Paradigms, 8
Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019

Is justice only achievable by means of bureaucratization or might it first arrive with the end of bureaucracy? Bureaucratic Fanatics shows how this ever more contentious question in contemporary politics belongs to the political-theological underpinnings of bureaucratization itself.

At the end of the 18th century, a new and paradoxical kind of fanaticism emerged – rational fanaticism – that propelled the intensive biopolitical management of everyday life in Europe and North America as well as the extensive colonial exploitation of the earth and its peoples. These excesses of bureaucratization incited in turn increasingly fanatical forms of resistance. And they inspired literary production that provocatively presented the outrageous contours of rationalization. Combining political theory with readings of Kleist, Melville, Conrad, and Kafka, this genealogy of bureaucratic fanaticism relates two extreme figures: fanatical bureaucrats driven to the ends of the earth and to the limits of humanity by the rationality of the apparatuses they serve; and peculiar fanatics who passionately, albeit seemingly passively, resist the encroachments of bureaucratization.

xii + 272 pp., ISBN 978-3-11-059519-2

[De Gruyter]

Table of Contents



  1. Bureaucratic Fanaticism
  2. A New Kind of Schwärmer: Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaas
  3. Architecture of the Office: Melville’s Bartleby
  4. Abstraction of the Earth: Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
  5. Poverty of Agency: Conrad’s The Secret Agent
  6. State of Embarassment: Kafka’s In the Penal Colony
  7. Society of Security: Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

Epilogue: Guerrilla / Gardner: Coetzee’s Life & Times of Michael K.