Negt on Unburdened Listening

Jacobin has published an interesting article by Miya Tokumitsu, ‘In Defense of the Lecture’. It makes a number of important points about the weekly lecture as a collective social space that helps maintain the rhythm of learning, as well as developing the capacity for actively listening. In relation to this, Oskar Negt is good on the pedagogic function of large lectures:

In this way, I could fascinate people with what I call public thinking. I have learned this from Adorno. Habermas didn’t do that as much. Habermas read from his notes in his lectures and his lectures weren’t that good. I was his assistant for eight years and I saw how people were bored in these lectures. But Adorno spoke based on his notes almost without preparation, just like following one of my favourite texts, Kleist’s “On the gradual formulation of ideas while speaking”. This has always induced students to also think by themselves and learn. I was mainly concerned to create motives for learning, rather than to only share knowledge …I have always enjoyed such lectures. In contrast, small workshops were always hard work for me; in the end I stopped doing those …Myself and others have learned much more through such lectures than by any other means. The seminars with Horkheimer and Adorno for example with about 20, 25, 30 people were really depressing and painful, because the pressure to not only look intelligent but also to say intelligent things, has put students under so much stress. In contrast unburdened listening (entlastetes Zuhören) depends on some measure of anonymity and this anonymity has something productive about it. Richard Sennett has discussed how important this balance is between distance and proximity in his books about cities. Especially in academia, it is very important that students have a chance to listen without pressure.

– Monkia Krause and Oskar Negt, 2006. ‘The Production of Counter-Publics and the Counter-Publics of Production: An Interview with Oskar Negt. Interviewed by Monika Krause’. European Journal of Social Theory 9/1: 119-128.

Pdf available here:

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