Thomas Macho

To Take One’s Own Life - Suicide in Modernity

(German title: Das Leben nehmen)
ca. 532 pages
Thomas Macho
Foto: Thomas Macho
© Heike Steinweg

Thomas Macho, born in 1952, was Professor for Cultural History at the Humboldt University of Berlin from 1993 to 2016. At present he is the director of the International Research Center for Cultural Studies (IFK) in Vienna.

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Brazilian Portuguese rights (WMF Martins Fontes)

To whom does my life belong?


»Suicide«, Walter Benjamin wrote in his Arcades Project, appears »as the quintessence of modernity«. And, indeed, after having been seen for centuries as a sin or the expression of psychic disturbance, in some countries even criminally sanctioned, since the 20th century there has been a profound change in how suicide is viewed and this in turn has led to the emergence of a new culture of death. More and more often one’s own death is regarded as a “project” for which he or she is responsible. Those who take their own lives no longer simply desire to do away with them, but to take hold of them and give them new meaning.

Thomas Macho tells the multifaceted history of suicide in modernity and sketches its revaluation across various cultural fields: in politics (suicide as protest and assassination), in law (the decriminalization of suicide), in medicine (euthanasia) as well as in philosophy, art, and media. He goes back to the cultural roots of suicide, reads diaries, watches films, looks at works of art, studies actual case histories, and in particular shows which resonance effects are produced among suicide’s various motifs. His diagnosis: We live in times that are increasingly interested in suicide.