While Bertolt Brecht in his learning plays explored the antinomies of revolutionary autonomy, Heiner Müller responded by experimenting in his learning plays with the revolt against autonomy, specifically, the betrayal of the revolution. The tragic structure of Brecht’s The Measures Taken is based on a tension between two incompatible kinds of duty, moral integrity and political strategy. Müller’s The Mission is based on an anterior tragic tension, the “antinomy of duty and inclination.” This play contrasts two basic kinds of freedom, binding and arbitrary.
Binding freedom operates, as Kant’s autonomy, under normative law – for example, the law of the revolution.
Arbitrary freedom is not operating under rational self-legislating and may choose among different inclinations.
The tragic paradox of autonomy is that the self-prescribed law of autonomy is binding only due to a former non- self-prescribed law. If autonomy, as self-subjugation, is paradoxical, then, instead of trying to reconcile freedom and law, why not ignore the latter altogether and revert to the arbitrary, lawless freedom of the unbound subject? Thus, arbitrary freedom, which rebels against normative autonomy and the universal law of world revolution, can dissolve the fundamental law of the originary lawless act.
20 February 2020