In Memoriam: Jean-Luc Nancy

"As the dominant image of politics, the tradition of sovereignty has always been based on a philosophical anthropology of a life in need of, and desiring of, governance. To this essential insight, shared by many post-’68 thinkers (and anarchists before them), Nancy adds a further observation: the shipwreck of classical politics originates, he argues, in its effort to constitute a community of common experience and belonging. To found or ground community invariably means to ascribe to it a sense, aim, and standing, whether metaphysical or anthropological. (Here, even ‘anarchism’ must be careful). To constitute a community is to codify it, to give form and function to a (purportedly) common set of beings, and thereby to institute a normative regime of legitimate belonging.

Since Nancy saw no way to codify a community that avoids this archē-violence, the project of Western parliamentary politics is, in his view, fundamentally dead.

Still, we want to live together, and with one another. For many of us, this does not imply any interest in governing others, or ourselves. We wish to become, and remain, ungovernable. This basic impulse is a driving current in much contemporary theory. Moten speaks of it as a drive toward an “unconquered life.” Agamben describes it as a “destituent power” or a form-of-life. Jared Sexton evokes an “unsovereign” or “baseless" politics, a politics without foundation."

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