Omnivore Democracy

Heiner Müller about the phrase: "Compliance spreads"

20 Mar 1995
Heiner Müller
Heiner Müller


In this journal, Alexander Kluge and Heiner Müller talk about the dark side and the inevitability of democracy. Heiner Müller believes that democracy has its roots in the tragedy of the Atreidae.

In regard to Bertold Brecht's Fatzer fragments, Kluge and Müller talk about learning. "To learn is mainly to comply" (Brecht) – Müller suggests that complying with developments or processes is the basis for understanding and learning, and Kluge talks about the nature of the pedagogue.

For Müller, the beginning of democracy is marked by the story of the Atreidae, which stands out because of the interference and manipulation of Athena's vote. The Goddess interferes despite not being entitled to vote, but in the end her vote is the deciding one: Athena as city gal and "prompter of reason" (Kluge). Ernst Jünger would have been suspicious of a democracy that develops this way. For Müller, the most important aspect of democracy is that its system can process any resistance. That is why utopias - alternatives to democracy - can only emerge within a democracy. Furthermore, it can basically swallow anything: "Omnivore democracy" (Kluge).

Kluge undertands the term "omnivore" as the democratic principle that digests everything. Müller thinks that the strength of democracy is also its weakness. It is not a volcanic principle, but a neptunean ("Rather water than fire").

In the following discussion, they employ different examples (Solzhenitsyn, Zhukov, Peter the Great, Tarkovsky, Eisenstein) to discuss "space-creating moments" that could be understood as Tartarian (Kluge) or Asian (Müller), and the problem of compliance, the fact that compliance keeps spreading until it stops. And only when it stops, there can be new movement again.