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A short history of coffee, and of civil society. What is it about coffee – and coffeehouses – that makes it so agreeable to the bourgeoisie? asks Jakob Norberg in a brief social history of the dark, rich brew. For Jürgen Habermas, the coffeehouse is a place where bourgeois individuals can enter into relationships with one another without the restrictions of family, civil society, or the state. It is the site of a sort of universal community, integrated neither by power nor economic interests, but by conviviality and common sense. For Carl Schmitt, coffee is a symbol of Gemütlichkeit, or the specious bourgeois desire to enjoy undisturbed security. And for Alexander Kluge, drinking coffee provides the opportunity for people to talk to each other beyond the constraints of purpose-governed exchanges, to enter into "human relationships". But who should be invited to participate in such relationships? With whom can we chat over a cup of coffee?
Jakob Norberg’s research explores conceptions of community in German thought and literature. His first book, Sociability and Its Enemies (Northwestern 2014), examines the search for non-authoritarian forms of collective life after the end of the Second World War and focuses on thinkers such as Hannah Arendt, Carl Schmitt, and Jürgen Habermas. The second book, The Brothers Grimm and the Making of German Nationalism (Cambridge 2022), shows how Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm viewed philologists as arbiters of national identity, even adjudicators of national territory, and therefore as experts indispensable to the modern nation state. A forthcoming book entitled Schopenhauer’s Politics (Cambridge) reconstructs Arthur Schopenhauer’s anti-nationalist, anti-collectivist political philosophy. His articles have appeared in venues such as PMLA, Arcadia, Cultural Critique, New German Critique, Textual Practice, Telos, and the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Thought. More information about Norberg can be found on academia.edu.
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