According to a distinction made by Isaiah Berlin, among thinkers there are hedgehogs, who know one big thing, and foxes, who pursue many ideas.
At first glance, Thomas Macho would be counted among the theory foxes.
The cultural historian, who lives and teaches in Vienna, has written about people and animals, guilt and debt, and the aesthetics of the oral cavity.
What sets him apart from the cultural-scientific fascination with everything and everyone is his pull towards the existential.
He expresses himself in publications about time, suicide or death.
Editor in the Feuilleton.
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Macho does not come from theory, but from the pleasure in the object, from which he repeatedly gains original perspectives.
He doesn't see the dissolution of a clear boundary line between humans and animals as an insult to the special human consciousness, but rather as a comforting insight that we are not quite so alone in the world.
With reference to antiquity, he interpreted suicide as heroic self-discipline that brings the modern project of self-determination to an end.
And his studies of time and chronology are about the shock of how much time had to pass before Western civilization noticed how it had colonized the whole world via timekeeping, or to put it mildly: synchronized it and how much effort it took to do so was to operate.
His musical style and his ease in mastering large subjects earned him the Sigmund Freud Prize for scientific journalism in 2019.
His charm may hide how serious he is about the matter.
In his first phase in his hometown of Vienna, dedicated to music and philosophy, he stubbornly advocated psychoanalysis, which at the time was in danger of falling under the wheels of empiricism.
He played a key role in helping Berlin's Humboldt University make its way into the Federal Republic.
As one of the main masterminds of the turn in cultural studies, which was supposed to breathe new life into the frozen humanities, he and his comrades-in-arms succeeded in re-establishing the Institute for Cultural Studies, which had already been founded in the GDR, and in continuing its GDR mission.
The institute on Sophienstrasse, where Macho taught cultural history until 2016, brought scholars from West and East together and gave birth to dazzling titles such as "The fantasy of the rocket on its flight to the moon".
It proved itself as an exile for eccentrics who felt bound by disciplinary boundaries and as a catalyst for new currents of theory.
It is thanks to Thomas Macho's extraordinary intellectual flexibility that traditions as far apart as German cultural studies and Anglo-American cultural studies could be kept together, at least for a while.
Macho has been the director of the International Research Center for Cultural Studies in Vienna since 2016.
This Saturday he celebrates his seventieth birthday.Keywords: