Archive for April, 2014

Alain Badiou “”We Need a Popular Discipline”: Politics and the Crisis of the Negative”

April 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Badiou, Alain 2008. “We Need a Popular Discipline”: Contemporary Politics and the Crisis of the Negative. Critical Inquiry, 34(4): 645-659.

Philosophy has as its condition and horizon the concrete situation of different political practices, and it will try, within these conditions, to find instruments of clarification, legitimation, and so on. This current takes seriously the idea that politics is itself an autonomy of thought, that it is a collective practice with an intelligence all its own. (646)
I think it is necessary to distinguish Marxism from communism. I don’t think it is absolutely necessary to keep the wordcommunism.But I like this word a lot. I like it because it designates the general idea of a society and of a world in which the principle of equality is dominant, a world no longer structured by classical social relations—those of wealth, the division of labor, segregation, persecution by the state, sexual difference, and so on. That is, for me, what communism is. Communism in the generic sense simply means that everyone is equal to everyone else within the multiplicity and diversity of social functions. (648)
Both the insurrectional form of the party and today’s electoral form are articulations by state power. In both cases, the party is subordinated to the question of power and the state. I think we have to break with this subordination and, ultimately, engage political organization (whatever form it may take) in political processes that are independent of—“subtracted” from—the power of the state. Unlike the insurrectional form of the party, this politics of subtraction is no longer immediately destructive, antagonistic, or militarized. (650)
The problem for emancipatory politics today, however, is to invent a nonmilitary model of discipline. We need a popular discipline. I would even say, as I have many times, that “those who have nothing have only their discipline.” The poor, those with no financial or military means, those with no power—all they have is their discipline, their capacity to act together. This discipline is already a form of organization. The question is whether all discipline can be reduced to a military model, the model that dominated the first part of the twentieth century. How can we find, invent, exercise, or experiment with—today, after all, is an age of experimentation—a nonmilitary discipline? (650)
“At a distance from the state” signifies that a politics is not structured or polarized along the agenda and timelines fixed by the state. Those dates, for example, when the state decides to call an election, or to intervene in some conflict, declare war on another state. Or when the state claims that an economic crisis makes this or that course of action impossible. (650)
Distance from the state therefore means that the political process and its decisions should be undertaken in full independence from the state and what it deems important, what it decides to impose as the framework of the political. I understandstate here in the large sense, including the government, the media, and even those who make economic decisions. When you allow the political process to be dominated by the state, you’ve already lost the game because you’ve abdicated in advance your own political independence. (651)
On the political side, every revolutionary or emancipatory politics will have to be a certain adjustment or calibration between the properly negative part of negation and the part I call subtractive. A subtraction that is no longer dependent on the dominant laws of the political reality of a situation. It is irreducible, however, to the destruction of these laws as well. A subtraction might well leave the laws of the situation intact. What subtraction does is bring about a point of autonomy. It’s a negation, but it cannot be identified with the properly destructive part of negation. (652-653)
Our problem today is that the destructive part of negation is no longer, in and of itself, capable of producing the new. We need an originary subtraction capable of creating a new space of independence and autonomy from the dominant laws of the situation. A subtraction, therefore, is neither derived from nor a consequence of destruction as such. If we are to propose a new articulation between destruction and subtraction, we have to develop a new type of negation or critique, one that differs from the dialectical model of class struggle in its historical signification. (653)
It is necessary, then, to have a new articulation of the destructive and subtractive parts of negation so that destruction or violence appears in the form of a protective force, capable of defending something created through a movement of subtraction. (654)
The United States, for example, this nation of immigrants, is today constructing a wall and reinforcing its border security system against immigration, an action largely agreed upon by the Democrats—not necessarily concerning the wall but the need for a substantial increase in the border patrol. In France, this rhetoric has poisoned political life for some time now. It feeds the extreme Right, but, ultimately, the Left always aligns itself with this rhetoric. It’s a very interesting phenomenon because it shows that these destructured masses, poor and deprived of everything, situated in a nonproletarianized urban environment, constitute one of the principal horizons of the politics to come. These masses, therefore, are an important factor in the phenomenon of globalization. The true globalization, today, would be found in the organization of these masses—on a worldwide scale, if possible—whose conditions of existence are essentially the same. Whoever lives in the banlieues of Bamako or Shanghai is not essentially different from someone who lives in thebanlieuesof Paris or the ghettos of Chicago. They might be poorer and in worse conditions, but they are not essentially different. Their political existence is characterized by a distance from the state—from the state and its clients, the dominant classes but also the middle classes, all of whom strive to maintain this distance. On this political problem, I have only fragmentary ideas. It’s a question that is as difficult as the problem of organizing workers in the nineteenth century. I am convinced it is the fundamental problem today. (657)
To return to Spinoza, the situation is no doubt one in which the masses have sunken into what he calls sadness, in which the negative aspect prevails. The political, instead, is always a trajectory toward someone different. And it is an essential condition. In both directions at once. After May ’68, I myself set out to engage workers in an exchange that required both of us to assume this type of trajectory toward someone else. This is missing with the youths of the banlieues, shut up in a collective isolation. (658-659)


Elizabeth Balskus “Examining Potentiality in the Philosophy of Giorgio Agamben”

April 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Balskus, Elizabeth 2010. Examining Potentiality in the Philosophy of Giorgio Agamben. Macalester Journal of Philosophy, 19(1): 158-180.

Both Aristotle and Agamben maintain that anything potential is capable of not existing in actuality, and that “what is potential can both be and not be, for the same is potential both to be and not to be”. (160)
Aristotle states that nous, or the intellect, “has no other nature than that of being potential, and before thinking it is absolutely nothing”. This statement leads Agamben to establish the intellect as the perfect example of pure potentiality, a potentiality “which in itself is nothing, [but] allows for the act of intelligence to take place”. (162)
When viewed as the ability to know or reflect, pure potentiality of the intellect becomes extremely important. This potentiality can exist apart from the actualization of any thought of a particular object because it is, in fact, this potentiality itself that allows for an object to even be thought. Therefore, the potentiality of the intellectnot only allows for thought to maintain a supreme position ontologically, it is also the foundation of thought in general. (163)
“Inoperativeness… represents something not exhausted but inexhaustible—because it does not pass from the possible to the actual”. The reason that Bartleby is so disturbing to his employer (who is the narrator of the short story) is that, in removing himself from the constraints of reason and, indeed, the constraints of society as a whole, he is the paradigm of the inoperative, of “the other side of potentiality: the possibility that a thing might not come to pass”. And because Bartleby never offers a reason for his refusal to work and never actually denies the requests made of him, the authorities at hand are completely bewildered as to how to deal with the scrivener. (167 – quotes „Agamben: Critical Introduction”)
Through his phrase “I would prefer not to,” Bartleby challenges the principle of sufficient reason. If the laws of reason do not apply, then there is no legitimate justification for why this world exists and the infinite number of potential worlds were never actualized. This is why Agamben refers to Bartleby as a messiah who has arrived to “save what was not”. Because the laws of reason do not apply to him, Bartleby asserts the right of those possibilities that have never and will never exist to be actualized. (172)
In decreation, contingency is returned to all events, causing us to rememberthat, along with the few potentialities that are actualized, there are an infinite number of potentialities that will never be and, yet, will continue to shape and influence our lives. (174)
The sacred realm of capitalism is, according to Agamben, consumption, and capitalism in its most pure, extreme form is concerned with making experience unusable or unprofanable by separating our actions from ourselves and presenting them back to us as a spectacle, to be observed and not used. A good example of this attempt to alienate ourselves from ourselves is pornography: the human form is appropriated, filmed, and then presented to us as something that can be watched but never experienced. Agamben calls this phenomenon “museification.” “Everything today can become a Museum, because this term simply designates the exhibition of an impossibility of using, of dwelling, of experiencing”. (175)

Elizabeth Grosz “The Nick of Time”

April 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Grosz, Elizabeth 2004. The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution and the Untimely. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

Introduction: The Untimely
In recognizing the surprising, unpredictable, and mobile force of time on the emergence and development of the multitude of forms of life, Darwin brings the concept of the eventto the sciences. (8)
Darwin introduces indeterminacy into the Newtonian universe, a closed system in which matter is governed by a relatively small number of invariable, predictive laws (Newton 1999). […] life can be life only because the universe, at least as far as the living are concerned, is where it is never fully at home, where it can never remain stable, where it must undergo change both in itself, at the level of individuals, as well as over generations, at the level of species or populations. (9)

1. Darwinian Matters: Life, Force, and Change
Darwin introduced a new understanding of what science must be to be adequate to the reality of life itself, which has no real units, no agreed upon boundaries or clear-cut objects, and to the reality of time and change that it entails. This di√erentiated his understanding of natural selection from that of his contemporaries and predecessors: such a science could not take the ready-made or pregiven unity of individuals or classes for granted but had to understand how any provisional unity and cohesion derives from the oscillations and vacillations of difference. The origin can be nothing but a difference! (21)
Origin is a consequence of human, or rather, scientific taxonomy, a function of language. Origin is a nominal question. What constitutes an origin depends on what we calla species, where we (arbitrarily or with particular purposes in mind) decide to draw the line between one group and another that resembles it, preexists it, or abides in close proximity with it. What we call a species depends on certain affnities and resemblances, as well as on differences and incompatibilities between different groups. A species is an arbitrarily chosen set of similarities that render other differences either marginal or insignificant. Species are a measure, an incalculable, nonnumerical measure, of significant differences. (23)
[…] once the economy is considered a system, it comes to resemble in certain respects the very notion of system provided by life itself. The very model for systematicity may be provided by the organism. (37)
These systems are not human products but are inhuman: systems functioning beyond or above the control of their participants, systems that, as much as biological processes, form and produce their subjects. (39)

2. Biological Difference
Darwin construed species as a post hoc aggregation of individuals, what required explanation was no longer the possibility of individual variation but the converse, the longterm, relative stability of the characteristics attributable to species which nonetheless included widely varying individuals. The question is converted from How can individuals vary so widely? to How can species maintain their identity and cohesion over time? (42)
Darwin places pure difference, pure biological difference, as the very matter of life itself: it is only differentiating, distinguishing, rendering more and more distinct, specializing and adapting that characterize life in its essence. Its essence is in differentiation, in making a
difference. (46)
Natural selection functions only at the level of phenotype. […] ‘‘Selection does not deal with single genes because its target is the phenotype of the entire individual. To assume that a given gene has a fixed selective value is an error because the contribution a gene makes to the fitness of an individual depends to a considerable extent on the composition of the genotype, that is, of the interaction of this gene with other genes’’ (Mayr 1997, 13). (48)
Natural selection, while it operates as an ordered and ordering network of processes, is in fact made up of nothing but thousands, millions of accidents, momentary events, that lead to the death of some, not because they were less well adapted but because they were, say, in the wrong place at the wrong time. (49)
Natural selection works, not on the causes of individual variation, as Lamarck suggested, but on their e√ects. It cannot begin its relentless weeding out processes until individual variations manifest themselves phenotypically. There is a time lag, a delay, nick, or dislocation between variation and selection. Variation is the consequence of the still unknown relations of inheritance of genetic material from the parental generation; selection occurs with the descendants’ struggle for existence. (50)
Dennett is, I believe, fundamentally correct about the essential mindlessness and directionlessness of the processes of both individual variation and natural selection, but it is not at all clear that his reduction of this mindlessness to a calculable set of abstract procedures, like Smith’s rational free market, is without drastic cost. Dennett suggests that any process, or even any product, canbe explained by algorithmic procedures, and that common sense or reason will dictate what will be the interesting results of such a reduction and distinguish them from the less significant results. But this implies that the algorithmic reduction occurs without cost, without residue, through a certain self-evidence about its relevance and value. As I discuss in further detail in chapter 8, the reduction of a continuity to step-by-step halts necessarily elides the dimension of duration, which is also a reduction of the active power Darwin attributes to the dynamic, forward movement of time. (54)
Rather than vaunt reason as a set of abstract, logical principles available to man alone, Darwin is perfectly prepared to suggest that there are elements or degrees of reason in much of animal behavior, from learning to problem solving, from the use of tools to the capacity to communicate. (59)
The line we draw to divide language from sounds, and life from matter, is relatively arbitrary. (60)
But Darwin’s strategy is the same here as elsewhere: whatever characteristic we may regard as a defining one, a unique quality or attribute, he suggests, may be found in a less developed form elsewhere in the animal kingdom. His strategy is always to transform a di√erence in kind into a difference of degree. (61)
And just as the human is an elaboration, a becoming-other of animal impulses to social and moral behavior, so too the human is in the process of becoming other-than-human, of overcoming itself. (63)

3. Evolution of Sex and Race
Sexual difference is irreducible difference, yet it is not a measurable, definable difference between given entities with their own characteristics but an incalculable difference that reveals itself only through its temporal elaborations. It is that di√erence which, in the future, will have been expressed, will have articulated itself, but which, in the present, has only represented itself from the point of view of one sex. (67)
Rather, what remains crucial and relatively unrecognized by feminists and others in his writings is the reconfiguration of culture in light of the fundamental openness he attributes to the natural world. Culture—whether patriarchal, class-based, or racist—is no longer the extension and completion of nature, the coloring in of the contours provided by nature. Nature is open to any kind of culture, to any kind of ‘‘artificiality,’’ for culture itself does not find pregiven biological resources, but makes them for its own needs, as does nature itself. Culture produces the nature it needs to justify itself, but nature is also that which resists by operating according to its own logic or procedures. A reconfiguration of nature as dynamic, of matter as
culturally productive, of time as a force of proliferation, is thus central to the ways feminism itself may be able to move beyond the politics of equalization to more actively embrace a politics affirmative of di√erence elaborated in the most dynamic forms of feminist theory today. (72)
In Origin, success is primarily understood as the capacity to continue living, to survive; in Descent, however, the criterion seems to shift to the amount or quantity of offspring (incidentally, the criterion of success fixated on by sociobiology—a criterion that, by definition, gives a natural evolutionary advantage a priori to males insofar as males are capable of generating many more offspring than females, though not necessarily in ensuring their ongoing survival). (73)
Sexual selection adds more aesthetic and immediately or directly individually motivating factors to the operations of natural selection; it deviates natural selection through the expression of the will, or desire, or pleasure of individuals. (75)
There may be a conflict of interest in some species between what is of survival benefit for the organism and what is of benefit to the genes that help construct that organism. As Samuel Butler (1887) asks, is the chicken the egg’s way of producing another egg? Or, in the more contemporary language of E. O. Wilson (1980, 3), is the organism dna’s way of making more dna? (82)
Individual differences, at least on a first draft reading of the genome, are more significant than racial or cultural differences. Racial differences are, in other words, entirely transformable, entirely open to historical and social transformations, though they must always be mediated by sexual relations. (85)
It is ironic that a system as impersonal and as algorithmic as natural selection, at least if Dennett’s reading is correct, must deviate itself through sexual selection, in which minute variations of individual taste may have significant e√ects on subsequent generations. (87)
He claims that the di√erences between different human races is a later evolutionary occurrence than the emergence of recognizably human progenitors; in other words, racial di√erences are modifications or variations of a newly emergent human form, not steps in the progressive development from the primate to the civilized European, as much of nineteenth-century British colonial culture assumed. (88)
Darwin provided a model of time and development that refuses any pregiven aim, goal, or destination for natural selection. This already serves to di√erentiate him from virtually all of his followers. He refuses anything like the telos or directionality of the dialectic, or a commitment to progressivism in which we must always regard what presently exists as superior to or more developed than its predecessors. We cannot assume that the goal of natural selection is the survival of the individual or the species, nor can we assume that the goal of evolution is the proliferation of progeny. Darwin makes it clear that many species support and indeed require nonreproductive members; it is thus not clear that any pregiven aim or goal can function as the purpose or goal of evolution. (90)
This logic of self-overcoming, which is the motor of Darwinian evolution, must be recognized not only as a distribution of (geographical and geological) spacing, but above all as a form of temporization, in which the pull of the future exerts a primary force. Beings are impelled forward to a future that is unknowable, relatively uncontained by the past. (90)
The future emerges from the interplay of a repetition of cultural/biological factors and the emergence of new conditions of existence: it must be connected, genealogically related, to what currently exists, but is capable of a wide range of possible variation or development of current existence. The new is the generation of a kind of productive monstrosity. (91)
Evolution is neither free and unconstrained nor determined and predictable in advance. It is neither commensurate with the temporality of physics and the mathematical sciences, nor is it unlimited in potential and completely open in direction. Rather, it implies a notion of overdetermination, indetermination, and a systemic openness that precludes precise determination. (92)

4. Nietzsche’s Darwin
Will to Power #130: ‘‘Spiritual enlightenment is an infallible means for making men unsure, weaker in will, so they are more in need of company and support—in short, for developing the herd animalin man . . . The self-deception of the mass concerning this point, e.g., in every democracy, is extremely valuable: making men smaller and more governable is desired as ‘progress’!’’ (101)
Nietzsche claims that Darwinism elevates the struggle for mere existence, for need or survival above the struggle for something more noble, which is the struggle that exhibits and strengthens the will to power. (102)
If survival is the goal, life fails in every case! (103)
Life is not about mere survival, but about profusion and proliferation, not existence but excess, not being but being-more, that is, becoming, but a becoming-what that cannot be determined in advance, that is always itself in the process of becoming-something-else. (104)
Will to Power #649-650: „‘‘Useful’’ in the sense of Darwinist biology means: proved advantageous in the struggle with others. But it seems to me that the feeling of increase, the feeling of becoming stronger, is itself, quite apart from any usefulness in the struggle, the real progressus; only from this feeling does there arise the will to struggle—. Physiologists should think again before positing the ‘‘instinct of preservation’’ as the cardinal drive in an organic creature. A living thing wants above all to discharge its force: ‘‘preservation’’ is only a consequence of this.—Beware of superfluous teleological principles! The entire concept ‘‘instinct of preservation’’ is one of them.” (105)
The instinct of preservation, the production of the useful, what facilitates survival, is always about an acceptance of the circumstances, the situation in which one finds oneself. (105)
Survival, fitness, adaptation are not forms of accommodation, forms of compliance with one’s surroundings and one’s fellow beings, but modes of striving, dominating, commanding, ordering and obeying, succumbing and submitting. (109)
The will to power is sub- or inhuman, prepersonal and impersonal rather than an attribute of a subject, a group, a people, or a race. The will wills the obedience of other wills. Such a will is active and commands, and those wills that obey, that adapt, are reactive. (111)

5. History and the Untimely
His proposal for the cultivation of history for the purposes of life involves a paradox: for the condition of action, of life, of force involves, above all, forgetfulness, a letting go of memory, the immersion in the immediacy of the present and its nascent possibilities for the future. This is the condition of the animal, and indeed, of the human. Action requires the fullness of the present; it requires forgetting, the capacity to be reborn at each moment without the encumbrance of the past. (116)
What history gives us is the possibility of being untimely, of placing ourselves outside the constraints, the limitations and blinkers of the present. (117)
The past is: 1. The necessary condition for the present. 2. That through which the present has the resources to transform itself. 3. That which must be moved beyond and, if necessary, forgotten. (125)
The will to power is a (nonpsychical, impersonal) will or impetus to more, to the increase of power, to the enhancement, not of a self or its ability to survive, but of its own forces, its own activities. This will is not what we understand as willpower, the self-consciously directed orientation to an attainable goal or object. Willing is always plural, multiple: there is never a single will to power, a single force. (126)
The will to power is not a desire for power. (127)
The will to power is not the same as anonymous force. Forces themselves, disorganized, often random, make up the world. The world is nothing but the alignment of various material forces. The will to power cannot be separated from these determinate forces, which can be defined by their quantities, qualities, and directions. It inheres in particular alignments of force without being identical to these alignments. (128)
In a sense, this is Nietzsche’s untimely response to Dawkins: the gene certainly is selfish, self-directed, but so equally are the cell, the organ, the organism, the variety, the species, and even the environment; each has its own interests, and no one of these interests has an a priori privilege over any other. The gene is no more selfish than any other element constituting life! (129)
Instead of conceptualizing the subject as an agent of causal effects or a victim of another’s agency, that is, as an intentionality, a will, a set of desires, especially as a ‘‘radical will’’ that acts and produces events, e√ects, that can be seen to conflict with the forces of social regulation, that is, instead of seeing politics as the more or less violent negotiation between individuals, groups, and institutions—individual and collective agents—Nietzsche may help provide a way of understanding politics, subjectivity, and the social as the consequence of the play of the multiplicity of impersonal active forces that have no agency, or are all that agency consists in. Which is to say, force needs to be understood in its full subhuman and superhuman resonances: as the inhumanthat makes the human possible and at the same time positions the human in a world where force works in spite of and around the human, within and as the human. Politics may be understood as the attempt of the human to contain and direct an inhuman according to some prevailing interest—but the inhuman retains its force even as the human attempts to make it over into a human extension, an appliance or tool. The inhuman, forces functioning in their own interest, adds unseen or uncontrolled forces and effects, its own ‘‘interpretations’’ to the very (human) forces that attempt their control. (129-130)
The biological world emerges out of the interplay of the forces of the material world, the playing out of its various wills to power. It is, in Nietzsche’s understanding, a pre-form of life. The biological can be seen as a complexification of the forces of the material world, not different in kind, not directed to any transcendence, but of this one and only material world, a world that has its own di√erentiations. (131)
Will to Power #70: „The very same milieus can be interpreted and exploited in opposite ways: there are no facts.” (132)

6. The Eternal Return and the Overman
Probability is always, in fact, in the long run, necessity: what is probable—as well as what is improbable—will, given an infinity of time, happen, and happen again. These are not two accounts Nietzsche has cobbled together, one of probabilistic determinism, and the other of exact repetition; rather, there is a single account of the infinity of time and the finitude of matter, force, quantity, or energy, a single theory of a machinery of di√erence (the dice throw, the plethora of material forces) cast within the active dynamism of time, a single time in which matter and its events repeat and play out every combination, rather than a single script
that matter infinitely replays. (140)
Necessity does not obliterate chance but affirms it, for necessity is not the opposiste of chance, but its difference. (141)
Eternity is not stillness, the unchanging, the immutable, but endlessly varying difference, difference that ends up exploring every element of phase space, every possible combination, probable and improbable. Time’s infinity can never be reduced to the movements of matter, for time explains matter’s endless capacity to become-other. (143)
Will to Power #1064: ‘‘ ‘Timelessness’ to be rejected. At any precise moment of a force, the absolute conditionality of a new distribution of all its forces is given; it cannot stand still. ‘Change’ belongs to the essence, therefore also temporality: with this, however, the necessity of change has only been posited once more conceptually’’ (145)
The overman is not the fittest man, exponentially developed out of man as we know him today, but the development of what is highest, noblest, strongest in man that can maximize itself only by a becoming beyond man. This overman is an evolutionary product, rising higher, as man does relative to the worm, to some indeterminate evolutionary height from which he can look back, amused, at that from which he came. (148)
Time remains unidirectional, always forward, taking with it the past as it makes the future, and this will be so to eternity. It is not time itself that loops around, but the forms and configurations of matter that transform themselves, that are capable of repetition, and inevitably must, in the long run, repeat themselves as time’s relentlessness pushes forward, flows into the future. (150)
Ecce Homo #10: ‘‘My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary—but love it’’ (151)
As David Wood (2001) has recognized, Nietzsche has proposed a profound rupturing of time as presence, of time grounded in the privilege of the now by articulating the e√ects of time as repeatable, as a form of seriality. But Nietzsche’s contribution is stronger than this: not only does he fracture everyday conceptions of time and the primacy of a lived present, but he a≈rms above all the independent force of time, time’s precedence over matter, time’s force in shaping matter, not only inorganic matter, but the very matter that makes life, and thus the human, possible and capable of overcoming, becoming. (152)

7. Bergsonian Difference
In this sense, Nietzsche is Bergsonian perhaps more than Bergson is Nietzschean: insofar as the future functions as a mode of unpredictable continuity with the past, the future springs from a past not through inevitability but through elaboration and invention. If Nietzsche is in this sense Bergsonian, though, it is significant that Bergson is notNietzschean: his metaphysics does not contain in itself an ethical and evaluative project but returns to the ontological roots of the Darwinian schema. Or rather, it is an ethical project but not an interrogation of the value of value. In this sense, his interests in Darwin and Darwin’s implications for understanding philosophy are probably closer to the cosmological Nietzsche than they are to Nietzsche’s morality. (157)
Qualitative differences are thus incomparable, unique, lacking self-identity, for they differ not only from quantitative di√erences and from any stable system of measurement but also from themselves. Qualitative di√erences are internal di√erences which ensure that, if duration is real, no term can remain what it is but differs from itself as time progresses. (160)
These two kinds of di√erences in Bergson, the di√erence between that which remains the same, which does not di√er from itself (i.e., matter), and that which does di√er from itself (life, duration) can be more directly and straightforwardly elaborated as the distinction or opposition between objects or things locatable in space, which are capable of measurement, regulation, and repetition; and sensations and a√ects, which always vary or transform themselves over time, through duration and its movements of continual elaboration. (161)
He defines matter, not in terms of substance or extension, as it has been generally understood in the Cartesian tradition, but in terms of images: matter is the ongoing production or profusion of images. The structure of matter is imagistic, which is not to claim that it is reduced to the imagistic perception of a subject (i.e., idealism) or that the image is necessarily or in any privileged manner visual. (163)
Matter and Memory, 9-10: ‘‘Matter, in our view, is an aggregate of ‘images.’ And by ‘image’ we mean a certain existence which is more than that which the idealist calls a representation, but less than that which the realist calls a thing—an existence placed half-way between the ‘thing’ and the ‘representation’ . . . the object exists in itself, and, on the other hand, the object is, in itself, pictorial, as we perceive it: the image it is, but a self-existing image’’ (164)
The di√erence between matter and perception is not simply the di√erence between an object and a subject but a di√erence in the potentiality or mobility of images. The subject is a peculiar sort of object, linked through the body’s central organizing position, to frame and make use of the rest of matter. ‘‘Like a compass’’ (mm23), my body is a moving, dynamic object among all the others that make up the world, which continually changes the position of objects according to the relativity of my movements. What di√erentiates my body from other objects is, in the first instance, the way the image that is my body has a peculiarly privileged relation to action. My body is distinguished from other objects not because it is the privileged location of my consciousness but because it performs major changes in other objects relative to itself, because it is the central organizing site through which other images/objects are ordered. (166)
The brain intercedes to reroute perceptual inputs and motor outputs. It links, or disconnects, movements of one kind (sensory or perceptual) with movements of another (motor). The brain functions, in Bergson’s conception, not to produce images or to reflect on them, but to put images directed from elsewhere, from the world, into the context of bodily action. (168)
If habit-memory repeats the past in the present, memory proper recalls it, represents it, just as perception represents the material image. […] If habit-memory is future-oriented, memory proper is always and only directed to the past. Where habit-memory interposes a body schema between sensation and action, memory proper is directed toward an idea. (170)
The present is that synthesis of all the undivided elements that constitute its continuity. The present must be understood as elastic, capable of expanding itself to include what from the past and immediate future it requires to remain in continuity with itself, to complete its present action. It has no measurable length, for it takes as long as it takes to perform a continuous action; the present may be nearly instantaneous for a quick action (the blink of an eye), or it may stretch itself to include minutes, hours, days, and even longer. When, for example, we talk of geological or evolutionary duration, we may define the present in terms of centuries or even millennia. (177)
We spatialize time. We are unable to understand how the past coexists with the present, the ways that time is rendered paradoxical. Space represents relations of contiguity and coexistence, which include relations of containment. In duration, by contrast, relations of succession function to frame relations of simultaneity, and no ‘‘object’’ can be isolated
from another or function to include or contain another. (182)
To briefly summarize our understanding of Bergson’s account thus far:
1. Duration must always be regarded as a continuity, a singular whole. When duration is divided, which fundamentally transforms its nature, it can be regarded as time, the scientific, measurable counterpart of space; but in itself, and not subordinated to the exigencies of practical and scientific action, it is indivisible, continuous, inscribed by movement, always a whole.
2. Duration is both singular and a multiplicity. Each duration, each movement, each act forms a continuity, a single, indivisible whole; and yet, there are many simultaneous durations, as many perhaps as there are actions, which implies that all durations participate in or can be linked through a generalized or cosmological duration, which allows them to be described as simultaneous. Duration is the very condition of (the spatial characteristic of) simultaneity, as well as succession. An event occurs only once: it has its own characteristics, which will never occur again, even in repetition. But it occurs alongside, simultaneous with, many other events, whose rhythms are also specific and unique. Duration is thus the milieu of qualitative di√erence, and each di√erence it proliferates is di√erent in kind, unique in itself.
3. The division of duration—which occurs whenever time is conceptualized as a line, counted, divided into before and after, made the object of the numerical, rendering its analogue continuity into digital or discrete units—transforms its nature, that is to say, reduces it to modes of spatiality. If, as Bergson suggests, space is the field of quantitative di√erences, of di√erences of degree, then the counting of time, its linear representation, reduces and extinguishes its di√erences of kind to replace them with di√erences of degree (the source of many philosophical illusions and paradoxes, most notably Zeno’s paradoxes).
4. One of the most significant di√erences of kind within duration (which is commonly misunderstood as a di√erence of degree) is the distinction between past and present. The past and the present are not two modalities of the present, the past a receded or former present, a present that has moved out of the limelight. Rather, the past and the present fundamentally coexist; they function in simultaneity. Bergson suggests that the whole of the past is contained, in contracted form, in each moment of the present. The past lives in time.The past could never exist if it did not coexist with the present of which it is the past, and thus of every present. The past would be inaccessible to us altogether if we could gain access to it only through the present and its passing. The only access we have to the past is through a leap, through a move into the past itself, given that, for Bergson, the past is outside us and that we are in it. The past exists, but it is in a state of latency or virtuality.
5. If the present is the actuality whose existence is engendered by the virtual past, then the future remains that dimension or modality of time that has no actuality either. The future, too, remains virtual, uncontained by the present but prefigured, rendered potential, through and by the past. The future is that over which the past and present have no control: the future is that openness of becoming that enables divergence from what exists. This means that, rather than the past’s exerting a deterministic force over the future, the future is that which overwrites or restructures the virtual that is the past: the past is the condition of every future; the future that emerges is only one of the lines of virtuality from the past. The past is the condition for infinite futures, and duration is that flow that connects the future to the past that gave it impetus. (183-184)

8. The Philosophy of Life
This is what life (or consciousness) brings to the world: the remembrance of the past, the history submerged or lying behind the present, whose resources are not completely depleted for they can reinvigorate the present and help generate the new, which, for Bergson, is precisely the movement of the actualization of the virtual. (186)
[…] the aim of all radical politics is the production of a future that actively transforms the dynamics of the present, and this may involve precisely an unpredictable leap into virtuality— into both senses of the virtual: the virtual past and the virtual future—which carries no pregiven plan or guarantee except a derangement of the present order, a movement of rendering its order insecure and replaceable. This leap into the virtual is always a leap into the unexpected, which cannot be directly planned for or anticipated, though it is clear that it can be prepared for. The resources for this derangement, as Nietzsche recognized, come only from a judicious, or wild, return to the past, or at least to that part of the past that has not been directly utilized, used up, by the present. Politics is this untimely activation of the virtuality of the past as challenge to the actuality of the present. (186)
Yet Bergson argues that it is an illusion to understand the possible as the preexistence of the real. Did the laws of geometry exist before the ancient Greeks discovered them? Was the Mona Lisapossible before Leonardo painted it? Bergson argues that no work is possible before it is real. Imagine as we may the contours and details of an event, an object, an activity in advance, we are always surprised by its actual characteristics. A work of art, or a body of knowledge, is not possible before it is real. At best, after it is real, after it is created and exists, we can say that it ‘‘will have been possible’’ (cm118). (187)
Does the possible produce the real, as our everyday beliefs imply, or does the real in fact project itself backward to produce the possible as its retrospective shadow? Bergson argues that it is only when the real exists as such that we can understand that it must have been possible. The possible is thus not the prefiguring of the real, a rehearsal before its actualization; it is instead the reassurance that the real gives itself that it was inevitable, that it was preordained, already given. (187-188)
Creative Mind, 101: „As reality is created as something unforeseeable and new, its image is reflected behind it into the indefinite past; thus it finds that it has from all time been possible, but it is at this precise moment that it begins to have been always possible, and that is why I said that its possibility, which does not precede its reality, will have preceded it once the reality has appeared. The possible is therefore the mirage of the present in the past; and as we know the future will finally constitute a present and the mirage e√ect is continually being produced, we are convinced that the image of tomorrow is already contained in our actual present, which will be the past of tomorrow, although we did not manage to grasp it.” (188-189)
We need to think the relations between the past and the present not in terms of the possible and the real, but in terms of the virtual and the actual. The virtual/actual relation is governed by the two principles of di√erence and creation. For the virtual to become actual, it must create the conditions for actualization: the actual in no way resembles the virtual. It is produced through a mode of di√erentiation from the virtual, a mode of productive or creative divergence. The lines of actualization are divergent, heterogeneous, the emanation of a multiplicity from a virtual unity, creating the varieties that constitute creative evolution. This is a movement of the divergent paths of development in di√erent unpredictable and unforeseeable series and directions. The movement from a virtual unity to an actual multiplicity requires that there is a certain leap, this time a leap of innovation or creativity, the surprise that the virtual leaves within the actual. If realization is the concretization of a preexistent plan, program, or blueprint, by contrast, actualization is the opening up of the virtual to what befalls it. It is fundamentally unpredictable, innovative. In the terms of another discourse, actualization is individuation, the creation of singularity (whether physical, psychical, or social), insofar as the processes of individuation predate the individual yet the individual is a somehow open-ended consequence of these processes. Individuation contains the ‘‘ingredients’’ of individuality without in any way planning or preparing for it. This indeed is what life, élan vital, is of necessity: a movement of differentiation of virtualities in light of the contingencies that befall it. (189)
Knowing, forms of intellect, traditional models of science all privilege the spatial outline of material objects: they spatialize and thus cannot understand the particularity or difference of duration from space: ‘‘[Intellect] dislikes what is fluid, and solidifies everything it touches. We do not thinkreal time. But we liveit, because life transcends intellect’’ (1944, Creative Evolution[hereafter ce], 46). (192)
‘‘There are changes, but there are underneath the change no things which change; change has no need of a support. There are movements, but there is no inert or invariable object which moves: movement does not imply a mobile’’ (cm173). (195)
Bergson thus distinguishes between our knowing the material world intellectually and our living in it bodily. We live the world in a manner much more complex and more integrated with matter than our conceptual apparatus is able to comprehend, largely because thought itself has a practical function: thought performs an abstract or schematized separation of objects from each other and of subjects from objects. It is in this sense that thought is inadequate to life, that life is always richer and more complex, more integrated and simple than thought can comprehend. (197)
He names this force that generates life always forward, that projects it to ever more complexity, the élan vital, a vital force or impetus. But this concept, the center of much criticism of Bergson, is misconstrued as a generalized supervening life force shared in common by all living beings. Bergson is careful to distinguish his position from that of vitalism, with which it is often confused. Rather, it is a general name for the evolutionary impetus for increasing elaboration, di√erentiation, and specialization in living beings over the passage of large periods of time (many, many generations), that is, for the specific tendencies of change inherent in each particular form of life. (201)
Bergson talks about the mutual error of finalism and mechanism: both conflate an organ with a function. Mechanism begins with an organ, the eye, and generates a function from it, whereas finalism begins with a function, seeing, and generates an organ from it. (208)
Life, in this sense, is the response to the matter that gives it life and sustains it as such. Life is not an adaptation to the external environment, a giving in to or conceding of the primacy of the environment, a passivity in the face of its activity. Rather, for Bergson, life is a response, a reply, to the problem of how to live in a material world and to use its resources to maximize itself, to maximize its facilities and capacities, to go as far as it can in the directions virtual to it. (211-212)
Life is the simultaneity of a virtual and an actual, past and present, matter and memory. All life evolves from earlier life and contains within it certain residues or living memorials (e.g., mitochondrial dna) of its biological past. Not only are present forms of life the actualization of some but not all of the virtual tendencies latent in their progenitors; they also contain within themselves a virtuality that varies itself in its process of actualization, that is, in the continuing movement of evolution that ensures our progeny will differ too in ways not explained by but already to some extent contained within our present forms. (214)

9. Intuition and the Virtual
A plan implies the elimination of duration, the compression of the future into the present. Life itself, however, functions not through conformity to a plan, an ideal, or a law, but through processes of di√erentiation, whose ‘‘plan’’ or direction is only emergent, in the process of being developed. (215)
Bergson claims that we cannot understand instinct in terms of habit, that is, a learned chain of responses to a given situation. Habit is a modality of intelligence. Instinct, for him, is closely linked, not to a compressed and synthesized chain of (past) activities reanimated in the present, but to the development and specialization of bodily movements, to the elaboration of the insect’s bodily morphology or morphological potential: ‘‘The most marvelous instincts of the insect do nothing but develop its special structure into movements’’ (ce140). Instincts are the mobilization of organs and bodily attributes into focused and concerted action. (224)
Consciousness emerges for the insect, not in the perfect functioning of instinct, but in its thwarted operations. It is when the instinct fails to attain its end that consciousness appears. Consciousness, then, is the result of the deficit of instinct; its appearance is ‘‘accidental,’’ epiphenomenal. Consciousness focuses only on the initiation of the instinctive activity, the trigger that releases a series of automatic movements, rather than on the attainment of an end. Instinct is not outside knowledge. However, the knowledge involved is acted rather than represented, and thus largely unconscious. It reveals itself as knowledge only in its failure. (225)
Instinct shares with intelligence a kind of knowing, yet instinct is a noncognitive awareness of life. Intelligence is the capacity to shape and remake nonliving matter. If instinct insinuates itself into the details of life, intelligence directs itself outward to the regulation and ordering of the material world. This means that, in a sense, the noncognitive functioning of instincts is more at home in life than in matter; ironically, intelligence is more comfortable in matter than in the contemplation of life. (227-228)
Consciousness and intelligence open up the material world to the play of virtuality. Consciousness highlights our possible action on things; it is a measure of our virtual interest in things, the gap between the thing and its (newly emergent) uses. It measures the di√erence between the real object and the potential to use it in a variety of unexpected ways. Consciousness, and intelligence, which is its correlate, are bound up with representation, which delays, complicates, and frees behavior, even as it inhibits it (the more automatic the behavior is, the less consciousness occurs or is required). This subtracts from the object most of its features and details, but it also adds to the object the possibility of new connections, new contexts, new uses. (230)
What is innate is its access to and reliance on form, which is always generalization to the degree that it is able to be separated from matter. If instinct has an innate knowledge of the life that interests it, intelligence has an innate knowledge of form, ‘‘an external and empty knowledge’’ (ce150), able to frame an infinity of objects, able to induce, generalize, universalize, to cut up the world, not according to the givenness of the object as it presents
its e√ects through perception, but according to other (indeed, an infinity of other) criteria. (231)
Intuition is a method, a way of knowing, that bypasses the divisive impulses of intelligence. It is not to be confused with feelings, sympathy or empathy, or being in tune with, which give rise to instinct, but is a quite precise method, capable of being developed and honed, for apprehending duration. Just as intelligence has a fundamentally practical orientation and instinct is an unreflective enactment of an unconscious or latent knowledge, so intuition is a fundamentally reflective orientation, which is directed to the apprehension of the whole, a whole that exists only in duration, as becoming. Because intelligence divides the world according to the needs of action, to diminish the richness of the object in order to facilitate selective action, intuition must be regarded as a more complete, less self-invested mode of access to and immersion in objects and the world directly, internally, without mediation. Intuition returns to the real the fullness and interconnectedness that intelligence subtracts from it. (235)
If intelligence culminates in science and its technological accompaniments, intuition is the proper terrain of philosophy, whose interest is never directly practical but always mediates action through the construction and elaboration of concepts. (236)
What Bergson is advocating, in fact, is a refined and newly considered empiricism, an empiricism that avoids the models proved by Locke and Hume, for whom all relations are external, connecting otherwise unconnected objects, insofar as it refuses induction and abduction, the generation of general rules from the multiplication of singular instances, the generation of a system of probability that involves the repetition of distinct instances. Bergson is interested in singularity, in the absolute specificity of objects, rather than, as the British empiricists have assumed, the universal categorizations that emerge from groupings of objects. Intuition, unlike intellect, is thoroughly attuned to history, that is, to the undulations and nuances of time and contingency, to di√erences in kind. (238)
Of the ‘‘truth’’ o√ered by science as regards a living object, however, Bergson writes: ‘‘[It] . . . becomes altogether relative to our faculty of action. It is no more than a symbolic verity. It cannot have the same value as the physical verity, being only an extension of physics to an object which we are a prioriagreed to look at only in its external aspect. The duty of philosophy should be to intervene here actively, to examine the living without any reservation as to practical utility, by freeing itself from forms and habits that are strictly intellectual. Its own special object is to speculate, that is to say, to see’’ (ce198). (240)
Politics is, in this sense, evolutionary too: political struggles and encounters are not simply the outcome of random chance, but a clash of prevailing forms with those experiments in otherness, in di√erence, which challenge their range, scope, or e√ect. Like evolution, politics has no telos or pregiven goal, no preferred methods, no privileged terrain: it functions, like all living things, strategically, utilizing what of itself and its surroundings it can to do what it believes it is able to. The conclusion turns more explicitly to the question of politics and how reconceptualizing time may help transform how we understand politics. (243)

Conclusion: The Future
Indeed, the very notion of a model entails spatialization and resists duration; space is the ongoing metaphoric site for the representation of temporal qualities. Yet, the ‘‘logic’’ of temporality does not involve static self-identical terms, terms that can be laid side by side and evaluated or compared, but those more appropriate to the self-changing, that which has no self-identity but continually di√ers from itself. It has its own durational ‘‘rationality,’’ its own qualities and qualitative e√ects. The reality of time is not reducible to the reality of space and of objects, though it can only be seen in its e√ects on them. It is most directly understood and experienced outside of images, models, and representations as a force, an impulse forward that cannot be resisted, for it is lived as the subject’s own growing, waiting, reminiscent, and anticipatory continuity. (249)
Time can be understood as always doubled. There is a cosmological force: time as a whole, time without regard for objects, time in itself. It is only in relation to this cosmological principle that events can be understood as taking time, having duration, having temporal relations—before, after, simultaneous—with each other. It is only because of this cosmological ordering that events can be positioned, though not without some difficulty, relative to each other, given a chronology, a temporal location, a historical position. But to focus only on the ordering of events, their location in a measurable, overarching time, is to ignore the specificity of the duration of each event, its own unique temporality, the time of each thing or process. So these two times do not really contain each other: the cosmological is only ‘‘larger’’ than the event through a notion of magnitude alien to temporality. Instead, cosmological temporality subsists or inheres in the temporality of unique events; it is their virtual background or context. (250)
Living beings are the actualization of only part of the past. Indeed, any actualization leaves part of the virtual unactualized, and in the various processes of divergence and proliferation it also induces new virtualities, new lines of divergence. It is precisely this unactualized potential of the virtual that is the condition of all radical politics, which takes as its aim the transformation of the present. (253)
In a sense, then, life is always politics: it is always about the perseverance of one or many groups at the cost of others. But what has been victorious, that is, prevails at a particular period, does not wipe out the traces of all others, even those rendered extinct. The movement of evolution does not supersede that which is victorious and leave the rest to oblivion. The rest, the remainder, left out by dominant individuals, groups, species, are not simply the dead ends of history, its losers, what is left behind. What was once may still a√ect what will be, even though it may play no role in the force of what presently is. (256)
Politics is an address to an immediate or middle-term future which attempts to refigure the value of the past through a critique of the present. It is a contestation of how the past is read and what of the past still subsists in present activities, still surges with a virtuality that makes practice in the future able to emerge. But above all, it is about how the past and present can dissociate to bring about something new. (258)
These alternatives, as Bergson recognized, are not alternatives, not possibilities, until they are brought into existence. The task is not so much to plan for the future, organize our resources toward it, to envision it before it comes about, for this reduces the future to the present. It is to make the future, to invent it. And this space, and time, for invention, for the creation of the new, can come about only through a dislocation of and dissociation with the present rather than simply its critique. Only if the present presents itself as fractured, cracked by the interventions of the past and the promise of the future, can the new be invented, welcomed, and affirmed. (261)

Jan Mukařovský “The Esthetics of Language”

April 15, 2014 Leave a comment

Mukařovský, Jan 1964. The Esthetics of Language. – Paul Garvin (ed). A Prague School Reader on Esthetics, Literary Structure, and Style. Washington: Georgetown University Press, 31-69.

The esthetic function makes of the object which is its carrier an esthetic fact without any further classification; therefore it often manifests itself as a fleeting stroke touching the object, as an accident stemming from a single momentary rapport between the subject and the object.
The esthetic norm, on the other hand, is the force regulating man’s esthetic attitudes towards things; therefore the norm detaches the esthetic from the individual object and the individual subject and makes it a matter of the general relationship between man and the world of things. (31)
[…] we will henceforth call the pole constituted by the pure and unbridled esthetic function, the unstructured esthetic [esteticno nenormované], and the opposite pole of the esthetic norm, the structured esthetic [esteticno nenormované]. (31)
There remains finally the esthetic value. It is a dialectical synthesis of the two poles of the esthetic. It shares with the unstructured esthetic the trend to uniqueness, with the structured esthetic the requirement of supraindividuality and stability. (32)
And this feeling of momentary equilibrium between the uniqeu and the general, between accident and lawfulness, which at the next moment is replaced, both in the poet and the reader, by the desire for a new equilibrium, is the mental equivalent of the esthetic value. (32)
The esthetic attitude, by contrast, has a negative character in the sense that, by denying the external objective, it makes of the thing a purpose in itself. (32)
Both beauty and ugliness belong, however […] only in the area of the structured esthetic and do not hold for the unstructured esthetic where pleasure and displeasure coalesce into an inextricable mixture. (35)
[…] the esthetic consists in the fact that the listener’s attention, which has so far been turned to the message for which language is a means, is directed to the linguistic sign itself, to its properties and composition, in one word, to its internal structure. (35-36)
The unstructured esthetic in language, however, also finds a direct route to the entire community: wihtout losing its essence it may of itself become a social fact by means of imitation. If we hear or read an expression or phrase that we find esthetically pleasing, we are willing, sometimes too willing, to imitate it. (40)
The unstructured esthetic can, however, not merely become temporarily generalized, but may achieve permanence in the form of tradition. (41)
The unstructured esthetic can thus become general, even permanent, without losing its essentially unbounded character as long as it is not subject to systematization. It may, on the other hand, become systematized to a certain extent without ceasing to be unstructured if it is not generalized in this systematicity, but remains confined to a single individual. (42)
A norm, however, at least in the proper sense of the word, presupposes a generally obligatory lawfulness, and therefore the esthetic becomes structured [normované] only in the supraindividual parole. By passing on to this parole we bridge an important boundary: from the free and unique esthetic we procedd to the regulated and impersonal esthetic. (44)
A deliberate effort may contribute to the clarification and systematization of the norms, but not to their creation: the source of the norms is the joint life of the society. (45)
The structured esthetic thus appears even in those forms of language which are not, nor have been in the past, the objects of deliberate cultivation. (46)
Let us first remember that the supraindividual parole is not in itself undifferentiated, but is stratified into a variety of functional forms, such as intellectual and emotional speech, standard and conversational speech, written and spoken language, etc. Each of these functional forms has its own regularity, and the esthetic norms are different for each functional dialect. (46)
What the ethnograpger [Bogatyrev] says here is very interesting for us. The „beauty” of the mother tongue, as is shown by his statement, is not a purely esthetic matter, but is given by the function of „ourness” which is superordinate to all functions including the esthetic. (51)
The differentiation of the esthetic norm in terms of the functions of language, which we have discussed above, is another proof of its modifiability: the esthetic norm, being dependent on something as variable as the purpose of the verbal response, will obviously also vary with time. (52)
The perfection of the esthetic norm does not occur, as has been just stated, by abrupt changes in the development, but by a consistent effort which usually occupies a more extended developmental period. (53)
The esthetic perfection of language is thus a matter of common consensus. Therefore a throughly worked out set of esthetic norms for the language becomes a shackle for the individuality. (54)
The basic part played by the unstructured esthetic is to counteract the automization of the act of speech, to individualize it over and over again, with regard to both the personality of the speaker and the uniqueness of the linguistic and extralinguistic situation from which the act of speech stems. (61)
The unstructured esthetic finally furthers in both the individual and society the taste for constant changes in language […] (62)
These two aspects of the esthetic thus appear before us as two mutually opposite forces, ever struggling for dominance without the complete victory of either; their mutual relation can be called a polarity, or in other words, the structured and unstructured esthetic in language […] form a dialectic antinomy which at the same time holds them together and keeps them separate. (63)


Jacques Rancière “La démocratie est-elle à venir?”

Rancière, Jacques 2012. La démocratie est-elle à venir ? Éthique et politique chez Derrida. Les Temps Modernes, 669-670 : 157-173

La « démocratie à venir », c’est une démocratie avec quelque chose de plus, suspendue à ce « quelque chose de plus ». Il est clair que ce supplément n’est pas quelque chose qu’il faudrait apporter de l’extérieur à la démocratie ; clair aussi que la «  démocratie à venir  » ne veut pas dire la démocratie future. Cela veut dire « la démocratie comme démocratie à venir ». (158)

Le dèmos est le sujet de la politique pour autant qu’il est hétérogène au compte des parties de la société. C’est un heteron, mais un heteron d’un genre très particulier puisque son hétérogénéité est fondée sur le principe de substituabilité. Sa différence propre est l’indifférence aux différences — c’est-à-dire aux inégalités — qui constituent un ordre social. (161)

Le dissensus est l’acte qui met deux mondes, deux logiques hétérogènes, sur la même scène, dans le même monde. (161)

C’est là pour moi la dimension esthétique de la politique : la mise en scène d’un dissensus— d’un conflit entre plusieurs mondes sensibles — par des sujets qui agissent comme s’ils étaient le peuple formé par le compte incomptable des n’importe qui. (162)

C’est ainsi que je comprends le supplément démocratique : comme le principe de la politique elle-même. Je pense que l’interprétation de Derrida est toute différente. […] Mais la « démocratie à venir » n’est pas, pour lui, le supplément qui rend possible la politique. C’est un supplément à la politique. Il en est ainsi parce que sa démocratie est une démocratie sans dèmos. Dans sa vision de la politique, l’idée du sujet politique, de la capacité politique est absente. (162)

Tout comme il identifie politique et souveraineté, Derrida identifie la notion du sujet politique à celle de la fraternité. De son point de vue, il n’y a pas de rupture entre pouvoir familial et pouvoir politique. De même que l’Etat-nation est un père souverain, le sujet politique est un frère. Même le concept de citoyen dont on a abondamment usé et mésusé dans le discours politique français des vingt dernières années est sans pertinence dans sa conceptualisation. Le citoyen n’est qu’un autre nom du frère. (163)

Le point essentiel est que la fraternité signifie pour Derrida une certaine équivalence, une certaine substituabilité. En d’autres termes, la charge contre la fraternité pourrait bien être une façon de se débarrasser, sans l’affronter de face, d’un autre concept, celui d’égalité — un concept avec lequel Derrida est mal à l’aise, mais qu’il se sentirait plus mal à l’aise encore d’avoir à exclure. (163)

L’hôte est le sujet qui vient à la place du dèmos. Tel que Derrida l’entend, l’hôte signifie bien plus qu’un lien d’hospitalité qui outrepasse les frontières des Etatsnations. Ce qu’il outrepasse, en fait, c’est toutes les frontières au sein desquelles il peut y avoir réciprocité. Le personnage de l’hôte ouvre un abîme irréconciliable entre la scène du possible — ou du calculable — et la scène de l’inconditionnel — de l’impossible ou de l’incalculable. (165)

L’un des traits frappants dans l’approche derridienne de la politique, c’est la violence — et, osons le dire, le simplisme de son opposition entre l’idée de la règle et celle de la justice. Très souvent nous rencontrons dans ses écrits politiques, le plus souvent dans des termes identiques, l’affirmation que, là où il y a une règle simple, il ne peut y avoir de justice. (165-166)

S’il y a une règle, s’il y a un savoir qui fonde notre décision, ce n’est plus une décision. Comme il l’écrit dans Voyous : « On sait quel chemin prendre, on n’hésite plus, la décision ne décide plus, elle est prise d’avance et donc d’avance annulée, elle se déploie déjà, sans retard, présentement, avec l’automatisme qu’on attribue aux machines. » (166 – Derrida, Voyous ; Paris, Galilée, 2003, p. 124).

C’est ce qu’implique l’« à-venir » de la démocratie chez Derrida : la démocratie ne peut pas être présentée, même dans la figure dissensuelle du dèmos, du sujet qui fait comme s’il était le dèmos. Dans la « démocratie à venir », le « à » sépare en fait les deux termes : démocratie et venir. Il prend, à strictement parler, la place du dèmos. L’« à-venir » est l’équivalent d’un « non-présent », d’un « non-anticipable ». Le kratos de la démocratie devient alors l’akratia du dèmos. Le supplément de l’« à-venir » est un supplément à la politique. Il est subsumé sous une rationalité qui n’est pas celle de la politique. (167)

La justice inhérente à l’idée de la « démocratie à venir » est la justice de l’événement imprévisible — ou de l’imprévisible venue de l’autre. (168)

Dans ses textes des années 80 et 90, Lyotard a clairement renversé la logique du paradigme moderniste qui liait l’avant-gardisme esthétique à l’émancipation politique. Il a placé l’interprétation de l’art moderne sous le concept du sublime qu’il a interprété, à l’encontre de Kant, comme le pouvoir d’une hétéronomie irréductible qui nous met sous la dépendance de la loi de l’Autre. (169)

D’une même référence à l’Autre lévinassien, Derrida a tiré des conséquences très différentes. Il a lié la loi de l’Autre à la promesse d’une « démocratie à venir » et il a substitué cette promesse messianique à l’obéissance à la Loi. Il a donc en quelque sorte apporté un second tourà la conceptualisation éthique de l’altérité. (169)

Or Derrida lui donne un sens tout à fait inattendu : « quiconque, n’importe qui, à la limite d’ailleurs perméable entre le “qui” et le “quoi”, le vivant, le cadavre et le fantôme ». La justice, pour lui, concerne ce qui excède toute famille de semblables et de congénères. Elle doit donc excéder les limites de l’Humanité et inclure en particulier les animaux. (170)

L’autre, en ce premier sens, c’est tout être, vivant ou inerte, qui a besoin que je réponde pour lui. C’est ce que signifie la responsabilité : l’engagement envers un autre qui m’est confié et pour qui je dois répondre. Mais, en un second sens, c’est tout être, ou toute chose, qui a sur moi un pouvoir sans réciprocité. (171)

S’il faut faire reposer l’égalité politique sur l’absolue différence de Dieu, et si cette différence absolue se négocie à travers le crime, la complicité et la trahison, cela veut dire que la politique est fondée sur ce dont Derrida prétendait la délivrer, à savoir la souveraineté. Celle-ci, disait-il, est un concept théologique, transféré de la religion à la politique. Mais ce que nous présente le sacrifice sur le mont Moriah est une autre idée de la souveraineté. Cela veut dire, pour moi, que la politique derridienne reste fondée sur la théologie, même si c’est sur une sorte de théologie hérétique. Derrida n’a-t-il pas délié la politique d’une certaine théologie simplement pour la lier à une autre ? C’est, je crois, une question que nous devons laisser ouverte. (173)