National socialism and the politics of calculation

Stuart Elden

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19 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the way in which mathematics and politics intertwined in National Socialist Germany, particularly in relation to the period between 1933 and 1939. As Heidegger's critical writings on the regime showed, one of the particular issues was the way in which what he calls machination and later technology depended upon a particular notion of metaphysics, a particular casting of being, that is, to be is to be calculable. Nazism seeks control of the earth in a way that both makes possible and exceeds its quest for world domination. Following a discussion of the notion of Gleichschaltung-synchronization or political co-ordination-and its ontological underpinnings, the reading moves to two key examples: the calculation of race in the Nuremburg laws; and the calculation of space in geopolitics. These come together in the racialized notion of Lebensraum. Although this paper takes its point of departure from Heidegger, it focuses on the historical period at hand in order to illuminate both a particular instance of the politics of calculation, and a calculative understanding of the political.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)753-769
Number of pages17
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Calculation
  • Gleichschaltung
  • Heidegger
  • National Socialism
  • Ontology
  • Politics

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