays for a narrow critical perspective is inevitably the loss of progressive potential.

Philosophically speaking, we see Marxist reductionism as part of a more general reductionism, one which constitutes the essence of modernity. Abstraction for the sake of manageability may lead to massive incentives for progress in technology. But history has shown time and again that simplification has to be amended by an alert awareness of complexity. The philosophies of différance strive to amend our culture's abstractions by being comprehensive in their understanding of complexity.

Passagen Verlag sees itself as a cultural and political entity arguing for diversity of thought and tolerance. Societies, groups or individuals centered only on themselves and lacking the ability to experience difference, sooner or later become inflexible and intolerant, losing their adaptability. Fascism, communism and nationalism, religious fanaticism and other form of self-righteous hubris in a country, a society, a group or religion confirm this assumption.

Right from the beginning, Passagen Verlag's concept was to put into practice its philosophical, cultural and political objectives by a diverse publishing program. The translation of contemporary French philosophers was our starting point and has remained an important part of our work until today. By now, our catalogue feature a wide range of subjects and cultural forms, of ways of thinking and writing to achieve our objectives.

 

 
latest releases 
Segré: Spinozas Mantel
Flüh: Flugblatt - Zeitung - Blog
Derrida: Stören!
Hutfless (ed): Hélène Cixous Das Lachen der Medusa
Derrida: Vergeben
Fleury: Die Unersetzbaren
de Lagasnerie: Michel Foucaults letzte Lektion
Günter: Wertekulturen, Fundamentalismus und Autorität
Alexandre: Können Roboter Liebe machen?
Lindl: Der Umgang mit Gewordenem