Byung-Chul Han

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This is a Korean name; the family name is Han.
Byung-Chul Han
Born Seoul, South Korea
Alma mater University of Freiburg
University of Basel
Era 20th- / 21st-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Hegelianism, deconstruction
Main interests

Byung-Chul Han, also spelled Pyŏng-ch'ŏl Han, (born 1959 in Seoul) is a South Korean author, cultural theorist, and professor at the Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK) in Berlin.

Life and work[edit]

Byung-Chul Han studied metallurgy in Korea before he moved to Germany in the 1980s to study Philosophy, German Literature and Catholic theology in Freiburg im Breisgau and Munich. He received his doctoral degree at Freiburg with a dissertation on Martin Heidegger in 1994.

In 2000, he joined the Department of Philosophy at the University of Basel, where he completed his Habilitation. In 2010 he became a faculty member at the HfG Karlsruhe, where his areas of interest were philosophy of the 18th, 19th and 20th century, ethics, social philosophy, phenomenology, cultural theory, aesthetics, religion, media theory, and intercultural philosophy. Since 2012 he teaches philosophy and cultural studies at the Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK), where he directs the newly established Studium Generale general-studies program.[1]

Han is the author of sixteen books, of which the most recent are treatises on what he terms a "society of tiredness" (Müdigkeitsgesellschaft), a "society of transparency" (Transparenzgesellschaft), and on his neologist concept of shanzai, which seeks to identify modes of deconstruction in contemporary practices of Chinese capitalism.

Han's current work focuses on transparency as a cultural norm created by neoliberal market forces, which he understands as the insatiable drive toward voluntary disclosure bordering on the pornographic. According to Han, the dictates of transparency enforce a totalitarian system of openness at the expense of other social values such as shame, secrecy, and trust.[2]

Until recently, he refused to give radio and television interviews and rarely divulges any biographical or personal details, including his date of birth, in public.[3]


In Fatigue Society (original German title: Die Müdigkeitsgesellschaft), Han characterizes today's society as a pathological landscape of neuronal disorders such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, borderline and burnout. He claims that they are not "infections" but "infarcts", which are not caused by the negativity of people's immunology, but by an excess of positivity.[4]

Agonie des Eros (Agony of the Eros) carries Byung-Chul Han's thoughts, which he developed in his earlier books Fatigue Society (German: Die Müdigkeitsgesellschaft) and Transparency Society (German: Transparenzgesellschaft), forward and directs attention to one another on the relationship of humans, on desire and love. Based on an illuminating analysis of the characters in Lars von Trier's movie Melancholia, in which Han sees depression and overcoming depicted, he develops – in his usual discursive manner – the image of a society that is increasingly dominated by narcissism and self-reference. Han's diagnosis extends even to the point that he calls the loss of desire, the disappearance of the ability to devote to "the other", the stranger, the non-self. We revolve around ourselves, cramp us in ourselves, unable to build relationships. Even love and sexuality are permeated by this social change: sex and pornography, exhibition and presentation are displacing love, eroticism and desire from the public eye. The abundance of positivity and self-reference leads to a loss of confrontation. Thinking, Han states, is based on the "untreaded", on the desire for something that one does not yet understand. It is connected to a high degree with Eros, so the "Agony of the Eros" is also an "Agony of Thought". Not everything must be understood and "liked", not everything must be made available.

In Topologie der Gewalt (Topology of Violence), Byung-Chul Han continues his alarming analysis of a society on the edge of collapse that he started with ›Müdigkeitsgesellschaft‹ (Fatigue Society). Focusing on the relation between violence and individuality, he shows, that albeit the widespread thesis about its disappearance, violence has only changed its form of appearance and operates more subtly. The martial form of violence gives way to a more anonymous, desubjectified, systemic one, that does not reveal itself, as it is merging with its antagonist – freedom. Through Sigmund Freud, Walter Benjamin, Carl Schmitt, Richard Sennett, René Girard, Giorgio Agamben, Deleuze/Guattari, Michel Foucault, Michel Serres, Pierre Bourdieu and Martin Heidegger, Han approaches his own concept of violence, that finds to work in free individuality. Driven by the only demand to persevere and not to fail, as well as by the ambition of efficiency, we become committers and sacrificers at the same time and get into a swirl of demarcation, selfexploitation and collapse. Han's lucid study of violence offers plenty unorthodox thoughts and is not afraid of critical scrutinizing common in modern society concepts of freedom, individuality and self-fulfillment, bringing to light their shady sides.


Han has written on topics such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, borderline, burnout, depression, exhaustion, internet, love, pop culture, power, rationality, religion, social media, subjectivity, tiredness, transparency and violence.


Müdigkeitsgesellschaft will soon be available in 11 languages.[5] Several Korean newspapers voted it to be the most important book in 2012.[6]

Selected Works[edit]

  • Heideggers Herz. Zum Begriff der Stimmung bei Martin Heidegger. Wilhelm Fink, Paderborn 1999.
  • Todesarten. Philosophische Untersuchungen zum Tod. Wilhelm Fink, Paderborn 1999.
  • Martin Heidegger. UTB, Stuttgart 1999.
  • Tod und Alterität. Wilhelm Fink, Paderborn 2002.
  • Philosophie des Zen-Buddhismus. Reclam, Stuttgart 2002.
  • Was ist Macht. Reclam, Stuttgart 2005.
  • Hyperkulturalität: Kultur und Globalisierung. Merve, Berlin 2005.
  • Hegel und die Macht. Ein Versuch über die Freundlichkeit. Wilhelm Fink, Paderborn 2005.
  • Gute Unterhaltung. Eine Dekonstruktion der abendländischen Passionsgeschichte. Verlag Vorwerk 8, Berlin 2007.
  • Abwesen: Zur Kultur und Philosophie des Fernen Ostens. Merve, Berlin 2007.
  • Duft der Zeit: Ein philosophischer Essay zur Kunst des Verweilens. Transkript 2009.
  • Müdigkeitsgesellschaft Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-88221-616-5.
    • Brazilian edition: in progress, Vozes.
    • Danish edition: Træthedssamfundet. Møller, 2012, ISBN 9788799404377.
    • Dutch edition: De vermoeide samenleving. van gennep, 2012, ISBN 9789461640710.
    • English edition: in progress, Stanford UP.
    • French edition: La Société de la fatigue, édition circé, 2014, ISBN 978-2842423568.[7]
    • Greek edition: in progress, Editions Opera.
    • Italian edition: La società della stanchezza. nottetempo, 2012, ISBN 978-88-7452-345-0.
    • Korean edition: 피로사회. Moonji, 2011, ISBN 9788932023960.
    • Macedonian edition: in progress, Tabahon.
    • Portuguese edition: in progress, Relógio D'Água Editores.
    • Romanian edition: in progress, Humanitas.
    • Spanish edition: La sociedad del cansancio. Barcelona, Herder Editorial, 2012, ISBN 978-84-254-2868-5.
    • Swedish edition: Trötthetssamhället. Ersatz, 2013, ISBN 978-91-87219-62-7.
    • Taiwanese edition: in progress, Locus.
    • Turkish edition: in progress, Pinar Yayinlari.
  • Shanzhai 山寨 - Dekonstruktion auf Chinesisch. Merve, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-88396-294-8.
  • Topologie der Gewalt. Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-88221-495-6.
    • Korean edition: in progress, Moonji.
    • Turkish edition: in progress, Metis.
  • Transparenzgesellschaft. Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-88221-595-3.
    • Dutch edition: De transparente samenleving. van gennep, 2012, ISBN 9789461641892.
    • English edition: in progress, Stanford UP.
    • Greek edition: in progress, Editions Opera.
    • Italien edition: La società della trasparenza, nottetempo, 2014. ISBN 9788874525058
    • Korean edition: ""투명사회"", Moonji, 2014, ISBN 9788932026114.
    • Portuguese edition: in progress, Relógio D'Água Editores.
    • Romanian edition: in progress, Humanitas.
    • Russian edition: in progress, Logos.
    • Spanish edition: La sociedad de la transparencia. Barcelona, Herder Editorial, 2013, ISBN 9788425432521.
  • Agonie des Eros. Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-88221-973-9.
    • Dutch edition: in progress, van gennep.
    • French edition: in progress, Autrement.
    • Italian edition: Eros in agonia. nottetempo, 2013, ISBN 9788874524235.
    • Korean edition: in progress, Moonji.
    • Portuguese edition: in progress, Relógio D'Água Editores.
    • Romanian edition: Agonia erosului, Humanitas, ISBN 978-973-50-4326-1, EPUB/PDF ISBN 978-973-50-4466-4.
    • Spanish edition: La agonía del Eros. Barcelona, Herder Editorial, 2014. ISBN 978-84-254-3254-5.
  • Bitte Augen schließen. Auf der Suche nach einer anderen Zeit. Matthes & Seitz Berlin 2013 ebook, ISBN 978-3-88221-064-4.
  • Digitale Rationalität und das Ende des kommunikativen Handelns. Matthes & Seitz Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-88221-066-8.
    • Italian edition: Razionalità digitale. La fine dell'agire comunicativo. GoWare edizioni, 2014, ISBN 978-88-6797-145-9
  • Im Schwarm. Ansichten des Digitalen. Matthes & Seitz Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-88221-037-8.
    • Spanish edition: En el enjambre. Barcelona, Herder Editorial, 2014, ISBN 978-84-254-3368-9.
    • French edition: in progress, Actes Sud.
    • Italian edition:Nello sciame. Visioni del digitale, nottetempo, 2015. ISBN 9788874525416
    • Swedish edition: I svärmen. Tankar om det digitala . Stockholm, Ersatz, 2014. ISBN 978-91-87219-76-4.
  • Psychopolitik: Neoliberalismus und die neuen Machttechniken (Essay Collection). S. Fischer Verlag Frankfurt 2014 ISBN 978-3100022035.


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