Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Today’s Muselmänner

A very good quote from The Burnout Society that is very representative of what the book is about (if not of the low quality of the translation overall):

In this society of compulsion, everyone carries a work camp inside. This labor camp is defined by the fact that one is simultaneously prisoner and guard, victim and perpetrator. One exploits oneself. It means that exploitation is possible even without domination. People who suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, or burnout syndrome develop the symptoms displayed by the Muselmänner in concentration camps. Muselmänner are emaciated prisoners lacking all vigor who, like people with acute depression, have become entirely apathetic and can no longer even recognize physical cold or the orders given by guards. One cannot help but suspect that the late-modern animal laborans with neuronal disturbances would have been a Muselmann, too—albeit well fed and probably obese.

As I said before, none of this is particularly new. These ideas have been worked and reworked by many people for over two decades. But it’s all about finding convincing and pithy ways of delivering the ideas, and The Burnout Society definitely does that. I’ve seen people who don’t even tangentially belong to the academia quote this book on Facebook, and that’s a very good sign because it means the book is getting read by people who are not conducting research.


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4 thoughts on “Today’s Muselmänner

  1. In this case the translator was probably afraid of a literal translation and referring to them as Muslims*. As it turns out concentration camp jargon wasn’t very politically correct (which makes examining it very problematic of course).

    If anyone doesn’t understand the reference:


    • This is a great link, thank you! As I said, the translator is really bad, and this is a term that has a long intellectual history and is crucial for the understanding of the work of both Agamben and Han.


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