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BEING SINGULAR PLURAL

M E R I D I A N

Crossing Aesthetics

W e r n e r Harnacher

& D a v i d E. Wellbery

Editors
BEING S I N G U L A R PLURAL

Translated by Jean-Luc Nancy


Robert D. Richardson

and A n n e E. O'Byrne

Stanford
University
Press

Stanford

California

2000
Contents

S t a n f o r d U n i v e r s i t y Press Preface XV

Stanford, California

1
© 2 0 0 0 by the B o a r d of Trustees § O f B e i n g Singular P l u r a l
o f the L e l a n d S t a n f o r d J u n i o r U n i v e r s i r y
War, R i g h t , S o v e r e i g n t y — T e c h n ê IOI
Being Singular Plural'was o r i g i n a l l y p u b l i s h e d as Etre singulier pluriel
© 1996, É d i t i o n s G a l i l é e .
§ E u l o g y for the Mêlée 145
A s s i s t a n c e for t h e t r a n s l a t i o n w a s p r o v i d e d b y the F r e n c h M i n i s t r y o f C u l t u r e .
T h e Surprise of the Event 159
P r i n t e d i n the U n i t e d States o f A m e r i c a o n a c i d - f r e e , a r c h i v a l - q u a l i t y paper.
H u m a n Excess 177
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

185
Nancy, Jean-Luc. § C o s m o s Basel ius
[Etre singular p l u r i e l . English]
B e i n g singular plural / J e a n - L u c N a n c y ; translated by R o b e r t D. R i c h a r d s o n
Notes 193
and A n n e E. O'Byrne
p. c m . — ( M e r i d i a n , c r o s s i n g aesthetics)
I n c l u d e s b i b l i o g r a p h i c a l references a n d i n d e x .
ISBN 0-8047-3974-9 ( ' k - paper) — ISBN 0-8047-3975-7 ( p b k . : alk. paper)
a

I. O n t o l o g y . 2. Philosophical anthropology. I. Title. II. M e r i d a n


(Stanford, Calif.)
B 2 4 3 0 . N 3 6 3 E8713 2000

194—dc2i 00-057326

Original printing 2000


L a s t f i g u r e b e l o w i n d i c a t e s year o f t h i s p r i n t i n g :
09 08 07 06 05 04 03 02 01 00

Typeset by James P. B r o m m e r
i n 10.9/13 G a r a m o n d a n d L i t h o s d i s p l a y
Lead, as I do, the flown-away virtue back to e a r t h —
yes, back to body and life; that it may give the earth its
meaning, a human meaning! M a y your spirit and your
virtue serve the meaning of the earth. . . . M a n and
man's earth are still unexhausted and undiscovered.
—Nietzsche
T h i s epigraph is chosen quite deliberately. I r u n the risk of its
seeming to l e n d itself to a certain C h r i s t i a n , idealist, a n d humanist
tone, a tone in w h i c h it is easy to recognize those w e l l - m e a n i n g
virtues a n d values that have loosed u p o n the w o r l d all the things
that have driven the h u m a n i t y of our century to despair over itself,
where these values are b o t h b l i n d to a n d c o m p l i c i t in this letting
loose. In his o w n way, Nietzsche h i m s e l f w o u l d have u n d o u b t e d l y
participated in this dubious, moralizing piety. At any rate, the w o r d
" m e a n i n g " rarely appears in his w o r k , a n d still more rarely in any
positive sense. O n e w o u l d do w e l l , therefore, not to give any hasty
interpretations of it here. T h e above excerpt appeals to a " h u m a n
m e a n i n g , " but it does so by a f f i r m i n g that the h u m a n [l'homme]
remains to be discovered. In order for the h u m a n to be discovered,
1

a n d in order for the phrase " h u m a n m e a n i n g " to acquire some


meaning, everything that has ever l a i d c l a i m to the t r u t h about the
nature, essence, or e n d of " m a n " must be undone. In other words,
n o t h i n g must remain of what, under the title of m e a n i n g , related
the earth [la terre] and the h u m a n to a specifiable horizon. A g a i n , it
is Nietzsche w h o said that we are n o w "on the h o r i z o n of the i n f i -
nite"; that is, we are at that p o i n t where "there is no more ' l a n d , ' "
and where "there is n o t h i n g more terrible than the i n f i n i t e . " 2

A r e we finally g o i n g to learn this lesson? A r e we perhaps finally


able to hear it, or is it n o w i m p o s s i b l e for us to learn a n y t h i n g
Xll Xlll

else? C a n we t h i n k an earth a n d a h u m a n such that they w o u l d be "ethnic," or "historical"; whether they are legitimate or n o t — n o t
o n l y w h a t they are—nothing but earth a n d h u m a n — a n d such to m e n t i o n the question about w h i c h law w o u l d provide such le-
that they w o u l d be n o n e of the various horizons often harbored g i t i m a t i o n ; whether they are real, m y t h i c a l , or imaginary; whether
u n d e r these names, none of the "perspectives" or "views" in view they are independent or " i n s t r u m e n t a l i z e d " by other groups w h o
of w h i c h we have disfigured humans [les hommes] a n d driven them w i e l d p o l i t i c a l , e c o n o m i c , a n d ideological power. . . .
to despair? T h i s is the "earth" we are supposed to " i n h a b i t " today, the earth
" T h e h o r i z o n of the i n f i n i t e " is no longer the h o r i z o n of the for w h i c h the name Sarajevo w i l l b e c o m e the m a r t y r - n a m e , the
whole, but the " w h o l e " (all that is) as put on h o l d everywhere, testimonial-name: this is us, we w h o are supposed to say we as if
pushed to the outside just as much as it is pushed back inside the we k n o w what we are saying a n d who we are t a l k i n g about. T h i s
"self." It is no longer a line that is d r a w n , or a l i n e that w i l l be earth is a n y t h i n g but a sharing of humanity. It is a w o r l d that does
d r a w n , w h i c h orients or gathers the m e a n i n g of a course of progress not even manage to constitute a w o r l d ; it is a w o r l d l a c k i n g in
or n a v i g a t i o n . It is the o p e n i n g [la brèche] or d i s t a n c i n g [lecarte- w o r l d , a n d l a c k i n g in the m e a n i n g of w o r l d . It is an enumeration
ment] of h o r i z o n itself, a n d in the opening: us. We happen as the that brings to light the sheer n u m b e r and proliferation of these var-
o p e n i n g itself, the dangerous fault line of a rupture. ious poles of attraction a n d r e p u l s i o n . It is an endless list, a n d
everything happens in such a w a y that one is reduced to k e e p i n g
accounts but never t a k i n g the final t o l l . It is a litany, a prayer of
I w a n t to emphasize the date on w h i c h I am w r i t i n g this. It is pure sorrow and pure loss, the plea that falls f r o m the lips of m i l -
the s u m m e r of 1995, a n d as far as specifying the situation of the lions of refugees every day: whether they be deportees, people be-
earth a n d h u m a n s is c o n c e r n e d , n o t h i n g is more pressing (how sieged, those w h o are mutilated, people w h o starve, w h o are raped,
c o u l d it really be avoided?) t h a n a list of p r o p e r names s u c h as ostracized, excluded, exiled, expelled.
these, presented here in no particular order: B o s n i a - H e r z o g o v i n a , W h a t I am talking about here is compassion, but not compassion
C h e c h n y a , R w a n d a , B o s n i a n Serbs, Tutsis, H u t u s , T a m i l Tigers, as a pity that feels sorry for itself a n d feeds on itself. C o m - p a s s i o n
K r a j i n a Serbs, Casamance, Chiapas, Islamic J i h a d , Bangladesh, the is the contagion, the contact of being w i t h one another in this tur-
Secret A r m y for the L i b e r a t i o n o f A r m e n i a , H a m a s , K a z a k h s t a n , m o i l . C o m p a s s i o n is not altruism, nor is it identification; it is the
K h m e r s Rouges, E T A m i l i t i a , K u r d s ( U P K / P D K ) , Montataire, the disturbance of violent relatedness.
M o v e m e n t for S e l f - d e t e r m i n a t i o n , S o m a l i a , C h i c a n o s , Shiites,
F N L C - C a n a l H i s t o r i q u e , L i b e r i a , G i v a t H a g a d a n , N i g e r i a , the
League o f the N o r t h , Afghanistan, Indonesia, Sikhs, H a i t i , R o m a W h a t does the above-named proliferation require of us, this pro-
gypsies o f Slovenia, T a i w a n , B u r m a , P L O , Iraq, Islamic F r o n t Sal- liferation that seems to have no other m e a n i n g than the i n d e t e r m i -
v a t i o n , S h i n i n g P a t h , V a u l x - e n - V e l i n s , N e u h o f . . . . Of course, it nate m u l t i p l i c a t i o n of centripetal meanings, meanings closed in on
w o u l d be difficult to b r i n g this list to an end if the a i m was to i n - themselves and supersaturated w i t h significance—that is, meanings
clude all the places, groups, or authorities that constitute the the- that are no longer meaningful because they have come to refer o n l y
ater of b l o o d y conflicts a m o n g identities, as w e l l as what is at stake to their o w n closure, to their h o r i z o n of a p p r o p r i a t i o n , a n d have
in these conflicts. These days it is not always possible to say w i t h begun to spread n o t h i n g but destruction, hatred, and the denial of
any assurance whether these identities are i n t r a n a t i o n a l , infrana- existence?
t i o n a l , or transnational; whether they are " c u l t u r a l , " "religious," W h a t if this autistic m u l t i p l i c i t y , w h i c h tears o p e n a n d is t o r n
XIV

o p e n , lets us k n o w that we have not even begun to discover what it


is to be many, even t h o u g h " l a terre des h o m m e s " is exactly this?
3
Preface
W h a t if it lets us k n o w that it is itself the first l a y i n g bare [mise à
nu] of a w o r l d that is o n l y the w o r l d , but w h i c h is the w o r l d ab-
solutely a n d unreservedly, w i t h no m e a n i n g b e y o n d this very Be-
i n g of the w o r l d : singularly p l u r a l a n d p l u r a l l y singular?

T h e first a n d p r i n c i p a l essay of this book, w h i c h gives it its title,


was not c o m p o s e d in an altogether sequential manner, but rather
in a discontinuous way, repeatedly taking up several themes. To a
certain extent, t h e n , the sections can be read in any order, since
there are repetitions here a n d there. B u t this is the result of a f u n -
damental difficulty. T h i s text does not disguise its a m b i t i o n of re-
d o i n g the w h o l e of "first p h i l o s o p h y " by g i v i n g the "singular
p l u r a l " of B e i n g as its f o u n d a t i o n . T h i s , however, is not my a m b i -
1

t i o n , but rather the necessity of the t h i n g itself and of our history.


At the very least, I hope to m a k e this necessity felt. At the same
time, apart f r o m the fact that I do not have the strength to deliver
the treatise " o f the singular p l u r a l essence of B e i n g , " the f o r m of
the ontological treatise ceases to be appropriate as soon as the s i n -
gular of B e i n g itself, a n d therefore also of ontology, is in question.
T h i s is n o t h i n g new. At least since Nietzsche, a n d for all sorts of
reasons that no d o u b t c o m e together in the reason I invoke, p h i -
losophy is at odds w i t h its " f o r m , " that is, w i t h its "style," w h i c h is
to say, finally, w i t h its address. H o w does t h i n k i n g address itself to
itself, to t h i n k i n g ( w h i c h also means: h o w does t h i n k i n g address
itself to everyone, w i t h o u t its being a matter of a "comprehension"
or " u n d e r s t a n d i n g " that m i g h t be called " c o m m o n " ) ? H o w is
t h i n k i n g addressed? ( T h e p h i l o s o p h i c a l treatise, and " p h i l o s o p h y "
as such, is the neutralization of address, the subjectless discourse of
XVI Preface

Being-Subject [l'Etre-Sujet] itself.) Put another way, what is the " d i -


alogue of the soul w i t h itself" that Plato talks about, w h i c h d e m o n -
strates that this question, or this worry, has always been part of our
history? If t h i n k i n g is addressed, then it is because there is m e a n i n g
in this address, and not in discourse (but it is in the address of dis-
course). T h i s obeys the p r i m o r d i a l , ontological c o n d i t i o n of being-
w i t h or being-together, w h i c h is what I w o u l d like to talk about. A
treatise, therefore, is not sufficiently discursive. N o r is it enough to
dress discourse in the f o r m of an address (for me to address y o u
w i t h the familiar " y o u " [tu] the w h o l e way through). T h e address
means that t h i n k i n g itself addresses itself to "me" and to "us" at the
same time; that is, t h i n k i n g addresses itself to the w o r l d , to history,
to people, to things: to "us." A n o t h e r a m b i t i o n springs f r o m this
or, better yet, another, more restricted, attempt: to allow thinking's
address to be perceived, an address that comes to us f r o m every-
where simultaneously, m u l t i p l i e d , repeated, insistent, and variable,
gesturing o n l y t o w a r d "us" a n d t o w a r d our curious " b e i n g - w i t h -
one-another," [être-les-uns-avec-les-autres], toward o u r addressing-
one-another. 2

( B y the way, the logic of " w i t h " often requires heavy-handed syn-
tax in order to say "being-with-one-another." Y o u m a y suffer f r o m
it as y o u read these pages. B u t perhaps it is not an accident that
language does not easily l e n d itself to s h o w i n g the " w i t h " as such,
for it is itself the address a n d not what must be addressed.)
In this, there is an illusion that lies in wait, the illusion of w i l l i n g
the adequation o f " f o r m " a n d "content," o f w i l l i n g t r u t h itself into
presence: as if I c o u l d w r i t e to every addressee a seismographical
account o f o u r upsets, o u r agitations, o u r troubles, a n d o u r a d -
dresses w i t h o u t addressees. M y o n l y response i s n o : n o w i l l , " o n
my life I d i d not k n o w what it was to w i l l " (Nietzsche). Or I m i g h t
say the f o l l o w i n g : w i l l i n g (or desire) is not a t h i n k i n g ; it is a dis-
turbance, an echo, a reverberating shock.
T h e latter essays were chosen because their subjects converge
w i t h that of the p r i m a r y essay. As y o u w i l l see, the first two are c o n -
nected to the exact circumstances of the most v i o l e n t events of
these last years.
§ Of Being Singular Plural

I t i s g o o d t o r e l y u p o n o t h e r s . F o r n o o n e c a n b e a r t h i s life a l o n e .

—Hôlderlin

S i n c e h u m a n nature i s the true c o m m u n i t y o f m e n , those w h o


p r o d u c e thereby affirm their nature, h u m a n c o m m u n i t y , a n d social
b e i n g w h i c h , rather t h a n a n abstract, general p o w e r i n o p p o s i t i o n
t o t h e i s o l a t e d i n d i v i d u a l , i s the b e i n g o f e a c h i n d i v i d u a l , h i s o w n
a c t i v i t y , h i s o w n l i f e , h i s o w n joy, h i s o w n r i c h n e s s . T o say t h a t a
m a n i s a l i e n a t e d f r o m h i m s e l f i s t o say t h a t t h e s o c i e t y o f t h i s
a l i e n a t e d m a n i s t h e c a r i c a t u r e o f h i s real c o m m u n i t y .

—Marx

W e Are M e a n i n g

It is often said today that we have lost meaning, that we lack it


a n d , as a result, are in need of a n d w a i t i n g for it. T h e "one" w h o
speaks in this way forgets that the very propagation of this discourse
is itself m e a n i n g f u l . Regretting the absence of m e a n i n g itself has
meaning. B u t such regret does not have m e a n i n g o n l y in this nega-
tive mode; d e n y i n g the presence of meaning affirms that one knows
what m e a n i n g w o u l d be, were it there, and keeps the mastery a n d
truth of m e a n i n g in place (which is the pretension of the h u m a n i s t
discourses that propose to "rediscover" meaning.) W h e t h e r it is
aware of it or not, the c o n t e m p o r a r y discourse on m e a n i n g goes
m u c h further a n d in a completely different direction: it brings to
light the fact that "meaning," used in this absolute way, has become
the bared [dénudé] name of o u r being-with-one-another. We do not
"have" m e a n i n g anymore, because we ourselves are m e a n i n g — e n -
tirely, w i t h o u t reserve, infinitely, w i t h no m e a n i n g other than "us."
T h i s does not m e a n that we are the content of m e a n i n g , nor are
we its f u l f i l l m e n t or its result, as if to say that h u m a n s were the
meaning (end, substance, or value) of Being, nature, or history. T h e
meaning of this m e a n i n g — t h a t is, the signification to w h i c h a state
of affairs corresponds a n d c o m p a r e s — i s precisely what we say we
2 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 3

have lost. B u t we are m e a n i n g in the sense that we are the element m u l t i p l i c i t y of its d i v i s i o n . It is the explosion of nothing, in fact,
in w h i c h significations can be produced and circulate. T h e least sig- it is the spacing of m e a n i n g , spacing as m e a n i n g a n d c i r c u l a t i o n .
nification just as m u c h as the most elevated (the m e a n i n g of " n a i l " T h e nihil of creation is the truth of m e a n i n g , but m e a n i n g is the
as well as the m e a n i n g of " G o d " ) has no m e a n i n g in itself a n d , as a originary sharing of this t r u t h . It c o u l d be expressed in the follow-
result, is what it is a n d does what it does o n l y insofar as it is c o m - i n g way: B e i n g cannot be a n y t h i n g b u t being-with-one-another,
m u n i c a t e d , even where this c o m m u n i c a t i o n takes place o n l y be- c i r c u l a t i n g in the with a n d as the with of this s i n g u l a r l y p l u r a l
tween "me" a n d "myself." M e a n i n g is its o w n c o m m u n i c a t i o n or coexistence.
its o w n c i r c u l a t i o n . T h e " m e a n i n g of B e i n g " is not some property If one can p u t it l i k e this, there is no other m e a n i n g t h a n the
that w i l l come to qualify, fill i n , or finalize the brute givenness of m e a n i n g o f c i r c u l a t i o n . B u t this c i r c u l a t i o n goes i n all directions
" B e i n g " pure a n d s i m p l e . ' Instead, it is the fact that there is no at once, in all the directions of all the space-times [les espace-temps]
"brute givenness" of B e i n g , that there is no desperately p o o r there opened by presence to presence: all things, all beings, all entities,
is presented w h e n one says that "there is a n a i l catching. . . . " B u t everything past a n d future, alive, dead, inanimate, stones, plants,
the givenness of B e i n g , the givenness inherent to the very fact that nails, g o d s — a n d " h u m a n s , " that is, those w h o expose sharing a n d
we u n d e r s t a n d s o m e t h i n g w h e n we say "to be" (whatever it m a y c i r c u l a t i o n as such by saying "we," by saying we to themselves in all
be a n d however confused it m i g h t be), a l o n g w i t h the (same) possible senses of that expression, a n d by saying we for the totality
givenness that is given w i t h this fact—cosubstantial w i t h the given- of all being.
ness of B e i n g a n d the understanding of B e i n g , that we understand
one another (however confusedly) w h e n we say it, is a gift that can
be s u m m a r i z e d as follows: Being itself is given to us as meaning. B e - (Let us say we for all being, that is, for every being, for all beings
i n g does not have m e a n i n g . B e i n g itself, the p h e n o m e n o n of Be- one by one, each time in the singular of their essential plural. Lan-
i n g , is m e a n i n g that is, in t u r n , its o w n c i r c u l a t i o n — a n d we are guage speaks for all and of all: for all, in their place, in their name,
this circulation. including those who may not have a name. Language says what there
T h e r e is no m e a n i n g if m e a n i n g is not shared, and not because
2
is of the world, nature, history and humanity, and it also speaks for
there w o u l d be an ultimate or first signification that all beings have them as well as in v i e w of them, in order to lead the one who speaks,
in c o m m o n , but because meaning is itselfthe sharing of Being. M e a n - the one through whom language comes to be and happens ("man"), to
i n g begins where presence is not pure presence but where presence all of being, which does not speak but which is nevertheless—stone,
comes apart [se disjoint] in order to be itself as such. T h i s "as" pre- fish, fiber, d o u g h , crack, block, a n d breath. The speaker speaks for
supposes the distancing, spacing, and division of presence. O n l y the the world, which means the speaker speaks to it, on behalf of it, in or-
concept of "presence" contains the necessity of this d i v i s i o n . Pure der to make it a "world. "As such, the speaker is "in its place" and "ac-
unshared presence—presence to nothing, of nothing, for n o t h i n g — cording to its measure"; the speaker occurs as its representative but also,
is neither present nor absent. It is the simple i m p l o s i o n of a being at the same time (and this has all the values of p r o in Latin), in an-
that c o u l d never have been—an i m p l o s i o n w i t h o u t any trace. ticipation of it, before it, exposed to it as to its own most intimate con-
T h i s is w h y what is called "the creation of the w o r l d " is not the sideration. Language says the world; that is, it loses itself in it and ex-
p r o d u c t i o n of a pure something f r o m n o t h i n g — w h i c h w o u l d not, poses how "in itself" it is a question of losing oneself in order to be of it,
at the same time, i m p l o d e i n t o the n o t h i n g out of w h i c h it c o u l d with it, to be its meaning—which is all meaning)
never have c o m e — b u t is the explosion of presence in the original
4 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 5

C i r c u l a t i o n goes in all directions: this is the Nietzschean thought case, essentially accidental, it is singular and plural in its very p r i n -
of the "eternal return," the affirmation of m e a n i n g as the repetition ciple. It does not have a final f u l f i l l m e n t any more t h a n it has a
of the instant, n o t h i n g but this repetition, a n d as a result, n o t h i n g p o i n t of o r i g i n . It is the originary p l u r a l i t y of origins a n d the cre-
(since it is a matter of the repetition of what essentially does not ation of the w o r l d in each singularity, creation c o n t i n u e d in the dis-
return). B u t it is a repetition already c o m p r i s e d in the affirmation c o n t i n u i t y of its discrete occurrences. F r o m n o w o n , we, we others 4

of the instant, in this affirmation/request {re-petitid) seized in the are charged w i t h this t r u t h — i t is more ours than e v e r — t h e truth of
letting go of the instant, affirming the passing of presence and itself this paradoxical "first-person plural" w h i c h makes sense of the w o r l d
passing w i t h it, affirmation abandoned in its very movement. It is as the spacing a n d i n t e r t w i n i n g of so m a n y worlds (earths, skies,
an i m p o s s i b l e t h o u g h t , a t h i n k i n g that does not h o l d itself back histories) that there is a t a k i n g place of m e a n i n g , or the crossing-
f r o m the c i r c u l a t i o n it t h i n k s , a t h i n k i n g of m e a n i n g right at [à through [passages] of presence. " W e " says (and "we say") the u n i q u e
même] m e a n i n g , where its eternity occurs as the t r u t h of its pass-
3
event whose uniqueness and u n i t y consist in multiplicity.
ing. (For instance, at the m o m e n t at w h i c h I am w r i t i n g , a b r o w n -
and-white cat is crossing the garden, s l i p p i n g m o c k i n g l y away, tak-
People Are Strange
i n g m y thoughts w i t h it.)
It is in this way that the t h i n k i n g of the eternal return is the i n - Everything, then, passes between us.'' T h i s "between," as its name
augural thought of our contemporary history, a t h i n k i n g we must implies, has neither a consistency nor c o n t i n u i t y of its o w n . It does
repeat (even if it means calling it s o m e t h i n g else). We must reap- not lead f r o m one to the other; it constitutes no connective tissue,
propriate what already made us w h o "we" are today, here and now, no cement, no bridge. Perhaps it is not even fair to speak of a "con-
the "we" of a w o r l d w h o no longer struggle to have m e a n i n g but to nection" to its subject; it is neither connected nor unconnected; it
be m e a n i n g itself. T h i s is we as the b e g i n n i n g a n d end of the w o r l d , falls short of b o t h ; even better, it is that w h i c h is at the heart of a
inexhaustible in the c i r c u m s c r i p t i o n that n o t h i n g circumscribes, c o n n e c t i o n , the interlacing [Yemrecroisment] of strands whose ex-
that "the" n o t h i n g circumscribes. We make sense [nous faisons sens], tremities r e m a i n separate even at the very center of the k n o t . T h e
not by setting a price or value, but by exposing the absolute value "between" is the stretching out [distension] a n d distance opened by
that the w o r l d is by itself. " W o r l d " does not mean a n y t h i n g other the singular as such, as its spacing of m e a n i n g . T h a t w h i c h does
than this " n o t h i n g " that no one can "mean" [vouloir dire], but that not m a i n t a i n its distance f r o m the "between" is o n l y i m m a n e n c e
is said in every saying: in other words, B e i n g itself as the absolute collapsed i n o n itself a n d deprived o f m e a n i n g .
value in itself of all that is, but this absolute value as the being-with of F r o m one singular to another, there is c o n t i g u i t y but not c o n t i -
all that is itself bare and impossible to evaluate. It is neither m e a n - nuity. There is proximity, but o n l y to the extent that extreme close-
i n g [vouloir-dire] nor the g i v i n g of value [dire-valoir], but value as ness emphasizes the distancing it opens up. A l l of being is in touch
such, that is, "meaning" w h i c h is the meaning of B e i n g only because w i t h all of being, but the law of t o u c h i n g is separation; moreover,
it is B e i n g itself, its existence, its t r u t h . Existence is with: otherwise it is the heterogeneity of surfaces that t o u c h each other. Contact is
n o t h i n g exists. beyond fullness a n d emptiness, b e y o n d c o n n e c t i o n a n d d i s c o n -
C i r c u l a t i o n — o r e t e r n i t y — g o e s i n all directions, but i t moves nection. If "to come into contact" is to begin to make sense of one
o n l y insofar as it goes f r o m one p o i n t to another; spacing is its ab- another, then this " c o m i n g " penetrates n o t h i n g ; there is no inter-
solute c o n d i t i o n . F r o m place t o place, a n d f r o m m o m e n t t o m o - mediate and m e d i a t i n g " m i l i e u . " M e a n i n g is not a m i l i e u in w h i c h
ment, w i t h o u t any progression or linear path, bit by bit and case by we are immersed. T h e r e is no mi-lieu [between place]. It is a mat-
6 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 7

ter of one or the other, one a n d the other, one w i t h the other, but cludes h i m s e l f in the a n o n y m i t y of the "one." F o r example, I can
by no means the one in the other, w h i c h w o u l d be something other say "someone said to me" ["on m'a dit"] or else " i t is said that" ["on
than one or the other (another essence, another nature, a diffuse or dit que"] or else "that is h o w it is d o n e " ["c'est c o m m e ça q u ' o n
infuse generality). F r o m one to the other is the syncopated repeti- fait"] or else "one is b o r n ; one dies" ["on naît, on m e u r t " ] . These
t i o n of origins-of-the-world, w h i c h are each time one or the other. uses are not equivalent a n d , moreover, it is not certain that it is al-
T h e o r i g i n is affirmation; repetition is the c o n d i t i o n of affirma- ways the case that the "one" speaks of h i m s e l f ( f r o m a n d about
t i o n . I say "that is, that it is." It is not a "fact" and has n o t h i n g to h i m s e l f ) . Heidegger understood that "one" w o u l d o n l y be said as a
do w i t h any sort of evaluation. It is a singularity t a k i n g refuge in response to the question "who?" put to the subject of Dasein, but
its affirmation of B e i n g , a t o u c h of m e a n i n g . It is not an other Be- he does not pose the other inevitable question that must be asked
ing; it is the singular of B e i n g by w h i c h the being is, or it is of Be- in order to discover who gives this response a n d w h o , in respond-
i n g , w h i c h is being in a transitive sense of the verb (an unheard of, ing like this, removes h i m s e l f or has a tendency to remove himself.
inaudible s e n s e — t h e very m e a n i n g o f Being). T h e touch o f m e a n - As a result, he risks neglecting the fact that there is no pure a n d
i n g brings i n t o play [engager] its o w n singularity, its d i s t i n c t i o n , simple "one," n o "one" i n w h i c h "properly existing" existence [l'ex-
and brings i n t o play the p l u r a l i t y of the "each t i m e " of every touch istant "proprement existant"] is, f r o m the start, purely a n d s i m p l y
of m e a n i n g , " m i n e " as well as all the others, each one of w h i c h is immersed. "People" clearly designates the m o d e of "one" by w h i c h
" m i n e " in turn, a c c o r d i n g to the singular t u r n of its affirmation. " I " remove myself, to the p o i n t of appearing to forget or neglect
R i g h t away, then, there is the repetition of the touches of m e a n - the fact that I myself am part of "people." In any case, this setting
i n g , w h i c h m e a n i n g demands. T h i s i n c o m m e n s u r a b l e , absolutely apart [mise à l'écart] does n o t o c c u r w i t h o u t the r e c o g n i t i o n of
heterogeneous repetition opens up an i r r e d u c i b l e strangeness of identity. "People" clearly states that we are all precisely people, that
each one of these touches to the other. T h e other o r i g i n is i n c o m - is, i n d i s t i n c t l y persons, h u m a n s , all of a c o m m o n " k i n d , " but of a
parable or inassimilable, not because it is s i m p l y "other" but be- k i n d that has its existence o n l y as numerous, dispersed, a n d inde-
cause it is an origin and touch of meaning. Or rather, the alterity of terminate in its generality. T h i s existence can o n l y be grasped in
the other is its originary c o n t i g u i t y w i t h the "proper" o r i g i n . Y o u
6 the paradoxical s i m u l t a n e i t y of togetherness ( a n o n y m o u s , c o n -
are absolutely strange because the w o r l d begins its turn with you. fused, a n d indeed massive) and disseminated singularity (these or
We say "people are strange." T h i s phrase is one of our most c o n -
7 those "people(s)," or "a guy," "a g i r l , " "a k i d " ) .
stant a n d r u d i m e n t a r y o n t o l o g i c a l attestations. In fact, it says a " P e o p l e " are silhouettes that are b o t h imprecise a n d singular-
great deal. "People" indicates everyone else, designated as the i n - ized, faint outlines of voices, patterns of c o m p o r t m e n t , sketches
d e t e r m i n a t e ensemble of p o p u l a t i o n s , lineages, or races [gentes] of affects, not the a n o n y m o u s chatter of the " p u b l i c d o m a i n . " B u t
f r o m w h i c h the speaker removes himself. (Nevertheless, he re- what is an affect, if not each time a sketch? A c o m p o r t m e n t , if not
moves h i m s e l f in a very particular sort of way, because the desig- each time a pattern? A voice, if not each time a faint outline? W h a t
n a t i o n is so g e n e r a l — a n d this is exactly the p o i n t — t h a t it i n - is a singularity, if not each t i m e its " o w n " clearing, its " o w n " i m -
evitably turns back a r o u n d on the speaker. Since I say that "people minence, the i m m i n e n c e of a "propriety" or propriety itself as i m -
are strange," I i n c l u d e myself in a certain way in this strangeness.) minence, always touched u p o n , always l i g h t l y touched: revealing
T h e w o r d "people" does not say exactly the same t h i n g as the itself beside, always beside. ("Beside h i m s e l f " ["a côté de ses p o m -
H e i d e g g e r i a n " o n e , " even if it is p a r t l y a m o d e of it. W i t h the
8 9 pes" ], as the saying goes. T h e c o m e d y of this expression is no ac-
10

w o r d "one," it is not always certain whether or not the speaker i n - cident, a n d , whether it masks an anxiety or liberates the laughter
8 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 9

of the ignorant, it is always a matter of an escape, an evasion, a n d other r u d i m e n t a r y ontological attestation: what we receive (rather
an e m p t y i n g out of what is closest, an o d d i t y presented as the rule than what we perceive) w i t h singularities is the discreet passage of
itself.) other origins of the world. W h a t occurs there, w h a t bends, leans,
" I " take refuge in an exception or d i s t i n c t i o n w h e n I say "peo- twists, addresses, d e n i e s — f r o m the newborn to the c o r p s e — i s nei-
ple," but I also confer this d i s t i n c t i o n on each a n d every person, ther p r i m a r i l y "someone close," nor an "other," nor a "stranger,"
although in just as obscure a way. T h i s is u n d o u b t e d l y w h y people nor "someone s i m i l a r . " It is an o r i g i n ; it is an affirmation of the
so often make the j u d g m e n t "people are strange" or "people are i n - w o r l d , a n d we k n o w that the w o r l d has no other o r i g i n than this
credible." It is not only, or even p r i m a r i l y , a question of the ten- singular m u l t i p l i c i t y of origins. T h e w o r l d always appears [surgit] 11

dency (however evident) to set up o u r o w n habitus as the n o r m . It each time according to a decidedly local t u r n [of events]. Its unity,
is necessary to uncover a more p r i m i t i v e level of this particular its uniqueness, a n d its totality consist in a c o m b i n a t i o n of this
j u d g m e n t , one where what is apprehended is n o t h i n g other than reticulated m u l t i p l i c i t y , w h i c h produces no result.
singularity as such. F r o m faces to voices, gestures, attitudes, dress, W i t h o u t this attestation, there w o u l d be no first attestation of
a n d c o n d u c t , whatever the " t y p i c a l " traits are, everyone d i s t i n - existence as such, that is, of the nonessence a n d non-subsistence-by-
guishes h i m s e l f by a sort of s u d d e n a n d h e a d l o n g p r e c i p i t a t i o n itself that is the basis of being-oneself. T h i s is w h y the Heidegger-
where the strangeness of a singularity is concentrated. W i t h o u t this ian "one" is insufficient as the initial understanding o f existentielle
p r e c i p i t a t i o n there w o u l d be, q u i t e s i m p l y , n o "someone." A n d "everydayness." Heidegger confuses the everyday w i t h the undif-
there w o u l d be no more interest or hospitality, desire or disgust, no ferentiated, the a n o n y m o u s , a n d the statistical. These are no less
matter w h o or what it m i g h t be for. i m p o r t a n t , but they can o n l y constitute themselves in relation to
" S o m e o n e " here is u n d e r s t o o d in the way a person m i g h t say the differentiated singularity that the everyday already is by itself:
"it's h i m all right" about a p h o t o , expressing by this "all right" the each day, each time, day to day. O n e cannot affirm that the m e a n -
covering over of a gap, m a k i n g adequate what is inadequate, capa- ing of B e i n g must express itself starting f r o m everydayness a n d
ble of relating o n l y to the "instantaneous" grasping of an instant then begin by neglecting the general differentiation of the every-
that is precisely its o w n gap. T h e p h o t o — I have in m i n d an every- day, its constantly renewed rupture, its i n t i m a t e discord, its poly-
day, banal p h o t o — s i m u l t a n e o u s l y reveals singularity, banality, a n d m o r p h y and its polyphony, its relief a n d its variety. A "day" is not
our curiosity about one another. T h e p r i n c i p l e o f indiscernability s i m p l y a u n i t for c o u n t i n g ; it is the t u r n i n g of the w o r l d — e a c h
here becomes decisive. N o t o n l y are all people different but they time singular. A n d days, indeed every day, c o u l d not be similar if
are also all different f r o m one another. T h e y do not differ f r o m an they were not first different, difference itself. Likewise "people," or
archetype or a generality. T h e typical traits (ethnic, cultural, social, rather "peoples," given the irreducible strangeness that constitutes
generational, and so forth), whose particular patterns constitute an- them as such, are themselves p r i m a r i l y the exposing of the singu-
other level of singularity, do not abolish singular differences; i n - larity according to w h i c h existence exists, irreducibly a n d p r i m a r -
stead, they b r i n g t h e m i n t o relief. As for singular differences, they i l y — a n d a n e x p o s i t i o n o f s i n g u l a r i t y that experience claims t o
are not o n l y " i n d i v i d u a l , " but i n f r a i n d i v i d u a l . It is never the case c o m m u n i c a t e w i t h , in the sense of "to" and "along w i t h , " the to-
that I have met Pierre or M a r i e per se, but I have met h i m or her in tality of beings. " N a t u r e " is also "strange," and we exist there; we
s u c h a n d such a " f o r m , " in s u c h a n d such a "state," in such a n d exist in it in the m o d e of a constantly renewed singularity, whether
such a " m o o d , " a n d so o n . the singularity of the diversity a n d disparity of our senses or that
T h i s very h u m b l e layer of our everyday experience contains a n - of the d i s c o n c e r t i n g p r o f u s i o n of nature's species or its various
10 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 11

metamorphoses i n t o "technology." T h e n again, we say "strange," it or as it, but with it, in a sense that must be elucidated here a n d is
" o d d , " "curious," "disconcerting" about all of being. n o t h i n g other than the m e a n i n g of originary coexistence.
T h e m e s o f " w o n d e r " a n d the "marvel o f B e i n g " are suspect i f T h e alterity of the other is its being-origin. Conversely, the orig-
they refer to an ecstatic mysticism that pretends to escape the w o r l d . inarity of the o r i g i n is its being-other, but it is a being-other than
T h e theme of scientific curiosity is no less suspect if it boils d o w n every b e i n g for a n d in crossing through [à travers] all b e i n g . T h u s ,
to a collector's preoccupation w i t h rarities. In b o t h cases, desire for the originarity of the origin is not a property that w o u l d distinguish
the exception presupposes disdain for the ordinary. H e g e l was u n - a being f r o m all others, because this being w o u l d then have to be
doubtedly the first to have this properly m o d e r n consciousness of s o m e t h i n g other than itself in order to have its o r i g i n in its o w n
the v i o l e n t paradox of a t h i n k i n g whose o w n value is as yet u n - t u r n . T h i s is the most classic of God's aporias, a n d the p r o o f of his
heard of, a n d whose d o m a i n is the grayness of the w o r l d . T h i s or- nonexistence. In fact, this is the most i m m e d i a t e i m p o r t a n c e of
d i n a r y grayness, the insignificance of the e v e r y d a y — w h i c h the Kant's destruction of the ontological argument, w h i c h can be de-
H e i d e g g e r i a n "one" s t i l l bears the m a r k o f — a s s u m e s an absent, ciphered in a quasi-literal m a n n e r ; the necessity of existence is
lost, or far away "grandeur." Yet, t r u t h can be n o t h i n g if not the given r i g h t at the e x i s t i n g of all existences [l'exister de tout l'exis-
t r u t h of being in totality, that is, the totality of its "ordinariness," tant], in its very diversity a n d contingency. In no way does this
just as m e a n i n g can o n l y be right at [à même] existence a n d n o - constitute a supplementary Being. T h e w o r l d has no supplement. It
where else. T h e m o d e r n w o r l d asks that this truth be thought: that is supplemented in itself a n d , as such, is indefinitely supplemented
m e a n i n g is right at. It is in the indefinite p l u r a l i t y of origins a n d by the o r i g i n .
their coexistence. T h e " o r d i n a r y " is always exceptional, however T h i s follows as an essential consequence: the being-other of the
little we understand its character as o r i g i n . W h a t we receive most o r i g i n is not the alterity of an " o t h e r - t h a n - t h e - w o r l d . " It is not a
c o m m u n a l l y as "strange" is that the o r d i n a r y itself is originary. question of an O t h e r (the inevitably "capitalized O t h e r " ) 14
than the
W i t h existence l a i d open in this way and the m e a n i n g of the w o r l d w o r l d ; it is a question of the alterity or alteration of the w o r l d . In
being what it is, the exception is the rule. (Is this not the testimony other w o r d s , it is not a q u e s t i o n of an aliud or an alius, or an
of the arts a n d literature? Is not the first a n d o n l y purpose of their alienus, or an other in general as the essential stranger w h o is o p -
strange existence the presentation of this strangeness? After a l l , in posed to what is proper, but of an alter, that is, "one of the t w o . "
the etymology of the w o r d bizarre) whether the w o r d comes f r o m
1
T h i s "other," this "lowercase other," is "one" a m o n g m a n y insofar
Basque or A r a b i c , there is a sense of valor, c o m m a n d i n g presence, as they are m a n y ; it is each one, a n d it is each time one, one among
a n d elegance.) them, one a m o n g all a n d one among us a l l . In the same way, a n d
reciprocally, "we" is always inevitably "us a l l , " where no one of us
can be " a l l " and each one of us is, in t u r n (where all o u r turns are
G a i n i n g Access to the O r i g i n
simultaneous as well as successive, in every sense), the other o r i g i n
As a consequence, g a i n i n g access to the o r i g i n , 1 3
entering i n t o of the same w o r l d .
m e a n i n g , comes d o w n to exposing oneself to this t r u t h . T h e "outside" of the o r i g i n is " i n s i d e " — i n an inside more inte-
W h a t this means is that we do not gain access to the o r i g i n : ac- rior than the extreme interior, that is, more interior than the inti-
cess is refused by the origin's concealing itself in its multiplicity. We macy of the w o r l d a n d the i n t i m a c y that belongs to each "me." If
do not gain access; that is, we do not penetrate the o r i g i n ; we do intimacy must be defined as the extremity of coincidence w i t h one-
not identify w i t h it. M o r e precisely, we do not identify ourselves in self, then what exceeds i n t i m a c y in inferiority is the distancing of
12 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 13

coincidence itself. It is a coexistence of the o r i g i n " i n " itself, a co- stitutes the "capitalization" of the " O t h e r , " its u n i f i e d a n d b r o k e n
existence of origins; it is no accident that we use the w o r d " i n t i - transcendence. B u t , in this way, all forms of the capitalized " O t h e r "
macy" to designate a relation between several people more often represent precisely the exalted a n d overexalted m o d e of the p r o p r i -
than a relation to oneself. O u r b e i n g - w i t h , as a being-many, is not ety of what is proper, w h i c h persists a n d consists in the "some-
at all accidental, and it is in no way the secondary and r a n d o m dis- where" of a "nowhere" a n d in the "sometime" of a "no t i m e , " that
persion of a p r i m o r d i a l essence. It forms the proper a n d necessary is, in the punctum aeternum outside the w o r l d .
status a n d consistency of originary alterity as such. The plurality of T h e outside is inside; it is the spacing of the d i s - p o s i t i o n of the
beings is at the foundation [fondment] of Being. w o r l d ; it is our d i s p o s i t i o n a n d our co-appearance. Its "negativity"
A single being is a c o n t r a d i c t i o n in terms. S u c h a being, w h i c h changes m e a n i n g ; it is not converted i n t o positivity, but instead
w o u l d be its o w n f o u n d a t i o n , o r i g i n , and intimacy, w o u l d be inca- corresponds to the m o d e of B e i n g w h i c h is that of disposition/co-
pable of Being, in every sense that this expression can have here. appearance a n d w h i c h , strictly s p e a k i n g , is neither negative n o r
" B e i n g " is neither a state nor a quality, but rather the action ac- positive, b u t instead the m o d e of being-together or b e i n g - with.
c o r d i n g to w h i c h what K a n t calls "the [mere] p o s i t i n g of a t h i n g " 1 5
T h e o r i g i n is together w i t h other origins, o r i g i n a l l y d i v i d e d . As a
takes place ("is"). T h e very simplicity of "position" implies no more, matter of fact, we do have access to it. We have access exactly in
although no less, than its being discrete, in the mathematical sense, the m o d e of h a v i n g access; we get there; we are on the b r i n k , clos-
or its d i s t i n c t i o n from, in the sense of with, other (at least possible) est, at the threshold; we touch the o r i g i n . " ( T r u l y ) we have access
positions, or its d i s t i n c t i o n among, in the sense of between, other (to the t r u t h ) . . . . " , 6
["À la vérité, nous accédons . . . "] is B a -
positions. In other words, every p o s i t i o n is also dis-position, a n d , tailles p h r a s e , 17
the a m b i g u i t y of w h i c h I repeat even t h o u g h I use
considering the appearing that takes the place of a n d takes place in it in another way (in Bataille, it precedes the affirmation of an i m -
the p o s i t i o n , all appearance is co-appearance [com-parution]. T h i s mediate loss of access). Perhaps everything happens between loss
is w h y the m e a n i n g of B e i n g is given as existence, being-in-oneself- and a p p r o p r i a t i o n : neither one n o r the other, nor one a n d the
outside-oneself, w h i c h we make explicit, we " h u m a n s , " but w h i c h other, nor one in the other, b u t m u c h more strangely t h a n that,
we make explicit, as I have said, for the totality of beings. m u c h more simply.
If the o r i g i n is i r r e d u c i b l y p l u r a l , if it is the indefinitely u n f o l d - "To r e a c h 18
[toucher] the e n d " is again to risk missing it, because
i n g and variously m u l t i p l i e d i n t i m a c y o f the w o r l d , then not gain- the origin is not an end. E n d , like P r i n c i p l e , is a form of the O t h e r .
i n g access to the o r i g i n takes on another m e a n i n g . Its negativity is To reach the o r i g i n is not to miss it; it is to be properly exposed to
neither that of the abyss, nor of the f o r b i d d e n , nor of the veiled or it. Since it is not another t h i n g (an aliud), the o r i g i n is neither
the concealed, nor of the secret, nor that of the unpresentable. It "missable" nor appropriable (penetrable, absorbable). It does not
need not operate, then, in the dialectical m o d e where the subject obey this logic. It is the plural singularity of the B e i n g of being. We
must retain in itself its o w n negation (since it is the negation of its reach it to the extent that we are in t o u c h w i t h ourselves a n d in
o w n origin). N o r does it have to operate in a mystical m o d e , w h i c h touch w i t h the rest of beings. We are in t o u c h w i t h ourselves inso-
is the reverse of the dialectical mode, where the subject must rejoice far as we exist. B e i n g in touch w i t h ourselves is what makes us "us,"
in its negation. In b o t h of these, negativity is given as the aliud, and there is no other secret to discover b u r i e d b e h i n d this very
where alienation is the process that must be reversed in terms of a touching, b e h i n d the " w i t h " o f coexistence.
reappropriation. A l l forms o f the "capitalized O t h e r " presume this We have access to the truth of the o r i g i n as m a n y times as we are
alienation f r o m the proper as their o w n ; this is exactly what c o n - in one another's presence a n d in the presence of the rest of beings.

Il,
'4 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 15

Access is " c o m i n g to presence," but presence itself is dis-position, or folded mass, a radiance, a scent, a song, or a suspended move-
the spacing of singularities. Presence is nowhere other t h a n in ment, exactly because it is the b i r t h of a world (and not the c o n -
" c o m i n g to presence." We do not have access to a t h i n g or a state, struction of a system). A w o r l d is always as m a n y worlds as it takes
but o n l y to a c o m i n g . We have access to an access. to make a w o r l d .
"Strangeness" refers to the fact that each singularity is another We o n l y have access to o u r s e l v e s — a n d to the w o r l d . It is o n l y
access to the w o r l d . At the p o i n t where we w o u l d expect "some- ever a question of the f o l l o w i n g : f u l l access is there, access to the
t h i n g , " a substance or a procedure, a p r i n c i p l e or an e n d , a signifi- whole of the o r i g i n . T h i s is called "finitude" in Heideggerian termi-
cation, there is n o t h i n g but the manner, the t u r n of the other ac- nology. But it has become clear since then that "finitude" signifies
cess, w h i c h conceals itself in the very gesture wherein it offers itself the infinite singularity of meaning, the infinite singularity of access
to u s — a n d whose concealing is the t u r n i n g itself. In the singular- to t r u t h . F i n i t u d e is the o r i g i n ; that is, it is an i n f i n i t y of origins.
ity that he exposes, each c h i l d that is b o r n has already concealed " O r i g i n " does not signify that f r o m w h i c h the w o r l d comes, but
the access that he is "for h i m s e l f " a n d in w h i c h he w i l l conceal rather the c o m i n g of each presence of the w o r l d , each time singular.
h i m s e l f " w i t h i n himself," just as he w i l l one day hide under the fi-
nal expression of a dead face. T h i s is w h y we scrutinize these faces
The Creation of the W o r l d and Curiosity
w i t h such curiosity, in search of identification, l o o k i n g to see w h o m
the c h i l d looks like, a n d to see if death looks like itself. W h a t we T h e concept of the "creation of the w o r l d " 1 9
represents the origin
are l o o k i n g for there, like in the photographs, is not an image; it is as originarily shared, spaced between us and between all beings.
an access. T h i s , in t u r n , contributes to rendering the concept of the "author"
Is this not what interests us or touches us in "literature" a n d in of the w o r l d untenable. In fact, one c o u l d show h o w the m o t i f of
"the arts"? W h a t else interests us about the d i s j u n c t i o n of the arts creation is one of those that leads directly to the death of G o d u n -
among themselves, by w h i c h they are what they are as arts: p l u r a l derstood as author, first cause, and supreme being. Furthermore, if
singulars? W h a t else are they but the exposition of an access c o n - one looks at metaphysics carefully, there is not a G o d w h o s i m p l y
cealed in its o w n opening, an access that is, then, " i n i m i t a b l e , " u n - and easily conforms to the idea of a producer. W h e t h e r in Augus-
transportable, untranslatable because it forms, each t i m e , an ab- tine, A q u i n a s , Descartes, Malebranche, Spinoza, or L e i b n i z , one al-
solute p o i n t of translation, transmission, or transition of the o r i g i n ways finds that the theme of creation is burdened w i t h and misrep-
into origin. W h a t counts in art, what makes art art (and what resented as a p r o b l e m of p r o d u c t i o n , right up u n t i l the decisive
makes h u m a n s the artists of the w o r l d , that is, those w h o expose moment of the ontological argument's downfall. (Hegel's restoration
the w o r l d for the w o r l d ) , is neither the " b e a u t i f u l " nor the "sub- of the argument, the one to w h i c h Schelling assigned significant i m -
l i m e " ; it is neither "purposiveness w i t h o u t a p u r p o s e " nor the portance, is n o t h i n g but an elaboration of the concept of creation.)
" j u d g m e n t of taste"; it is neither "sensible manifestation" nor the T h e distinctive characteristic of the concept of creation is not
" p u t t i n g into w o r k of t r u t h . " U n d o u b t e d l y , it is all that, but in a n - that it posits a creator, but that, on the contrary, it renders the "cre-
other way: it is access to the scattered origin in its very scattering; it ator" indistinct f r o m its "creation." (It has to be said, here, in a gen-
is the p l u r a l t o u c h i n g of the singular o r i g i n . T h i s is what "the i m i - eral way, that the distinctive characteristic of Western m o n o t h e i s m
tation of nature" has always meant. A r t always has to do w i t h cos- is not the positing of a single god, but rather the effacing of the d i -
mogony, but it exposes cosmogony for what it is: necessarily p l u r a l , vine as such in the transcendence of the w o r l d . W i t h respect to the
diffracted, discreet, a t o u c h of color or tone, an agile t u r n of phrase question of o r i g i n , this is surely the precise p o i n t at w h i c h the l i n k
i6 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 17

is forged that makes us unfailingly Jew-Greek in every respect. A n d , creatures are o n l y effects, w h i l e the love a n d glory of G o d are de-
w i t h respect to the question of destination, this is the p o i n t f r o m posited right at [à même] the level of what is created; that is, crea-
w h i c h we are sent i n t o the "global" space as such. ) In m y t h o l o g i -20
tures are the very brilliance [éclat] of God's c o m i n g to presence.
11

cal cosmogonies, a god or demiurge makes a w o r l d starting f r o m a It is necessary, then, to u n d e r s t a n d the theme of the " i m a g e of
situation that is already there, whatever this situation may be. 21
In G o d " and/or the "trace of G o d " not according to the logic of a sec-
creation, however, it is the being-already-there of the already-there ondary i m i t a t i o n , but according to this other logic where " G o d " is
that is of concern. In fact, if creation is ex nihilo, this does not sig- itself the singular appearance of the image or trace, or the disposi-
nify that a creator operates "starting f r o m n o t h i n g . " As a rich a n d tion of its exposition: place as d i v i n e place, the divine as strictly lo-
c o m p l e x t r a d i t i o n demonstrates, this fact instead signifies t w o cal. As a consequence, this is no longer " d i v i n e , " b u t is the dis-
things: on the one h a n d , it signifies that the "creator" itself is the location a n d d i s - p o s i t i o n of the w o r l d (what S p i n o z a calls "the
nihil', on the other, it signifies that this nihil is not, logically speak- divine extension") as that o p e n i n g a n d possibility [ressource] w h i c h
i n g , s o m e t h i n g " f r o m w h i c h " ["d'où"] what is created w o u l d come comes f r o m further away and goes farther, infinitely farther, than
[provenir], b u t the very o r i g i n [provenance], a n d d e s t i n a t i o n , of any god.
some t h i n g in general and of everything. N o t only is the nihil n o t h - If "creation" is indeed this singular ex-position of being, then its
i n g prior but there is also no longer a " n o t h i n g " that preexists cre- real name is existence. Existence is creation, our creation; it is the
ation; it is the act of appearing [surgissement], it is the very o r i g i n — beginning and e n d that tware. T h i s is the thought that is the most
insofar as this is understood o n l y as what is designated by the verb necessary for us to t h i n k . If we do not succeed in t h i n k i n g it, then
"to originate." If the n o t h i n g is not anything prior, then only the ex we w i l l never gain access to w h o we are, we w h o are no more than
r e m a i n s — i f one can talk about it like t h i s — t o qualify creation-in- us in a w o r l d , w h i c h is itself no more than the w o r l d — b u t we w h o
a c t i o n , that is, the appearing or arrival [venue] in nothing ( i n the have reached this point precisely because we have thought logos (the
sense that we talk about someone appearing " i n person"). self-presentation of presence) as creation (as singular c o m i n g ) .
T h e n o t h i n g , then, is n o t h i n g other than the dis-position of the T h i s t h i n k i n g is in no way anthropocentric; it does not put h u -
appearing. T h e o r i g i n is a distancing. It is a distancing that i m m e - manity at the center of "creation"; on the contrary, it transgresses
diately has the magnitude of all space-time and is also nothing other [traverse] h u m a n i t y in the excess of the appearing that appears on
than the interstice of the i n t i m a c y of the w o r l d : the among-being the scale of the totality of being, but w h i c h also appears as that ex-
[l'entre-étant] of all beings. T h i s among-being itself is n o t h i n g but cess [démesure] w h i c h is impossible to totalize. It is being's infinite
[a] being, a n d has no other consistency, movement, or configura- original singularity. In h u m a n i t y , or rather right at [à même] h u -
tion than that of the being-a-being [l'etre-étant] of all beings. Being, manity, existence is exposed and exposing. T h e simplest way to put
or the a m o n g , shares the singularities of all appearings. C r e a t i o n this into language w o u l d be to say that h u m a n i t y speaks existence,
takes place everywhere and a l w a y s — b u t it is this unique event, or but what speaks through its speech says the w h o l e of being. W h a t
advent, only on the condition of being each time what it is, or being Heidegger calls "the ontico-ontological privilege" of Dasein is nei-
what it is o n l y "at each t i m e , " each time appearing singularly. ther its prerogative nor its privilege [apanage]: it gets B e i n g on its
O n e can understand h o w the creation, as it appears in any Jewish- way [// engage l'être], b u t the B e i n g of Dasein is n o t h i n g other t h a n
C h r i s t i a n - I s l a m i c t h e o l o g i c o - m y s t i c c o n f i g u r a t i o n , testifies less the B e i n g of being.
(and c e r t a i n l y never exclusively) to a p r o d u c t i v e power of G o d If existence is exposed as such by humans, what is exposed there
t h a n to his goodness a n d glory. In relation to s u c h power, then, also holds for the rest of beings. T h e r e is not, on the one side, an
18 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 19

originary singularity and then, on the other, a simple being-there of Even supposing one still w i s h e d to take the w o r l d as the repre-
things, more or less given for our use. On the contrary, in exposing sentation of humanity, this w o u l d not necessarily i m p l y a solipsism
itself as singularity, existence exposes the singularity of Being as such of h u m a n i t y : because, if that is the case, then it is the representa-
in all being. T h e difference between h u m a n i t y and the rest of be- tion itself that instructs me about what it necessarily represents to
ing (which is not a concern to be denied, but the nature of w h i c h is, me, an irrefutable exteriority as my exteriority. T h e representation
nevertheless, not a given), while itself being inseparable f r o m other of a spacing is itself a spacing. An intuitus originarius, w h i c h w o u l d
differences w i t h i n being (since m a n is "also" a n i m a l , "also" l i v i n g , not be a representation but rather an i m m e r s i o n in the thing-itself,
"also" physio-chemical), does not distinguish true existence f r o m a w o u l d exist alone a n d w o u l d be for itself the o r i g i n a n d the t h i n g :
sort of subexistence. Instead, this difference forms the concrete c o n - this was s h o w n above to be contradictory. Descartes h i m s e l f testi-
d i t i o n of singularity. We w o u l d not be " h u m a n s " if there were not fies to the exteriority of the w o r l d as the exteriority of his body. Be-
"dogs" and "stones." A stone is the exteriority of singularity in what cause he hardly doubts his body, he makes a fiction of d o u b t i n g it,
w o u l d have to be called its mineral or mechanical actuality [litter- and this pretension as such attests to the t r u t h of res extensa. It is
alité}. B u t I w o u l d no longer be a " h u m a n " if I d i d not have this also not s u r p r i s i n g that for Descartes the reality of this w o r l d ,
exteriority " i n me," in the f o r m of the quasi-minerality of bone: I about w h i c h G o d c o u l d not deceive me, is m a i n t a i n e d in B e i n g by
w o u l d no longer be a h u m a n if I were not a body, a spacing of all the continuous creation on the part of this very G o d . Reality is al-
other bodies a n d a spacing of "me" in "me." A singularity is always ways in each instant, f r o m place to place, each time in t u r n , w h i c h
a body, and all bodies are singularities (the bodies, their states, their is exactly h o w the reality of res cogitans attests to itself in each "ego
movements, their transformations). s u m , " w h i c h is each t i m e the "I a m " of each one in t u r n [chaque
Existence, therefore, is not a property of Dasein; it is the o r i g i - fois de chacun à son tour].
nal singularity of B e i n g , w h i c h Dasein exposes for all being. T h i s O n c e again, this is the way in w h i c h there is no O t h e r . " C r e -
is w h y h u m a n i t y is not " i n the w o r l d " as it w o u l d be in a m i l i e u ation" signifies precisely that there is no O t h e r and that the "there
(why w o u l d the m i l i e u be necessary?); it is in the w o r l d insofar as is" is not an O t h e r . B e i n g is not the O t h e r , b u t the o r i g i n is the
the w o r l d is its o w n exteriority, the proper space of its being-out- punctual a n d discrete spacing between us, as between us and the rest
i n - t h e - w o r l d . B u t it is necessary to go farther than this in order to of the world, as between all beings. 25

avoid g i v i n g the impression that the w o r l d , despite everything, re- We find this alterity p r i m a r i l y a n d essentially i n t r i g u i n g . It i n -
m a i n s essentially "the w o r l d of h u m a n s . " It is not so m u c h the trigues us because it exposes the always-other o r i g i n , always inap-
w o r l d of h u m a n i t y as it is the w o r l d of the n o n h u m a n to w h i c h h u - p r o p r i a t e and always there, each a n d every time present as i n i m -
m a n i t y i s exposed a n d w h i c h h u m a n i t y , i n t u r n , exposes. O n e itable. T h i s is w h y we are p r i m a r i l y a n d essentially curious about
c o u l d try to formulate it in the f o l l o w i n g way: humanity is the ex- the w o r l d a n d about ourselves (where "the w o r l d " is the generic
posing of the world; it is neither the end nor the ground of the world; name of the object of this ontological curiosity). T h e correlate of
the world is the exposure of humanity; it is neither the environment creation, understood as existence itself, is a curiosity that must be
nor the representation of humanity. understood in a completely different sense than the one given by
Therefore, however far h u m a n i t y is f r o m being the e n d of na- Heidegger. For h i m , curiosity is the frantic activity of passing f r o m
ture or nature the e n d of h u m a n i t y (we have already tried all the being to being in an insatiable sort of way, w i t h o u t ever being able
variations of this f o r m u l a ) , the e n d is always b e i n g - i n - t h e - w o r l d to stop and think. W i t h o u t a doubt, this does testify to being-with-
a n d the being-world of all being. one-another, but it testifies to it without being able to gain access to
20 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 21

the existent o p e n i n g that characterizes Dasein in the " i n s t a n t . " 24


It ulous execution, the joy of agony. Or it is the massacre, the mass
is necessary, then, to disconnect the most p r i m i t i v e layer of curios- grave, massive a n d technological execution, the bookkeeping of the
ity, the level on w h i c h we are p r i m a r i l y interested by what is inter- camps. It is always a matter of expediting the transformation of the
esting par excellence (the o r i g i n ) , f r o m this inconsistent curiosity other into the O t h e r or m a k i n g the O t h e r appear in the place of
a n d also f r o m the attention that takes care of others (Fiirsorge). At the other, a n d , therefore, a matter of identifying the O t h e r a n d the
this level, we are interested in the sense of being i n t r i g u e d by the origin itself.
ever-renewed alterity of the origin a n d , if I may say so, in the sense T h e O t h e r is n o t h i n g more t h a n a correlate of this m a d desire,
of having an affair w i t h it. (It is no accident that sexual curiosity is but others, in fact, are our originary interests. It is true, however, that
an exemplary figure of curiosity and is, in fact, more than just a fig- the possibility of this m a d desire is contained in the very disposi-
ure o f it.) tion of o r i g i n a r y interests: the d i s s e m i n a t i o n of the o r i g i n upsets
As E n g l i s h [and French] allows us to say, other beings are curious [affole] the o r i g i n in "me" to exactly the same extent that it makes
(or bizarre) to me because they give me access to the o r i g i n ; they me curious about it, makes "me" a "me" (or a "subject," someone
a l l o w me to t o u c h it; they leave me before it, leave me before its in any case). (It follows, then, that no ethics w o u l d be independent
t u r n i n g , w h i c h is concealed each time. W h e t h e r an other is another from an ontology. O n l y ontology, in fact, may be ethical in a c o n -
person, a n i m a l , plant, or star, it is above all the glaring presence of sistent manner. It w i l l be necessary to return to this elsewhere.)
a place a n d m o m e n t of absolute o r i g i n , irrefutable, offered as s u c h
a n d v a n i s h i n g in its passing. T h i s occurs in the face of a n e w b o r n
Between Us: First Philosophy
c h i l d , a face encountered by chance on the street, an insect, a shark,
a pebble . . . but if one really wants to u n d e r s t a n d it, it is not a W h e n addressing the fact that p h i l o s o p h y is contemporaneous
matter of m a k i n g all these curious presences equal. w i t h the G r e e k city, one ends up l o s i n g sight of what is in ques-
If we do not have access to the other in the m o d e just described, t i o n — a n d r i g h t l y so. A s i s o n l y f i t t i n g , however, l o s i n g sight o f
but seek to appropriate the o r i g i n — w h i c h is s o m e t h i n g we always what is in question returns us to the p r o b l e m in all its acuity after
d o — t h e n this same curiosity transforms itself into appropriative or these twenty-eight centuries.
destructive rage. We no longer l o o k for a singularity of the o r i g i n It returns us to the question of the origin of our history. T h e r e is
in the other; we look for the unique and exclusive o r i g i n , in order to no sense of reconstituting a teleology here, a n d it is not a matter of
either adopt it or reject it. T h e other becomes the O t h e r according retracing a process directed toward an e n d . To the contrary, history
to the m o d e of desire or hatred. M a k i n g the other d i v i n e (together clearly appears here as the m o v e m e n t sparked by a singular c i r -
w i t h o u r v o l u n t a r y servitude) or m a k i n g it evil (together w i t h its cumstance, a movement that does not reabsorb this singularity in
exclusion or extermination) is that part of curiosity no longer i n - a universality (or "universal history," as M a r x a n d Nietzsche under-
terested in dis-position and co-appearance, but rather has become stood it), b u t instead reflects the i m p a c t of this singularity in re-
the desire for the Position itself. T h i s desire is the desire to fix the newed singular events. T h u s , we have a "future" [avenir] a n d a "to
origin, or to give the origin to itself, once and for all, and i n one place come" [à venir]; we have this "future" as a "past," w h i c h is not past
for all, that is, always outside the w o r l d . T h i s is w h y such desire is a in the sense of being the starting p o i n t of a directed process, but
desire for murder, a n d not o n l y murder but also for an increase of past in the sense of b e i n g a "curiosity" ["bizarrerie"] (the " G r e e k
cruelty a n d horror, w h i c h is like the tendency toward the intensifi- miracle") that is itself i n t r i g u i n g a n d , as s u c h , remains s t i l l "to
cation of murder; it is m u t i l a t i o n , carving up, relentlessness, metic- come." T h i s dis-position of history indeed makes there be a history
22 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 23

a n d not a processus (here as elsewhere, the H e g e l i a n m o d e l reveals m o n foundation of c o m m u n i t y , where c o m m u n i t y , in t u r n , is the


itself as uncovering the truth by way of its exact opposite). O n e can foundation o f B e i n g .
understand, then, Heidegger's "history of B e i n g , " and understand It is w i t h i n this u n i f o r m h o r i z o n , according to different versions
that our relation to this history is necessarily that of its Destruktion, (whether strong or weak, happy or unhappy) of this p r e d o m i n a n t
or deconstruction. In other words, it is a matter of b r i n g i n g to light mode of inquiry, that we still understand the famous "political an-
this history's singularity as the disassembling law of its u n i t y a n d i m a l " o f A r i s t o t l e : it is to presume that logos is the c o n d i t i o n o f
understanding that this law itself is the law of m e a n i n g . community, w h i c h , in t u r n , is the c o n d i t i o n of h u m a n i t y ; and/or it
T h i s clearly supposes that such a task is as d e m a n d i n g a n d ur- is to presume that each of these three terms draws its u n i t y a n d
gent as it is impossible to measure. T h e task is to understand h o w consistency from [its sharing] a c o m m u n i c a t i o n of essence w i t h the
h i s t o r y — a s a singular, W e s t e r n a c c i d e n t — " b e c a m e " what one other two (where the w o r l d as such remains relatively exterior to
m i g h t call " g l o b a l " or "planetary" w i t h o u t , at the same t i m e , e n - the whole affair, p r e s u m i n g that nature or physis accomplishes itself
gendering itself as "universal." Consequently, it is the task of u n - in h u m a n i t y u n d e r s t o o d as logos politikos, whereas technë s u b o r d i -
d e r s t a n d i n g h o w the W e s t disappeared, not by r e c i t i n g the for- nates itself to both).
mulas of its generalized u n i f o r m i t y , but by u n d e r s t a n d i n g the B u t this h o r i z o n — t h a t o f p o l i t i c a l p h i l o s o p h y i n the fullest
expansion, by a n d through this "uniformity," of a plural singularity sense (not as the " p h i l o s o p h y of politics," but p h i l o s o p h y as p o l i -
that is a n d is not, at the same time, "proper" to this "o/accident." t i c s ) — m i g h t very w e l l be what points to the singular s i t u a t i o n
A n d one must u n d e r s t a n d that this f o r m i d a b l e q u e s t i o n is n o n e where our history gets under way a n d , at the same time, blocks ac-
other than the q u e s t i o n of " c a p i t a l " (or of "capitalism"). If one cess to this situation. Or instead, this h o r i z o n m i g h t be that w h i c h ,
wants to give a f u l l account of " c a p i t a l " — s t a r t i n g f r o m the very in the course of its history, gives an i n d i c a t i o n of its o w n decon-
first moments of history that began in the merchant c i t i e s — t h e n it struction a n d exposes this situation anew in another w a y . 25
"Phi-
is necessary to remove it, far more radically than M a r x c o u l d have, losophy a n d p o l i t i c s " is the exposition [énoncé] of this situation.
f r o m its o w n representation in linear a n d c u m u l a t i v e history, as But it is a disjunctive exposition, because the situation itself is dis-
well as f r o m the representation of a teleological history of its over- junctive. T h e city is not p r i m a r i l y " c o m m u n i t y , " any more than it
c o m i n g or rejection. T h i s w o u l d appear to be t h e — p r o b l e m a t i c — is primarily "public space." T h e city is at least as m u c h the b r i n g i n g
lesson of history. B u t we cannot understand this task unless we first to light of b e i n g - i n - c o m m o n as the dis-position (dispersal a n d dis-
understand what is most at stake in o u r history, that is, w h a t is parity) of the c o m m u n i t y represented as f o u n d e d in interioriry or
most at stake in philosophy. transcendence. It is " c o m m u n i t y " w i t h o u t c o m m o n o r i g i n . T h a t
A c c o r d i n g to different versions, but in a p r e d o m i n a n t l y u n i f o r m being the case, and as l o n g as philosophy is an appeal to the o r i g i n ,
manner, the t r a d i t i o n p u t f o r w a r d a representation a c c o r d i n g to the city, far f r o m being philosophy's subject or space, is its p r o b -
w h i c h p h i l o s o p h y a n d the city w o u l d be ( w o u l d have been, must lem. Or else, it is its subject or space in the m o d e of being its prob-
have been) related to one another as subjects. A c c o r d i n g l y , p h i l o s - lem, its aporia. P h i l o s o p h y , for its part, can appeal to the o r i g i n
ophy, as the articulation of logos, is the subject of the city, where only on the c o n d i t i o n o f the dis-position o f logos (that is, o f the o r i -
the city is the space of this a r t i c u l a t i o n . L i k e w i s e , the city, as the gin as justified a n d set i n t o discourse): logos is the spacing at the
gathering of the logikoi, is the subject of philosophy, where p h i l o s - very place of the o r i g i n . Consequently, p h i l o s o p h y is the p r o b l e m
o p h y is the p r o d u c t i o n of their c o m m o n logos. Logos itself, then, of the city; p h i l o s o p h y covers over the subject that is expected as
contains the essence or m e a n i n g of this reciprocity: it is the c o m - "community."
2
4 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural *5

T h i s is w h y philosophical politics and political p h i l o s o p h y regu- 0 f b e i n g - i n - c o m m o n , a n d this real object is, i n t u r n , the singular
larly r u n aground on the essence of c o m m u n i t y or c o m m u n i t y as plural o f the o r i g i n , the singular p l u r a l o f the o r i g i n o f " c o m m u -
o r i g i n . Rousseau a n d M a r x are exemplary i n their struggle w i t h nity" itself (if one still wants to call this " c o m m u n i t y " ) . A l l of this is
these obstacles. Rousseau revealed the aporia of a c o m m u n i t y that undoubtedly what is indicated by the w o r d that follows "equality"
w o u l d have to precede itself in order to constitute itself: in its very in the French republican slogan: "fraternity" is supposed to be the
concept, the "social contract" is the denial or foreclosure of the orig- solution to equality (or to "equiliberty" ["égaliberté"]) 27
by evok-
i n a r y d i v i s i o n [déliaison] between those singularities that w o u l d ing or i n v o k i n g a "generic identity." W h a t is lacking there is exactly
have to agree to the contract a n d , thereby, "draw it to a close." A l - the c o m m o n o r i g i n o f the c o m m o n . 2 8

though assuredly more radical in his d e m a n d for the dissolution of It is "lacking" insofar as one attempts to take account of it w i t h i n
politics in all spheres of existence (which is the "realization of p h i - the h o r i z o n of p h i l o s o p h i c a l politics. O n c e this h o r i z o n is decon-
losophy"), M a r x ignores that the separation between singularities structed, however, the necessity of the p l u r a l singular of the o r i g i n
overcome and suppressed in this way is not, in fact, an accidental comes i n t o p l a y — a n d this is already under way. B u t I do not plan
separation i m p o s e d by " p o l i t i c a l " authority, but rather the consti- to propose an "other politics" under this heading. I am no longer
tutive separation of dis-position. H o w e v e r powerful it is for t h i n k - sure that this t e r m (or the t e r m " p o l i t i c a l p h i l o s o p h y " ) can c o n -
i n g the "real relation" a n d what we call the " i n d i v i d u a l , " " c o m m u - tinue to have any consistency b e y o n d this o p e n i n g up of the h o r i -
n i s m " was still not able to t h i n k b e i n g - i n - c o m m o n as distinct f r o m zon w h i c h comes to us b o t h at the e n d of the l o n g history of our
community. Western s i t u a t i o n and as the r e o p e n i n g of this s i t u a t i o n . I o n l y
In this sense, p h i l o s o p h i c a l politics regularly proceeds according want to help to b r i n g out that the c o m b i n a t i o n philosophy-politics,
to the surreptitious appeal to a metaphysics of the o n e - o r i g i n , i n all the force o f its being j o i n e d together, simultaneously exposes
where, at the same t i m e , it nevertheless exposes, volens nolens, the and hides the dis-position of the origin a n d co-appearance, w h i c h is
situation of the dis-position of origins. O f t e n the result is that the its correlate.
d i s - p o s i t i o n is t u r n e d i n t o a matter of exclusion, i n c l u d e d as ex- T h e philosophico-political h o r i z o n is what links the dis-position
c l u d e d , a n d that all p h i l o s o p h i c a l politics is a politics of exclusiv- to a c o n t i n u i t y a n d to a c o m m u n i t y of essence. In order to be ef-
ity a n d the correlative e x c l u s i o n — o f a class, of an order, of a " c o m - fective, such a relation requires an essentializing procedure: sacri-
m u n i t y " — t h e p o i n t of w h i c h is to end up w i t h a "people," in the fice. If one looks carefully, one can find the place of sacrifice in all
"base" sense of the term. T h e d e m a n d for equality, then, is the nec- political p h i l o s o p h y (or rather, one w i l l find the challenge of the
essary, ultimate, a n d absolute gesture; in fact, it is almost i n d i c a - abstract, w h i c h makes a sacrifice of concrete singularity). B u t as sin-
tive of dis-position as such. However, as l o n g as this continues to gular o r i g i n , existence is unsacrificable. 29

be a matter of an "egalitarian d e m a n d founded u p o n some generic In this respect, then, the urgent d e m a n d n a m e d above is not an-
identity," 26
equality w i l l never do justice [ne fait encore pas droit] to other political abstraction. Instead, it is a reconsideration of the very
singularity or even recognize the considerable difficulties of want- meaning o f " p o l i t i c s " — a n d , therefore, o f " p h i l o s o p h y " — i n light o f
i n g to do so. It is here that the critique of abstract rights comes to the originary situation: the bare exposition of singular origins. T h i s
the fore. However, the "concrete" that must oppose such abstrac- is the necessary "first philosophy" (in the canonical sense of the ex-
tion is not made up p r i m a r i l y of empirical determinations, w h i c h , pression). It is an ontology. P h i l o s o p h y needs to recommence, to
in the capitalist regime, exhaust even the most egalitarian w i l l : restart itself f r o m itself against itself, against p o l i t i c a l p h i l o s o p h y
rather, concrete hete. p r i m a r i l y signifies the real object o f a t h i n k i n g and philosophical politics. In order to do this, p h i l o s o p h y needs to
26 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 27

t h i n k in principle about h o w we are "us" a m o n g us, that is, h o w the simple "readjustment" of the Heideggerian discourse. T h e reason
consistency of our Being is in b e i n g - i n - c o m m o n , and how this c o n - obviously goes m u c h farther than that, since at its fullest, it is about
sists precisely in the " i n " or in the "between" of its spacing. nothing less than the possibility of speaking "of Dasein'' in general,
T h e last "first philosophy," if one dare say a n y t h i n g about it, is or of saying "the existing" or "existence." W h a t w o u l d happen to
given to us in Heidegger's fundamental ontology. It is that w h i c h philosophy if speaking about B e i n g in other ways than saying "we,"
has p u t us on the way [chemin] to where we are, together, whether "you," and " I " became excluded? W h e r e is B e i n g spoken, and w h o
we k n o w it or not. B u t it is also w h y its author was able to, in a sort speaks Being?
of return of Destruktion itself, c o m p r o m i s e himself, in an unpar- i T h e reason that is foreshadowed has to do precisely w i t h speak-
donable way, w i t h his involvement in a p h i l o s o p h i c a l politics that ing (of) B e i n g . T h e themes of being-with and co-originarity need
became c r i m i n a l . T h i s very p o i n t , then, indicates to us that place to be renewed and need to "reinitialize" the existential analytic, ex-
f r o m w h i c h first p h i l o s o p h y must recommence: it is necessary to actly because these are meant to respond to the q u e s t i o n of the
refigure fundamental o n t o l o g y (as well as the existential analytic, meaning of B e i n g , or to B e i n g as meaning. B u t if the m e a n i n g of
the history of B e i n g , and the t h i n k i n g of Ereignis that goes along Being indicates itself p r i n c i p a l l y by the p u t t i n g into play of B e i n g
w i t h it) w i t h a t h o r o u g h resolve that starts from the plural singular in Dasein a n d as Dasein, t h e n , precisely as meaning, this p u t t i n g
of origins, f r o m being-with. into play (the "there w i l l be" of Being) can o n l y attest to itself or
I want to return to the issue of "first philosophy" in order to push expose itself in the m o d e of being-with: because as relates to mean-
it even further, but without c l a i m i n g to be the one w h o can fully ac- ing, it is never for just one, but always for one another, always be-
c o m p l i s h such an u n d e r t a k i n g . By d e f i n i t i o n a n d in essence, the tween one another. T h e meaning of Being is never in what is s a i d —
above "first philosophy" needs "to be made by all, not by one," like never said in significations. B u t it is assuredly in t h e m that " i t is
the poetry of Maldoror. For the m o m e n t , I only want to indicate the spoken," in the absolute sense of the expression. " O n e speaks," " i t
p r i n c i p l e of its necessity. Heidegger clearly states that being-with speaks," means " B e i n g is spoken"; it is m e a n i n g (but does not c o n -
#1 {Mitsein, Miteinandersein, a n d Mitdasein) is essential to the consti- struct meaning). B u t "one" or " i t " is never other than we.
t u t i o n of Dasein itself. G i v e n this, it needs to be made absolutely In other words, in revealing itself as what is at stake in the mean-
clear that Dasein, far f r o m being either " m a n " or "subject," is not ing of B e i n g , Dasein has already revealed itself as b e i n g - w i t h a n d
even an isolated a n d u n i q u e "one," but is instead always the one, reveals itself as such before any other explication. T h e m e a n i n g of
each one, w i t h one another [l'un-avec-l autre]. If this determination Being is not in play in Dasein in order to be " c o m m u n i c a t e d " to
is essential, then it needs to attain to the co-originary dimension and others; its p u t t i n g i n t o play is identically being-with. Or again: Be-
expose it w i t h o u t reservation. B u t as it has often been said, despite ing is put into play as the "with" that is absolutely i n d i s p u t a b l e .
this affirmative assertion of co-originariry, he gives up on the step to From n o w o n , this is the m i n i m a l ontological premise. B e i n g is put
the consideration of Dasein itself. It is appropriate, then, to examine into play a m o n g us; it does not have any other m e a n i n g except the
the possibility of an explicit a n d endless exposition of co-originarity dis-position of this "between."
and the possibility of taking account of what is at stake in the to- Heidegger writes, "Dasein's. . . u n d e r s t a n d i n g of B e i n g already
getherness of the ontological enterprise (and, in this way, taking ac- implies the understanding of others." 31
B u t this surely does not say
count of what is at stake in its political consequences.) 30
enough. T h e understanding of B e i n g is n o t h i n g other than an u n -
It is necessary to add here that there is a reason for this exami- derstanding of others, w h i c h means, in every sense, understanding
nation w h i c h is far more p r o f o u n d than what first appears to be a others t h r o u g h "me" a n d understanding "me" through others, the
28 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 29

u n d e r s t a n d i n g of one another [des uns des autres}. O n e c o u l d say- plural constitutes the essence of B e i n g , a constitution that undoes
even more s i m p l y that B e i n g is c o m m u n i c a t i o n . B u t it remains to or dislocates every single, substantial essence of B e i n g itself. T h i s
be k n o w n what " c o m m u n i c a t i o n " is. is not just a way of speaking, because there is no p r i o r substance
F o r the m o m e n t , it is less i m p o r t a n t to respond to the question that w o u l d be dissolved. B e i n g does not preexist its singular p l u r a l .
of the m e a n i n g of B e i n g ( i f it is a q u e s t i o n , a n d if we do not a l - To be more precise, B e i n g absolutely does not preexist; n o t h i n g
ready basically respond every day a n d each time . . . ) than it is to preexists; o n l y what exists exists. Ever since Parmenides, one of p h i -
pay attention to the fact of its exhibition. If " c o m m u n i c a t i o n " is for losophy's peculiarities has been that it has been u n f o l d i n g this
us, today, such an a f f a i r — i n every sense of the w o r d . . . — i f its unique p r o p o s i t i o n , in all of its senses. T h i s p r o p o s i t i o n proposes
theories are flourishing, if its technologies are being proliferated, if n o t h i n g but the placement [la position] a n d d i s - p o s i t i o n of exis-
the " m e d i a t i z a t i o n " of the " m e d i a " brings a l o n g w i t h it an auto- tence. It is its plural singularity. U n f o l d i n g this proposition, then, is
c o m m u n i c a t i o n a l vertigo, i f one plays a r o u n d w i t h the theme o f the o n l y t h i n g p h i l o s o p h y has to d o . ' 2

the indistinctness between the "message" a n d the " m e d i u m " out of T h a t w h i c h exists, whatever this m i g h t be, coexists because it ex-
either a d i s e n c h a n t e d or j u b i l a n t fascination, t h e n it is because ists. T h e c o - i m p l i c a t i o n of existing [l'exister] is the sharing of the
s o m e t h i n g is exposed or laid bare. In fact, [what is exposed] is the w o r l d . A w o r l d is not s o m e t h i n g external to existence; it is not an
bare a n d "content"-less web of " c o m m u n i c a t i o n . " O n e c o u l d say it extrinsic a d d i t i o n to other existences; the w o r l d is the coexistence
is the bare web of the com- (of the telecom-, said w i t h an a c k n o w l - that puts these existences together. B u t one c o u l d object that there
edgment of its independence); that is, it is our web or "us" as web exists s o m e t h i n g [which does not first coexist]. K a n t established
or network, an us that is reticulated a n d spread out, w i t h its exten- that there exists s o m e t h i n g , exactly because I can t h i n k of a possi-
s i o n for an essence a n d its spacing for a structure. We are "our- ble existence: but the possible comes second in relation to the real,
selves" too i n c l i n e d to see in this the o v e r w h e l m i n g d e s t i n y of because there already exists s o m e t h i n g r e a l . 33

modernity. C o n t r a r y to such meager evidence, it m i g h t be that we It w o u l d also be w o r t h a d d i n g that the above inference actually
have understood n o t h i n g about the situation, a n d rightly so, a n d leads to a c o n c l u s i o n about an element of existence's p l u r a l i t y [un
that we have to start again to understand o u r s e l v e s — o u r existence pluriel d'existence}: there exists s o m e t h i n g ("me") and another t h i n g
a n d that of the w o r l d , o u r being disposed in this way. (this other "me" that represents the possible) to w h i c h I relate m y -
self in order for me to ask m y s e l f if there exists s o m e t h i n g of the

Being Singular Plural sort that I t h i n k of as possible. T h i s s o m e t h i n g coexists at least as


m u c h as "me." B u t this needs to be drawn out in the f o l l o w i n g way:
B e i n g singular p l u r a l : these three apposite words, w h i c h do not there does n o t exist just these "me's," u n d e r s t o o d as subjects-of-
have any d e t e r m i n e d syntax ("being" is a verb or n o u n ; "singular" representation, because along w i t h the real difference between two
a n d " p l u r a l " are nouns or adjectives; all can be rearranged in dif- "me's" is given the difference between things in general, the differ-
ferent combinations), m a r k an absolute equivalence, b o t h in an i n - ence between my b o d y and m a n y bodies. T h i s variation on an older
distinct tfWdistinct way. B e i n g is singularly plural and plurally s i n - style of p h i l o s o p h i z i n g is o n l y meant to p o i n t out that there has
gular. Yet, this in itself does not constitute a particular predication never been, nor w i l l there ever be, any [real] philosophical solipsism.
of B e i n g , as if B e i n g is or has a certain n u m b e r of attributes, one In a certain way, there never has been, a n d never w i l l be, a p h i l o s -
of w h i c h is that of being s i n g u l a r - p l u r a l — h o w e v e r double, contra- o p h y " o f the subject" in the sense of the final [infinie] closure in it-
dictory, or chiasmatic this m a y be. On the contrary, the singular- self of a for-itself.
30 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 3i

However, there is for the w h o l e of p h i l o s o p h y what is e x e m p l i - the co-originarity of Mitsein u n t i l after having established the orig-
fied in Hegel's statement "the I is in essence a n d act the universal: inary character of Dasein. T h e same remark c o u l d be made about
a n d such partnership (Gemeinschafilichkeit) is a f o r m , t h o u g h an the Husserlian constitution of the alter ego, even though this too is
external f o r m , of u n i v e r s a l i t y . " 34
It is well k n o w n that dialectical in its o w n way contemporaneous (once again, the cum) w i t h the
logic requires the passage t h r o u g h exteriority as essential to inferi- ego in the "single universal c o m m u n i t y . " 35

ority itself. Nevertheless, w i t h i n this logic, it is the " i n t e r i o r " a n d To the contrary, it can also be shown that when Hegel begins the
subjective f o r m of the " M e " that is needed in order to finish the Phenomenology of Spirit Wiû\ the m o m e n t of "sense certainty," where
project of finding itself a n d p o s i n g itself as the truth of the univer- it appears that consciousness has not yet entered into relation w i t h
sal a n d its c o m m u n i t y . As a consequence, what is left for us to h o l d another consciousness, this m o m e n t is nonetheless characterized by
o n t o is the m o m e n t of "exteriority" as b e i n g of almost essential the language w i t h w h i c h consciousness appropriates for itself the
value, so essential that it w o u l d no longer be a matter of relating truth of what is immediately sensible (the famous " n o w it is night").
this exteriority to any i n d i v i d u a l or collective "me" w i t h o u t also u n - In d o i n g so, the relation to another consciousness remains surrepti-
f a i l i n g l y a t t a i n i n g [maintenir] to exteriority itself and as such. tiously presupposed. It w o u l d be easy to produce many observations
Being singular plural means the essence of B e i n g is o n l y as c o - of this k i n d . For example, the evidence for the ego sum comes d o w n
essence. In t u r n , coessence, or being-with (being-with-many), des- to, constitutively a n d co-originarily, its p o s s i b i l i t y in each one of
ignates the essence of the co-, or even more so, the co- (the cum) it- Descartes's readers. T h e evidence as evidence owes its force, a n d its
self in the p o s i t i o n or guise of an essence. In fact, coessentiality claim to truth, precisely to this possibility in each one of u s — o n e
cannot consist in an assemblage of essences, where the essence of c o u l d say, the copossibility. Ego sum = ego cum.*'
this assemblage as s u c h remains to be d e t e r m i n e d . In relation to In this way, it can be s h o w n that, for the w h o l e of philosophy,
such an assemblage, the assembled essences w o u l d become [mere] the necessary successivity [la successivité] of any exposition does not
accidents. Coessentiality signifies the essential sharing of essential- prevent the deeply set [profond] order of reasons f r o m being regu-
ity, sharing in the guise of assembling, as it were. T h i s c o u l d also lated by a c o - o r i g i n a r i t y [soit réglé sur une co-originarité]. In fact,
be put in the f o l l o w i n g way: if B e i n g is being-with, then it is, in its in p r o p o s i n g to reverse the order of o n t o l o g i c a l e x p o s i t i o n , I am
b e i n g - w i t h , the " w i t h " that constitutes B e i n g ; the w i t h is not s i m - o n l y p r o p o s i n g to b r i n g to light a resource that is more or less ob-
p l y a n a d d i t i o n . T h i s operates i n the same way as a collective [col- scurely presented t h r o u g h o u t the entire history of p h i l o s o p h y —
légial] power: power is neither exterior to the members of the c o l - and presented as an answer to the situation described above: p h i -
lective [collège] nor interior to each one of them, but rather consists losophy begins w i t h a n d in " c i v i l " ["concitoyenne"] coexistence as
in the collectivity [collégialité] as such. such (which, in its very difference from the " i m p e r i a l " f o r m , forces
Therefore, it is not the case that the " w i t h " is an addition to some power to emerge as a p r o b l e m ) . Or rather, the "city" is not p r i m a r -
p r i o r B e i n g ; instead, the " w i t h " is at the heart of B e i n g . In this re- ily a f o r m o f political institution; it is p r i m a r i l y being-with as such.
spect, it is absolutely necessary to reverse the order of p h i l o s o p h i - P h i l o s o p h y is, in s u m , the t h i n k i n g of b e i n g - w i t h ; because of this,
cal e x p o s i t i o n , for w h i c h it has been a matter of course that the it is also t h i n k i n g - w i t h as such.
" w i t h " — a n d the other that goes along w i t h i t — a l w a y s comes sec- T h i s is not s i m p l y a matter of c l a r i f y i n g a s t i l l faulty exposi-
o n d , even though this succession is contradicted by the u n d e r l y i n g t i o n . . . . It is just as m u c h a question of d o i n g justice to the essen-
[profonde] logic in question here. Even Heidegger preserves this or- tial reasons for why, across the w h o l e history of philosophy, being-
der of succession in a remarkable way, in that he does not introduce w i t h is subordinated to B e i n g and, at the same time and according
3 2
Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 33

to this very s u b o r d i n a t i o n , is always asserting [de faire valoir] its an "ipseity" that is not the relation of a "me" to "itself." 38
It is n e i -
problem as the very p r o b l e m of B e i n g . In s u m , being-with is Being's ther "me" nor " y o u " ; it is what is distinguished in the d i s t i n c t i o n ,
own most problem. T h e task is to k n o w w h y a n d h o w this is s o . 37
what is discreet in the discretion. It is being-a-part of B e i n g itself
Let us take up the matter again, then, not b e g i n n i n g f r o m the and in B e i n g itself, B e i n g in each instant [au coup par coup], w h i c h
B e i n g o f b e i n g a n d p r o c e e d i n g t o b e i n g itself b e i n g w i t h - o n e - attests to the fact that B e i n g o n l y takes place in each instant.
another [étant l'un-avec-lautre], b u t starting f r o m b e i n g — a n d all T h e essence o f B e i n g is the shock o f the instant [le coup]. E a c h
of b e i n g — d e t e r m i n e d in its B e i n g as b e i n g with-one-another. time, " B e i n g " is always an instance [un coup] of Being (a lash, blow,
[ T h i s is the] singular p l u r a l in such a way that the singularity of beating, shock, k n o c k , an encounter, an access). As a result, it is
each is indissociable from its being-with-many a n d because, in gen- also always an instance of " w i t h " : singulars singularly together,
eral, a singularity is indissociable f r o m a plurality. H e r e again, it is where the togetherness is neither the s u m , nor the i n c o r p o r a t i o n
not a question of any supplementary property of B e i n g . T h e c o n - [englobant], nor the "society," nor the " c o m m u n i t y " (where these
cept of the singular i m p l i e s its s i n g u l a r i z a t i o n a n d , therefore, its words o n l y give rise to problems). T h e togetherness of singulars is
d i s t i n c t i o n f r o m other singularities ( w h i c h is different f r o m any singularity "itself." It "assembles" them insofar as it spaces t h e m ;
concept of the i n d i v i d u a l , since an i m m a n e n t totality, w i t h o u t an they are " l i n k e d " insofar as they are not unified.
other, w o u l d be a perfect i n d i v i d u a l , and is also different f r o m any A c c o r d i n g to these c o n d i t i o n s , B e i n g as b e i n g - w i t h m i g h t no
concept of the particular, since this assumes the togetherness of longer be able to say itself in the t h i r d person, as in " i t is" or "there
w h i c h the particular is a part, so that such a particular can only pre- is." Because there w o u l d no longer be a p o i n t of view that is exte-
sent its difference f r o m other particulars as numerical difference). rior to being-together f r o m w h i c h it c o u l d be a n n o u n c e d that
In L a t i n , the term singuli already says the p l u r a l , because it desig- "there is" b e i n g a n d a b e i n g - w i t h of beings, o n e w i t h the other.
nates the "one" as belonging to "one by one." T h e singular is p r i - There w o u l d be no " i t is" a n d , therefore, no longer the "I a m " that
m a r i l y each o n e a n d , therefore, also with a n d among all the others. is subjacent to the a n n o u n c e m e n t of the " i t is." Rather, it w o u l d
T h e singular is a p l u r a l . It also u n d o u b t e d l y offers the property of be necessary to t h i n k the third-person singular in the first person.
indivisibility, but it is not indivisible the way substance is i n d i v i s i - As such, then, it becomes the first-person p l u r a l . B e i n g c o u l d not
ble. It is, instead, i n d i v i s i b l e i n each instant [au coup par coup], speak of itself except in this u n i q u e manner: "we are." T h e t r u t h
w i t h i n the event of its singularization. It is indivisible like any i n - of the ego sum is the nos sumus; this "we" announces itself through
stant is indivisible, w h i c h is to say that it is infinitely divisible, or h u m a n i t y for all the beings "we" are w i t h , for existence in the sense
punctually indivisible. Moreover, it is not indivisible like any par- of being-essentially-with, as a B e i n g whose essence is the w i t h .
ticular is i n d i v i s i b l e , b u t o n the c o n d i t i o n o f pars pro toto: the sin- ( " O n e w i l l speak . . . ": W h i c h one? We w i l l speak: W h o is this
gular is each time for the whole, in its place a n d in light of it. (If "we"? H o w can I say "us" for those of y o u w h o are reading this?
h u m a n i t y is for being in totality in the way I have tried to present H o w can I say "us" for me? A l t h o u g h this is what we are in the
it, then it is the exposing of the singular as such a n d in general.) A process o f d o i n g , h o w d o w e t h i n k together, whether w e are " i n
singularity does not stand out against the b a c k g r o u n d of Being; it accord" or not? H o w are we w i t h one another? A l l of this is to ask:
is, w h e n it is, B e i n g itself or its o r i g i n . W h a t is at play in o u r c o m m u n i c a t i o n , in this b o o k , in its sen-
O n c e again, it is fairly easy to see to what extent these features tences, a n d in the w h o l e s i t u a t i o n that m o r e or less gives t h e m
answer to those of the Cartesian ego sum. T h e singular is an ego that some meaning? [ T h i s is the] q u e s t i o n of p h i l o s o p h y as " l i t e r a -
is not a "subject" in the sense of the relation of a self to itself. It is ture," w h i c h is about asking h o w far it is possible to take the t h i r d -
34 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 35

person discourse o f philosophy. A t what p o i n t must o n t o l o g y be- " w i t h " is the exact c o n t e m p o r a r y of its terms; it is, in fact, their
c o m e . . . what? B e c o m e conversation? B e c o m e lyricism? . . . T h e contemporaneity. " W i t h " is the sharing of time-space; it is the at-
strict conceptual rigor of b e i n g - w i t h exasperates the discourse of the-same-time-in-the-same-place as itself, in itself, shattered. It is
its concept. . . . ) the instant scaling back of the p r i n c i p l e of identity: B e i n g is at the
same time in the same place o n l y on the c o n d i t i o n of the spacing of
an indefinite plurality of singularities. B e i n g is w i t h Being; it does
W h a t is k n o w n as "society," therefore, in the broadest a n d most not ever recover itself, b u t it is near to itself, beside itself, in t o u c h
diffuse sense of the w o r d , is the figure [chiffre] of an o n t o l o g y yet with itself, its very self, in the paradox of that p r o x i m i t y where dis-
to be put i n t o play. Rousseau presented [a glimpse o f ] it by mak- tancing [éloignement] a n d strangeness are revealed. We are each
i n g the p o o r l y n a m e d "contract" the very event that "made a crea- time an other, each time w i t h others. " W i t h " does not indicate the
ture of intelligence a n d a m a n . . . f r o m a stupid, l i m i t e d a n i m a l , " 39
sharing of a c o m m o n situation any more than the juxtaposition of
a n d not s i m p l y an arrangement between i n d i v i d u a l s . (Nietzsche pure exteriorities does (for example, a bench w i t h a tree w i t h a d o g
confirms this presentation in a paradoxical way w h e n Zarathustra w i t h a passer-by).
says, " h u m a n society: that is an experiment . . . a l o n g search . . . T h e question of B e i n g a n d the m e a n i n g of B e i n g has become the
a n d nota, 'contract'". ) M a r x saw it w h e n he qualified h u m a n i t y
40
question of b e i n g - w i t h a n d of being-together (in the sense of the
as social in its very o r i g i n , p r o d u c t i o n , a n d destination, and w h e n world). T h i s is what is signified by [our] m o d e r n sense of anxiety,
the entire m o v e m e n t a n d posture of his t h i n k i n g assigned B e i n g which does not so m u c h reveal a "crisis of society" but, instead, re-
itself to this social being. Heidegger designated it in p o s i t i n g be- veals that the "sociality" or "association" of humans is an i n j u n c t i o n
i n g - w i t h as constitutive of being-there. No one, however, has rad- that h u m a n i t y places on itself, or that it receives from the w o r l d : to
ically thematized the " w i t h " as the essential trait of B e i n g and as its have to be o n l y what it is and to have to, itself, be B e i n g as such.
p r o p e r p l u r a l singular coessence. B u t they have b r o u g h t us, to- T h i s sort of f o r m u l a is p r i m a r i l y a desperate tautological abstrac-
gether a n d individually, to the p o i n t where we can no longer a v o i d
t i o n — a n d this is w h y we are all w o r r i e d . O u r task is to break the
t h i n k i n g about this in favor of that to w h i c h all of c o n t e m p o r a r y
hard shell of this tautology. W h a t is the being-with of Being?
experience testifies. In other words, what is at stake is no longer
In one sense, this is the original situation of the West that is al-
thinking:
ways repeating itself; it is always the p r o b l e m of the city, the repeti-
tion of w h i c h , for better or worse, has already punctuated our his-
— b e g i n n i n g from the one, or from the other,
tory. Today, this repetition produces itself as a situation in w h i c h the
— b e g i n n i n g from their togetherness, understood now as the One,
two major elements [données] compose a sort of a n t i n o m y : on the
now as the Other,
one h a n d , there is the exposure of the w o r l d a n d , on the other, the
— b u t thinking, absolutely and without reserve, beginning from the
"with," as the proper essence of one whose Being is nothing other than end of representations of the w o r l d . T h i s means n o t h i n g short of a
with-one-another [l'un-avec-l'autre]. transformation in the relation [that we name] "politico-philosophy":
it can no longer be a matter of a single c o m m u n i t y , of its essence,
T h e one/the other is neither "by," nor "for," nor " i n , " n o r "de- closure, a n d sovereignty; by contrast, it can no longer be a matter
spite," but rather " w i t h . " T h i s " w i t h " is at once both more and less of o r g a n i z i n g c o m m u n i t y according to the decrees of a sovereign
than "relation" or " b o n d , " especially if such relation or b o n d pre- Other, or according to the telos [ fins] o f a history. It can no longer
supposes the préexistence of the terms u p o n w h i c h it relies; the be a matter of treating sociability as a regrettable and inevitable ac-
36 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 37

cident, as a constraint that has to be managed in some way or an- der to engage in a depoliticized t h i n k i n g , but in order to engage in a
other. C o m m u n i t y is bare, but it is imperative. t h i n k i n g , the site of w h i c h is the very constitution, imagination, and
O n the one side, the concept o f c o m m u n i t y o r the city is, i n signification of the political, w h i c h allows this t h i n k i n g to retrace its
every sense, diffracted. It is that w h i c h signifies the chaotic and m u l - path in its retreat and beginning from this retreat. T h e retreat of the
tiform appearance of the infranational, supranational, para-national political does not signify the disappearance of the political. It only
a n d , moreover, the dis-location of the "national" in general. On the signifies the disappearance of the philosophical presupposition of the
other side, the concept of c o m m u n i t y appears to have its o w n prefix whole p o l i t i c o - p h i l o s o p h i c a l order, w h i c h is always an ontological
as its o n l y content: the cum, the with deprived of substance a n d presupposition. T h i s presupposition has various forms; it can c o n -
connection, stripped of inferiority, subjectivity, and personality. E i - sist in t h i n k i n g Being as c o m m u n i t y and c o m m u n i t y as destination,
ther way, sovereignty is n o t h i n g . 41
Sovereignty is n o t h i n g but the or, on the contrary, t h i n k i n g B e i n g as anterior and outside the order
com-; as such, it is always and indefinitely "to be completed," as in of society a n d , as such, t h i n k i n g B e i n g as the accidental exteriority
c o m - m u n i s m or com-passion. of c o m m e r c e a n d power. B u t , in this way, being-together is never
T h i s is not a matter of t h i n k i n g the annihilation of sovereignty. It properly [brought to the fore as an explicit] theme and as the onto-
is a matter of t h i n k i n g t h r o u g h the f o l l o w i n g question: If sover- logical p r o b l e m . T h e retreat of the p o l i t i c a l 43
is the uncovering, the
eignty is the g r a n d , p o l i t i c a l t e r m for d e f i n i n g c o m m u n i t y (its ontological laying bare of being-with.
leader or its essence) that has n o t h i n g b e y o n d itself, w i t h no f o u n -
dation or end but itself, what becomes of sovereignty w h e n it is re-
vealed that it is n o t h i n g but a singularly plural spacing? H o w is one B e i n g singular p l u r a l : in a single stroke, w i t h o u t p u n c t u a t i o n ,
to t h i n k sovereignty as the " n o t h i n g " of the " w i t h " that is laid bare? w i t h o u t a m a r k of equivalence, i m p l i c a t i o n , or sequence. A single,
At the same time, if political sovereignty has always signified the re- c o n t i n u o u s - d i s c o n t i n u o u s m a r k t r a c i n g out the entirety of the
fusal of d o m i n a t i o n (of a state by another or by a c h u r c h , of a peo- ontological d o m a i n , being-with-itself designated as the " w i t h " of
ple by s o m e t h i n g other than itself), h o w is one to t h i n k the bare Being, of the singular and plural, and dealing a b l o w to o n t o l o g y —
sovereignty of the " w i t h " a n d against d o m i n a t i o n , whether this is not o n l y another signification but also another syntax. T h e "mean-
the d o m i n a t i o n of being-together by some other means or the d o m - i n g o f B e i n g " : not o n l y a s the " m e a n i n g o f w i t h , " but also, a n d
ination of togetherness by itself (by the regulation of its "automatic" above a l l , as the " w i t h " of m e a n i n g . Because none of these three
control)? In fact, one c o u l d begin to describe the present transfor- terms precedes or grounds the other, each designates the coessence
m a t i o n of "political space" 42
as a transition toward "empire," where of the others. T h i s coessence puts essence itself in the h y p h e n -
empire signifies two things: (i) d o m i n a t i o n w i t h o u t sovereignty a t i o n — " b e i n g - s i n g u l a r - p l u r a l " — w h i c h is a mark of u n i o n and also
(without the elaboration of such a concept); and (2) the distancing, a mark of division, a mark of sharing that effaces itself, leaving each
spacing, a n d p l u r a l i t y opposed to the concentration of interiority term to its isolation andhs being-with-the-others.
required by political sovereignty. T h e question then becomes: H o w F r o m this p o i n t forward, then, the u n i t y of an o n t o l o g y must be
is one to t h i n k the spacing of empire against its domination? sought in this traction, in this d r a w i n g out, in this distancing a n d
In one way or another, bare sovereignty ( w h i c h is, in a way, to spacing w h i c h is that of B e i n g a n d , at the same t i m e , that of the
transcribe Batailles notion of sovereignty) presupposes that one take singular and the plural, both in the sense that they are distinct f r o m
a certain distance f r o m the p o l i t i c o - p h i l o s o p h i c a l order a n d f r o m one another and i n d i s t i n c t . In such an ontology, w h i c h is not an
the realm of "political philosophy." T h i s distance is not taken in or- "ontology of society" in the sense of a "regional ontology," but o n -
38 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 39

tology itself as a "sociality" or an "association" more originary than stance or consistency p r o p e r to " B e i n g " as such. T h i s is, in fact,
all "society," more originary than " i n d i v i d u a l i t y " and every "essence the matter in q u e s t i o n . B e i n g consists in n o t h i n g other t h a n the
of B e i n g . " B e i n g is with; it is as the with of B e i n g itself (the cobeing existence of all existences [tous les existants]. H o w e v e r , this consis-
of B e i n g ) , so that B e i n g does not identify itself as such (as Being 44

tency itself does not vanish in a c l o u d of juxtaposed beings. W h a t


of the being), but shows itself [se pose], gives itself occurs, dis-poses I am t r y i n g to indicate by speaking of " d i s - p o s i t i o n " is neither a
itself '(made event, history, a n d w o r l d ) as its o w n singular p l u r a l
s i m p l e p o s i t i o n nor a j u x t a p o s i t i o n . Instead, the co- defines the
with. In other words, Being is not without Being, w h i c h is not an-
u n i t y a n d uniqueness of what is, in general. W h a t is to be under-
other miserable tautology as l o n g as one understands it in the co-
stood is precisely the c o n s t i t u t i o n of this u n i q u e u n i t y as co-: the
originary m o d e o f being-with-being-itself.
singular plural.
A c c o r d i n g to this m o d e , B e i n g is simultaneous. Just as, in order (Incidentally, one c o u l d show w i t h o u t m u c h trouble that this is
to say B e i n g , one must repeat it a n d say that " B e i n g is," so B e i n g is a question that has been taken up a n d repeated throughout a l o n g
o n l y simultaneous w i t h itself. T h e t i m e of B e i n g (the time that it tradition: in Leibniz's monadology, in all the various considerations
is) is this simultaneity, this c o i n c i d e n c e that presupposes " i n c i - of the "originary d i v i s i o n , " a n d , most of all, in all the various forms
dence" in general. It assumes m o v e m e n t , displacement, a n d de- of the difference between the in-itself and the for-itself. B u t exactly
p l o y m e n t ; it assumes the o r i g i n a r y temporal derivative of B e i n g ,
what is i m p o r t a n t is this repetition, the concentration on a n d re-
its spacing.
peated excavation of the q u e s t i o n — w h i c h does not necessarily sig-
In one sense, this is all a matter of repeating the Aristotelian ax- nify some sort of progress or degeneration, but rather a displace-
i o m pollakôs legomenon; B e i n g is said in m a n y ways. B u t to say it m e n t , a fit of, or drift t o w a r d s o m e t h i n g else, t o w a r d another
once more, according to the " w i t h , " the "also," the "again" of a his- philosophical posture.)
tory that repeats this excavation a n d d r a w i n g out [traction] of Be- At the very least, and provisionally, one c o u l d try to say it in the
i n g , the s i n g u l a r i t y of B e i n g is its p l u r a l . B u t this p l u r a l i t y is no f o l l o w i n g way: it is no more a matter of an originary m u l t i p l i c i t y
longer said in m u l t i p l e ways that all begin f r o m a presumed, single a n d its correlation (in the sense of the O n e d i v i d i n g itself in an
core of meaning. T h e m u l t i p l i c i t y of the said (that is, of the sayings) arch-dialectical manner, or in the sense of the atoms' relationship to
belongs to B e i n g as its c o n s t i t u t i o n . T h i s occurs w i t h each said, the clinamen) than it is a matter of an originary u n i t y a n d its d i v i -
w h i c h is always singular; it occurs in each said, beyond each said, sion. In either case, one must t h i n k an anteriority of the o r i g i n ac-
a n d as the m u l t i p l i c i t y of the totality of b e i n g [l'étant en totalité]. cording to some event that happens to it unexpectedly (even if that
B e i n g , then, does not coincide with itself unless this coincidence event originates w i t h i n it). It is necessary, then, to t h i n k plural unity
immediately a n d essentially marks itself out [se remarque] according originarily. T h i s is indeed the place to t h i n k the p l u r a l as such.
to the ^ s t r u c t u r e of its occurrence [l'événement] (its incidence, en- In L a t i n , plus is comparable to multus. It is not "numerous"; i t is
counter, angle of d e c l i n a t i o n , shock, or discordant accord). B e i n g "more." It is an increase or excess of o r i g i n in the o r i g i n . To put it
coincides w i t h B e i n g : it is the spacing a n d the unexpected arrival in terms of the models just alluded to above: the O n e is more than
[survenue], the unexpected spacing, of the singular p l u r a l co-. one; it is not that "it divides itself," rather it is that one equals more
It m i g h t be asked w h y it is still necessary to call this " B e i n g , " than one, because "one" cannot be counted w i t h o u t c o u n t i n g more
since the essence of it is reduced to a prefix of B e i n g , reduced to a than one. O r , i n the atomist m o d e l , there are atoms plus the clina-
co- outside of w h i c h there w o u l d be n o t h i n g , n o t h i n g but beings m e n . B u t the c l i n a m e n is not s o m e t h i n g else, another element out-
or existences [les existants], a n d where this co- has none of the sub- side of the atoms; it is not in a d d i t i o n to them; it is the "more" of
40 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 4i

their exposition. B e i n g many, they cannot but i n c l i n e or decline; enological i n t e n t i o n a l i t y a n d the c o n s t i t u t i o n of the ego, but also
they are ones in relation to others. I m m o b i l i t y or the parallel fall before t h i n g l i k e consistency as such, there is co-originarity accord-
[la chute parallel] w o u l d d o away w i t h this exposition, w o u l d re- ing to the w i t h . Properly speaking, then, there is no anteriority: co-
t u r n to the pure p o s i t i o n and not distinguish itself f r o m the O n e - originarity is the most general structure of all con-sistency, all c o n -
purely-one (or, in other words, f r o m the O t h e r ) . T h e O n e as purely stitution, a n d all con-sciousness.
one is less than one; it cannot be, be p u t in place, or counted. O n e [ T h i s is] presence-with: with as the exclusive m o d e of b e i n g -
as properly one is always more than one. It is an excess of u n i t y ; it present, such that being present a n d the present of B e i n g does not
is one-with-one, where its B e i n g in itself is copresent. coincide in itself, or w i t h itself, i n a s m u c h as it coincides or "falls
T h e co- itself a n d as such, the copresence of B e i n g , is not pre- w i t h " ["tombe avec"] the other presence, w h i c h itself obeys the
sentable as that B e i n g w h i c h " i s , " since it is o n l y in the distancing. same law. Being-many-together is the originary situation; it is even
It is unpresentable, not because it occupies the most w i t h d r a w n what defines a " s i t u a t i o n " in general. Therefore, an o r i g i n a r y or
a n d mysterious region o f B e i n g , the region o f nothingness, but transcendental " w i t h " demands, w i t h a palpable urgency, to be dis-
quite s i m p l y because it is not subject to a logic of presentation. entangled a n d articulated for itself. B u t one of the greatest d i f f i -
N e i t h e r present nor to be presented (nor, as a result, "unpresent- culties of the concept of the w i t h is that there is no "getting back
able" in the strict sense), the " w i t h " is the (singular plural) c o n d i - to" or "up to" [remonter] this "originary" or "transcendental" posi-
t i o n of presence in general [understood] as copresence. T h i s co- t i o n ; the w i t h is strictly contemporaneous w i t h all existence, as it
presence is neither a presence withdrawn into absence nor a presence is w i t h all t h i n k i n g .
in itself or for itself.
It is also not pure presence to, to itself to others, or to the world. In
Coexistence
fact, none of these modes of presence can take place, insofar as
presence takes place, unless copresence first takes place. As such, It is no accident that c o m m u n i s m and socialism of all sorts are
no single subject c o u l d even designate itself ana relate itself to itself responsible for an essential part of the set of expectations that be-
as subject. In the most classical sense of the term, a subject not o n l y l o n g to the m o d e r n w o r l d . T h e y are responsible for the hope of a
assumes its o w n d i s t i n c t i o n f r o m the object of its representation or rupture a n d i n n o v a t i o n f r o m w h i c h there is no t u r n i n g back; it is
mastery, it also assumes its o w n distinction f r o m other subjects. It is the hope for a r e v o l u t i o n , a re-creation of the w o r l d . It becomes
possible, t h e n , to d i s t i n g u i s h the ipseity of these other subjects clearer to us every day that it is not enough to stigmatize the errors,
( w h i c h is to say, the aesity) from [d'avec] its o w n source of repre- lies, a n d crimes of "existing versions of socialism" as "national so-
sentation or mastery. Therefore, the w i t h is the supposition of the c i a l i s m s . " Represented p r i m a r i l y i n the assured a n d d e m a n d i n g
"self" in general. B u t this supposition is no longer subjacent to the consciousness o f " h u m a n rights," m o r a l a n d p o l i t i c a l c o n d e m n a -
self, in the sense of an infinite self-presupposition of sub-jective sub- t i o n always runs the risk of u s i n g its incontestable l e g i t i m a c y to
stance. As its syntactic function indicates, " w i t h " is the pre-position mask another legitimacy, w h i c h was a n d s t i l l is that of an irre-
of the position in general; thus, it constitutes its dis-position. ducible d e m a n d that we be capable of saying "we," that we be ca-
T h e "self," of the "self" in general, takes place w i t h before tak- pable of saying we to ourselves (saying it about ourselves to one an-
i n g place as itself and/or as the other. T h i s "aseity" of the self is a n - other), b e g i n n i n g f r o m the p o i n t where no leader or G o d can say
terior to the same a n d to the other a n d , therefore, anterior to the it for us. T h i s d e m a n d is in no way secondary, a n d this is w h a t
d i s t i n c t i o n between a consciousness a n d its w o r l d . Before p h e n o m - gives it its terrible power to unleash, subvert, resist, or sweep away.
42 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 43

Because not b e i n g able to say "we" is what plunges every " I , " c o m m o n , " "being-many," "being-with-one-another," exposing the
whether i n d i v i d u a l or collective, i n t o the insanity where he cannot "with" as the category that still has no status or use, but f r o m w h i c h
say " I " either. To want to say "we" is not at all sentimental, not at we receive everything that makes us t h i n k and everything that gives
all f a m i l i a l or " c o m m u n i t a r i a n . " It is existence r e c l a i m i n g its due "us" to t h i n k i n g .
or its c o n d i t i o n : coexistence. 45 At the very m o m e n t w h e n there is no longer a " c o m m a n d post"
If the "socialist" hope as such had to be understood as an illusion f r o m w h i c h a "socialist vision" c o u l d put forward a subject of his-
or a trick, then the meaning that carried it along, the meaning w h i c h tory or p o l i t i c s , or, in an even broader sense, w h e n there is no
violently manifested itself through it, was all the better i l l u m i n a t e d . longer a "city" or "society" out of w h i c h a regulative figure c o u l d
It was not a question of substituting the rule of these people for the be m o d e l e d , at this m o m e n t being-many, shielded f r o m all i n t u -
rule of those people, substituting the d o m i n a t i o n of the "masses" for i t i o n , f r o m all representation or i m a g i n a t i o n , presents itself w i t h
that of their masters. It was a question of substituting a shared sov- all the acuity of its question, w i t h all the sovereignty of its d e m a n d .
ereignty for d o m i n a t i o n in general, a sovereignty of everyone and of T h i s question a n d d e m a n d belong to the c o n s t i t u t i o n of being-
each one, but a sovereignty understood not as the exercise of power many as such a n d , therefore, belong to the constitution of plurality
a n d d o m i n a t i o n but as a praxis of meaning. T h e traditional sover- in Being. It is here that the concept of coexistence is sharpened a n d
eignties (the theologico-political order) d i d not lose power (which made more c o m p l e x . It is remarkable that this term still serves to
o n l y ever shifts f r o m place to place), but lost the possibility of mak- designate a regime or state more or less i m p o s e d by extrinsic cir-
i n g sense. As a result, meaning itself—that is, the " w e " — d e m a n d e d cumstances. It is a n o t i o n whose tone often oscillates between i n -
its due, if one can talk in these ways. W h a t we must remember is difference a n d resignation, or even between cohabitation a n d c o n -
that what M a r x understood by alienation was both the alienation of t a m i n a t i o n . Always subject to weak a n d unpleasant connotations,
the proletariat and the alienation of the bourgeoisie (indeed, an coexistence designates a constraint, or at best an acceptable c o n -
alienation of the "we," but one that was asymmetrical, unequal), and comitance, but not what is at stake in being or essence, unless in
that this is primarily an alienation of meaning. B u t M a r x still left the the f o r m of an insurmountable aporia w i t h w h i c h one can o n l y ne-
question of the appropriation or reappropriation of m e a n i n g in sus- gotiate. It is an "unsociable s o c i a b i l i t y " that p r o b a b l y w o u l d not
p e n s e — f o r example, by leaving open the question of what must be even satisfy K a n t himself, n o w that its paradox no longer serves as
understood by "free labor." In time, this suspense opened onto the a guide to any t h i n k i n g t h r o u g h of the perfectability of peoples,
d e m a n d for another ontology of the "generic being" of h u m a n i t y as but rather serves as a pudendum to the c y n i c i s m k n o w n as "liber-
"essentially social": a co-ontology. a l i s m . " B u t l i b e r a l i s m is s h o w i n g all the signs of e x h a u s t i o n — a t
T h u s , the disenchantment or disarray of our fin de siècle cannot the very least, exhaustion in terms of m e a n i n g — s i n c e , at the c o l -
content itself w i t h m o u r n i n g the passing o f socialist visions, any lapse of "socialism," it can o n l y respond by designating the "social"
more than it can comfort itself by replacing t h e m w i t h a naive c o l - and the "sociological" as relatively a u t o n o m o u s spheres of action
l e c t i o n o f n e w " c o m m u n i t a r i a n " themes. T h i s d i s e n c h a n t m e n t a n d knowledge. R e p a i r i n g fractures o r d e s c r i b i n g structures w i l l
does s o m e t h i n g else; it designates o u r major anxiety, the one that never be able to take the place of a t h i n k i n g of B e i n g itself as being-
makes "us" what "we" are today; we exist as the anxiety of "social together. T h e liberal response to the collapse of c o m m u n i s m , then,
B e i n g " as such, where "sociality" and "society" are concepts p l a i n l y involves n o t h i n g more than an eager repression of the very ques-
inadequate to its essence. T h i s is w h y "social B e i n g " becomes, in a t i o n o f b e i n g - i n - c o m m o n ( w h i c h so-called real c o m m u n i s m re-
way that is at first i n f i n i t e l y p o o r a n d p r o b l e m a t i c , " b e i n g - i n - pressed u n d e r a c o m m o n B e i n g ) . N o w that this particular ques-
44 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 45

tion is the o n l y one to have come to light, it w i l l not leave us alone; not the c o c o n s t i t u t i o n of the "ego"?). T h e same c o u l d be said for
it w i l l not stop c r o p p i n g up again, since "we" are in question in it. the L a c a n i a n theory of "significance," insofar as it does not b r i n g
W h a t comes to light, then, is not a "social" or " c o m m u n i t a r i a n about a return to signification, but a m u t u a l l y i n s t i t u t i n g correla-
d i m e n s i o n " added onto a p r i m i t i v e i n d i v i d u a l given, even if it were tion of "subjects" (to the extent that the Lacanian " O t h e r " is any-
to o c c u r as an essential a n d d e t e r m i n i n g a d d i t i o n . (Just t h i n k of t h i n g but an " O t h e r " : such a name is a t h e o l o g i z i n g residue that
the numerous circumstances of ordinary discourse in w h i c h this or- serves to designate "sociation").
der is i m p o s e d on us: first the i n d i v i d u a l , then the group; first the However, it is just as remarkable that psychoanalysis still repre-
one, then the others; first the rights-bearing subject; then real rela- sents the most i n d i v i d u a l practice there is, a n d , moreover, repre-
tionships; first " i n d i v i d u a l psychology," then "collective p s y c h o l - sents a sort of paradoxical privatization of s o m e t h i n g the very law
ogy"; a n d above a l l , first a "subject," then " i n t e r s u b j e c t i v i t y " — a s of w h i c h is "relation" in every sense of the w o r d . C u r i o u s l y , what
they astonishingly persist in saying.) It is not even a question of a happens here may be the same as what happens in the e c o n o m y :
sociality or alterity that w o u l d c o m e to cut across, complicate, put "subjects" of exchange are the most rigorously c o - o r i g i n a r y ; and
i n t o play, or alter the p r i n c i p l e o f the subject u n d e r s t o o d as solus this mutual originarity vanishes in the unequal appropriation of ex-
ipse. It is s o m e t h i n g else a n d still more. It does not so m u c h deter- change, such that this coexistence vanishes in a strong sense. It is
m i n e the p r i n c i p l e of the ipse, whatever this may be ( " i n d i v i d u a l " no accident, then, if M a r x a n d F r e u d represent two different, yet
or "collective," insofar as one can speak in these ways), as it code- symmetrical, projects; each puts forth an indissociably theoretical
termines it with the p l u r a l i t y o f ipses, each one o f w h i c h is co- and practical attempt to get at " b e i n g - i n - c o m m o n " as a c r i t i c a l
originary a n d coessential to the w o r l d , to a w o r l d w h i c h f r o m this point (of disorder in one, of sickness in the other) of history or civ-
p o i n t on defines a coexistence that must be understood in a s t i l l - ilization. If a b r i e f s u m m a r y is allowed here, I w o u l d say that, be-
u n h e a r d - o f sense, exactly because it does not take place " i n " the cause there has been no "socialist e c o n o m y " (but o n l y state c a p i -
w o r l d , but instead forms the essence and the structure of the w o r l d . talism), just as there has been no "collective psychoanalysis" (unless
It is n o t a nearness [voisinage] or c o m m u n i t y of ipses, b u t a c o - by means of a projection of an i n d i v i d u a l m o d e l ) , there lies be-
ipseity: this is what comes to light, but as an e n i g m a w i t h w h i c h tween economics a n d psychoanalysis the bare space of a " b e i n g -
o u r t h i n k i n g is confronted. together" whose t h e o l o g i c o - p o l i t i c a l presupposition has been ex-
In twentieth-century philosophy, the Heideggerian o n t o l o g y of hausted, a n d w h i c h reappears o n l y in reactive spurts. T h i s space
Mitsein is still no more than a sketch (I w i l l c o m e back to this). has become global, w h i c h does not s i m p l y m e a n it has spread out
H u s s e r l i a n coexistence or c o m m u n i t y retains its status as correla- over the entire surface of the planet a n d b e y o n d , b u t that it has
tive to ego, where "solipsistic" egology remains first p h i l o s o p h y . emerged as the surface of what is at play in the depths: the essence
O u t s i d e philosophy, it is remarkable that it is not social and p o l i t - of being-with.
ical theory w h i c h has most closely approached the e n i g m a of a co- T h i s process of globalization results in a coalescence, a concen-
ipseity (and as a result, the enigma of a hetero-ipseity). Rather what tration that seems to be b o t h u n i f o r m and anonymous a n d , at the
has c o m e closest to co-ipseity is, on the one h a n d , an e t h n o l o g y same t i m e , an a t o m i z a t i o n , a codispersion that seems to be given
that ends up being more engaged w i t h the p h e n o m e n a of c o m e m - over to idiocy. T h i s is idiocy in the sense of the Greek idiotes, mean-
bership 46
and, on the other, the Freud of the second m o d e l , the triple ing private or ignorant person, as well as idiocy in the m o d e r n sense
d e t e r m i n a t i o n of w h i c h is constituted a c c o r d i n g to a mechanical of stupid impenetrability ("private property" as deprived of m e a n -
coexistence (what are the " i d " a n d "superego" if not b e i n g - w i t h , if ing). It seems, then, that the dialectic M a r x thought he foresaw u n -
4 6 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 47

f o l d i n g appears to be definitively blocked, the dialectic of an " i n d i - t h i n k i n g o f existence. A n d today, the situation o f o n t o l o g y signi-
v i d u a l " appropriation that w o u l d mediate w i t h i n itself the moments fies the following: to t h i n k existence at the height of this challenge
of private property and collective property. At the same time, this to t h i n k i n g that is globalness [mondialité] as such ( w h i c h is desig-
seems to c o n f i r m definitively the Freudian contrast between a pos- nated as "capital," "(de-)Westernization," "technology," "rupture
sible cure of the nervous i n d i v i d u a l a n d the incurable malaise of of history," a n d so forth).
c i v i l i z a t i o n . T h i s dialectic, this contrast, a n d their u n c o m m u n i c a -
tive a n d paralyzing c o n f r o n t a t i o n indicate the k n o t of questions, Conditions of Critique
expectations, and anxieties o f a n epoch. H o w can being-together
appropriate itself as such, w h e n it is left up to itself to be what it is, T h e retreat of the political and the religious, or of the theologico-
w h e n it is presented in a formulation that is stripped d o w n and has p o l i t i c a l , means the retreat of every space, f o r m , or screen i n t o
no substantial p r e s u p p o s i t i o n or, in other terms, lacks s y m b o l i c w h i c h or o n t o w h i c h a figure of c o m m u n i t y c o u l d be projected. At
identification? W h a t becomes of b e i n g - w i t h w h e n the with no the right t i m e , then, the question has to be posed as to whether
longer appears as a corn-position, but o n l y as a dis-position? being-together can do w i t h o u t a figure a n d , as a result, w i t h o u t an
H o w are we to understand the co- as dis-? W h i c h one o f these is identification, if the w h o l e of its "substance" consists o n l y in its
the "as such" of B e i n g that exposes it as its o w n sharing a n d w h i c h spacing. B u t this question cannot be articulated in a completely ap-
expresses that, as B e i n g , it is between B e i n g a n d B e i n g itself? A n d propriate way u n t i l the f u l l extent of the w i t h d r a w a l of its figure
moreover, what is it that brings together in B e i n g that "as" = "as and i d e n t i t y has been grasped. Today, w h e n t h i n k i n g moves too
such" a n d "as" = "similarly"? E a c h time, B e i n g as such is B e i n g as quickly, w h e n it is fearful a n d reactionary, it declares that the most
the B e i n g of a being, a n d it is this each time, similarly. W h a t is it c o m m o n l y recognized forms of identification are indispensable and
that makes B e i n g as such a being-similar w h i c h circulates f r o m be- c l a i m that the destinies proper to t h e m are used up or perverted,
i n g to being and w h i c h , thereby, i m p l i e s the disparity, d i s c o n t i n u - whether it be: "people," " n a t i o n , " " c h u r c h , " or "culture," not to
ity, a n d simultaneity required for gauging a "resemblance"? W h a t mention the confused "ethnicity" or the tortuous "roots." There is a
is this com-plication (co-implication and complexity) by w h i c h h u - whole panorama of membership and property, here, whose political
mans e x h i b i t — w i t h i n the discourse of the similar a n d the d i s s i m - and philosophical history has yet to be w r i t t e n : it is the history of
47

ilar, a discourse w h i c h is very difficult a n d puts " h u m a n i t y " as such the representation-of-self as the d e t e r m i n i n g element of an o r i g i -
i n t o p l a y — a certain (dis)similarity o f B e i n g that crosses t h r o u g h nary concept of society.
all being? H o w can B e i n g as such be a n y t h i n g other than the T h e retreat presents itself in two ways at once: on the one h a n d ,
(dis)similarity of being in its simultaneity? the theologico-political withdraws i n t o the realm of l a w ; on the 48

To say that this q u e s t i o n is an o n t o l o g i c a l q u e s t i o n — o r even other, it withdraws i n t o a self-representation that no longer refers
that it is the ontological question, a b s o l u t e l y — d o e s not mean we to an o r i g i n , but o n l y to the v o i d of its o w n specularity.
have to leave the realm of economics a n d sickness, any more than Passing i n t o the realm of law effectively divides the " p o l i t i c a l "
we have to abandon the order of praxis. On the contrary, as I have in two: there is the formal abstraction of the law, w h i c h u n d o u b t -
already said, this question is s i m p l y that of what is called "capital," edly "does r i g h t " by every p a r t i c u l a r i t y a n d every relation, b u t
a n d even the question of "history" a n d "politics." " O n t o l o g y " does w i t h o u t g i v i n g this right any m e a n i n g other than itself; a n d then
not o c c u r at a level reserved for p r i n c i p l e s , a level that is w i t h - the reality of the relation of f o r c e s — w h e t h e r economic, technical,
d r a w n , speculative, a n d altogether abstract. Its name means the or the forces of p a s s i o n — s t a n d s out in a p r o n o u n c e d a n d au-
4 8 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 49

t o n o m o u s fashion, that is, unless law itself undertakes to set itself what is most often at w o r k in any call to "ethics": a transcendental
up as an o r i g i n or f o u n d a t i o n , in the f o r m of an absolute L a w [la unpresentability of that most concrete presence.
Loi}. (It is here that psychoanalysis seeks, in a remarkable way, to On the other side of this retreat, however, it is representation that
facilitate a substantial a n d authoritarian vision of society.) L a w as triumphs, absorbing entirely b o t h the transcendental a n d the c o n -
such is necessarily the L a w of an Other, or the L a w as Other. T h e crete. W h a t does the impoverished w o r d "society" n o w say w h e n it
O t h e r i m p l i e s its nonrepresentability. In a theological realm, this is e m p t i e d of all "sociation" or "association," not to m e n t i o n emp-
can give rise to an " i n t e r d i c t i o n of representation" that supposes tied of the " c o m m u n i t i e s " and "fraternities" that constitute our i m -
the sacred nature of the O t h e r a n d , along w i t h it, an entire econ- ages of p r i m i t i v e life (the c o n s t r u c t i o n of w h i c h has, in general,
o m y of the sacred, sacrificial, hierarchical, a n d heirophantic, even s h o w n itself to be fantastical)? W h a t is left seems to be n o t h i n g
where the t h e o p h a n y a n d t h e o l o g y are negative. Access to Pres- more than this "society" face to face w i t h itself, being-social itself
ence, a n d even to a "super-presence," is always preserved. B u t defined by this game of mirrors, a n d losing itself in the scintillat-
w i t h i n an atheological realm, this interdiction becomes a denial of ing play of light and images. It is not a matter of the O t h e r or o t h -
representation; the alterity of the law either retrieves, represses, or ers, but of a singular p l u r a l that is subsumed by means of its o w n
denies its o r i g i n , a n d ends in the singular presence of each one to curiosity about itself, subsumed w i t h i n a generalized equivalence of
the others. In this sense, s o m e t h i n g "unrepresentable" or "unfig- all the representations of itself that it gives itself to consume.
urable" runs the risk of revealing itself as completely oppressive and T h i s is called "the spectacular-market society" or "the society of
terrifying, if not terrorist, open to the anguish of an originary Lack. the spectacle." T h i s is the p o s t - M a r x i s t or m e t a - M a r x i s t i n t u i t i o n
In contrast, the "figure" proves itself to be capable of o p e n i n g o n t o of S i t u a t i o n i s m . It t h i n k s of " c o m m o d i t y fetishism," or the d o m i -
the " w i t h " as its border, the very l i m i t of its outline. nation of capital, as being accomplished by the general c o m m o d i -
( O f course, these two "realms" do not just f o l l o w one another in fication of fetishes, in the p r o d u c t i o n a n d c o n s u m p t i o n of material
a history. T h e y are each a n d b o t h i m p l i c a t e d in the i n t e r d i c t i o n a n d s y m b o l i c "goods" that all have the character of b e i n g an i m -
against representation and/or the anxiety about it, that is, in the age, i l l u s i o n , or appearance (and where, in fact, democratic rights
question about g a i n i n g access to the origin(s), a question about its tops the list of such "goods"). T h e "good," of w h i c h the "spectacle"
possibility/impossibility.) is the general i l l u s i o n , is o n l y the real self-appropriation of social
So it is not so m u c h a question of d e n y i n g law itself, it is more a Being. An order structured according to a visible division of society,
question of " d o i n g right" by the singular plural of the o r i g i n . As a the justification for w h i c h is f o u n d o n l y in an invisible beyond (re-
result, it is a matter of q u e s t i o n i n g law about what we m i g h t call l i g i o n , ideal), is succeeded by an i m m a n e n t order that, like v i s i b i l -
its "originary anarchy" or the very o r i g i n of the law in what is " b y ity itself, imitates its self-appropriation at every p o i n t . T h e society
all rights w i t h o u t any right": existence unjustifiable as such. To be of the spectacle is that society w h i c h achieves a l i e n a t i o n by an
sure, the derivation or d e d u c t i o n of law f r o m the unjustifiability of imaginary appropriation o f real appropriation. T h e secret o f the i l -
existence is not i m m e d i a t e or obvious. In essence, it m a y even es- lusion consists in the fact that real appropriation must consist o n l y
cape the process of a "deduction" altogether. B u t this remains to be in a free, self-creating i m a g i n a t i o n that is indissociably i n d i v i d u a l
thought; in the m e a n t i m e , law w i t h o u t o n t o l o g y reabsorbs B e i n g and collective: the spectacular c o m m o d i t y in all its forms consists
and its m e a n i n g into the e m p t y t r u t h of Law. To assume that p o l - essentially in the imagery [imaginaire} that it sells as a replacement
itics is entirely a question of " h u m a n rights" is also to assume sur- for authentic i m a g i n a t i o n . As s u c h , t h e n , universal c o m m e r c e is
reptitiously that " m a n " is entirely a question of the Other. T h i s is c o n s t i t u t e d by a representation w h e r e i n existence is b o t h an i n -
50 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 5'

vention a n d a self-appropriating event. A subject of representation, as the generalized "spectacle." H e r e , the gravity of the q u e s t i o n
that is, a subject reduced to the s u m or flux of representations c o n c e r n i n g the " m e d i a " comes to the fore. " M e d i a t i z a t i o n " does
w h i c h it purchases, is the placeholder that functions as a subject of not depend on overblown hype, w h i c h is n o t h i n g new in itself; nor
B e i n g a n d history. ( T h i s is w h y the reply to the spectacle is for- does it d e p e n d on t e c h n o l o g i c a l or e c o n o m i c power as such. It
m u l a t e d as the free creation of the "situation": the a p p r o p r i a t i n g depends p r i m a r i l y on the fact that a society gives itself its repre-
event abruptly removed f r o m the logic of the spectacle. T h i s is also sentation in the guise of s y m b o l i s m . T h i s is also w h y it has such a
w h y S i t u a t i o n i s m , the o f f s p r i n g o f several artistic m o v e m e n t s , capacity for a b s o r b i n g its o w n c r i t i q u e a n d its o w n rebellious,
refers to a p a r a d i g m of artistic creation that is nonaesthetic or ironic, or distanced presentations. A sort of general psychosociol-
maybe even antiaesthetic.) ogy takes the place of the presupposition of a figure or i d e n t i t y of
In this way, Situationism (which I do not really want to go into being-social.
here, but want to treat as a s y m p t o m ) , and some of its offshoots
49
In this respect, Situationism is not w r o n g to discern misery at the
into various sorts of analyses concerning the self-simulation and self- very heart of abundance, a s y m b o l i c misery that does not exclude
c o n t r o l of o u r society, understands that M a r x i s m missed the m o - sustained material misery and certain people's deprivation, in par-
m e n t o f s y m b o l i c a p p r o p r i a t i o n b y c o n f u s i n g i t w i t h that o f p r o - ticular the misery of m u c h of the southern hemisphere. . . . T h e
ductive a p p r o p r i a t i o n , or even by t h i n k i n g that such productive misery of the "spectacle" names that coexistence where the co- ends
appropriation must be self-producing a n d , thereby, move beyond it- up referring to n o t h i n g by w h i c h existence c o u l d symbolize itself
self into symbolic appropriation: the self-suppression of capital as the according to itself. T h a t is, at the very m o m e n t w h e n it exposes it-
integral reappropriation of B e i n g as c o m m u n a l existence. M o r e self a n d proves to be the entire property of B e i n g , it is n o t h i n g by
specifically, they understand that it is this sort of self-surpassing that w h i c h existence says itself as such, n o t h i n g by w h i c h it makes sense
does indeed take place. B u t it does not take place by b r i n g i n g about of B e i n g . At that very m o m e n t w h e n the o n l y other t h i n g that is
an appropriation of being-in-common understood as symbolic Being given a l o n g w i t h existence is existence-with as the space for de-
(taking symbol in the strong sense of being a b o n d of recognition, an ployment and appropriation, the co- is n o t h i n g that can make sense.
ontological instance of the " i n - c o m m o n , " like Marx's b o n d of "free Being-together is defined by being-together-at-the-spectacle, a n d
labor" where everyone produces h i m s e l f or herself as a subject with this being-together understands itself as an inversion of the repre-
others and as a subject o/^being-with-one-another). Instead, this self- sentation of itself, w h i c h it believes to be capable of g i v i n g itself as
surpassing takes place as the s y m b o l i z a t i o n of p r o d u c t i o n itself, originary (and lost): the Greek city assembled in c o m m u n i t y at the
w h i c h allows for coexistence o n l y in the form of the technical or eco- theater of its o w n myths. An example of today's response m i g h t be
n o m i c co-ordination of the various c o m m o d i t y networks. the f o l l o w i n g advertisement, w h i c h itself constitutes a spectacular
S i t u a t i o n i s m thus understands that the " h u m a n sciences" have and d i s t u r b i n g recuperation of the Situationist critique: " F o o t b a l l
c o m e to constitute this self-symbolization of society, w h i c h is not, makes all other art forms i n s i g n i f i c a n t . " 50

in fact, a s y m b o l i z a t i o n but o n l y a representation a n d , more pre- In any case, it is precisely this indefinite capacity for recuperating
cisely, the representation of a subject that has no subjectivity other the Situationist critique that demands attention. T h e d e n u n c i a t i o n
than this representation itself. In fact, it turns out to be quite clear of mere appearance effortlessly moves w i t h i n mere appearance, be-
that the " h u m a n sciences" (even in their various critical capacities, cause it has no other way of designating what is p r o p e r — t h a t is,
where these capacities do not t u r n i n t o an insidious f o r m of "su- n o n a p p e a r a n c e — e x c e p t as the obscure opposite of the spectacle.
per-representation") are the real strength b e h i n d w h a t is k n o w n Since the spectacle occupies all of space, its opposite can o n l y make
52 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 53

itself k n o w n as the inappropriable secret of an originary property riority, a n d at the cost of s i m p l y disregarding "social" exteriority
h i d d e n beneath appearances. T h i s is w h y the opposite of deceitful (the sphere of the exteriority of needs and exchanges, the sphere of
"imagery" is creative " i m a g i n a t i o n , " the m o d e l for w h i c h is s t i l l w o r l d l y appearance, a n d so forth). T h e Situationist c r i t i q u e c o n -
s o m e t h i n g like the R o m a n t i c genius. A c c o r d i n g to such a m o d e l , tinued to refer essentially to s o m e t h i n g like an internal t r u t h (des-
the artist plays the part of the productive-subject, but still accord- ignated, for example, by the name "desire" or " i m a g i n a t i o n " ) , the
i n g to the structure of an ontological presupposition that involves whole concept of w h i c h is that of a subjective appropriation of "true
no specific interrogation of the " c o m m o n " or " i n - c o m m o n " of Be- life," itself thought of as o r i g i n proper, as self-deployment a n d self-
i n g , nor of the m e a n i n g of B e i n g that is in question. satisfaction. In this, S i t u a t i o n i s m demonstrates the nearly constant
We must, therefore, understand h o w this version of M a r x i s t c r i - characteristic of the m o d e r n critique of exteriority, appearance, and
tique, and all the versions of critical t h i n k i n g inaugurated by M a r x social a l i e n a t i o n — a t least, since Rousseau.
(whether they be the more "leftist" versions or the more "sociologi- I certainly do not w a n t to suggest by this that the c r i t i q u e of
cal" ones, those of Bataille or the Frankfurt S c h o o l , and so on), in alienation, i l l u s i o n , or i d e o l o g y is ineffectual. B u t we do have to
some way obscured, in statu nascendi, the correctness of its o w n i n - wonder to what extent the critique of alienation is itself in danger
t u i t i o n . T h i s was the i n t u i t i o n of society exposed to itself, establish- of r e m a i n i n g subject to another, symmetrical alienation of the sort
i n g its being-social under no other horizon than itself—that is, w i t h - that I am t r y i n g to p o i n t out by referring to different species of the
out a h o r i z o n of M e a n i n g in w h i c h to relate being-together as such, Other, w h i c h is still to say the Same or the O n e s e l f of a u n i q u e ,
w i t h o u t an instance of corn-position as society's dis-position splayed exclusive, and egoistic a p p r o p r i a t i o n , however ego is to be under-
open a n d laid bare. B u t this very i n t u i t i o n is interpreted o n l y as the stood (whether generic, c o m m u n i t a r i a n , o r i n d i v i d u a l ) . O n a n -
reign of appearance, as the substitution of the spectacle for authen- other level, one c o u l d say that this is a more or less explicit refer-
tic presence; appearance is u n d e r s t o o d , here, in the most classical ence to "nature": universal nature, h u m a n nature, natural to each
way, namely, as "mere appearance" (surface, secondary exteriority, person or natural to a people. T h e idea of nature retains w i t h i n it-
inessential shadow), and even as "false appearance" (semblance, de- self the d o m i n a n t theme o f self-sufficiency, o f self-organization,
ceptive i m i t a t i o n ) . In this respect, critique remains obedient to the and of a process oriented toward an end state. T h i s sort of nature is
most trenchant and "metaphysical" tradition of philosophy, "meta- at a remove f r o m exteriority a n d contingency, w h i c h , in other
physical" in the Nietzschean sense: the refusal to consider an order places, are marks of a "nature" that is "outside" us, to w h i c h we are
of "appearances," preferring, instead, authentic reality (deep, l i v i n g , exposed a n d w i t h o u t w h i c h our exposition w o u l d not take place.
o r i g i n a r y — a n d always on the order of the O t h e r ) . Similarly, the ego is f r o m the very start removed f r o m that exteri-
W i t h i n this tradition, it is over a n d against the d e m a n d of i n t e l - ority a n d contingency w i t h o u t w h i c h it is impossible to expose it
ligible reality that sensible appearance has been constituted and dis- as ego.
regarded all in the same gesture, just as p l u r a l i t y has been consti- B o t h the theory a n d praxis o f c r i t i q u e demonstrate that, f r o m
tuted a n d disregarded for the sake of the requirement of unity. n o w o n , critique absolutely needs to rest on some p r i n c i p l e other
Likewise, p u b l i c appearance has been constituted and disregarded than that of the o n t o l o g y of the O t h e r a n d the Same: it needs an
in favor of an interior and theoretical reality (think of Plato's Thaïes, o n t o l o g y of being-with-one-another, and this o n t o l o g y must sup-
w h o was inept in the affairs of the city), and w h e n authentic reality port b o t h the sphere of "nature" a n d sphere of "history," as w e l l as
was demanded in the political or c o m m u n i t a r i a n order, it happened both the " h u m a n " a n d the " n o n h u m a n " ; it must be an o n t o l o g y
at the cost of relegating the political or the c o m m u n i t a r i a n to inte- for the w o r l d , for e v e r y o n e — a n d if I can be so b o l d , it has to be
54 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 55

an o n t o l o g y for each a n d every one a n d for the w o r l d "as a total- der can, in t u r n , be thought of in some way other than according
ity," a n d n o t h i n g short of the w h o l e w o r l d , since this is all there is to the order of " i m a g i n a t i o n " or "figuration," all of w h i c h indicates
(but, in this way, there is all). the necessity of t h i n k i n g all these terms in a new way? O n c e again,
As the last great f o r m of radical c r i t i q u e , S i t u a t i o n i s m was no "art" w o u l d come into play, but only according to a t h i n k i n g that is
stranger to this necessity. Despite everything, its critique w o r k e d quite different f r o m asking the trivial question about "art a n d so-
itself out w h i l e g i v i n g little play to [the practice o f ] referring soci- ciety" and, at the same time, according to a w h o l l y different t h i n k -
ety to a m o d e l of some sort. T h i s is u n d o u b t e d l y where its rupture i n g of "art" itself, a n d of what we m i g h t i n c l u d e under the head-
w i t h various M a r x i s m s was most decisive a n d where, w i t h some i n g "critical art."
others a n d p a r t l y in M a r x ' s name, it offered one of the first a n d These questions serve as the p r o g r a m m a t i c h e a d i n g of some
most virulent critiques of what was u n t i l just recently called "real" fuller inquiry. I w i l l not take t h e m b o t h on at once, because each
socialism a n d also social-democracies. As a result, Situationism has one is too enormous in itself. I w i l l o n l y attempt to open some dif-
brought to light rather w e l l , although not to its fullest extent, the ferent ways of approaching t h e m .
theme of referring society back to itself. T h e "society of the spec- At the very heart of the t r a d i t i o n , it must be said that " i n t e l l i g i -
tacle" is b o t h a d e n u n c i a t i o n (of the generalized spectacle-market) ble reality" can o n l y be the reality of the sensible as s u c h — a n d that
a n d an affirmation of society facing itself a n d , maybe even more the "intelligible reality" of the c o m m u n i t y can o n l y be the reality
so, the affirmation of society as exposed to itself a n d o n l y to itself. of being-in-common as such. T h i s is w h y reduction to or s u b s u m p -
We must, therefore, pose the following two questions at the same tion in intelligibility (Idea, C o n c e p t , Subject) regularly comes i n t o
time: tension w i t h its own requirement that it provide an i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y
1. H o w can one k n o w in what way a n d just h o w far c r i t i q u e — of the sensible that occurs w i t h i n sensibility, for it a n d right at [à
b o t h revolutionary critique, i n c l u d i n g its most recent manifesta- même] it; this is often so forceful an o p p o s i t i o n that it leads to a
tions, a n d also so-called reformist c r i t i q u e — r e m a i n s paradoxically rupture, where sensible intelligibility either breaks apart or dissolves
a n d unconsciously subject to a classical m o d e l in w h i c h reality is itself altogether.
opposed to appearance a n d u n i t y is opposed to plurality? ( T h i s W h a t comes to us today is the d e m a n d to give the m e a n i n g of
m o d e l assumes that a certain Nietzschean lesson is constantly mis- b e i n g - i n - c o m m o n according to what it i s — i n - c o m m o n or with—
understood or avoided w i t h i n the critical tradition and, at the same and not a c c o r d i n g to a B e i n g or an essence of the c o m m o n . As
time, that the w h o l e question of what can be called "art" f r o m the such, it is the d e m a n d to give the m e a n i n g of b e i n g - w i t h right at
p o i n t of v i e w of social critique remains more or less untouched.) the w i t h , a n d in a " m a k i n g sense w i t h " ["faire-sans-avec"] (a praxis
In other words, to what extent do "critical" t h i n k i n g a n d the "crit- of m e a n i n g - w i t h [sens-avec]) where the o p p o s i t i o n of a M e a n i n g
ical" attitude as such entail this subjection (if "critique" always pre- (horizon, history, c o m m u n i t y ) a n d a simple " w i t h " (spacing, exte-
supposes the possibility of u n v e i l i n g the i n t e l l i g i b i l i t y of the real), riority, disparity) w o u l d dissolve or break apart. In short, it is be-
a n d what other attitude is necessary, where an attitude of resigna- c o m i n g a matter of urgency to k n o w whether social critique is to
t i o n is out of the question? be made by virtue of a presupposition that is not at all social (an
2. H o w can one k n o w if the "spectacle" is, in one way or another, o n t o l o g y of B e i n g - tout-court, as it were) or by virtue of an o n t o l -
a constitutive d i m e n s i o n of society? T h a t is, h o w can one k n o w if ogy of b e i n g - i n - c o m m o n , that is, of the plural singular essence of
what is called "social relation" can be t h o u g h t of a c c o r d i n g to B e i n g . T h i s is w h y the subject of "ontology" first of all entails the
s o m e t h i n g other than the s y m b o l i c order, a n d if the s y m b o l i c or- critical examination of the conditions of critique in general.
56 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 57

question w h i c h we still call a "question of social B e i n g " must, in


Co-appearing fact, constitute the ontological question.
If one really understands the necessity of this groundless pre-
It m i g h t be, then, that the current situation of "social B e i n g " has
supposition, one w o u l d also have to try to say the f o l l o w i n g : if the
to be u n d e r s t o o d in some other way than by starting f r o m the
situation of being-social is not that of a spectacular self-alienation
schema of an i m m e n s e , spectacular s e l f - c o n s u m p t i o n , a schema
that presupposes a lost or dissimulated "real presence," neither is it
where the t r u t h of c o m m u n i t y is dissolved and engulfed—whether
that of a general c o m m u n i c a t i o n a l arrangement, w h i c h presup-
c o m m u n i t y [is understood] as subject or as occurring between sub-
poses a "rational subject" of c o m m u n i c a t i o n . T h i s does not mean
jects. If o n l y we made the effort to decipher it in a n e w way, it
that there is n o t h i n g to the illusions of spectacular self-alienation
m i g h t be that the p h e n o m e n o n of the generalized "spectacle,"
or to the rationality of a general c o m m u n i c a t i o n a l arrangement,
a l o n g w i t h what we call the "tele-global d i m e n s i o n , " w h i c h ac-
but it does mean that "real presence" and "rationality" can o n l y be
companies it and is cosubstantial w i t h it, w o u l d reveal s o m e t h i n g
thought or evaluated by b e g i n n i n g f r o m s o m e t h i n g else; a n d they
else altogether. W h a t is of p r i m a r y importance in this is to a v o i d
cannot themselves constitute the groundless presupposition. If left
presupposing that the subject of "social B e i n g " or the subject of Be-
to itself, as a sort of grand, hermeneutical a n t i n o m y of the m o d e r n
i n g tout court is already established.
w o r l d (and one that is clearly at w o r k everywhere), this contrary
B u t this c a n n o t s i m p l y be a matter of the classic gesture of
double f o r m of the "[illusory] spectacle" a n d "[rational] c o m m u n i -
w a n t i n g to begin w i t h o u t presuppositions (which always assumes
cation" c o u l d even s w i t c h their predicates a r o u n d , such that the
that this desire [volonté] itself is not already the whole presupposi-
"spectacle" w o u l d be n o t h i n g other than " c o m m u n i c a t i o n " and vice
t i o n ) . It is a matter of rigorously t h i n k i n g what B e i n g - w i t h o u t -
versa. T h i s chiasma or circle worries us in our confused a n d a n x i -
presuppositions-about-itself means, w h i c h is, once again, the "cre-
ety-ridden awareness that society just "turns r o u n d a n d a r o u n d , "
a t i o n of the w o r l d . " In a general way, i n d e e d in an absolutely
w i t h o u t substance, w i t h o u t f o u n d a t i o n , w i t h o u t end.
general way, the p r i m o r d i a l requirement of o n t o l o g y or first p h i -
In fact, it m i g h t be that what is happening to us is just another
losophy must n o w be that B e i n g not be presupposed in any way or
sort of " C o p e r n i c a n r e v o l u t i o n , " not of the cosmological system,
in any respect, a n d , more precisely, that every presupposition of Be-
or of the relation of subject and object, but rather of "social B e i n g "
ing must consist in its nonpresupposition.
r e v o l v i n g [tournant] a r o u n d itself or t u r n i n g on itself, a n d no
B e i n g cannot be pre-sup-posed [pré-sup-posé] if it is o n l y the Be-
longer revolving a r o u n d s o m e t h i n g else (Subject, O t h e r , or Same).
i n g of what exists, a n d is not itself some other existence that is pre-
W h a t happens to us, then, is the stripping bare [mis à nu] of so-
vious or subjacent to existence by w h i c h existence exists. F o r exis-
cial reality, the very reality of being-social i n , by, a n d as the s y m -
tence exists in the p l u r a l , singularly p l u r a l . As a result, the most
b o l i c i t y that constitutes it, where "spectacle," " c o m m u n i c a t i o n , "
formal and fundamental requirement [of ontology] is that " B e i n g "
" c o m m o d i t y , " and "technology" w o u l d be different figures of this
cannot even be assumed to be the s i m p l e singular that the name
symbolicity. These are, however, perverse figures that still have to
seems to indicate. Its b e i n g singular is p l u r a l in its very B e i n g . It
be thought.
follows, then, that not only must being-with-one-another not be un-
It is s t i l l necessary to u n d e r s t a n d what this w o r d " s y m b o l i c "
derstood starting from the presupposition of being-one, but on the con-
means. T h e proper value of s y m b o l i s m is in m a k i n g a symbol, that
trary, being-one ( B e i n g as such, complete B e i n g or ens realissimum)
is, in m a k i n g a connection or a j o i n i n g , 51
a n d in g i v i n g a face [ fig-
can only be understood by starting from being-with-one-another. T h a t
58 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 59

ure] to this liaison by m a k i n g an image. Insofar as the relation is m a k i n g a s y m b o l of itself, society m a k i n g its appearance by facing
i m a g i n e d [se représente], a n d because the relation as such is n o t h - [ face à] itself i n order to be all that it is a n d all that it has to be. In
i n g other than its o w n representation, the s y m b o l i c is what is real this way, being-social is not reduced to any assumption of an inte-
in such a relation. By no means, however, is such a relation the rep- rior or superior unity. Its u n i t y is w h o l l y symbolic; it is w h o l l y of
resentation of s o m e t h i n g that is real (in the secondary, m i m e t i c the w i t h . Being-social is B e i n g that is by appearing in the face of
sense of representation), but the relation is, a n d is n o t h i n g other itself, faced w i t h itself: it is co-appearing [com-parution].
t h a n , what is real in the r e p r e s e n t a t i o n — i t s effectiveness a n d its
efficacy. ( T h e p a r a d i g m for this is "I love y o u " or, perhaps more
originally, "I am addressing myself to you.") C o - a p p e a r i n g does not s i m p l y signify that subjects appear to-
In this respect, it is i m p o r t a n t to emphasize that the s y m b o l i c gether. In that case ( w h i c h is the "social contract"), it w o u l d still
a n d the i m a g i n a r y are far f r o m opposites. B u t the w a y in w h i c h need to be asked f r o m where it is that they "appear," f r o m w h i c h
they are not opposites is even contrary to h o w the c o m m o n way of remote d e p t h do they come i n t o being-social as such, f r o m what
speaking [vulgate] conflates the image (understood as manifesta- o r i g i n . We must also w o n d e r w h y they appear "together" ["ensem-
t i o n a n d recognition) w i t h the s i m u l a c r u m (understood as a capti- ble"] a n d for what other depth they are destined, destined "all to-
v a t i n g a n d m y s t i f y i n g hypostasis). T h e s i m p l e , o r s i m p l i s t i c , c r i - gether" or "further-on [outre] together." E i t h e r the predicate "to-
tique of "the image" (and of the "civilization of images"), w h i c h has gether" is o n l y a q u a l i f i c a t i o n that is extrinsic to subjects, w h i c h
become a sort of ideological trope in theories of the "spectacle" and does not belong to the appearance of each one as such, but desig-
i n theories o f " c o m m u n i c a t i o n , " i s n o t h i n g b u t the m y t h i c a n d nates a pure, indifferent juxtaposition, or it adds a particular q u a l -
m y s t i f y i n g effect of the frantic desire for a "pure" s y m b o l i z a t i o n ity, one granted a m e a n i n g of its o w n that must be w o r k e d out for
(and a s y m p t o m a t i c manifestation of the weakness of "critique" in all subjects "together" a n d as "together." These two questions lead
general). T h e sole criterion of symbolization is not the exclusion or straight to the dead ends of a m e t a p h y s i c s — a n d its p o l i t i c s — i n
debasement of the image, b u t instead the capacity for a l l o w i n g a w h i c h (1) social co-appearance is o n l y ever thought of as a transi-
certain play, in a n d by the image-symbol, w i t h the j o i n i n g , the dis- tory e p i p h e n o m e n o n , a n d (2) society itself is thought of as a step
tancing, the opened interval that articulates it as sym-bol: this w o r d in a process that always leads either to the hypostasis of together-
s i m p l y means "put w i t h " (the G r e e k sun equals the L a t i n cum), so ness or the c o m m o n ( c o m m u n i t y , c o m m u n i o n ) , or to the hy-
that the d i m e n s i o n , space, and nature of the " w i t h " are in play here. postasis of the i n d i v i d u a l .
Therefore, the " s y m b o l i c " is not s i m p l y an aspect of being-social: In either case, one comes to a dead end because being-social as
on the one h a n d , it is this B e i n g itself; on the other h a n d , the s y m - s u c h — o r again, what m i g h t be called the association [sociation] of
b o l i c does not take place w i t h o u t (re)presentation, the ( r e p r e s e n - Being—is instrumentalized, related to s o m e t h i n g other than itself.
tation of one another [des uns aux autres] according to w h i c h they On this account, the essence of the "social" is not itself "social." As
are w i t h one another [les-uns-avec-les-autres]. a result, it is never presentable u n d e r the h e a d i n g of the "social,"
If I speak of "social" reality's being stripped bare as its s y m b o l i c - but o n l y under the heading of either a simple, extrinsic, a n d tran-
ity, then I am t a l k i n g about "society" uncovered, society no longer sitory "association," or of a transsocial presupposition, the u n i t a r y
being the appearance of o n l y itself, society no longer reduced to a entelechy of c o m m o n B e i n g — w h i c h are b o t h ways to repress a n d
sort of b a c k g r o u n d " s y m b o l i z i n g " (in the ordinary sense) n o t h i n g foreclose the p r o b l e m of "association."
(no c o m m u n i t y , no m y s t i c a l b o d y ) . I am t a l k i n g about society T h e very m e a n i n g of the w o r d "together," just like the m e a n i n g
6o Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 61

of the w o r d " w i t h , " seems to oscillate i n d e f i n i t e l y between two w h i c h is itself the d e t e r m i n a t i o n of " t i m e " as " c o n t e m p o r a r y
meanings, w i t h o u t ever c o m i n g to a p o i n t of e q u i l i b r i u m : it is ei- t i m e " ) . "Same t i m e / s a m e place" assumes that "subjects," to call
ther the "together" of j u x t a p o s i t i o n partes extra partes, isolated a n d t h e m that, share this space-time, but not in the extrinsic sense of
unrelated parts, or the "together" of gathering totum intra totum, a "sharing"; they must share it between themselves; they must t h e m -
u n i f i e d totality [unitotalité] where the relation surpasses itself in selves "symbolize" it as the "same space-time" w i t h o u t w h i c h there
being pure. B u t it is clear f r o m this that the resources f o u n d in the w o u l d not be time or space. T h e space-time itself is first of all the
term are situated precisely on the p o i n t of e q u i l i b r i u m between the possibility of the " w i t h . " Very l o n g analyses are called for here. C u t -
two meanings: "together" is neither extra nor intra. In fact, the pure t i n g t h e m far too short, let me say that t i m e cannot be the pure
outside, like the pure inside, renders all sorts of togetherness i m - m o m e n t [instant], or pure succession, w i t h o u t being simultaneity
possible. T h e y both suppose a u n i q u e and isolated pure substance, "at the same t i m e . " T i m e itself implies "at the same t i m e . " S i m u l -
but pure in such a way that one cannot even say "isolated," exactly taneity immediately opens space as the spacing of time itself. Start-
because one w o u l d be deprived of all relation w i t h it. As such, then, i n g f r o m the simultaneity of "subjects," t i m e is possible, but above
G o d is not together w i t h a n y t h i n g or anyone, but i s — a t least in all, it is necessary. For in order to be together a n d to c o m m u n i c a t e ,
Spinoza a n d L e i b n i z , although in different, but equally exemplary, a correlation of places and a. transition of passages f r o m one place
w a y s — t h e togetherness or being-together of all that is: G o d is not to another is necessary. Sharing [partage] and passage c o n t r o l each
"God." 5 2
other reciprocally. H u s s e r l writes, "It is essentially necessary that
Togetherness and being-together are not equivalent. ( O n the con- the togetherness of m o n a d s , their mere co-existence, be a temporal
trary, the e q u i v o c a t i o n between the two makes the status of the co-existence. "53 In fact, simultaneity is not a matter of i n d i s -
gods of onto-theology uncertain. [Whether it is a matter o f ] p a n - t i n c t i o n ; on the contrary, it is the distinctness of places taken to-
theism, p a n e n t h e i s m , p o l y t h e i s m , m o n o t h e i s m , atheism, d e i s m , gether. T h e passage f r o m one place to another needs time [D'un lieu
a n d so o n , [are such gods] representable or unrepresentable? [ D o à l'autre, il faut le temps]. A n d m o v i n g in place [du lieu à lui-
they] g r o u n d representation or remove it? Or [might they] even be même] as such also needs time: the time for the place to open itself
representation itself?) Togetherness, in the sense of b e i n g a sub- as place, the time to space itself. Reciprocally, originary time, ap-
stantive entity, is a collection (as in the theory of togethernesses [en- pearing as such, needs space [il l u i faut l'espace], the space o f its o w n
sembles]). C o l l e c t i o n assumes a regrouping that is exterior and i n - dis-tension, the space of the passage that divides [partage] it. N o t h -
different to the being-together ("in c o m m o n " ) of the objects of the ing and n o b o d y can be b o r n w i t h o u t being b o r n to a n d w i t h o t h -
collection. In a general way, the themes a n d practices of the " c o l - ers w h o c o m e into this encounter, w h o are b o r n in their o w n t u r n .
lective" or of "collectivism" move in this register. It c o u l d be said, T h e "together," therefore, is an absolutely originary structure. W h a t
then, that the ontological togetherness w h i c h we must t h i n k through is not together is in the no-time-no-place of n o n - B e i n g .
is never substantive; it is always the adverb of a being-together. B u t Co-appearance, then, must signify—because this is what is n o w
this adverb is not a predicate of " B e i n g " ; it brings to it no particu- a t s t a k e — t h a t "appearing" ( c o m i n g i n t o the w o r l d a n d being i n
lar and supplementary qualification. L i k e all adverbs, it modifies or the w o r l d , or existence as such) is strictly inseparable, indiscernable
modalizes the verb, but here m o d a l i z a t i o n is of the essence and of f r o m the cum or the with, w h i c h is not o n l y its place a n d its taking
the o r i g i n . B e i n g is together, a n d it is not a togetherness. place, but a l s o — a n d this is the same t h i n g — i t s fundamental o n -
"Together" means simultaneity {in, simul), "at the same t i m e . " tological structure.
B e i n g together is b e i n g at the same t i m e (and in the same place, T h a t B e i n g is being-with, absolutely, this is what we must t h i n k . 54
61 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 63

T h e with is the most basic feature of B e i n g , the mark [trait] of the ther a creativity nor a rationality laid d o w n like some fundamental
singular plurality of the origin or origins in it. internal resource, readily available to be put into practice through
U n d o u b t e d l y , the with as such is not presentable. I have already critique. In this respect, we are definitely no longer in the age of E n -
said so, but I have to insist u p o n it. T h e with is not "unpresentable" lightenment or R o m a n t i c i s m . We are elsewhere, w h i c h does not
like some remote or w i t h d r a w n presence, or like an Other. If there mean we are opposed to them or beyond them, as if we had dialec-
is a subject o n l y w i t h other subjects, the " w i t h " itself is not a sub- tically surpassed them. We are in a sort of simultaneous d r a w i n g to-
ject. T h e " w i t h " is or constitutes the m a r k of unity/disunity, w h i c h gether [tension] of these two epochs; they are contemporaries of ours
in itself does not designate u n i t y or disunity as that fixed substance and we see them wearing t h i n . O n e is w o r n t h i n to the p o i n t of be-
w h i c h w o u l d u n d e r g i r d it; the " w i t h " is not the sign of a reality, or ing an extremely d u l l platitude; the other is stretched out toward the
even of an "intersubjective d i m e n s i o n . " It really is, " i n t r u t h , " a night of extermination. We are thus in a suspension of history where
mark d r a w n out over the v o i d , w h i c h crosses over it and underlines an e n i g m a is gathering anew; we are contemporaries of ourselves,
it at the same t i m e , thereby c o n s t i t u t i n g the d r a w i n g apart [trac- contemporaries of the stripping bare of b e i n g - i n - c o m m o n .
tion] a n d d r a w i n g together [tension] of the v o i d . As s u c h , it also W h a t is proper to c o m m u n i t y , then, is given to us in the follow-
constitutes the traction a n d tension, repulsion/attraction, of the i n g way: it has no other resource to appropriate except the " w i t h "
"between"-us. T h e " w i t h " stays between us, a n d we stay between that constitutes it, the cum of " c o m m u n i t y , " its inferiority w i t h o u t
us: just us, but o n l y [as] the interval between us. an interior, a n d maybe even its interior intimo sui. As a result, this
In fact, one s h o u l d not say the " w i t h " ; one s h o u l d o n l y say cum is the cum of a co-appearance, wherein we do n o t h i n g but ap-
" w i t h , " w h i c h w o u l d be a p r e p o s i t i o n that has no p o s i t i o n of its pear together w i t h one another, co-appearing before no other au-
o w n a n d is available for every p o s i t i o n . B u t if the unpresentability thority [l'instance]^ than this " w i t h " itself, the m e a n i n g of w h i c h
of " w i t h " is not that of a h i d d e n presence, then it is because " w i t h " seems to us to instantly dissolve into insignificance, into exteriority,
is the u n p r e s e n t a b i l i t y of this p r e - p o s i t i o n , that is, the unpre- into the inorganic, e m p i r i c a l , a n d r a n d o m l y contingent [aléatoire]
sentability of presentation itself. " W i t h " does not add itself to Be- inconsistency of the pure a n d simple " w i t h . "
ing, but rather creates the i m m a n e n t and intrinsic c o n d i t i o n of pre- So it appears to us that what is proper to c o m m u n i t y is n o t h i n g
sentation in general. more than the generalized i m p r o p r i e t y of banality, of anonymity,
Presence is i m p o s s i b l e except as copresence. If I say that the of the lonely c r o w d a n d gregarious isolation. T h e simplest solidar-
U n i q u e is present, I have already given it presence as a c o m p a n i o n ities, the most elementary p r o x i m i t i e s seem to be dislocated. As
(even if such presence constitutes the U n i q u e , a n d I have split it in such, then, " c o m m u n i c a t i o n " is o n l y the laborious negotiation of a
two). T h e co- of copresence is the unpresentable par excellence, but reasonable a n d disinterested image of c o m m u n i t y devoted to its
it is n o t h i n g other t h a n — a n d not the O t h e r o f — p r e s e n t a t i o n , the o w n m a i n t e n a n c e , w h i c h constantly reveals itself as n o t h i n g but
existence w h i c h co-appears. the maintenance of the spectacular-market machine.
If we n o w have to t h i n k about social B e i n g in some other way It must be said, however, that co-appearance m i g h t o n l y be an-
than according to its spectacular-market self-mockery or its c o m - other name for capital. At the same t i m e , it m i g h t be a name that
municational self-assurance, b o t h of w h i c h take place on the basis runs the risk of once again m a s k i n g what is at-issue, p r o v i d i n g a
of an unlikely and nostalgic inauthenticity, it is quite likely that there c o n s o l i n g way of t h i n k i n g that is secretly resigned. B u t this d a n -
w o u l d be n o t h i n g else for us to meditate o n , n o t h i n g to ruminate ger is not a sufficient reason to be satisfied w i t h a critique of capi-
about or m u l l over between us. W h a t is proper to c o m m u n i t y is nei- tal that is still held prisoner to the presupposition of an "other sub-
6 4
Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 65

ject" of history, economics, a n d the appropriation of the proper in i n g ) , but rather a with of reappropriation (where the proper does
general. In p o i n t i n g to " c a p i t a l , " M a r x designated a general de- not return, or returns o n l y with).
p r o p r i a t i o n [dépropriation] that does not allow for the presupposi- ( T h i s is w h y we do not make an e c o n o m y out of an ontology,
tion or preservation of the other, or the Other, w h i c h w o u l d be the but it is also w h y this o n t o l o g y must be b o t h an ethos a n d a praxis,
subject of the general reappropriation. identically. T h i s w i l l have to be developed later. 56
Let us h o l d the
Or more precisely, the presupposition cannot take the f o r m of following in reserve: an ontology of being-with can only be located
presupposing a "subject"; rather, it must take the f o r m of being- w i t h i n the distinction of these terms: to be, to act, event, m e a n i n g ,
with-one-another, a n d must do so in a way that is m u c h more end, c o n d u c t , just as m u c h as, a n d because, it must be located
problematic, but far more radical, than M a r x c o u l d have suspected. w i t h i n the d i s t i n c t i o n o f the "singular" a n d the " p l u r a l , " the " i n
It must also be said, then, that the classic critique of capital, even in oneself" ["à soi"] a n d the " i n several" ["à plusieurs"].)
its latest p o s t - M a r x i s t forms, is not sufficient for t a k i n g h o l d of
what capital exposes. At the very least, a t h i n k i n g of co-appearance
T h e Spectacle of Society
must awaken this anxiety.
T h e i n t u i t i o n b u r i e d i n Marx's w o r k i s u n d o u b t e d l y located i n If b e i n g - w i t h is the sharing of a simultaneous space-time, then
the f o l l o w i n g ambivalence: at one a n d the same time, capital ex- it involves a presentation of this space-time as such. In order to say
poses the general alienation of the p r o p e r — w h i c h is the general- "we," one must present the "here and n o w " of this "we." Or rather,
ized disappropriation, or the appropriation of misery in every sense saying "we" brings about the presentation of a "here a n d now,"
of the word—and it exposes the stripping bare of the with as a mark however it is determined: as a r o o m , a region, a group of friends,
of Being, or as a mark of meaning. O u r t h i n k i n g is not yet adequate an association, a "people." We can never s i m p l y be "the we," u n -
to this ambivalence. T h i s is why, since M a r x and up through H e i - derstood as a u n i q u e subject, or understood as an i n d i s t i n c t "we"
degger, such ambivalence constantly revives a great, undefined hes- that is like a diffuse generality. " W e " always expresses a plurality,
itation on the subject of "technology," the l i m i t - o b j e c t — a n d per- expresses "our" being d i v i d e d and entangled: "one" is not " w i t h " in
haps the screen [l'objet-écran]—of a t h i n k i n g w h i c h projects onto some general sort of way, but each t i m e according to d e t e r m i n e d
it either the promise of a self-overcoming of capital or the assurance modes that are themselves multiple a n d simultaneous (people, c u l -
o f the implacable character o f its m a c h i n e r y c a r r y i n g o n u n c o n - ture, language, lineage, network, group, couple, b a n d , a n d so on).
t r o l l e d — a n d , thereby, controlling everything thanks to this absence W h a t is presented in this way, each time, is a stage [scène] on w h i c h
of control. several [people] can say " I , " each on his o w n account, each in t u r n .
T h i s is also w h y the t r u t h of o u r t i m e can o n l y be expressed in But a "we" is not the adding together or juxtaposition of these " I s . "
M a r x i s t or p o s t - M a r x i s t terms. T h i s w h y it is a q u e s t i o n of the A "we," even one that is not articulated, is the c o n d i t i o n for the
market, of misery, of social-democratic ideology, or the substan- possibility of each " I . " No " I " can designate itself w i t h o u t there be-
tial reappropriations that give a reply to it ( n a t i o n a l i s m , f u n d a - ing a space-time of "self-referentiality" in general. T h i s "generality,"
m e n t a l i s m , a n d fascism in all their various forms). B u t this t r u t h however, does not have a "general" consistency; it only has the c o n -
itself d e m a n d s that it be t h o u g h t starting f r o m the with of co- sistency of the singular at "each time" of each " I . " " E a c h time" i m -
appearance, so l o n g as b r i n g i n g it to life a n d s t r i p p i n g it bare sig- plies at one and the same time the discreteness of "one by one" and
nifies at least t h i s — t o put it in a formulaic way: what is at stake is the simultaneity of "each one." After all, an "each one" that was not
not a reappropriation of the with (of the essence of a c o m m o n Be- in any way simultaneous, that was not at-the-same-time-and-along-
66 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 6?

side-other "each ones," w o u l d be isolated in a way that w o u l d no w h i c h there w o u l d be n o t h i n g but B e i n g pure a n d simple, w h i c h
longer even c o u n t as i s o l a t i o n . Rather, it w o u l d be the pure a n d is to say, all a n d n o t h i n g , all as n o t h i n g .
simple impossibility of designating oneself a n d , therefore, of being B e i n g gives itself as singular p l u r a l a n d , in this way, organizes i t -
a "self." T h e pure c o n d i t i o n o f b e i n g d i s t t i b u t e d [distributive] self as its o w n stage. We present the " I " to ourselves, to one a n -
w o u l d be transformed i m m e d i a t e l y into absolute autism. ( B u t this other, just as " I , " each time, present the "we" to us, to one another.
is not to say that the "group," whatever it is, is of a higher order; it In this sense, there is no society w i t h o u t spectacle; or more pre-
is a stage [that serves as] a place of identification. M o r e generally, cisely, there is no society w i t h o u t the spectacle of society. A l t h o u g h
the question of the " w i t h " can never be expressed in terms of i d e n - already a p o p u l a r ethnological c l a i m or, in the Western t r a d i t i o n ,
tity, but rather always in terms of identifications.) a c l a i m about the theater, this p r o p o s i t i o n must be understood as
As I have already p o i n t e d out, not even Descartes can c l a i m to ontologically radical. T h e r e is no society w i t h o u t the spectacle be-
be alone a n d worldless, precisely because he is not alone and w o r l d - cause society is the spectacle of itself.
less. Rather, his pretense makes it clear that anyone w h o feigns soli- B u t in a certain sense, this itself must be understood as a play of
tude thereby attests to the "self-referentiality" of anyone [de q u i - mirrors (at least insofar as "play" a n d " m i r r o r " s i m p l y designate ar-
c o n q u e ] . T h e ego sum counts as "evident," as a first t r u t h , o n l y tifice a n d unreality). As a concept of being-together [être-ensem-
because its certainty can be recognized by anyone. So, to articulate ble], co-appearance consists in its appearing, that is, in its appear-
it completely w o u l d be to say: / say that we, all of us and each one of ing to itself a n d to one another, all at once. T h e r e is no appearing
us, say "ego sum, ego existo." O n e is not o b l i g e d to read Descartes as to oneself except as appearing to one another. If this were put in
Heidegger does, w h i c h is as someone w h o , in staying at the p o i n t classical terms, terms that presuppose a sphere of proper a n d iso-
of substance or res cogitans, does not go back as far as the absolutely lated i n d i v i d u a l i t y as the starting p o i n t , then it w o u l d be rendered
p r i m o r d i a l c o n d i t i o n . In fact, one must read Descartes literally, as in the f o l l o w i n g way: one appears to oneself insofar as one is a l -
he h i m s e l f invites us to: engaging with h i m and like h i m in the ex- ready an other for oneself. 57
B u t it is i m m e d i a t e l y clear that one
perience of the pretense [to s o l i t u d e ] . O n l y this t h i n k i n g with c o u l d not even begin to be an other for oneself if one h a d not al-
achieves the status of evidence, w h i c h is not a p r o o f [une démon- ready started f r o m the alterity w i t h — o r o f the w i t h — o t h e r s i n
stration}. F r o m its very first m o m e n t , the methodological pretense general. O t h e r s " i n general" are neither other "mes" (since there is
is neither substantialist nor solipsistic: it uncovers the stage of the no "me" a n d " y o u " except on the basis of alterity in general), nor
"at each t i m e " as our stage, the stage of the "we." the n o n - m e (for the same reason). O t h e r s " i n general" are neither
T h i s s t a g e — t h i s "theater of the w o r l d , " as Descartes also l i k e d the Same nor the O t h e r . T h e y are one-another, or of-one-another,
to call it, using the persistent image of his t i m e — i s not a stage in a p r i m o r d i a l plurality that co-appears. Therefore, "appearing," a n d
the sense of an artificial space of m i m e t i c representation. It is a appearing to oneself as w e l l as to one another, is not on the order
stage in the sense of the o p e n i n g of a space-time for the d i s t r i b u - of appearance, manifestation, phenomena, revealing, or some other
tion of singularities, each of w h o m singularly plays the unique and concept of becoming-visible. T h i s is because of what that order i n -
plural role of the "self" or the "being-self." "Self" does not m e a n evitably entails regarding the invisible o r i g i n of such appearance,
in itself, or by itself, or for itself, but rather "one of us": one that is and what it entails regarding the relation of appearance to this o r i -
each time at a remove f r o m i m m a n e n c e or f r o m the collective, but gin as either an expression or an i l l u s i o n , as resemblance or sem-
is also each time coessendal to the coexistence of each one, of "each blance. 58
So co-appearing is not "appearing"; it is not a question of
a n d every one." T h e stage is the space of a co-appearing w i t h o u t c o m i n g out f r o m a being-in-itself in order to approach others, nor
68 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 69

is it a question of c o m i n g i n t o the w o r l d . It is to be in the s i m u l - cle of the people itself, assembled in order to dance a r o u n d the tree
taneity of b e i n g - w i t h , where there is no " i n itself" that is not a l - they have planted as their o w n proper s y m b o l . W h a t Rousseau thus
ready i m m e d i a t e l y " w i t h . " makes clear, even despite h i m s e l f , 59
is the necessity of the specta-
B u t " i m m e d i a t e l y w i t h " does not refer to an i m m e d i a c y in the cle. In modernity, society knows itself as that w h i c h takes place in
sense of an absence of exteriority. On the contrary, it is the instan- the i m m a n e n t nonpresence to oneself. T h a t is, it takes place as a
taneous exteriority of space-time (the instant itself as exteriority: subject, not so m u c h the "subject of representation" as representa-
the s i m u l t a n e o u s ) . A n d this is h o w co-appearance forms a stage tion as subject it is presentation-to [la présentation-à], or what one
that is not a play of m i r r o r s — o r rather, h o w the t r u t h of the play c o u l d call a-presentation [lapprésentation], the realm of c o m i n g
of m i r r o r s must be u n d e r s t o o d as the t r u t h of the " w i t h . " In this into presence as c o m i n g c o n j o i n e d , c o i n c i d e n t a l and concurrent,
sense, "society" is "spectacular." simultaneous and mutual. T h i s a-presentation is that of a "we" that
possesses neither the nature of a c o m m o n " I " nor that of a geo-
metric place, in the sense of an ensemble in w h i c h all the "I's"
L o o k i n g at it closely, one w i l l find that the various critiques of w o u l d be equidistant f r o m one another. Rather, it is what opens
"spectacular" alienation are, in the e n d , g r o u n d e d on the distinc- the spacing of co-appearance on this side of every I-subject. "Asso-
t i o n between a g o o d spectacle and a bad spectacle—[this is true] ciation" ["Sociation"] does not disclose itself as a being, but rather
whether they like it or not. W i t h i n the good spectacle, the social or as an act that, by d e f i n i t i o n , exposes itself: it is in exposing itself
c o m m u n i t a r i a n being presents its proper inferiority to itself, its o r i - that it is what it is, or that it does what it does. Being-social must
g i n (which is itself invisible), the f o u n d a t i o n of its rights, the life testify before itself to the act of association, the act that brings it to
of its body, a n d the splendor of its fulfillment. (For the S i t u a t i o n - b e — n o t in the sense that it produces it (as a result), but rather in
ists, then, a certain idea of "art" almost always plays the role of the the sense that " B e i n g " remains w h o l l y w i t h i n the act a n d in the ex-
g o o d spectacle, a n d it is no accident that the [bad] "spectacle" for position of the act. In this sense, one c o u l d say that Rousseau's "so-
t h e m is first a n d foremost the falsification of art.) In the bad spec- cial contract" is not in essence the c o n c l u s i o n of an agreement; it
tacle, the social being imagines [se représente] the exteriority of i n - is the stage, the theater for the agreement.
terests a n d appetites, of egotistic passions a n d the false glory of os-
tentation. At the most basic level, this M a n i c h e a n division not o n l y
supposes a d i s t i n c t i o n between the represented objects, but it also Even if being-social is not immediately "spectacular" in any of the
supposes an o p p o s i t i o n w i t h i n the status of the representation: it accepted senses of the w o r d , it is essentially a matter of being-
is what is n o w in i n t e r i o r i t y (as m a n i f e s t a t i o n , expression of the exposed. It is as being-exposed; that is, it does not follow f r o m the
proper), n o w in exteriority (as image, reproduction). As such, the immanent consistency of a being-in-itself. T h e being-in-itself of "so-
fact that these are i n t e r t w i n e d is ignored: there is no "expression" ciety" is the network a n d cross-referencing [le renvoi mutuel] of co-
that is not [already] given in an "image," no "presentation" not al- existence, that is, o/coexistences. T h i s is w h y every society gives itself
ready [given] in "representation"; there is no "presence" that is not its spectacle and gives itself as spectacle, in one f o r m or another. 60

presence to one another. To this extent, every society knows itself to be constituted in the
It is, of course, w e l l k n o w n that the d i s t i n c t i o n between these n o n i m m a n e n c e of co-appearance, although society does not expose
spectacles is d r a w n out explicitly by Rousseau, w h o stipulates that this as a "knowledge." It exposes what it knows as its o w n stage and
the best spectacle, a n d the o n l y one that is necessary, is the specta- through its o w n praxis oistaging [praxis scénographique]; a n d what
•jo Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 71

it knows is that, h i d d e n b e h i n d being-together, there is not some T h i s is not to say that such t h i n k i n g can o n l y o c c u r to us t o -
other B e i n g w h i c h w o u l d no longer or not yet be being-together; m o r r o w or at some later p o i n t , as if it d e p e n d e d on progress or
that is, what it knows is that there is not togetherness itself h i d d e n some revelation. It m a y not be a matter of a new object of t h i n k i n g
b e h i n d b e i n g - t o g e t h e r — i n presence, i n person, i n body, o r i n that c o u l d be identified, defined, a n d exhibited as such. We do not
essence. Therefore, it knows that "togetherness" is not a predicate have to identify ourselves as "we," as a "we." Rather, we have to dis-
of B e i n g and that "togetherness" is the trace of B e i n g itself. In other identify ourselves from every sort of "we" that w o u l d be the subject
w o r d s , the togetherness of B e i n g [l'ensemble de l'être] is not a be- of its o w n representation, a n d we have to do this insofar as "we" co-
i n g ; it shares B e i n g . appear. A n t e r i o r to all t h o u g h t — a n d , in fact, the very c o n d i t i o n of
T h u s , the spontaneous knowledge of s o c i e t y — i t s "preontological t h i n k i n g — t h e "thought" of "us" is not a representational thought

c o m p r e h e n s i o n " of i t s e l f — i s knowledge about B e i n g itself, abso- (not an idea, or n o t i o n , or concept). It is, instead, a praxis a n d an

lutely, a n d not about the particular a n d subordinate region of be- ethos: the staging o f co-appearance, the staging w h i c h is co-appear-

ings, w h i c h w o u l d be the "social" region of B e i n g . B e i n g - w i t h is ing. We are always already there at each instant. T h i s is not an i n -
n o v a t i o n — b u t the stage must be reinvented; we must reinvent it
constitutive of B e i n g , a n d it is [constitutive] for the totality of be-
each time, each t i m e m a k i n g o u r entrance anew.
ings (I w i l l return to this below); "social" co-appearance is itself the
exposing of the general co-appearance of beings. T h i s insight makes
its way f r o m Rousseau to Bataille, or f r o m M a r x to Heidegger, a n d
it requires that we find a language that is ours. A major sign of the difficulty we have regarding the spectacle is
U n d o u b t e d l y , we are s t i l l stuttering: p h i l o s o p h y always comes indicated by the paradigmatic character that the A t h e n i a n theater
too late, a n d as a result, also too soon. B u t the stuttering itself be- has for us. T h e r e is certainly n o t h i n g accidental in the fact that our
trays the f o r m of the p r o b l e m : we, "we," h o w are we to say "we"? m o d e r n way of g r o u n d i n g the so-called Western t r a d i t i o n involves
Or rather, w h o is it that says "we," a n d what are we t o l d about our- a triple reference: to p h i l o s o p h y as the shared exercise of logos, to
selves in the technological proliferation of the social spectacle a n d politics as the o p e n i n g of the city, a n d to the theater as the place of
the social as spectacular, as w e l l as in the proliferation of self-me- the s y m b o l i c - i m a g i n a r y appropriation of collective existence. T h e
diatized g l o b a l i z a t i o n a n d globalized mediatization? W e are inca- A t h e n i a n theater, both the institution itself and its content, appears
pable of a p p r o p r i a t i n g this proliferation because we do not k n o w to us as the p o l i t i c a l (civil) presentation of the p h i l o s o p h i c a l (the
h o w to t h i n k this "spectacular" nature, w h i c h at best gets reduced self-knowledge of the logical animal) a n d , reciprocally, as the p h i l o -
to a discourse about the uncertain signs of the "screen" a n d of " c u l - sophical presentation of the political. T h a t is, it appears to us as the
ture." T h e same applies to "technological" nature, w h i c h we regard "one" presentation of being-together, yet as a presentation where
as an a u t o n o m o u s i n s t r u m e n t . We do so w i t h o u t ever asking our- the c o n d i t i o n for its possibility is the irreducible a n d institutive dis-
selves if it m i g h t not be "our" c o m p r e h e n s i o n of "our-selves" that tance [l'écart] of representation. Moreover, this distance defines the
comes u p w i t h these techniques a n d invents itself i n t h e m , a n d theater, insofar as it is neither political nor philosophical at the same
w i t h o u t w o n d e r i n g if technology is in fact essentially in complete t i m e — a n d neither of these in a rather specific way. T h e A t h e n i a n
agreement w i t h the " w i t h . " 61
We are not up to the level of the "we": theater appears to us as the c o n j u n c t i o n of logos a n d mimesis, b u t
we constantly refer ourselves back to a "sociology" that is itself o n l y w h e n we see it in this way, we systematically efface the m o m e n t of
the learned form of the "spectacular-market." We have not even be- mimesis in favor of the m o m e n t of logos.
g u n to t h i n k "ourselves" as "we." We efface it in o u r i m a g i n i n g [représentant] that there c o u l d be
7^ Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 73

— a n d especially that there was, once u p o n a t i m e — a " g o o d " mi- (and w h i c h also d i v i d e s — t h i s is a remarkable e x a m p l e — t h e
mesis (the sort Plato wanted), a mimesis of logos, and a " b a d " mime- C h r i s t i a n traditions o f Protestantism and C a t h o l i c i s m , o r divides
sis (that of the "sophist," the prototype of the spectacular merchant the several different forms of the profane theatrical tradition), re-
w h o sells the simulacra of logos). B u t we never pursue this logic to veals a consciousness that is itself conflicted, as is demonstrated by
its end, for d o i n g so w o u l d require that we recognize the following: its unease w i t h regard to the spectacle: " g o o d " (re)presentation is
if there is a necessity to mimesis, then it is because logos does not represented as lost; " b a d " (re)presentation is represented as b o t h
present itself of its o w n a c c o r d — a n d maybe because it does n o t popular and generalized. B u t , in fact, b o t h of t h e m are our repre-
present itself at a l l , because its logic is not the logic of presence. 62
sentations; they compose the d o u b l e spectacle that we give to our-
T h i s amounts to recognizing that "social logos," the logic of "as- selves, the double spectacle of the double unpresentability of social
s o c i a t i o n , " a n d "association" itself as the logos all require mimesis. B e i n g and its t r u t h . T h e r e is one unpresentability because of a cer-
H a s there ever been a logos that was not "social"? W h a t e v e r logos tain retreat, a n d another unpresentability on account of a certain
m e a n s — w h e t h e r a w o r d or number, a gathering or w e l c o m i n g in vulgarity. M a y b e we have to begin by t a k i n g some distance f r o m
w h i c h B e i n g is manifest, reason that is rendered or c o n s t r u c t e d — i t this d o u b l e spectacle, by no longer w i s h i n g to be Greeks, by no
always i m p l i e s sharing, a n d it always i m p l i e s itself as sharing. longer fearing that we are R o m a n s , a n d by s i m p l y understanding
By effacing the intrinsic m o m e n t or d i m e n s i o n of mimesis, we ef- ourselves as moderns, where being m o d e r n means the f o l l o w i n g :
face this sharing. We give ourselves the representation of a presence t a k i n g note of an exposed "unpresentability" as such, b u t w h i c h is
that is i m m a n e n t a n d enclosed, self-constitutive a n d self-sufficient, n o t h i n g other than the very presentation of o u r co-appearing, of
the integrally self-referential order of what we call a "logic" in the "us" co-appearing, a n d whose "secret" exposes itself a n d exposes us
most general a n d basic sense. In this sense, "logic" represents self- to ourselves w i t h o u t our even b e g i n n i n g to penetrate i t — i f it is a
referentiality h e l d to its ontological c o n d i t i o n , w h i c h is the o r i g i - matter of "penetrating" it at a l l .
n a r y — a n d , as such, e x i s t e n t i a l — p l u r a l i t y or sharing of logos itself.
Against this good conjunction of the logical and the m i m e t i c , we
T h e Measure of the " W i t h "
n o w oppose the " b a d " one: that where logic remains w i t h i n its i m -
manent order, cold and faceless (which today, for us, is the "logic of T h e bare exposition of co-appearance is the e x p o s i t i o n 64
of cap-
capital"), all the w h i l e outwardly p r o d u c i n g a mimesis that d i s s i m - ital. C a p i t a l is something like the reverse side of co-appearance and
ulates it according to its inverted s i m u l a c r u m , the self-consuming that w h i c h reveals co-appearance. Capital's violent i n h u m a n i t y dis-
"spectacle." T h e self-referentiality of the "image" stands in opposi- plays [étale] n o t h i n g other t h a n the s i m u l t a n e i t y of the singular
t i o n to the self-referentiality of the process or the force, as its p r o d - (but the singular posing as the indifferent and interchangeable par-
uct a n d t r u t h . As over a n d against the " G r e e k " p a r a d i g m , this is ticularity of the u n i t of p r o d u c t i o n ) a n d the p l u r a l (itself p o s i n g as
the way in w h i c h o u r t r a d i t i o n has for a l o n g t i m e set up the " R o - the system o f c o m m o d i t y c i r c u l a t i o n ) . T h e "extortion o f surplus-
m a n " paradigm: the site of circus games, burlesque theater, a n d the value" presupposes this c o n c o m i t a n c e between the " a t o m i z a t i o n "
theater o f cruelty; w i t h o u t " c i v i l " i d e n t i f i c a t i o n ; the E m p i r e a n d of producers (of "subjects" reduced to being-productive) a n d a
the reason for E m p i r e [raison d'Empire}; the f o r u m e m p t i e d of its "reticulation" of profit (not as an equal redistribution, but as a c o n -
meaning. . . . 63
centration that is itself more a n d more c o m p l e x a n d delocalized).
Aeschylus or N e r o . . . our referring to things in this way, w h i c h O n e c o u l d say that capital is the alienation of being singular
sets the G r e e k stage in such violent contrast to the R o m a n circus plural as such. T h i s w o u l d be quite accurate so l o n g as one d i d not
74 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 75

understand being singular plural as a primitive, authentic subject, a solute of existence is not to justify it. For this violence violates what
subject to w h i c h capital happened as its other and purely by acci- it exposes. T h i s , however, does not amount to declaring that the "se-
dent. ( N o t h i n g c o u l d be more foreign to Marx's thinking.) C a p i t a l cret" of capital has been revealed, along w i t h the means of converting
is the "alienation" of B e i n g in its being-social to the extent that it it into its opposite. Instead, the violence of capital gives the measure
puts this b e i n g in play as such. It is not the negative dialectic of of what is exposed, of what comes to "us" to expose itself: singular
some p r i o r c o m m u n i t y that occurs w i t h i n a c o n t i n u o u s historical plural being-with is the o n l y absolute measure of B e i n g itself, or of
process; instead, it exposes a singular-plural constitution or config- existence. But this is an incommensurable measure if it is equal to
uration that is neither the " c o m m u n i t y " nor the " i n d i v i d u a l . " I n - the "at each time" o f each "one" and, at the same time, to the indefi-
calculable " s u r p l u s - v a l u e " — " v a l u e " as indefinite, circulatory, a n d nite plurality of coexistences against w h i c h each one is measured m
autotelic growth—exposes the inaccessibility of a primordial or final t u r n — a c c o r d i n g t o the indefinite c o m m e n s u r a t i o n o f the c o i n c i -
"value." In a paradoxical and violent way, it immediately poses the dences of commerce, combat, competition, comparison, c o m m u n i -
question o f a n "outside-value" o r "absolute v a l u e " — w h i c h w o u l d cation, concurrence, concupiscence, compassion, co-jouissance. . . .
be immeasurable, priceless (what K a n t called a "dignity"). T h e r e is, T h e r e is a c o m m o n measure, w h i c h is not some one u n i q u e
then, a certain concomitance between the globalization of the mar- standard applied to everyone a n d everything. It is the c o m m e n s u -
ket a n d that of " h u m a n rights": these rights represent the supposed r a b i l i t y o f i n c o m m e n s u r a b l e singularities, the equality o f all the
absolute value that capital claims to exchange for . . . itself. origins-ofthe-world, w h i c h , as origins, are strictly unexchangeable
However, this is also w h y there is the stripping bare [mise à nu] of [insubstituable]. In this sense, they are perfectly unequal, but they
being-social a n d , at the same time, its being brought to life [mise à are unexchangeable o n l y insofar as they are equally w i t h one a n -
vif], exactly because the "rights-bearing" " h u m a n " is "valuable" in other. Such is the sort of measurement that it is left up to us to take.
itself. In fact, he is n o t h i n g other than the idea of a "value in itself"
or a "dignity." If " h u m a n i t y " must be w o r t h something, or if B e i n g
in general must "be w o r t h something" under the heading " h u m a n - "Society" is neither Greek nor R o m a n — n o r J u d e o - C h r i s t i a n , to
ity," this can o n l y be by " b e i n g valuable" singularly a n d , simultane- w h i c h we w i l l return later. Society k n o w s itself a n d sees itself as
ously, in " b e i n g valuable" by a n d for a n d w i t h the plural thai such bared, exposed to this c o m m o n excess [démesure]. At one and the
singularity i m p l i e s , just as it i m p l i e s the fact of the "value" itself. same t i m e , it sees itself as s o m e t h i n g quite evident a n d transpar-
Indeed, w h o c o u l d be [more] valuable for oneself t h a n oneself? ent, whose necessity eclipses that of every ego sum, a n d as an opac-
" B e i n g valuable" is w o r t h something o n l y w i t h i n the context of be- ity that denies itself every subjective a p p r o p r i a t i o n . At that m o -
i n g - w i t h , that is, o n l y insofar as it concerns commerce In every sense ment w h e n we clearly c o m e [to stand] before ourselves, as the lone
of the w o r d . B u t it is precisely the s h a r i n g of these s e n s e s — t h e addresser(s) facing the lone addressee(s), we cannot truly say "we."
commerce o f goods/the commerce o f b e i n g - t o g e t h e r — t h a t capital B u t it is through this that we n o w have to attain to a knowledge
exposes: the s h a r i n g of the senses of exchange, the s h a r i n g of the of the " w e " — a t t a i n to a knowledge and/or a praxis of the "we."
sharing itself. C a p i t a l exposes it as a certain violence, where being- T h e "we" is not a subject in the sense of egoistic self-identification
together becomes being-of-market-value [letre-marchand] and hag- a n d self-grounding (even if this itself never takes place outside of
gled over [marchandé]. T h e b e i n g - w i t h that is thus exposed v a n - a "we"); neither is the "we" "composed" of subjects (the law of such
ishes at the same time that it is exposed, stripped bare. c o m p o s i t i o n is the aporia of all "intersubjectivity"). However, the
To say that this violence exposes b e i n g singular plural as an ab- "we" is not n o t h i n g ; it is "someone" each time, just as "each one" is
j6 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural yj

someone. Moreover, this is w h y there is no universal "we": on the B e i n g of p h i l o s o p h i c a l o n t o l o g y cannot have coessence, since it
one h a n d , "we" is said each time of some configuration, group, or o n l y has n o n - B e i n g as its correlate. B u t what if B e i n g itself is the
network, however small or large; on the other h a n d , "we" say "we" coessentiality of existence?
for "everyone," for the coexistence of the entire universe of things, Since being-social appears to us to lie beyond our reach, whether
animals, a n d people that is m u t e a n d w i t h o u t "us." " W e " neither as c o m m u n i t y (subsumption under the Subject, pure B e i n g w i t h -
says the " O n e " nor does it say the a d d i n g together of "ones" a n d out relations) or as association ( a c c o m m o d a t i o n of subjects, rela-
"others"; rather, "we" says "one" in a way that is singular plural, one t i o n w i t h o u t essentiality), it is the category of the "other" that
by one a n d one w i t h one. crosses t h r o u g h m u c h c o n t e m p o r a r y t h i n k i n g . It w o u l d be neces-
N o t h i n g can really be t h o u g h t about this s i t u a t i o n unless the sary to show h o w this category, a n d the obsession [la hantise] that
one, in general, is first thought in terms of with-one-another. Yet, it it ends up c o n s t i t u t i n g for a g o o d p o r t i o n of o u r t h i n k i n g , b o t h

is here that o u r o n t o l o g y fails, since we are "amongst us" ["entre represents the i n c o m m e n s u r a b i l i t y of B e i n g as being-with-one-an-

nous"] a n d since " B e i n g " comes d o w n to just t h a t — i f I can say it other and runs the risk of c o v e r i n g over or deferring this Being's

like this. realm, insofar as it is the realm of the with, that is, insofar as it is

(It is as if B e i n g has c o m e back to this "between," w h i c h is its the measure of this i n c o m m e n s u r a b i l i t y .

true place, as t h o u g h it h a d been a matter of a "forgetting the be- T h e other is presented as the alter ego or as the other of the ego,

tween" rather than "forgetting B e i n g . " Or rather, it is as if the i n - as the other outside of the self or as the other w i t h i n the self, as

v e n t i o n o f B e i n g , t h r o u g h o u t the w h o l e t r a d i t i o n , were n o t h i n g "others" or the " O t h e r " ; all these ways of l o o k i n g at it, all these as-

but the i n v e n t i o n of o u r existence as s u c h — a s the existence of us pects, all these faces, a n d all of "those w h o m we cannot look in the

a n d as us, us in the w o r l d , we-the-world. " W e " w o u l d be, then, the face" ["ces indévisageables"]—whose necessity is, in every case, i n -

most remote, absolute p r i o r i t y of every o n t o l o g y ; as a result, "we" contestable—always b r i n g us back to the very heart of the matter,

w o u l d also be the most belated, most difficult, a n d least a p p r o p r i - to an alterity or alteration where the "self" is at stake. T h e other is

able effect of the ontological demand.) t h i n k a b l e , a n d must b e t h o u g h t , b e g i n n i n g f r o m that m o m e n t

T h e with constitutes a sort of permanent e n d p o i n t of the tradi- w h e n the self appears a n d appears to itself as a "self."

t i o n . It is a m i n o r category; in fact, even up u n t i l today, i n c l u d i n g Yet, this identification of the self as s u c h — i t s subjectivization in
Heidegger in certain regards, it is barely a category at all insofar as the deepest a n d richest p h i l o s o p h i c a l sense of the t e r m , the one
" B e i n g " has been represented as being alone w i t h itself, and as hav- that reaches its extreme l i m i t in H e g e l — c a n o n l y take place once
i n g no coexistence or coincidence. So, w h e n Husserl declares "the the subject finds itself or poses itself originarily as other than itself,
i n t r i n s i c a l l y first b e i n g , the b e i n g that precedes a n d bears every d o i n g so in the infinite presupposition of the self that constitutes
w o r l d l y Objectivity, is transcendental intersubjectivity: the universe it as a subject a n d according to the necessary law of such presup-
of monads, w h i c h effects its c o m m u n i o n in various f o r m s , " 65
this position. T h i s w o u l d be a self that is older a n d more originary than
B e i n g constitutes for h i m n o t h i n g less t h a n an ultimate h o r i z o n , itself, a self in itself that is other than the self for itself. T h i s is really
freed f r o m contingency and the exteriority of coexistents. It corre- not m u c h more than a transcription of H e g e l .
sponds to a transcendental s o l i d a r i t y rather t h a n an e m p i r i c o - Therefore, the self k n o w s itself p r i n c i p a l l y as other t h a n itself:
transcendental simultaneity. As a result, it again becomes some- such is the constitution of "self-consciousness." A n d yet, the logic
t h i n g like a substratum rather t h a n s o m e t h i n g open or dis-posed of this constitution is paradoxical, since it involves simultaneously
in itself t h r o u g h its c o c o n s t i t u t i o n . G e n e r a l l y speaking, then, the the o p e n i n g of the self to the other and its closure. In fact, the al-
78 Being Singular Plural Being Singula r Plu ral 79

terity of the other is such that to recognize it is to be d e n i e d access In this way, then, "solitude" appears. T h i s is the C h r i s t i a n event,
to i t ; there can be access o n l y on the c o n d i t i o n of a radical alter- w h i c h does not mean that it was not prepared for well in advance,
ation or, more precisely, a radical alienation. A dialectic of the same or that it was not, in its o w n way, contemporary to our whole tra-
a n d the other, of the same in the other, of the same as other, u n - d i t i o n . Solitude par excellence is solitude of the self insofar as it re-
does this aporia, but this u n d o i n g comes at a price, the price of the lates to itself, outside of itself in extremis a n d in principis, outside of
dialectic in general. It reveals that the power of the negative w h i c h the w o r l d , ex-isting existence. Consciousness of self is solitude. T h e
holds the self to the other, the dis-alienating a n d reappropriative other is this very solitude exposed as such: as a self-consciousness
power of alienation itself as the alienation of the same, w i l l always that is i n f i n i t e l y w i t h d r a w n in itself, i n t o i t s e l f — i n itself as i n t o
be presupposed as the power of the self, or the Self as this very itself.
power. T h e Self remains alone in itself even as it emerges out of it- As s u c h , the c o e x i s t e n t — t h e other person, but also the other
self. W h a t is properly l a c k i n g or passed over in this false emergence creature in general—appears as that w h i c h is in itself infinitely w i t h -
is the m o m e n t of the with. drawn. It appears inaccessible to "me" because it is w i t h d r a w n f r o m
O p e n to the other a n d o c c u r r i n g as other, the self has its o r i g i - the "self" in general, and because it is as the self-outside-itself: it is
narity in the loss of self. B i r t h a n d death b e c o m e the marks of a the other in general, the other that has its m o m e n t of identity in the
p o i n t of o r i g i n [provenance] a n d destination w i t h i n the other: an d i v i n e O t h e r , w h i c h is also the m o m e n t of the i d e n t i t y of every-
origin/destination as a loss, as the m e m o r i a l m o u r n i n g of the i m - t h i n g , of the universal corpus mysticum. T h e O t h e r is the place of
m e m o r i a l , a n d as the reconquering or reappropriation of an i n a p - community as communion, that is, the place of a being-self-in-other
p r o p r i a t e aseity in all its i r r e d u c i b l e alterity. T h i s other is n o t [être-soi-en-1'autre] that w o u l d no longer be altered or where such al-
" w i t h " ; it is no longer a n d not yet " w i t h " ; it is nearer a n d further teration w o u l d be identification. In this w o r l d , the mystery of c o m -
away than every being-together. It does not accompany identity; it m u n i o n announces itself in the f o r m of the nearby [prochaine].
crosses t h r o u g h it, a n d transgresses it; it transfixes it. W i t h i n the Proximity is the correlate of intimacy: it is the "nearest," the "clos-
discourse about alterity, a general m o d e of trans- (transport, trans- est," w h i c h is also to say "the most approximate" or " i n f i n i t e l y ap-
action, transcription, transfer, transmission, transformation, trans- p r o x i m a t e " to me, b u t it is not me because it is w i t h d r a w n in it-
parency, transubstantiation, transcendence) continually runs along- self, i n t o the self in general. T h e p r o x i m i t y of the nearest is a
side the m o d e of cum-, but it w i l l never be able to eclipse it or minute, intimate distance and, therefore, an infinite distance whose
replace it. resolution is in the O t h e r . T h e nearest is that w h i c h is utterly re-
In and of itself transcendent, the subject is b o r n into its intimacy moved, and this is w h y the relation to it presents itself (1) as an i m -
("interior i n t i m o neo"), a n d its i n t i m a c y wanders away f r o m it in perative, (2) as the imperative of a love, a n d (3) as a love that is
statu nascendi ("interfeces et u r i n a m n a s c i m u r " ) . " T o exist" is no "like the love of m y s e l f . " 67
T h e love of self, here, is not egoism in
longer "to be" (for itself, in itself), to-already-no-longer-be a n d to- the sense of preferring oneself over others ( w h i c h w o u l d contradict
not-yet-be, or even to-be-lacking, that is, to-be-in-debt-to-being. the c o m m a n d m e n t ) ; it is an egoism in the sense of privileging one-
To exist is a matter of g o i n g i n t o exile. T h e fact that the intimate, self, one's own-self [le soi-propre], as a m o d e l , the i m i t a t i o n of w h i c h
the absolutely proper, consists in the absolutely other is what alters w o u l d provide the love of others. It is necessary to love one's o w n -
the o r i g i n in itself, in a relation to itself that is "originarily p l u n g e d self in the other, but reciprocally, one's own-self in me is the other
into m o u r n i n g . " 6 6
T h e other i s i n a n o r i g i n a r y relation t o death of the ego. It is its h i d d e n intimacy.
a n d in a relation to originary death. T h i s is w h y it is a matter of "love": this love is not some possible
8o Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 8]

m o d e of relation; it designates relation itself at the heart of Be- the group or ensemble, every logic of c o m m u n i t y that is based on
i n g — i n lieu o f a n d i n the place o f B e i n g — a n d designates this
6 8
nature, b l o o d , source, p r i n c i p l e , a n d o r i g i n . T h e measure o f such
69

relation, of one to another, as the infinite relation of the same to "nearness" is no longer given, a n d the "nearby," the "very near" is
the same as originarily other than itself. " L o v e " is the abyss of the e x h i b i t e d as stripped bare, w i t h o u t measure. As s u c h , everyday
self in itself; it is the "delectation" ["dilection"] or "taking care" of m i l l i n g around [le côtoiement], the c r o w d , the mass all become pos-
what o r i g i n a r i l y escapes or is l a c k i n g ; it consists in taking care of s i b l e — r i g h t u p u n t i l the p i l i n g - u p o f bodies i n the a n o n y m o u s
this retreat a n d in this retreat. As a result, this love is "charity": it is mass grave or the pulverization of collective ashes. T h e p r o x i m i t y
the consideration of the caritas, of the cost or the extreme, absolute, of what is nearby, as pure dis-tance, as pure dis-position, can c o n -
a n d , therefore, inestimable value of the other as other, that is, the tract a n d expand this dis-position to its extreme l i m i t , b o t h at the
other as the self-withdrawn-in-itself. T h i s love speaks of the i n f i - same time. In universal being-with-one-another, the in of the i n -
nite cost of what is infinitely w i t h d r a w n : the i n c o m m e n s u r a b i l i t y c o m m o n is made purely extensive a n d distributive.
of the other. As a result, the c o m m a n d m e n t of this love lays out On the other h a n d , this is w h y the "nearby" of the with, the si-
this i n c o m m e n s u r a b i l i t y for what it is: access to the inaccessible. multaneity of distance a n d close contact, the most proper consti-
Yet, it is not sufficient to discredit such love as belonging to some t u t i o n of the cum-, exposes itself as indeterminantness a n d as a
intemperate idealism or religious hypocrisy. Rather, it is a matter p r o b l e m . A c c o r d i n g to this logic, there is no measure that is proper
o f deconstructing the C h r i s t i a n i t y a n d sentimentality o f a n imper- to the with, and the other holds it there, w i t h i n the dialectic o f the
ative the openly excessive and clearly exorbitant character of w h i c h incommensurable and c o m m o n intimacy, or w i t h i n an alternative
must be read as a w a r n i n g to us; I w o u l d even go so far as to say to it. In an extreme paradox, the other turns out to be the other of
that it just is a w a r n i n g to us. It is a matter of w o n d e r i n g about the the with.
" m e a n i n g " (or "desire") of a t h i n k i n g or culture that gives itself a
foundation the very expression of w h i c h denotes impossibility, and
of w o n d e r i n g h o w a n d to what extent the "madness" of this love As a result, there are two different measures of the i n c o m m e n -
c o u l d expose the i n c o m m e n s u r a b i l i t y o f the very c o n s t i t u t i o n o f surable to be f o u n d w i t h i n the very depths of o u r t r a d i t i o n , two
the "self" a n d the "other," of the "self" in the "other." measures that are superimposed, intertwined, a n d contrasted. O n e
W i t h regard to this constitution, then, and at the heart of Judeo- is calibrated according to the O t h e r ; the other is calibrated accord-
C h r i s t i a n i t y a n d its exact opposite, it w o u l d be a matter of under- i n g to the w i t h . Because the intimate a n d the proximate, the same
standing h o w the d i m e n s i o n of the with b o t h appears a n d disap- and the other, refer to one another, they designate a "not b e i n g
pears all at once. On the one hand, the p r o x i m i t y of what is nearby w i t h " a n d , in this way, a "not being in society." T h e y designate an
[prochain] points to the "nearby" [ T a u p r è s " ] of the " w i t h " (the O t h e r of the social where the social itself—the c o m m o n as Being
apud hoc of its e t y m o l o g y ) . O n e c o u l d even a d d that it encircles or as a c o m m o n subject—would be in itself, by itself, a n d for itself:
this "nearby" a n d makes it stand out on its o w n , as a c o n t i g u i t y it w o u l d be the very sameness of the other a n d sameness as O t h e r .
a n d simultaneity of being-near-to as such, w i t h o u t any further de- In contrast, being-with designates the other that never comes back
t e r m i n a t i o n . T h a t is, what is "nearby" is no longer the "nearness" to the same, the plurality of origins. T h e just measure of the w i t h
of the family or the tribe, w h i c h may be what the p r i m a r y meaning or, more exactly, the w i t h or being-with as just measure, as justness
o f the B i b l i c a l precept refers to; it is not the nearness o f the people a n d justice, is the measure of dis-position as such: the measure of
or the philia, or the brotherhood; it is what underlies every logic of the distance f r o m one o r i g i n to another.
82 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 83

In his analytic of Mitsein, Heidegger does not do this measure is it an o r i g i n in order to hover over some derivative succession in
justice. O n the one h a n d , h e deals w i t h the indifference o f a n " u n - w h i c h its b e i n g as o r i g i n w o u l d be lost. An o r i g i n is s o m e t h i n g
ci rcumspective tarrying alongside" a n d , on the other, an "authentic other than a starting p o i n t ; it is both a p r i n c i p l e a n d an appearing;
understanding o f o t h e r s " — t h e status o f w h i c h remains indeter-
70
as such, it repeats itself at each m o m e n t of what it originates. It is
m i n a t e as l o n g as what is in q u e s t i o n is a n y t h i n g other than the " c o n t i n u a l creation."
negative understanding of the inappropriability of the death of o t h - If the w o r l d does not "have" an o r i g i n "outside of itself," if the
ers or the codestination of a people. Between this indifference a n d w o r l d is its o w n o r i g i n or the o r i g i n "itself," then the o r i g i n of the
this understanding, the theme of existential "distantiality" 71
imme- w o r l d occurs at each m o m e n t o f the w o r l d . It is the each time o f
diately reverts back to c o m p e t i t i o n a n d d o m i n a t i o n , in order to B e i n g , a n d its realm is the being-with of each t i m e w i t h every
o p e n o n t o the i n d i s t i n c t d o m i n a t i o n of the "one" ["Das Man"]. [other] time. T h e o r i g i n is for a n d by way of the singular plural of
T h e "one" is produced as n o t h i n g other than that conversion w h i c h every possible origin. T h e " w i t h " is the measure of an origin-of-the-
levels out the general attempt by everyone to outdistance everyone w o r l d as such, or even of an o r i g i n - o f - m e a n i n g as such. T o - b e - w i t h
else, w h i c h ends in the d o m i n a t i o n of mediocrity, of the c o m m o n is to m a k e sense mutually, a n d o n l y mutually. M e a n i n g is the
a n d average measure, c o m m o n as average. It ends w i t h the " c o m - fullest measure of the i n c o m m e n s u r a b l e " w i t h . " T h e " w i t h " is the
m o n - m e d i o c r e " concealing the essential " c o m m o n - w i t h . " B u t , as fullest measure of (the) i n c o m m e n s u r a b l e m e a n i n g (of B e i n g ) .
such, it remains to be said just h o w being-with is essential, seeing
as it codetermines the essence of existence.
Body, Language
Heidegger himself writes that: . . . as B e i n g - w i t h , Dasein "is" es-
sentially for the sake of [umwillen] O t h e r s . . . . In b e i n g - w i t h , as T h e plurality of origins essentially disseminates the O r i g i n of the
the existential "for-the-sake-of " of Others, these have already been w o r l d . T h e w o r l d springs f o r t h 7 4
everywhere a n d i n each instant,
disclosed [erschlossen] in their Dasein." T h e with, therefore, des-
72
simultaneously. T h i s is h o w it comes to appear out of nothing a n d
ignates being-with-regard-to-one-another, such that each one is "is created." F r o m n o w o n , however, this being created must be u n -
"disclosed" ["ouvert"] 73
then a n d there, that is, constituted as ex- derstood differently: it is not an effect of some particular operation
isting: b e i n g the there, that is, the disclosure of B e i n g , b e i n g an of p r o d u c t i o n ; instead, it is, insofar as it is, as created, as h a v i n g
"each t i m e " of this disclosure, in such a way that no disclosure arisen, c o m e , or g r o w n (cresco, creo); it has always already s p r u n g
w o u l d take place (no Being) if the one "disclosed" d i d not disclose f r o m all sides, or more exactly, it is itself the s p r i n g i n g forth a n d
itself w i t h regard to an other "disclosed." Disclosure itself consists the c o m i n g of the "always already" a n d the "everywhere." As such,
only in the coincidence of disclosures. To-be-the-there is not to dis- each being belongs to the (authentic) o r i g i n , each is originary (the
close a place to B e i n g as O t h e r : it is to disclose/be disclosed to/ s p r i n g i n g forth of the s p r i n g i n g forth itself), a n d each is original
through the plurality of singular disclosures. (incomparable, underivable). Nevertheless, all of t h e m share o r i g i -
Since it is neither "love," nor even "relation" in general, nor the nariry a n d originality; this sharing is itself the o r i g i n .
juxta-position of in-differences, the "with" is the proper realm of the W h a t is shared is n o t h i n g like a u n i q u e substance in w h i c h each
plurality of origins insofar as they originate, not f r o m one another or being w o u l d participate; what is shared is also what shares, what is
for one another, but in view of one another or with regard to one an- structurally constituted by sharing, a n d what we call "matter." T h e
other. A n origin is not an origin for itself; nor is it an origin i n order o n t o l o g y of being-with can o n l y be "materialist," in the sense that
to retain itself in itself (that w o u l d be the o r i g i n of n o t h i n g ) ; nor "matter" does not designate a substance or a subject (or an antisub-
8 4
Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 85

ject), but literally designates what is d i v i d e d of itself, what is only as m e a n i n g of the w o r l d as b e i n g - w i t h , the simultaneity of all pres-
distinct f r o m itself, partes extra partes, originarily impenetrable to the ences that are w i t h regard to one another, where no one is for one-
c o m b i n i n g a n d s u b l i m a t i n g penetration of a "spirit" [or " m i n d " ] , self w i t h o u t being for others. T h i s is also w h y the essential dialogue
understood as a dimensionless, indivisible p o i n t beyond the w o r l d . or polylogue of language is b o t h the one in w h i c h we speak to one
T h e ontology of being-with is an ontology of bodies, of every body, another and, identically, the one in w h i c h I speak to "myself," being
whether they be inanimate, animate, sentient, speaking, t h i n k i n g , an entire "society" onto m y s e l f — b e i n g , in fact, in a n d as language,
having weight, a n d so o n . Above all else, "body" really means what always simultaneously "us" and "me" and "me" as "us," as well as "us"
is outside, insofar as it is outside, next to, against, nearby, w i t h a(n) as "me" For I w o u l d say n o t h i n g about myself if I were not w i t h
(other) body, from b o d y to body, in the dis-position. N o t o n l y does myself as I am w i t h numerous others, if this with were not " i n " me,
a b o d y go f r o m one "self" to an "other," it is as itself'from the very right at me, at the same time as "me," a n d , more precisely, as the
first; it goes f r o m itself to itself; whether made of stone, w o o d , plas- at-the-same-time according to w h i c h , solely, I a m .
tic, or flesh, a b o d y is the sharing of and the departure f r o m self, the At this exact p o i n t , then, one becomes most aware of the essence
departure toward self, the nearby-to-self w i t h o u t w h i c h the "self" of singularity: it is not i n d i v i d u a l i t y ; it is, each time, the p u n c t u -
w o u l d not even be "on its o w n " ["à part soi"] P ality of a " w i t h " that establishes a certain o r i g i n of m e a n i n g a n d
Language is the incorporeal (as the Stoics said). E i t h e r as an au- connects it to an i n f i n i t y of other possible origins. Therefore, it is,
dible voice or a visible mark, saying is corporeal, but what is said at one a n d the same time, infra-/intraindividual a n d t r a n s i n d i v i d -
is incorporeal; it is everything that is incorporeal about the w o r l d . ual, a n d always the two together. T h e i n d i v i d u a l is an intersection
Language is not in the w o r l d or inside the w o r l d , as t h o u g h the of singularities, the discrete exposition of their simultaneity, an ex-
w o r l d were its body: it is the outside of the w o r l d in the w o r l d . It is position that is b o t h discrete a n d transitory.
the whole of the outside of the w o r l d ; it is not the e r u p t i o n of an T h i s is w h y there is no ultimate language, but instead languages,
O t h e r , w h i c h w o u l d clear away o r sublimate the w o r l d , w h i c h words, voices, an o r i g i n a r i l y singular sharing of voices w i t h o u t
w o u l d transcribe it i n t o something else; instead, it is the exposition w h i c h there w o u l d be no voice. In the incorporeal exposition of lan-
of the world-of-bodies as such, that is, as originarily singular plural. guages, all beings pass through h u m a n i t y . 76
B u t this exposition ex-
T h e incorporeal exposes bodies according to their being-with-one- poses h u m a n i t y itself to what is outside the h u m a n , to the m e a n -
another; they are neither isolated nor m i x e d together. T h e y are i n g of the w o r l d , to the m e a n i n g of B e i n g as the being-meaning of
amongst themselves [entre eux], as origins. T h e relation of singular the w o r l d . W i t h i n language, " h u m a n i t y " is not the subject of the
origins a m o n g themselves, then, is the relation of meaning. ( T h a t w o r l d ; it does not represent the w o r l d ; it is not its o r i g i n or end. It
relation in w h i c h one unique O r i g i n w o u l d be related to everything is not its meaning; it does not give it meaning. It is the exponent,
else as h a v i n g been o r i g i n a t e d w o u l d be a relation of saturated but what it thus exposes is not itself, is not " h u m a n i t y " ; rather, it
meaning: not really a relation, then, but a pure consistency; not re- exposes the w o r l d and its proper being-with-all-beings in the w o r l d ,
ally a m e a n i n g , but its sealing off, the annulment of m e a n i n g a n d exposes it as the w o r l d . Moreover, this is w h y it is also what is ex-
the e n d of the origin.) posed by meaning; exposed as "gifted" w i t h language, h u m a n i t y is,
Language is the exposing of plural singularity. In it, the all of be- above all, essentially ex-posed in its Being. It is ex-posed to a n d as
i n g is exposed as its meaning, w h i c h is to say, as the originary shar- this incorporeal outside of the w o r l d that is at the heart of the
i n g according to w h i c h a being relates to a being, the circulation of w o r l d , that w h i c h makes the w o r l d " h o l d " or "consist" in its proper
a m e a n i n g of the w o r l d that has no b e g i n n i n g or end. T h i s is the singular plurality.
86 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 87

It is not enough to say that the "rose grows w i t h o u t reason." F o r out foundation, w h i c h is not an abyss but s i m p l y the with of things
if the rose were alone, its g r o w t h w i t h o u t reason w o u l d enclose that are, insofar as they are. Logos is dialogue, b u t the e n d [or p u r -
w i t h i n itself, by itself, all the reason of the w o r l d . B u t the rose pose] of dialogue is not to overcome itself in "consensus"; its rea-
grows w i t h o u t reason because it grows a l o n g w i t h the reseda, the son is to offer, a n d o n l y to offer (giving it tone and intensity), the
eglantine, a n d the t h i s t l e — a s well as w i t h crystals, seahorses, h u - cum-, the with of m e a n i n g , the p l u r a l i t y of its s p r i n g i n g forth.
mans, a n d their inventions. A n d the w h o l e o f being, nature, a n d It is not enough, then, to set idle chatter in opposition to the au-
history do not constitute an ensemble the totality of w h i c h w o u l d t h e n t i c i t y of the spoken w o r d , u n d e r s t o o d as b e i n g replete w i t h
or w o u l d not be w i t h o u t reason. T h e whole of being is its o w n rea- m e a n i n g . On the contrary, it is necessary to discern the conversa-
son; it has no other reason, w h i c h does not m e a n that it itself is its t i o n (and sustaining) of b e i n g - w i t h as such w i t h i n chatter: it is in
o w n principle and end, exactly because it is not "itself." It wits o w n "conversing," in the sense of discussion, that b e i n g - w i t h "sustains
d i s - p o s i t i o n in the p l u r a l i t y of singularities. T h i s Being ex-poses itself," in the sense of the perseverance in B e i n g . Speaking-with ex-
itself, then, as the between a n d the with of singulars. Being between, poses the conatus of b e i n g - w i t h , or better, it exposes b e i n g - w i t h as
a n d with say the same t h i n g ; they say exactly what can only be said conatus, exposes it as the effort a n d desire to m a i n t a i n oneself as
( w h i c h is called the "ineffable" elsewhere), what cannot be pre- " w i t h " a n d , as a consequence, to m a i n t a i n s o m e t h i n g w h i c h , in it-
sented as a being a m o n g [parmi] others, since it is the " a m o n g " of self, is not a stable a n d permanent substance, but rather a sharing
all beings {among: inside, in the m i d d l e of, w i t h ) , w h i c h are each and a crossing through. In this conversation (and sustaining) of be-
a n d every time a m o n g one another. Being says n o t h i n g else; as a re- i n g - w i t h , one must discern h o w language, at each m o m e n t , w i t h
sult, if saying always says B e i n g in one way or another, then B e i n g each signification, f r o m the highest to the l o w e s t — r i g h t d o w n to
is exposed o n l y in the incorporeality of the saying. those "phantic," insignificant remarks ("hello," " h i , " " g o o d " . . . )
T h i s does not signify that B e i n g "is o n l y a w o r d , " but rather that w h i c h o n l y sustain the conversation itself—exposes the w i t h , ex-
B e i n g is all that is and all that goes into m a k i n g a w o r d : being-with poses itself as the w i t h , inscribes a n d ex-scribes itself in the w i t h u n -
in every regard. F o r a w o r d is what it is o n l y a m o n g all words, a n d t i l it is exhausted, e m p t i e d of signification.
a spoken w o r d is what it is o n l y in the " w i t h " of all speaking. L a n - " E m p t i e d of signification": that is, r e t u r n i n g all signification to
guage is essentially in the w i t h . E v e r y spoken w o r d is the s i m u l - the circulation of meaning, i n t o the carrying over [transport] that is
taneity of at least two different modes of that spoken w o r d ; even not a "translation" in the sense of the conservation of one signifi-
w h e n I am by myself, there is the one that is said and" the one that c a t i o n (however m o d i f i e d ) , but "trans-lation" in the sense of a
is heard, that is, the one that is resaid. As soon as a w o r d is spoken, stretching or spreading out [tension] f r o m one o r i g i n - o f - m e a n i n g
it is resaid. As such, m e a n i n g does not consist in the transmission to another. T h i s is w h y this always i m m i n e n t exhaustion of signifi-
f r o m a speaker to a receiver, but in the simultaneity of (at least) two c a t i o n — a l w a y s i m m i n e n t a n d always i m m a n e n t to m e a n i n g itself,
origins of m e a n i n g : that of the saying a n d that of its resaying. its t r u t h — g o e s in two directions: that of c o m m o n chatter a n d that
As far as m e a n i n g is concerned, what I say is not s i m p l y "said," of absolute poetic d i s t i n c t i o n . It is exhausted t h r o u g h the inex-
for m e a n i n g must return to me resaid in order to be said. B u t in haustible exchangeability of "phantic" insignificance, or exhausted
r e t u r n i n g to me in this way, that is, f r o m the other, what comes by the pure " a p o p h a n t i c " significance, declaration, or manifesta-
back also becomes another origin of meaning. M e a n i n g is the pass- t i o n ("apophansis") of this very t h i n g as an unexchangeable spoken
i n g back a n d forth [passage] a n d sharing of the o r i g i n at the o r i g i n , w o r d , unalterable as this very t h i n g , but there as the t h i n g as such.
singular p l u r a l . M e a n i n g is the e x h i b i t i o n of the foundation w i t h - F r o m one to the other, it is the same conatus: the " w i t h " according
88 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 89

to w h i c h we expose ourselves to one another, as "ones" a n d as " o t h - representation. B u t this is also w h y " m y death" is not swallowed up
ers," exposing the w o r l d as w o r l d . w i t h "me" in pure disappearance. As Heidegger says, insofar as it
Language constitutes itself a n d articulates itself f r o m out of the is the utmost possibility of existence, it exposes existence as such.
"as." No matter what is said, to say is to present the "as" of what- D e a t h takes place essentially as language; reciprocally, language al-
ever is said. F r o m the p o i n t of view of signification, it is to present ways says death: it always says the i n t e r r u p t i o n of m e a n i n g as its
one t h i n g as another t h i n g (for example, its essence, p r i n c i p l e , o r i - truth. D e a t h as such, [like] b i r t h as such, takes place as language: it
g i n , or its e n d , its value, its signification), but f r o m the p o i n t of takes place in a n d t h r o u g h being-with-one-another. D e a t h is the
view o f m e a n i n g a n d t r u t h ; it is to present the "as" as such. T h a t is, very signature of the " w i t h " : the dead are those w h o are no longer
it is to present the exteriority of the t h i n g , its being-before, its be- " w i t h " a n d are, at the same t i m e , those w h o take their places ac-
ing-with-all-things (and not its b e i n g - w i t h i n or being-elsewhere). c o r d i n g to an exact measure, the appropriate measure, of the i n -
Mallarmé's phrase "I say a flower' . . . " expresses [the fact] that c o m m e n s u r a b l e " w i t h . " D e a t h is the "as" w i t h o u t quality, w i t h o u t
the w o r d says "the flower" as "flower" a n d as n o t h i n g else, a c o m p l e m e n t : it is the incorporeal as such a n d , therefore, the expo-
"flower" that is "absent f r o m all bouquets" o n l y because its "as" is sition of the body. O n e is b o r n ; one d i e s — n o t as this one or that
also the presence as such of every flower in every bouquet. G i o r g i o one, but as an absolute "as s u c h , " that is, as an o r i g i n of m e a n i n g
A g a m b e n writes, " T h e t h i n k i n g that tries to grasp being as beings that is b o t h absolute a n d , as is necessary, absolutely cut o f f (and
retreats t o w a r d the entity w i t h o u t a d d i n g to it any further deter- consequently, i m m o r t a l ) .
m i n a t i o n . . . c o m p r e h e n d i n g it in its being-such, in the midst of It follows that one is never b o r n alone, and one never dies alone;
its as, it grasps its pure non-latency, its pure exteriority. It no longer or rather, it follows that the solitude of b i r t h / d e a t h , this solitude
says some thing as some thing but brings to speech this as itself." 7 w h i c h is no longer even solitude, is the exact reverse of its sharing.
Every spoken w o r d brings to speech this "as itself," that is, the m u - If it is true, as H e i d e g g e r says, that I c a n n o t die in place of the
tual exposition a n d d i s p o s i t i o n of the singularities of the w o r l d (of other, then it is also true, a n d true in the same way, that the other
a w o r l d of singularities, of singular worlds, of world-singularities). dies insofar as the other is w i t h me a n d that we are b o r n a n d die
Language is the element of the w i t h as such: it is the space of its de- to one another, exposing ourselves to one another a n d , each time,
claration. In t u r n , this declaration as such refers to everyone and to exposing the inexposable singularity of the origin. We say in French
no one, refers to the w o r l d and to its coexistence. " m o u r i r à" ["dead t o " ] — t o the w o r l d , to l i f e — a s well as "naître à"
["born to"]. D e a t h is to life, w h i c h is s o m e t h i n g other than being
the negativity through w h i c h life w o u l d pass in order to be resus-
A l t h o u g h he was certainly not the first to do so, La Bruyère put citated. To put it very precisely: death as fertile negativity is that of
it in the f o l l o w i n g way: " E v e r y t h i n g is said, a n d one comes to it a single subject (either i n d i v i d u a l or generic). D e a t h to life, ex-
too late. . . . " C e r t a i n l y , everything is said, for everything has al- p o s i t i o n as such (the ex-posed as ex-posed = that w h i c h turns t o -
ways already been said; yet, everything remains to be said, for the ward the w o r l d , in the w o r l d , the very nihil of its creation) can o n l y
w h o l e as such is always to be said anew. D e a t h presents the inter- be b e i n g - w i t h , singular p l u r a l .
r u p t i o n of a saying of the w h o l e a n d of a totality of saying: it pre- In this sense, language is exactly what Bataille calls "the practice
sents the fact that the saying-of-everything is at each t i m e an of joy before death." Language is not a diversion, not an arrange-
"everything is said," a discrete a n d transitory completeness. T h i s is ment w i t h the intolerability of death. In one sense, it is the tragic
w h y death does not take place "for the subject," but o n l y for its itself. B u t it is joy as the destitution of meaning, w h i c h lays bare the
90 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 9i

o r i g i n : the singular p l u r a l as such. It is the with as such, w h i c h is fences' o w n possibility. It is, or it " w i l l be," my death that says "he
also to say the being-such as such: perfectly a n d s i m p l y — a n d i m - is dead" in their speaking; in this way, my death is not, it w i l l not
m o r t a l l y — e q u a l to itself a n d to every other, equal to itself because be, anywhere else. It is " m y " possibility insofar as it withdraws the
a n d as it is equal to every other; it is, therefore, essentially with p o s s i b i l i t y of the " m i n e " i n t o itself: that is to say, insofar as this
every other equally. As is often said, this is a " c o m m o n fate": we "mineness" is returned to the singular p l u r a l of the always-other-
have n o t h i n g in c o m m o n except our telling ourselves so (and I have mineness. In "he is dead," it is indeed B e i n g that is in q u e s t i o n —
n o t h i n g in c o m m o n w i t h myself except in telling myself so); we ex- a n d as b e i n g - w i t h .
change, a n d we do not exchange; we un-exchange [in-échangons] " D e a t h , " therefore, is not negativity, a n d language does not
this extreme l i m i t of the saying in every spoken w o r d , as speaking k n o w or practice negativity (or logic). N e g a t i v i t y is the operation
itself. Language exposes death: it neither denies it nor affirms it; it that wants to depose B e i n g in order to make it be: the sacrifice, the
brings it to language, and death is n o t h i n g but that, that w h i c h is absent object of desire, the eclipse of consciousness, a l i e n a t i o n —
essentially b r o u g h t to l a n g u a g e — a n d that w h i c h brings it there. a n d , as a result, it is never death or b i r t h , but o n l y the assumption
" D e a t h speaks in me. My speech is a w a r n i n g that at this very o f a n i n f i n i t e s u p p o s i t i o n . A s s u c h , t h e n , B e i n g i s i n f i n i t e l y pre-
m o m e n t death is loose in the w o r l d , that it has suddenly appeared supposed by itself, and its process is the reappropriation of this pre-
between me, as I speak, a n d the being I address: it is there between supposition, always on this side of itself and always beyond itself; it
us at the distance that separates us, but this distance is also what is negativity at w o r k . B u t things w o r k out completely differently if
prevents us f r o m being separated, because it contains the c o n d i t i o n B e i n g is singular plural dis-position. T h e distancing of d i s p o s i t i o n
for all u n d e r s t a n d i n g . " 78
As s u c h , t h e n , "literature" is language is nothing; this " n o t h i n g , " however, is not the negative of anything.
stretched out [en tension] toward b i r t h and death, exactly because it It is the incorporeal by w h i c h , according to w h i c h , bodies are w i t h
is, a n d insofar as it is, striving toward address, understanding [en- one another, close to one another, side by side, in contact a n d
tente], a n d conversation. A n d it is stretched like this since it occurs (therefore) distanced f r o m one another. T h i s nothing is the res ipsa,
as recitation, discourse, or singing. ( E a c h of these, in t u r n , forms the t h i n g itself: the t h i n g as being-itself, that is, the being-such of
the dis-position of language itself, language's exteriority to/in itself; every being, the m u t u a l exposition of beings that exist o n l y in a n d
each forms language's sharing, not o n l y the sharing of languages, t h r o u g h this exposition. Such is a demonstrative; being-such is the
but that of voices, genres, or tones; it is a m u l t i p l e sharing w i t h o u t demonstrative essence of B e i n g , the being w h o shows itself to a n -
w h i c h there w o u l d be no "as" in general.) "Literature" means the other being a n d in the midst of beings.
b e i n g - i n - c o m m o n of what has no c o m m o n o r i g i n , but is originar- M o r e o v e r , whether they are aware of it or not, all the different
ily i n - c o m m o n o r w i t h . ways of t h i n k i n g negativity lead to the same p o i n t (they at least
If, as Heidegger says, this is w h y the relation to one's o w n death pass t h r o u g h it, even if they refuse to stop there). It is that p o i n t
consists in "taking over f r o m [one]self [one's] o w n m o s t B e i n g , " this where the negative itself, in order to be the negative (in order to
t a k i n g over does not i m p l y , c o n t r a r y to what H e i d e g g e r h i m s e l f be the nihil negativum a n d not just the nihil privatum) must a v o i d
says, that "all B e i n g - w i t h O t h e r s , w i l l fail us w h e n o u r o w n m o s t its o w n operation a n d be affirmed in itself, w i t h no remainder; or
p o t e n t i a l i t y - f o r - B e i n g is the i s s u e . " 79
If b e i n g - w i t h is i n d e e d co- else, on the contrary, it must be affirmed as the absolute r e m a i n -
essential to B e i n g tout court, or rather is to B e i n g itself, this o w n - der that cannot be captured in a concatenation of procedure or o p -
most possibility is coessentially a possibility of the w i t h a n d as the eration. (It is the critical, suspended, inoperative p o i n t at the heart
w i t h . My death is one " o w n m o s t " co-possibility of the other exis- of the dialectic). Self-presupposition interrupts itself; there is a syn-
92 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 93

c o p a t i o n in the process a n d in its t h i n k i n g , a syncopation a n d i n - conatus of a being-exposed, w h i c h exposes o n l y the secret of its o w n
stant conversion of s u p p o s i t i o n i n t o d i s - p o s i t i o n . D i s - p o s i t i o n is exposition. Saying "to speak w i t h " is like saying "to sleep w i t h , " "to
the same t h i n g as s u p p o s i t i o n : in one sense, it is absolute a n - go out w i t h " (co-ire), or "to live w i t h " : it is a (eu)phemism for (not)
tecedence, where the " w i t h " is always already given; in another saying n o t h i n g less than what "wanting to say" means [le "vouloir-
sense, it does not "underlie" or preexist the different positions; it is dire" veut dire] i n m a n y different ways; that is to say, it says B e i n g
their simultaneity. itself as c o m m u n i c a t i o n a n d t h i n k i n g : the co-agitatio of B e i n g .
T h e n o n - B e i n g of B e i n g , its meaning, is its dis-position. T h e ni- "Language" is not an instrument of c o m m u n i c a t i o n , a n d c o m m u -
hil negativum is the quidpositivum as singular p l u r a l , where no n i c a t i o n is not an i n s t r u m e n t of B e i n g ; c o m m u n i c a t i o n is B e i n g ,
quid, no being, is posed without with. It is without (at a distance) a n d B e i n g is, as a consequence, n o t h i n g but the incorporeal by
precisely to the extent that it is with, it is s h o w n a n d demonstrated w h i c h bodies express themselves to one another as such.
in b e i n g - w i t h , [which is] the evidence of existence.
In a d d i t i o n , evil is o n l y ever [found] in an operation that fulfills
Coexistential Analytic
the with. O n e can fulfill the with either by filling it up or by e m p -
t y i n g it out; it can be given a f o u n d a t i o n of plenitude a n d c o n t i - T h e existential analytic of Being and Time is the project f r o m
n u i t y or an abyss of intransitivity. In the first case, the singular be- w h i c h all subsequent t h i n k i n g follows, whether this is Heidegger's
comes a particular w i t h i n a totality, where it is no longer either o w n latter t h i n k i n g or our various ways of t h i n k i n g against or be-
singular or plural; in the second case, the singular exists o n l y on its y o n d Heidegger himself. T h i s a f f i r m a t i o n 80
is in no way an admis-
o w n a n d , therefore, as a t o t a l i t y — a n d there too it is neither singu- sion of "Heideggerianism"; it completely escapes the impoverished
lar nor p l u r a l . In either case, m u r d e r is on the h o r i z o n , that is, proclamations of "schools." It does not signify that this analytic is
death as the operative negativity of the O n e , death as the work of definitive, o n l y that it is responsible for registering the seismic
the O n e - A l l or the O n e - M e . T h i s is exactly w h y death is [actually] tremor of a more decisive rupture in the constitution or considera-
the opposite of murder: it is the inoperative, but existing, " w i t h " tion of m e a n i n g (analogous, for example, to those of the "cogito" or
(such that murder inevitably lacks death). " C r i t i q u e " ) . T h i s is w h y the existential analytic is not c o m p l e t e ,
T h e " w i t h " is neither a f o u n d a t i o n nor is it w i t h o u t f o u n d a t i o n . and w h y we continue to feel its shock waves.
It is n o t h i n g except for b e i n g - w i t h , the incorporeal with of the be- T h e analytic of Mitsein that appears w i t h i n the existential ana-
i n g - b o d y as such. Before b e i n g s p o k e n , before b e i n g a particular lytic remains n o t h i n g more than a sketch; that is, even though Mit-
language or signification, before being verbal, "language" is the fol- sein is coessential w i t h Dasein, it remains i n a subordinate position.
l o w i n g : the extension a n d simultaneity of the " w i t h " insofar as it is As such, the w h o l e existential analytic still harbors some p r i n c i p l e
the ownmostpower of a body, the p r o p r i e t y of its touching another by w h i c h what it opens up is i m m e d i a t e l y closed off. It is neces-
b o d y (or of t o u c h i n g itself), w h i c h is n o t h i n g other than its de- sary, then, to forcibly reopen a passage somewhere beyond that o b -
finition as body. It finishes itself there, where it is-with; that is, it struction w h i c h decided the terms of being-with's fulfillment, a n d
comes to a stop a n d accomplishes itself in a single gesture. its w i t h d r a w a l , by replacing it w i t h the "people" a n d their "des-
In this sense, "to speak w i t h " is not so m u c h speaking to oneself t i n y . " T h i s is not a matter of saying that it is necessary "to c o m -
or to one another, nor is it "saying" (declaring, n a m i n g ) , nor is it plete" the merely sketched-out analysis of Mitsein, nor is it a matter
proffering ( b r i n g i n g forth m e a n i n g or b r i n g i n g m e a n i n g to light). of setting up Mitsein as a "principle" like it deserves. " I n p r i n c i p l e , "
Rather, "to speak w i t h " is the conversation (and sustaining) a n d b e i n g - w i t h escapes c o m p l e t i o n a n d always evades o c c u p y i n g the
T

94 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 95

place of a p r i n c i p l e . W h a t is necessary is that we retrace the out- t h r o u g h [ passage] ; that is, it is place tout court and absolutely. N o t
line of its analysis a n d push it to the p o i n t where it becomes ap- C h r i s t , but o n l y such a m i d - p o i n t ; a n d this itself w o u l d no longer
parent that the coessentiality of b e i n g - w i t h is n o t h i n g less than a even be the cross, but o n l y the c o m i n g across [I'croisement] a n d the
matter of the co-originarity of m e a n i n g — a n d that the " m e a n i n g passing t h o u g h , the intersection and the dispersal [lecartement], 82

of B e i n g " is o n l y what it is (either " m e a n i n g " or, primarily, its o w n radiating out [étoilment] f r o m w i t h i n the very d i - m e n s i o n of the
" p r e c o m p r e h e n s i o n " as the c o n s t i t u t i o n of existence) w h e n it is w o r l d . T h i s w o u l d be b o t h the s u m m i t a n d the abyss of a decon-
given as with. struction of C h r i s t i a n i t y : the dis-location of the West.)
T h e r e is no " m e a n i n g " except by virtue of a "self," of some f o r m "Self" defines the element in w h i c h "me" a n d " y o u , " a n d "we,"
or another. ( T h e subjective formula of the ideality of m e a n i n g says a n d "they," can take place. "Self" determines the "as" of Being: if it
that " m e a n i n g " takes place for a n d t h r o u g h a "self") B u t there is is, it is as [en tant que] it is. It is " i n itself" prior to any "ego," prior
no "self" except by virtue of a " w i t h , " w h i c h , in fact, structures it. to any presentable "property." It is the "as" of all that is. T h i s is not
T h i s w o u l d have to be the axiom of any analytic that is to be called a presentable property, since it is presentation itself. Presentation is
coexistential. neither a propriety nor a state, but rather an event, the c o m i n g of
" S e l f " is not the relation of a "me" to "itself." 81
"Self" is more something: of its c o m i n g into the world where the " w o r l d " itself is
originary than "me" a n d " y o u . " "Self" is p r i m a r i l y n o t h i n g other the plane [la géométral] or the exposing of every c o m i n g .
than the "as such" of B e i n g in general. B e i n g is o n l y its o w n "as Be- In its c o m i n g , that w h i c h exists appropriates itself; that is, it is
i n g . " T h e "as" does not happen to B e i n g ; it does not add itself to not appropriated, neither by nor i n t o a "self" ( w h i c h c o u l d o n l y
Being; it does not intensify Being: it is B e i n g , constitutively. There- preexist what exists by r e m o v i n g and neutralizing the c o m i n g in it-
fore, B e i n g is directly a n d i m m e d i a t e l y mediated by itself; it is i t - self). W h a t is b o r n has its "self" before self: it has it there ( w h i c h is
self m e d i a t i o n ; it is m e d i a t i o n w i t h o u t any i n s t r u m e n t , a n d it is the m e a n i n g of Heidegger's " D a s e i n " ) . There means over-there, the
nondialectic: dia-lectic w i t h o u t dialectic. It is negativity w i t h o u t distance of space-time (it is the body, the w o r l d of bodies, the body-
use, the nothing of the w i t h and the nothing as the w i t h . T h e w i t h world). Its appropriation is its m o v i n g [transport] and being-moved
as w i t h is n o t h i n g but the exposition of Being-as-such, each t i m e through [transpropriation] this dispersal of the there; such is the ap-
singularly such a n d , therefore, always plurally such. propriating-event ("Ereignis"). B u t its b e i n g d e t e r m i n e d as such
Prior to "me" a n d " y o u , " the "self" is like a "we" that is neither a does not signify that there is some event in w h i c h the "proper self"
collective subject nor "intersubjectivity," but rather the i m m e d i a t e w o u l d s p r i n g forth, like a jack-in-the-box, but that the c o m i n g is
m e d i a t i o n of B e i n g in "(it)self," the p l u r a l f o l d of the o r i g i n . in itself and by itself appropriative as such. (As a result, differencing
(Is m e d i a t i o n itself the "with"? Certainly, it is. T h e " w i t h " is the [différant] is in itself the propriety that it opens.) T h i s is w h y "self"
permutation of what remains in its place, each one a n d each time. does not preexist (itself). "Self" equals what ex-ists as such.
T h e " w i t h " i s the p e r m u t a t i o n w i t h o u t a n O t h e r . A n O t h e r i s al- T h u s , insofar as "self," or "ipseity," means " b y itself," relation to
ways the M e d i a t o r ; its prototype is C h r i s t . H e r e , on the contrary, it itself, r e t u r n i n g i n t o itself, presence to itself as presence to the
is a matter of m e d i a t i o n w i t h o u t a mediator, that is, w i t h o u t the "same" (to the sameness of the "as such"), ipseity occurs or happens
"power of the negative" a n d its remarkable power to retain w i t h i n to itself as c o m i n g ; a n d such c o m i n g is anticipation, w h i c h is nei-
itself its o w n c o n t r a d i c t i o n , w h i c h always defines a n d fills in ther préexistence nor providence, but instead the unexpected arrival
[plombe] the subject. M e d i a t i o n w i t h o u t a mediator mediates noth- [sur-venance], the surprise a n d the being-placed back [remise] i n t o
i n g : it is the m i d - p o i n t [mi-lieu], the place of sharing a n d crossing the "to c o m e " as such, back into what is to come. " S e l f " is neither a
96 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 97

past given nor a future given; it is the present of the c o m i n g , the let" be the c o m i n g of all w i t h all as such. Dasein (that is, h u m a n i t y
presenting present, the coming-to-be a n d , in this way, c o m i n g into as the index of Being) thus exposes Being-as-to-be.
B e i n g . B u t there where it comes is not " i n t o itself," as though i n t o S o m e o n e enters a r o o m ; before being the eventual subject of a
the interior of an determined d o m a i n ; it is "beside itself." 83
Beside representation of this r o o m , he disposes h i m s e l f in it a n d to it. In
itself 'means into the dispersal of the dis-position, into the general crossing through it, l i v i n g in it, visiting it, a n d so forth, he thereby
element of p r o x i m i t y and distance, where such p r o x i m i t y a n d dis- exposes the d i s p o s i t i o n — t h e correlation, c o m b i n a t i o n , contact,
tance are measured against nothing, since there is n o t h i n g that is distance, r e l a t i o n — o f all that is (in) the r o o m a n d , therefore, of
given as a fixed p o i n t of ipseity (before, after, outside the w o r l d ) . the r o o m itself. He exposes the simultaneity in w h i c h he h i m s e l f
Therefore, they are measured according to the d i s - p o s i t i o n itself. participates at that instant, the simultaneity in w h i c h he exposes
F r o m the very start, the structure of the "Self," even considered as h i m s e l f just as m u c h as he exposes it and as m u c h as he is exposed
a k i n d of u n i q u e a n d solitary "self," is the structure of the " w i t h . " in it. He exposes himself. It is in this way that he is [a] "self," that
Solipsism, if one wants to use this category, is singular p l u r a l . E a c h he is it, or that he becomes it as m a n y times as he enters into the
one is beside-himself insofar as a n d because he is beside-others. disposition and each time that he does. T h i s "at each t i m e " is not
F r o m the very b e g i n n i n g , then, "we" are w i t h one another, not as the renewal of the experiences or occurrences of one self-same sub-
points gathered together, or as a togetherness that is divided up, but ject: so l o n g as " I " am "the same," there w i l l still always need to be
as a being-with-one-another. B e i n g - w i t h is exactly this: that B e i n g , an otherùme where I dis-pose myself according to this "sameness."
or rather that to be neither gathers itself as a resultant commune of T h i s , in t u r n , implies that another time in g e n e r a l — t h a t is, other
beings nor shares itself out as their c o m m o n substance. To be is times, i n d e f i n i t e l y — a r e not o n l y possible, they are real: the "each"
n o t h i n g that is i n - c o m m o n , but nothing as the dispersal where what of the "each t i m e , " the t a k i n g place of the there a n d as there, does
is i n - c o m m o n is dis-posed a n d measured, the i n - c o m m o n as the not involve p r i m a r i l y the succession of the identical; it involves the
w i t h , the beside-itself of to be as such, to be transfixed by its o w n simultaneity of the different. E v e n when I am alone, the r o o m is at
transitivity: to be being all beings, not as their i n d i v i d u a l and/or the same time the r o o m where I am close to, next to, alongside of
c o m m o n "self," b u t as the proximity that disperses [écarte] them. all its other dispositions (the way it is o c c u p i e d , h o w it is passed-
Beings touch; they are in con-tact w i t h one another; they arrange t h r o u g h , a n d so on). O n e is not in the disposition w i t h o u t being
themselves and distinguish themselves in this way. A n y being that w i t h the o t h e r - d i s p o s i t i o n , w h i c h is the very essence of d i s - p o s i -
one m i g h t like to imagine as not d i s t i n g u i s h e d , not dis-posed, t i o n . T h e s e "times" are d i s c o n t i n u o u s , but they are their being-
w o u l d really be indeterminate and unavailable: an absolute vacancy with-one-another in this discontinuity. " E a c h time" is the singular-
of B e i n g . T h i s is w h y the ontological m o m e n t or the very order of p l u r a l structure o f the d i s p o s i t i o n . Therefore, "each t i m e m i n e "
o n t o l o g y is necessary. "To be" is not the noun of consistency; it is the signifies primarily "each time his or hers," that is, "each time with":
verb of dis-position. N o t h i n g consists, neither "matter" nor "subject." "mineness" is itself only a possibility that occurs in the concurrent re-
In fact, "matter" and "subject" are n o t h i n g but two names that are ality of being-each-time-with.
correlates of one another; in their m o d e of consistency, they i n d i - T h e w o r l d , however, is not a r o o m i n t o w h i c h one enters. It is
cate the originary spacing of the general ontological d i s - p o s i t i o n . also impossible to start f r o m the fiction of someone w h o is alone
As s u c h , then, "being-there" {Dasein) is to ^ a c c o r d i n g to this a n d finds h i m - or herself in the w o r l d : in b o t h cases, the very c o n -
transitive verbal value of the dis-position. Being-there is [the] dis- cept of the w o r l d is destroyed. T h i s concept is that of being-with
posing [of] B e i n g itself as distance/proximity; it is "to make" or "to as originary. T h a t is, if the m e a n i n g (of B e i n g ) is d i s - p o s i t i o n as
9 8 Being Singular Plural Being Singular Plural 99

such, then this is b e i n g - w i t h as m e a n i n g : the structure of with is flexivity (to understand, for all understanding, that we understand
the structure of the there. B e i n g - w i t h is not a d d e d on to being- ourselves); instead, it is all these replayed together in another way:
there; instead, to be there is to be w i t h , a n d to be w i t h makes as ethos a n d praxis.
s e n s e — b y itself, w i t h n o t h i n g more, w i t h n o s u b s u m p t i o n o f this To p u t it in K a n t i a n terms, if pure reason is practical by itself
m e a n i n g under any other t r u t h than that of the w i t h . (and not by reference to a n d according to any reverence for some
In b e i n g - w i t h a n d as b e i n g - w i t h , we have always already begun transcendental n o r m ) , this is because it is essentially " c o m m o n rea-
to understand m e a n i n g , to understand ourselves and the w o r l d as son," w h i c h means the " w i t h " as reason, as foundation. There is no
meaning. A n d this understanding is always already completed, full, difference between the ethical a n d the ontological: the "ethical" ex-
whole, and infinite. We understand ourselves i n f i n i t e l y — o u r s e l v e s poses what the "ontological" disposes.
and the w o r l d — a n d n o t h i n g else. O u r understanding (of the m e a n i n g of Being) is an understand-
i n g that we share u n d e r s t a n d i n g between us a n d , at the same t i m e ,
because v/t share understanding between us: between us all, s i m u l -
" W i t h " is neither mediate nor immediate. T h e m e a n i n g that we t a n e o u s l y — a l l the dead a n d the l i v i n g , a n d all beings.
u n d e r s t a n d , insofar as we u n d e r s t a n d it, is not the p r o d u c t of a
negation of B e i n g , a negation destined to represent itself to us as
m e a n i n g , nor is it the pure a n d s i m p l e ecstatic affirmation of its
presence. " W i t h " neither goes f r o m the same to the other, nor f r o m
the same to the same, nor f r o m the other to the other. In a certain
sense, the " w i t h " does not "go" anywhere; it does not constitute a
process. B u t it is the closeness, the b r u s h i n g up against or the c o m -
i n g across, the almost-there [l'à-peu-près] of distanced p r o x i m i t y .
W h e n we try to evaluate this closeness (as if in a marketplace or
railway station, or in a cemetery, we were to ask what are the mean-
ings a n d values of these hundreds of people, of their restlessness
and passivity), it comes out as frantic or distraught. B u t the mean-
i n g of the " w i t h , " or the " w i t h " of m e a n i n g , can be evaluated o n l y
in and by the " w i t h " itself, an experience f r o m w h i c h — i n its plural
s i n g u l a r i t y — n o t h i n g can be taken away.
In understanding ourselves, we understand that there is n o t h i n g
to understand; more precisely, this means that there is no appro-
p r i a t i o n of m e a n i n g , because " m e a n i n g " is the sharing of B e i n g .
T h e r e is no appropriation; therefore, there is no m e a n i n g . T h i s is
itself our u n d e r s t a n d i n g . T h i s is not a dialectical o p e r a t i o n (ac-
cording to w h i c h "to understand n o t h i n g " w o u l d be "to understand
everything"), nor is it a matter of t u r n i n g it i n t o the abyss (to u n -
derstand the n o t h i n g of this same u n d e r s t a n d i n g ) , nor is it a re-
§ War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne

W h a t follows is a response to a request that came f r o m the


U n i t e d States for some reflections on "war a n d t e c h n o l o g y . " In 1

the m i d s t of war (it is w o r t h n o t i n g that I am b e g i n n i n g to write


on 26 February 1991; the g r o u n d attack has begun; its future is still
uncertain) u n d e r t a k i n g this sort of reflection m i g h t be i n c o n g r u -
ous, even indecent. On the one h a n d , what counts today is what is
n o w at stake, the deaths, the suffering of all sorts, a n d the great
s y m p a t h y that a c c o m p a n i e s all wars. (I hope some of it adheres
here, stuck to these lines.) On the other h a n d , w h a t also counts
are the political determinations, the approbation a n d c r i t i c i s m , the
motives a n d reasons that can still, if possible, engage everyone's re-
s p o n s i b i l i t y . Yet, we are already responsible in s t i l l another way:
we have the responsibility to t h i n k . As far as m o r a l , p o l i t i c a l , a n d
affective considerations are concerned, "war," as it reappears today,
is a w h o l e n e w reality in v i r t u e of its very a r c h a i s m . In other
words, the return of "war," not as the reality of m i l i t a r y operations
but as a figure (War) in our s y m b o l i c space, is u n d e n i a b l y a n e w
a n d singular p h e n o m e n o n , because it p r o d u c e s itself in a w o r l d
where this s y m b o l seems to have been all but effaced. T h i s is cer-
tainly w o r t h t h i n k i n g . A n d it m i g h t be that t h i n k i n g about this is
urgent. It is perhaps no longer a question of the degree to w h i c h
war is a more or less necessary evil, or a more or less troublesome
good. It is a q u e s t i o n — a n d it is a question for the w o r l d — o f k n o w -

101
I02 War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne 103

i n g to w h i c h s y m b o l i c space we can entrust what is k n o w n as l i b - ing. Or rather, what is h a p p e n i n g , whatever its exact name s h o u l d
erty, h u m a n i t y . be, w i l l have to be a c c o m p a n i e d , sustained, illustrated, a n d deco-
rated w i t h the signs, significations, a n d i n s i g n i a o f war. T h i s w i l l
have been irresistible, a n d it w i l l not have been the result of a s i m -
War, in Spite of It A l l
ple negligence in the use of words.
O f course, what appeared t o b e the effacing o f s y m b o l i c W a r As far as the last forty-five years are concerned, a n d in order to
concerned o n l y the group of nations that make up the planet's core h o l d up the most identifiable figures of war (from a formal p o i n t of
of "order," "law," and "development." T h e " t h i r d " w o r l d has never
2 view), those in the M a l v i n a s a n d G r e n a d a have most clearly prefig-
stopped being ravaged by armed conflicts: they all d i d happen, even ured such a return. (I am i n d e b t e d to R o b e r t Fraisse for p o i n t i n g
if they d i d not fit i n t o the strict category of war, or even if their l o - out the decisive i n d i c a t i o n of this "return" a n d , as he put it, of the
cal character prevented t h e m f r o m reaching full s y m b o l i c dignity. " w i l d contentment" that came along w i t h the M a l v i n a s War.) O t h e r
Since 1914, it has seemed that, in one way or another, " W a r " de- armed operations officially concerned our " w o r l d " o n l y as police i n -
m a n d e d a "global" d i m e n s i o n . I w i l l come back to what this adjec- terventions in conflicts that operated on the order of revolt, subver-
tive i m p l i e s . First, let us take up the p o i n t that this "globalization" sion, or "civil war" (a name that, like the Greek stasis or the R o m a n
is d e t e r m i n e d less by the spreading-out of the areas of conflict seditio, indicates that it is not a war between sovereigns, a "warriors'
(again, there are conflicts throughout the world) than by the global war"), or even an i n t e r v e n t i o n in the c o n f r o n t a t i o n of sovereigns
r o l e — e c o n o m i c , technical, a n d s y m b o l i c — o f certain states whose w h o are far away f r o m us, a n d often more or less questionable.
sovereignty is involved in the war. F o r war is necessarily the war of (Every detail of the uses, claims, m a n i p u l a t i o n s , aporias of sover-
sovereigns; that is, there is no war w i t h o u t Warlords: this is what I eignty in the postcolonial w o r l d ought to be exposed, as they are be-
w a n t to deal w i t h here. i n g exposed today in the post-Soviet w o r l d . A n d the details of our
It m i g h t seem that this is hardly the way to open the question of relations to all this sovereignty, the concept of w h i c h is ours, s h o u l d
"war and technology." It w i l l soon become clear, however, that rather also be added.)
than concerning m i l i t a r y technology (about w h i c h there is n o t h i n g B u t n o w there is war, " g l o b a l " war in this n e w sense, in w h i c h
special to be thought), attention devoted to the sovereign of and in m a n y of the Sovereigns—whose titles we interpret in c o m p l e x a n d
war reveals war as technê, as art, the execution or p u t t i n g to w o r k of c o n t r a d i c t o r y w a y s — a r e i m p l i c a t e d . E v e n if the conflict is not a
sovereignty itself. Yet, war is also an imperious, decisive interruption q u e s t i o n o f N o r t h versus S o u t h , their presence globalizes global
{ponctuation}, exemplary of all our Western s y m b o l i s m . war again (if we can say such a t h i n g ) . Therefore, there is war; for
T h e war of States a n d coalitions of States, the "great war" (the three m o n t h s , the w o r l d has h a d n o t h i n g but this w o r d on its lips.
war w h i c h is, by all rights, o n l y a p a r t — b u t an i m p o r t a n t , exem- B u t what is W a r , really? W h a t is it today'*. T h i s is a question w o r t h
plary p a r t — o f the exercise of the state/national sovereignties it pre- p o s i n g . W h a t is most s u r p r i s i n g is not that there is {if indeed there
supposes, war properly speaking as it has been defined since the be- is) this war. It is not that there is this combat, or that battle, what-
ginnings of our h i s t o r y — I w i l l come back to this), that war, insofar ever their o r i g i n a n d their modalities. W h a t is surprising is that in
as it is easily distinguishable f r o m others, is the [sort o f ] war we our eyes the very idea of war has again taken h o l d of us as the right
thought h a d been c i r c u m s c r i b e d , if not suspended, in the figure of of the city (there is no better way of p u t t i n g it). In other words, it
the " c o l d " war a n d nuclear deterrence. is h i g h l y remarkable that the idea of legitimate state/national v i o -
T h i s war makes its return, or at least all of its signs are r e t u r n - lence, for so l o n g regarded as suspect a n d suffering a tendentious
IO4 War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne 105

delegitimation, c o u l d have regained (or almost regained) its f u l l le- It is well k n o w n , however, that there is (still?) no such t h i n g as
gitimacy, w h i c h means the legitimacy of the sovereign, absolutely. supranational or prenational l a w — b u t , of course, it is exactly this
A c c o r d i n g to g o o d p o l i t i c o - j u r i d i c a l semantics, it is said a n d war that revives the debate on the subject. T h e r e is no ready-made
w r i t t e n that it is neither correct n o r legitimate to use the w o r d "democracy," no foundation for a law that is above nations or peo-
"war" for the present situation. I w i l l come back to this. B u t this ples. T h e r e is really o n l y a supposed law that borders nation-states,
remark is still quite rare, c o n f i n e d as it is to j u r i d i c a l p u r i s m a n d a law that is only vaguely sure of being founded on universality, and
the g o o d , m o r a l soul; general discourse, quite to the contrary, has fairly certain of being devoid of sovereignty. So-called international
t h r o w n itself into the semantics, logic, and s y m b o l i s m of war. law, where this "inter," this "between," causes all the problems, is
These, of course, have never really been annulled. B u t still, war only graspable as that c o m m o n space devoid of law, devoid of every
appeared to be h e l d w i t h i n the shadows i n t o w h i c h it h a d been sort of "setting in c o m m o n " ["mise en c o m m u n " ] (without w h i c h
plunged by the two previous " w o r l d " wars. In contrast to earlier cen- there is no law), a n d is structured by the techno-economic network
turies, the spirit of the time has not claimed the right to wage war a n d the supervision of Sovereigns.
above all the other prerogatives of the State; for example, only up u n - W i t h i n this context, war makes its l o o m i n g [grande] figure
til the First W o r l d W a r was it c o m m o n to refer to States as "Powers." k n o w n . In a certain sense, whether it is "war" or "police a c t i o n , "
On the other h a n d , the favor enjoyed by the idea of a "State of whether it takes place as "war" or not, is u n i m p o r t a n t . It has been
law" drew attention to that element in sovereignty regarded as ex- granted and even "required" (as is said of it) that this not be war.
e m p t f r o m violence a n d its force. It d r e w attention to the p o i n t G i v e n this, we w o u l d have, w h i l e we even had a c l a i m to the alle-
where such violence, w h i c h w o u l d have presided in the i n s t i t u t i o n gories of M a r s or Bellone, allegories of need tempered by a beauti-
of power, had to be effaced, sublimated, or curbed. W a r seemed to f u l — t h a t is, a r r o g a n t — d e m a n d for "justice" a n d "morality."
be at rest in the peace of now-defunct or obsolete feudalisms a n d Of course (I a d d this on r e t u r n i n g to this text after the cease-
nationalisms. A n d the aura of sovereignty grew d i m there as w e l l . fire), we are t o l d about victory parades, after w h i c h the entire w o r l d
Moreover, there was no more talk of "ideologies" a n d the "wither- w i l l enthusiastically adopt the p r o u d f o r m u l a " T h e M o t h e r o f all
i n g of the State." In decline w i t h regard to the global c o m p l e x of Battles," w h i c h w i l l even be the sovereign m o t t o of those w h o were
techno-economics, the State seems to have entered into the age of vanquished. B u t in order to u n f o l d what another sovereign way of
self-control by offering itself as a c o u n t e r p o i n t in the barely sover- speaking [une autre parole souverain] has n a m e d "the logic of war,"
eign role of regulative, j u r i d i c a l , a n d social a d m i n i s t r a t i o n . the possible return of this figure had to be perceptible, if o n l y in a
B u t n o w one finds that there is nationalism springing up on all furtive (indeed fleeting) way. T h e States concerned k n e w h o w to
sides (and sometimes feudalism as well). These figures are heroic tap i n t o the virtualities that flourished in " p u b l i c o p i n i o n " : war
or r i d i c u l o u s , pathetic or arrogant, d i g n i f i e d or questionable, but c o u l d again be required or desired. Pacificism was n o w o n l y r o u -
they are always shadowy either by v o c a t i o n or a c c o r d i n g to their tine or accidental, disregarded by the rest for having failed to rec-
intended purpose. Certainly, a globalized recognition of "value" or ognize the fascist threat not so l o n g ago, and for representing, since
of the d e m o c r a t i c n o r m tends to regulate these affirmations of the b e g i n n i n g of this century, n o t h i n g but the exact a n d i m p o t e n t
identity (and) of sovereignty. As such, these state/national figures [impuissant] reverse of the very "globalization" of war.
are not marked [tracée] by a violent gesture, [which is] both somber B u t , in this way, just as pacificism today l i m i t s itself to a habitus
and glorious; they are spontaneously modeled f r o m w i t h i n a w h o l l y w i t h o u t substance, the m o r a l o f w h i c h i s articulated neither i n
available, general legitimacy. terms of law nor in terms of politics (the o n l y respectable d i m e n -
io6 War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê 107

sion is p i t y ; a n d although the tragedy of the warrior is not the o n l y bate w i t h the exception, a n d w i t h the force w h i c h cannot not haunt

one in this w o r l d , it alone seems to have grandeur . . . ) so, on quite it. . . . )

a different level, the reaffirmation of war springs forth f r o m a re- War, then, is itself susceptible to creating a new law, a new dis-
discovered habitus, redeployed in a n e w context. A habitus is a way t r i b u t i o n o f sovereignties. A n d such i s the o r i g i n o f the majority o f
o f being, a disposition o f mores, a n ethos. our national a n d state sovereignties, or legitimacies. T h i s is also the
p o i n t t h r o u g h w h i c h revolutionary war was able to inherit what is
essential to the concept of State war, although at the cost of certain

W h i c h w a y of being is it? W h a t is it made up of? My first reply displacements. ( T h i s began w i t h the wars of the F r e n c h R e v o l u -

w i l l be s i m p l e : it is the ethos o f w a r itself; it is this d i s p o s i t i o n o f t i o n , a mixture of State wars a n d wars waged in the name of a u n i -

mores, c i v i l i z a t i o n , a n d t h i n k i n g that affirms war not o n l y as the versal p r i n c i p l e , against enemies of a h u m a n sort. F r o m that m o -

means of a politics but also as an end cosubstantial w i t h the exer- ment o n , the question of k n o w i n g if one c o u l d present a universal

cise of sovereignty, w h i c h alone holds the exceptional right to it. sovereignty was put forward. . . . )

T h i s response presupposes the c o n v e n t i o n of c a l l i n g the use of T h e right to wage war excepts itself f r o m law at the very p o i n t
State force, w i t h respect to its o w n right, "a police action" a n d call- where it belongs to it b o t h as an o r i g i n a n d as an end; this p o i n t is
i n g the exercise of a sovereign right to decide to attack another sov- a p o i n t of f o u n d a t i o n , insofar as we are incapable of t h i n k i n g of
ereign State a "war." It is precisely this c o n v e n t i o n that has just f o u n d a t i o n w i t h o u t sovereignty, o r o f sovereignty itself w i t h o u t
been reactivated, whether we want to recognize it or not. ( F o r ex- t h i n k i n g in terms of exception a n d excess. T h e right to wage war
ample, in terms of its c o n s t i t u t i o n , France is not at w a r — a n d re- excepts itself f r o m law at a p o i n t replete w i t h sovereign brilliance
ally, w h o is, a n d according to w h i c h constitution?) [un éclat souverain]. L a w does not possess this b r i l l i a n c e , b u t it

N o t h i n g is superior to a sovereign right (superaneus means that needs its light, a n d its f o u n d i n g event. ( T h i s is w h y W a r is also the

above w h i c h there is n o t h i n g ) . T h e right to wage war is the most Event par excellence; it is not an event in some "history of events"

sovereign of all rights because it allows a sovereign to decide that that consists in reciting, one by one, the dates of wars, victories,

another sovereign is its enemy a n d to try to subjugate it, indeed to a n d treaties, but the Event that suspends and reopens the course of

destroy it, that is, to relieve it of its sovereignty (here, life comes history, the sovereign-event. O u r kings, generals, a n d philosophers

i n t o the bargain [la vie vient par-dessus le marché]). It is the sover- have o n l y ever thought of it in this way.)

eign's right to confront his alter ego ad mortem; this is not o n l y an T h i s m o d e of i n s t i t u t i n g law becomes unacceptable, however, in
effect of sovereignty but also its supreme m a n i f e s t a t i o n — j u s t as a w o r l d that represents law itself as its o w n " o r i g i n " or its o w n
our w h o l e t r a d i t i o n has w a n t e d it. " f o u n d a t i o n , " whether this falls u n d e r the h e a d i n g of a "natural

W i t h i n the sovereign context of war, n o t h i n g is valid if not some r i g h t " of h u m a n i t y or u n d e r the h e a d i n g of an irreversible sedi-

supposed conventions u p h e l d in order to keep it w i t h i n a certain mentation o f the experiences [les acquis] o f a positive law w h i c h , lit-

m o r a l (in former times, sacred) order. B u t this order is not exactly tle by little, has become the law of all (whereas the soldiers of the

superior to war; it is the very order of w h i c h war is a sovereign ex- year II [l'An II] c o u l d still represent this f o u n d a t i o n as a conquest

tremity, the sharpest edge [le fer de lance] a n d the p o i n t of excep- yet to be made or remade). T h i s is where the anxiety a n d confusion

t i o n . ( T h i s is w h y Rousseau, against the w h o l e t r a d i t i o n , d i d not that seize us w h e n faced w i t h the idea of war comes f r o m , particu-

want to see a special act of sovereignty in the right to war, but "only larly as regards "just war," an expression w h i c h m i g h t , at one a n d

an application of the law"; Rousseau's sovereignty is an intimate de- the same time, subject war to law a n d law to war. (For all that, a n d
io8 War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne 109

for the entire t r a d i t i o n — I w i l l come back to t h i s — t h i s expression the lines of t h i n k i n g available to us w i l l suit our purposes. T h e style
is redundant, as redundant as the expression "dirty war". . . . ) of n e o - K a n t i a n h u m a n i s m d o m i n a n t today does no more than re-
O u r anxiety testifies to the fact that o u r w o r l d , the w o r l d of new the promise of moralizing politics, all the while offering law the
" g l o b a l i z a t i o n , " displaces the concept of war, a l o n g w i t h all the weapons of a politics that has yet to be moralized. T h e revolutionary
p o l i t i c o - j u r i d i c a l concepts of sovereignty. In fact, the "return" of style faded out along w i t h all the pretensions of designating the sub-
war o n l y appears at the heart of these displacements. T h i s is w h y ject by means of another law, a n d appearance [le surgissement] by
some have dared to say that it does not appear at all. B u t our anx- means of another history. As for the "decisionist" style, it has been
iety also testifies (and occasionally in the same people as above), relegated to the heart of the "totalitarian" style. N o n e of t h e m y i e l d
not to a regret, or to a nostalgia (although . . . ), but rather to a dif- a possibility either for t h i n k i n g sovereignty hic et nunc or for t h i n k -
ficulty in d o i n g w i t h o u t sovereign authority [l'instance souveraine], i n g beyond it. Ever since the first global conflict gave ample testi-
even d o w n to its most terrible b r i l l i a n c e (seeing as it is also the m o n y to this general difficulty, ours has been a history of the doc-
m o s t b r i l l i a n t ) . T h i s persistence of sovereignty in us is w h a t I trines and problems of international law, sovereignty, and war.
w o u l d like to examine before t r y i n g to understand where we c o u l d F o r the m o m e n t , we can o n l y draw out the strict consequences
g o o r t o w a r d w h i c h "other" o f sovereignty. W e w i l l see h o w that of this list [of the available lines of t h i n k i n g ] . I am not interpret-
happens through "technology." i n g the G u l f W a r according to any of these schemes. I am o n l y sug-
I am not unaware of the precautions one must take to avoid hav- gesting that an empty space stretches between the always weak and
i n g this very simple project fall into the trap of s i m p l i f i c a t i o n , that t r o u b l e d schema of the "war of law (police a c t i o n ) " a n d a reacti-
is, the coarseness [la grossièreté] of t h i n k i n g . I take these precautions vated ( w a r m e d over?) schema of "sovereign war." M o r e o v e r , this
to be the f o l l o w i n g : space is not the space of a "peoples' war" ["guerre des peuples"] : for
First, my i n t e n t i o n is not to reduce the history of the G u l f W a r the m o m e n t , the people are in the museums of the R e v o l u t i o n , or
to a pure and simple sovereign decision for war, the action of one or in the folklore museums. Indeed, this space is a desert. It is not
more actors. In a general context i n v o l v i n g [mêlé] endemic war, the o n l y pitted w i t h o i l wells a n d b o m b craters; it is also the desert of
proliferation of seditions, contested sovereignties, and multiple and o u r t h i n k i n g , as well as that of " E u r o p e , " a n d that of the desola-
c o n f l i c t i n g p o l i c e forces ( e c o n o m i c , religious, a n d i n t e r n a t i o n a l t i o n that crosses through rights a n d war in the G u l f and elsewhere;
rights a n d interests, as well as those of the state, of m i n o r i t i e s , and it is that increasingly worse desolation defined by e c o n o m i c a n d
so forth), a process is p r o d u c e d that is a m i x t u r e of war a n d police cultural injustice. In the end, then, it is true that the desert is grow-
action, in w h i c h the one constantly comes d o w n to the other. I do ing. I have l o n g detested the morose relish w i t h w h i c h some have
not c l a i m , here, to completely disentangle the role that each plays; rehashed this sentence. B u t I do a d m i t that the desert is g r o w i n g .
in fact, that w o u l d be impossible. Yet again, everything is displaced A n d , although no longer m i l i t a n t , the sterility of the d o m i n a n t h u -
a n d the p a i r — t h a t is, war/police a c t i o n — n o longer allows itself to m a n i s m , arrogant w i t h the arrogance of the weak, reveals its glaring
be easily m a n i p u l a t e d , as if that had ever been possible. B u t in this irresponsibility in the e n d .
pair, I do want to interrogate what seems, at the l i m i t of law itself, I am not c l a i m i n g to have invented another [way o f ] t h i n k i n g ; I
to obstinately, or even fiercely, m a i n t a i n the d e m a n d for war that o n l y w a n t to situate its d e m a n d , its extreme urgency. F o r we are
carries the sovereign exception w i t h i n itself a n d also exposes it. already at another [way o f ] t h i n k i n g ; it precedes us, a n d the war
Because of this logic of the exception, the logic of the "sovereign" shows us that we must catch up w i t h it.
as b e i n g " w i t h o u t law," it is not i m m e d i a t e l y obvious that any of Second, if it is clear that my preference (which, at this p o i n t , I
no War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê i n

h o l d in reserve) was not, in this war, for war, I am nonetheless better serve d o m i n a t i o n , it tries to regild its sovereign shield: thus
keenly aware that the great majority of those w h o supported the we have W a r , the a m b i g u o u s sovereign-slave of economics. I w i l l
war wanted to be partisans of a law superior or exterior to state sov- came back to a consideration of w o r l d w i t h o u t e n d . Its c r i t i q u e ,
ereignties. W h a t is more, m a n y have testified to a refined sense of however, must be no less radical than Marx's. B u t there is no doubt
the responsibilities of all the parties i n v o l v e d in the conflict; I am that radicality no longer involves the f o u n d i n g of a new E n d , or the
setting aside all notions of i n t e n t i o n here; I am not c l a i m i n g that restoration o f Sovereignty i n general. O n the contrary, this logic
the war was o n l y passed off under the guise [manteau] of law. Some seems to be the one in w h i c h economic war constantly radiates sov-
d i d as m u c h , but that is so clear as to be no longer interesting. ereign War, a n d vice versa.
W h a t is interesting is that it was possible to affirm the war, and the T h i r d , it is true that in interpreting facts a n d discourses u n d e r
m a n n e r in w h i c h this was possible was more or less simple or war- the heading of the return of a dimension of war, or of a warlike pose
like, restrained or c o m p l i c a t e d . or postulation, w h i c h one might have believed to be completely for-
B u t at the same t i m e , it is not a question of e m b a r k i n g on a n - gotten (or repressed), I seem to jettison [ faire fi des] the reserve a n d
other r o u n d of the sort of s i m p l i f i c a t i o n so fashionable today, p r u d e n c e that has been used in d e a l i n g w i t h a war that has been
thereby suspending the consideration of the interests and calcula- thought of as "well-tempered." It is true that there has been little
tions that set the economic stakes of the war on an East-West axis, discourse that is properly or directly w a r m o n g e r i n g ; (instead, talk
as well as a N o r t h - S o u t h one. Besides, the denial of this was trans- of " g o i n g to war" reignited the polemics of the pacifists, w h i l e at
parent; everyone knows what was going o n , and it is no longer nec- the same time, some remarkable figures [of speech] came u p i n p r i -
essary to be a m e m b e r of the Party in order to share, despite one- vate discourse; I w i l l certainly not be the o n l y one to have heard
self, certain truths that c o m e f r o m M a r x . It is not a question of " h o w g o o d it w i l l be for the West to have rediscovered its balls.")
s i m p l e " e c o n o m i c d e t e r m i n a t i o n . " Instead, it is a question of the T a k i n g up this text again after the cease-fire, I w o u l d like to a d d
following: although there may be casualties, the e c o n o m y is in the the f o l l o w i n g : given that the contest was so unequal, h o w can we
process of exhausting perspectives, hopes, a n d ends. W h a t e v e r is a v o i d t h i n k i n g that we needed a discourse of war, w i t h o u t quite
not governed by economics belongs to a t i m i d , juridical projection w a n t i n g a w a r — b u t , all the while, w a n t i n g its result? T h e "fourth
(where it is no longer a question of creating or f o u n d i n g a new law) army i n the w o r l d " c o u l d not a n d d i d not w a n t t o f i g h t . A n d the
or to the realm of fantastical compensations (that is, religions, some- "first" fought p r i n c i p a l l y in order to smother the very possibility of
times art, a n d also, f r o m n o w o n , politics). T h e return of the figure battle under the weight of its bombs, r u n n i n g the risk of restraining
of W a r corresponds to an exasperated desire for legitimation and/or its heroism by l i m i t i n g its o w n losses. T h i s , of course, d i d not pre-
finality, at exactly a time w h e n no one can believe that economics vent there being death a n d destruction; moreover, it d i d not pre-
has its o w n , universally legitimated finality anymore. (In this regard, vent the enormous difference in the a m o u n t of suffering on each
what remains of the d i s t i n c t i o n between liberal a n d planned econ- side. B u t these amounts c o u n t for n o t h i n g (first of all . . . ) in the
omies is hardly important.) In fact, at the very m o m e n t w h e n the s y m b o l i c d i m e n s i o n o f war; this d i m e n s i o n i s expressed o n l y i n
supposed "death" o f M a r x was being celebrated, his political econ- terms of victory or defeat, of sovereignty affirmed, conquered, or
omy (it c o u l d also be called economic war) cordoned off [verrouille] reconquered. (Even according to this very standard, this w a r — b o t h
our whole h o r i z o n . It is not sovereign, but it is d o m i n a n t , and this certain a n d u n c e r t a i n — h a d a certain a n d uncertain result. At the
is a different t h i n g . A l l at once, politics c o m m i t s suicide in that j u - m o m e n t , Iraq is m i n t i n g coins carrying the c l a i m " V i c t o r y is ours,"
ridical-moralism that is w i t h o u t s o v e r e i g n t y — o r rather, in order to w h i l e m i l i t a r y parades are b e i n g organized in the U n i t e d States,
112 War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê 113

E n g l a n d , a n d France. It is true that all of this is pure facade a n d Indeed, the taste for the spectacle of epic beauty a n d heroic
that, for the most part, the period after the war has propagated civil virtue, w h i c h was so clearly laid out d u r i n g the b u i l d u p to war and
war, at least in Iraq a n d K u w a i t , and set economic war in m o t i o n in its first phases, w i l l not be easily forgotten. After a l l , these i m -
again. It remains the case, however, that "the facade" plays a role in ages are not the slightest bit different from those of war films. H o w -
the constructions of the political and collectivity in general.) ever, I do not so m u c h w a n t to j o i n forces w i t h the critics of the
It is true, in fact, that I am presupposing the interpretation of a "spectacular society" w h o have made a p o i n t of qualifying this as a
n u m b e r of details, f r o m the approval of the war by national parlia- "spectacular" war (the d e n i a l of w h i c h is directly s y m m e t r i c a l to
ments ( w h i c h is a supererogatory measure in a police operation, as what is at w o r k in the discourse of law). Yet, the images of war d i d
well as in genuinely exceptional cases of distinct m i l i t a r y urgency) f o r m a part of the w a r — a n d perhaps war itself is like a film, even
to all the indices provided by the semantics, style, and emphases of before a film imitates war. In the face of horror and pity, w h i c h is
m a n y of the discourses devoted to urgency, peril, sacrifice, national where it necessarily ends up, there w o u l d be no war w i t h o u t a war-
duty, m i l i t a r y virility, the s u b l i m i t y of great c o m m a n d e r s , the u n - like m o m e n t u m of the imaginary. Its spectacle is inextricably b o u n d
leashing of p r i m a l force, a n d so o n . ( F o r instance, I read the f o l - up w i t h the sometimes stupefying, m e c h a n i c a l constraint that
l o w i n g in a p r o m i n e n t F r e n c h newspaper: "but h o w can one fight makes the soldier m a r c h o n . T h e psychologists o f the A m e r i c a n
efficiently w i t h o u t freeing one's p r i m i t i v e instincts?"; to stay w i t h army took pleasure in explaining (on television) that the boys do not
this p o i n t for a m o m e n t , this sentence, taken as such and in the or- march for a cause, for right or democracy, but o n l y so as not to give
d i n a r y context of o u r culture, is u n d o u b t e d l y irreproachable; a l - u p i n front o f their c o m p a n i o n s . T h a t is, what drives h o n o r a n d
t h o u g h it does testify to the " o r d i n a r y " context of a state w h i c h glory already belongs to the order of the "spectacle," a n d it cannot
tends toward the vulgar.) To those listed above, one must add the be d i s m a n t l e d by the s i m p l e d e n u n c i a t i o n of a m o d e r n age in
discourse o f the h o l y m i s s i o n : b o t h sides had G o d o n their side w h i c h s i m u l a t i o n is generalized a n d c o m m o d i f i e d . (In a d d i t i o n ,
{monotheos versus monotheos), as w e l l as calls for the " f o u n d a t i o n " and as always happens w i t h this sort of discourse, there were g o o d
of a new order or regime. reasons for w o n d e r i n g , on reading certain critiques of the "war-
I have no interest in c o l l e c t i n g p u b l i c a n d private d o c u m e n t s . spectacle," about the nostalgia revealed there, nostalgia for the good
T h e r e are a great m a n y of t h e m . Interpretive violence is h a r d l y o l d wars of yesteryear.) W h a t is at play in the "spectacle" of war
called for in order to decipher in t h e m the presence of a s y m b o l - goes m u c h further back than that, extending out to the very limits
i s m a n d w a r l i k e fantasy that is more or less u n o b t r u s i v e l y m i x e d of a w h o l e culture (of w h i c h Islam is a p a r t ) — a n d u n d o u b t e d l y
together w i t h reasons that have to do w i t h law and the need for po- even b e y o n d that.
lice actions. T h i s does not mean the latter are disqualified, but the I am not c l a i m i n g that the epic is on its way b a c k — n e i t h e r the
former must be brought to light. H o m e r i c epic, nor the N a p o l e o n i c , nor even those that can still be
In addition, it is impossible to forget the role played on both sides associated w i t h the battles o f R o m m e l , M o n t g o m e r y , Leclerc, o r
by the political desire a n d need to recuperate m i l i t a r y defeats (Viet- G u d e r i a n , for example. ( A l l the same, there was talk of the "leg-
n a m on the A m e r i c a n side, a n d S i n a i on the A r a b i c , even t h o u g h endary past" of various units or vehicles of war that had carried the
the two cases are very different). In the case of the U n i t e d States, aura of their deeds f r o m the last w o r l d war into the G u l f . ) A great
the most powerful of today's adversaries, what needed to be washed deal is needed for the epic to make a comeback, but this "great deal"
away was not o n l y the h u m i l i a t i o n that attaches to all defeats, but is not enough to ensure that no aspect of the affirmation or celebra-
also a war that had made war shameful. t i o n of war w o u l d remain. At the very least, the facets of a brilliant
114 War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne 115

[éclat] sovereignty w o u l d remain. In war, a brilliant, incandescent, the technologies of war, except technical questions, w h i c h here, as
fascinating sovereignty is celebrated (for an instant, for a split sec- elsewhere, do not a l l o w for the q u e s t i o n i n g or t h i n k i n g of "tech-
o n d , in a flash of light). B u t is this not an essential part of what we n o l o g y " — b u t this is the case w i t h all technical fields. D u r i n g the
t h i n k we are deprived of in general: the brilliant flash, the figures of first days of this war, the way certain technologies were allocated
the Sun? Even now, our w o r l d does not represent itself as lacking in starring roles [la mise en vedette] made it possible to observe h o w
power or intelligence, or even completely lacking in grace. B u t the discourses that were favorable a n d unfavorable to technology h a d
lack of Sovereignty surely structures an essential part of our world's n o t h i n g to do w i t h t h i n k i n g through [the question of] technology;
representation of itself, and therefore of its desire. instead, they espoused all the established prejudices, problems, or
aporias of the war itself. ( T h e E n g l i s h w o r d "technology" is w e l l
placed to suggest a logic proper to [the F t e n c h word] la technique,
Sovereign Ends
w i t h w h i c h the discourses about "meaning" or "value" almost never
W h a t has returned w i t h war, or remains of it, has n o t h i n g o b v i - engage.) Technological fire power was celebrated, that is, the power
ously to do w i t h m i l i t a r y technologies. For these technologies have of the electronic, chemical, and mechanical complex that produced
never stopped being used d u r i n g the course of all quasi-wars, guer- the missiles (among other things), a new a d d i t i o n to the series of
r i l l a wars of liberation a n d their repression, or in all the p o l i t i c a l , warlike emblems that stretches to time i m m e m o r i a l , i n c l u d i n g the
economic, or judicial police operations. W h a t is achieved p r i m a r i l y sword, helmet, or cannon. There was self-congratulation on the self-
by the technologies regarded as properly military can be just as well, l i m i t i n g possibilities of this very power, a n d it emerged in a dis-
if not better, achieved by the use of so-called c i v i l technologies put course of "surgical" war that corresponded to the thesis of law:
to m i l i t a r y purposes. In fact, it is almost impossible to distinguish flaunting limits that are stricter than the limits set by international
between these two. For example, psychology is also a weapon, a n d , convention serves to make more credible an interpretation that op-
in t u r n , the progress w h i c h m i l i t a r y research has made regarding erates according to the n o t i o n of "police action." T h e terrible possi-
c i v i l technologies (for example, in the field of sleeping medication) bilities offered by new technologies were deplored (for example, the
is not often taken i n t o account. Perhaps a specific difference be- possibility of "vitrification" offered by these new b o m b s , whereas
tween t h e m o n l y t r u l y begins to emerge, on the one h a n d , at the the possibilities of shrapnel bombs, or bombs w i t h phosphorus or
level of the finalities of massive d e s t r u c t i o n (but one wonders to n a p a l m , were already well k n o w n by this p o i n t . . . ). In the e n d ,
what extent even this criterion can be used w i t h delicacy, at least as there was a fear that recourse w o u l d be made to technologies
regards material destruction that can interfere w i t h c i v i l activities) banned by those conventions that set the rules of war; the effective
a n d , o n the other h a n d a n d above a l l , o n the order o f s y m b o l i c use of that n o w - f o r b i d d e n group of b i o c h e m i c a l weapons in the
marks (for instance, the uniforms and insignia of armies). There are past, w i t h all their catastrophic potential, obviously plays a strate-
uniforms outside of the army, but where there are uniforms, there is gic role. In this regard, conventions regarding the means of war c o n -
also an army, as a p r i n c i p l e or a more or less latent m o d e l . Short of stantly demonstrate the fragility of the law that upholds them: not
[elaborating upon] this d i v i d i n g line, all the technologies in play, o n l y is it infinitely difficult to legitimate the distinction between dif-
f r o m the manufacture a n d use of a rifle or dagger to the logistical ferent sorts of weapons on the basis of humanitarian principles, but
a n d strategic m a n i p u l a t i o n of w h o l e armies, provide no means of it also remains the case that the c o l l i s i o n — i n d e e d , the contradic-
m a k i n g the idea of war as such distinct. t i o n — b e t w e e n such h u m a n i t a r i a n principles and the principles of
In one sense, this is w h y there is no specific question concerning war is constantly perceptible a n d consistently brings the "right to
n6 War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê 117

war" back d o w n to its f o u n d a t i o n in the sovereign exception. F o r no less acute than those posed by certain a r m a m e n t s . It is quite
example, it is clearly not f r o m the right t o — o r logic o f — w a r that l i k e l y that the disparity between the two sets of problems has been
one can infer the interdiction against i n c l u d i n g genetic patrimonies very m u c h reduced, for example, since the i n v e n t i o n of a r t i l l e r y
w i t h i n the a m b i t of warlike destruction. B u t this is also why, up to (which testifies to this "becoming-technology" of the w o r l d , w h i c h
a certain p o i n t in this war, one c o u l d see a particular progress be- is what we have to take into account). In the end, the interminable
i n g made by the idea of d e p l o y i n g tactical nuclear weapons in re- celebratory or execratory discourses on technology, all of t h e m
sponse to the chemical threat posed by Iraq. (It c o u l d very well be founded on "values" that are obstinately foreign to this b e c o m i n g -
that the nuclear weapon was, far more than admitted, a major stake technology, can o n l y mask what there is of "war," as w e l l as what
in this conflict: this particular w e a p o n , its possession, a n d its use there is n o w of "medicine" or "the family," a n d so forth.
in the next war. . . . ) O n e c o u l d develop parallel considerations There is no such t h i n g as the "question of technology," properly
regarding the protection of civilians. B u t all this is already well speaking, so l o n g as technology is considered as a means to an end.
k n o w n , w h i c h really means, a n d rightly so, that no one wants to Except for technical problems as such, all such "questions," are posed
k n o w a n y t h i n g about it. according to the order of ends: practical, ethical, political, aesthetic,
T h u s , there is no "question of technology" proper to war, any a n d so o n . Insofar as war is itself considered as a means to an e n d
more than there is a "question of technology" in general, that is, a (whether political, economic, juridical, religious, and so forth), it falls
question put to technology or its subject a n d i n v o l v i n g the applica- under this logic. T h i s is what is really at stake in Clausewitz's for-
tion of criteria that do not belong to it. War-with-missiles is neither mulation that "war is the continuation of politics by other means." It
better nor worse than war-with-catapults; it is still a question of war. indicates a m o d e r n m u t a t i o n of the t h i n k i n g of war, a m u t a t i o n
A n d c o m m u n i c a t i o n is neither better nor worse w h e n it is carried w h i c h implies that the "classical" way of t h i n k i n g about war as the
by fiber-optics, instead of messengers on foot: it is rather a question exercise, setting to work, or extreme expression of sovereignty is n o w
of k n o w i n g what "communication" means. If "technical" civilization set at a distance and denied in a more or less confused manner. As I
displaces the concepts of war or c o m m u n i c a t i o n (or health, or life, have already said, such t h i n k i n g is still the o n l y rigorous t h i n k i n g of
and so on), then it must be a question of the concepts themselves, of war. T h e displacement that took h o l d w i t h Clausewitz still remains
their "becoming-technology" ["devenir-technique"] in a generalized to be brought to term: it may be the end of war.
space of the world's becoming-technology. B u t this is not a question For that t h i n k i n g of war w h i c h is still ours, war is sovereignty's
of evaluating new instruments for the unchanged ends of a w o r l d technology par excellence; it is its setting to w o r k and its supreme
that is still the w o r l d as it used to be. execution (end). In this sense, a "technology" is not a means; i n -
W a r is u n d o u b t e d l y a privileged terrain for b r i n g i n g to light the stead, it is a m o d e of execution, manifestation, and effectuation in
inaneness of all the considerations of technology that do not p r o - general. To be more precise, it is the m o d e of a c c o m p l i s h m e n t that
ceed f r o m this p r e l i m i n a r y consideration (and it must be a d m i t t e d distinguishes itself f r o m the "natural" m o d e as that mode's double,
that these former sorts of discourse are, in fact, more numerous). a n d its rival in perfection. W h e n one has recourse to the G r e e k
It is clear that technologies are not responsible for war, any more terms physis a n d technê, w h i c h in their c o n t e m p o r a r y use refer to
than war is responsible for the technologies that are not proper to Heidegger (and more discretely to Nietzsche, if not to the G e r m a n
i t — e v e n t h o u g h technologies give war its means, a n d war gener- R o m a n t i c s ) , it is in order to give specific names to these "modes of
ates technical progress. T h e ethical, juridical, and cultural problems a c c o m p l i s h m e n t , " t a k i n g care to d i s t i n g u i s h t h e m , on the one
posed by c i v i l technology (nuclear or biological, for example) are h a n d , f r o m "nature" as a c o l l e c t i o n of materials a n d forces, pos-
ni War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê 119

sessed of its o w n laws a n d , on the other, f r o m "technology" as an If there is a "question of technology," then it o n l y begins at that
" a r t i f i c i a l " means of reaching its ends. Phusis a n d technê—one m o m e n t w h e n technology is taken into account as the finish of Be-
c o u l d say " b i r t h " ["éclosion"] and " a r t " — a r e two modes of accom- i n g , a n d not as a means to some other end (science, mastery, hap-
p l i s h m e n t a n d are, in this respect, the same (but not identical) in piness, a n d so o n ) . It o n l y begins w h e n t e c h n o l o g y is taken i n t o
their difference: the same as concerns a c c o m p l i s h m e n t in general, account as an e n d in itself, sui generis. T e c h n o l o g y is the "finality
as p u t t i n g to w o r k or carrying out [l'exécution]. As a result, they are w i t h o u t e n d " (= w i t h o u t an extrinsic end) of a genre that perhaps
d o u b l y the "same" w i t h regard to the end; they are not two differ- remains to be discovered. It is to such a discovery that we expose
ent finalities, b u t t w o finishes [deux finitions] (like a " h a n d " finish our history, as a technological-becoming of B e i n g or its finish.
and a "machine" finish—a comparison that also serves to recall the W h a t , i n p r i n c i p l e , falsifies s o m a n y considerations o f tech-
hierarchy w h i c h we "quite naturally" set up between these two sorts n o l o g y is the desire to locate its principles a n d ends outside of it-
of finishes . . . ). Furthermore, ever since Plato a n d Aristotle, these s e l f — f o r example, in a "nature" that itself constantly enters i n t o a
two modes have constantly referred to one another in a double re- becoming-technology. . . . Just as, in the past, we never stopped re-
lationship that has c o m e to be k n o w n as mimesis: it is not that one l a t i n g "nature" to some sovereign P o w e r — a s the creation a n d
"copies" the other ("copying" is quite impossible in this case), but glory o f a Power n a m e d G o d , A t o m , L i f e , C h a n c e , o r H u m a n i t y
that each replays the play of the e n d or ends [of the other], [as] the — s o w e have never stopped s e c u r i n g f r o m technology, a n d for
art or b i r t h of the finish. t e c h n o l o g y , a Deus ex machina, w h i c h is yet another sovereign
T h e finish consists i n executing {ex-sequor means to follow though Power that the most habitual tendencies of our ways of represent-
to the end), in c a r r y i n g out s o m e t h i n g to the l i m i t of its o w n logic i n g leads us to designate as a Diabolus ex machina (this is the story
a n d its o w n g o o d , that is, to the extremity of its o w n B e i n g . In our o f Faust). W i t h regard to the ex machina, the Deus becomes dia-
t h i n k i n g , B e i n g in general, or rather, B e i n g proper or p l a i n l y Be- bolicus because it is no longer the " t e c h n i c i a n of nature" or the
i n g [l'être propre ou l'être en propre], in each of its singular effectua- N a t u r a l T e c h n i c i a n , that is, the one w h o relates all things to one
tions or existences, has its substance, end, a n d t r u t h in the finish E n d , or to one absolute, transcendental, transcendent, a n d sover-
of its B e i n g . F o r us, it is so evident that this trait belongs to " B e - eign F i n i s h . For we deny "technology" access to the realm of ends
i n g " in general (or to "reality," or to "effectivity") that it seems o d d a n d , to an even greater extent, to the realm of the Infinite E n d , in
to insist on expressing such a redundancy. this sense.
We t h i n k that to be is not to half-be [être-à-demi], but to be As a result, L e i b n i z may have been the closest to expressing the
fully present, perfect, complete, finished, a n d , every single time, fi- first clear consciousness of t e c h n o l o g y in his l o o k i n g to p u t the
n a l , t e r m i n a l , done. T h e w h o l e p r o b l e m , if there is a p r o b l e m , is machina ex Deo into p l a y — w e can say as m u c h unless, of course, it
of k n o w i n g if the execution, the finish, is finite or infinite, a n d in is not also advisable to c o m b i n e this formulation w i t h that of S p i n -
what sense of these words. As we w i l l see, questions of technology oza's, the Deus sive natura sive machina: after w h i c h the "death of
a n d war c o m e d o w n to this troublesome articulation in every last G o d " signifies the rigorous carrying out of the program formulated
instance. as the machina ex machina (ex natura), that w h i c h does not finish
Physis a n d technê are, in this way, the B e i n g of B e i n g , the same finishing [celle qui n'en finit pas de finir] a n d about w h i c h it remains
that plays itself out twice, w i t h a difference to w h i c h I w i l l have to for us to t h i n k its law and to discover just what is at stake in it.
return. F o r the m o m e n t , let me just a d d that history is that general It is necessary, here, to i n c l u d e a consideration of the extremely
realm of t w i s t i n g or displacement that affects this difference. p r o n o u n c e d position in w h i c h our t h i n k i n g puts war, between "na-
I20 War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê 121

ture" and "technology." (Also note the " w h o l l y natural" a m b i g u i t y where this is "power" (as the prince, State, n a t i o n , people, father-
of our understanding of such a sentence: is it a matter of war c o n - land, a n d so on).
sidered as an i n t e r m e d i a r y p o s i t i o n between nature a n d t e c h n o l - T h i s is w h y accusing a sovereign power of w a n t i n g war so o b v i -
ogy, or is it a matter of war w h i c h takes place between nature and ously falls short of the mark. T h e execution of this desire [vouloir]
technology? Precisely speaking, we are ready to t h i n k these two for war is not o n l y one of the proper ends of the executive organ; it
things together.) W a r is what there is that is most and/or least "nat- also represents the extreme m o d e of these ends. So that it is no
u r a l . " It arises f r o m the most brutal instincts and/or f r o m the c o l d - longer an organ w i t h regard to the execution of such desire; i n -
est calculation, and so o n . T h i s position is not w i t h o u t certain c o n - stead, it is sovereignty itself in its finishing—insofar as we t h i n k
nections to that place between "art" a n d "nature" that we give to sovereignty a c c o r d i n g to the o n l y concept that is at o u r disposal.
"beauty." T h i s p o s i t i o n , w h i c h i s b o t h p r o b l e m a t i c a n d p r i v i - In war, there is s o m e t h i n g that i m m e d i a t e l y goes b e y o n d all the
l e g e d — a n d is itself replayed twice between two orders, that of art possible goals of war, whether they be defensive or offensive: the
a n d war, considered in some way to be opposed to one a n o t h e r — a c c o m p l i s h m e n t of the Sovereign as such in a relation of absolute
is not w i t h o u t importance. We w i l l return to this below. opposition w i t h another Sovereign. W a r is indissociably the physis
a n d technê of sovereignty. Its law, the exception of its law, has as its
c o u n t e r p o i n t the law of grace: b u t w i t h the latter, the Sovereign
E v e r y c o n s i d e r a t i o n about ends leads back to sovereignty. T h e never identifies itself nor executes itself vis-à-vis the other.
power of ends, as the power of the ultimate or extreme, resides in a If it were necessary, one c o u l d find a certain c o n f i r m a t i o n [of
sovereignty. A n d every end, as such, is necessarily ordered by a sov- this] in the very peculiar s y m b o l i c or fantastical weight of the i n -
ereign end (a "sovereign good"). For the whole of our t h i n k i n g , the struments and m a c h i n e r y of war. It is difficult to deny that even if
E n d is in Sovereignty, and Sovereignty is in the E n d . T h e absolute the G u l f W a r gave rise to an explicit discourse of sovereignty o n l y
transcendence, or the abyss, or the mystery of supreme ends that is in an awkward and cursory manner, that is, in the form of a denial,
f o u n d all t h r o u g h o u t the t r a d i t i o n — f o r example, the i m p o s s i b i l - it certainly aroused an exceptional d e p l o y m e n t of the images of
ity of d e t e r m i n i n g the "content" of the Platonic G o o d or the K a n t - tanks, jets, missiles, a n d helmeted soldiers, images saturated w i t h
ian L a w — i s held firmly w i t h i n this circle: that w h i c h is sovereign is s y m b o l i c weight. It even deployed images of s y m b o l i c saturation
final, that w h i c h is final is sovereign. itself, w h i c h c o u l d well constitute a trait of sovereign finishing.
Sovereignty is the power of execution or the power of finishing as Objects lose their s y m b o l i c character to the extent that their
such, absolutely so and w i t h o u t any further subordination to some- technicity grows, at least that technicity posited in terms of func-
t h i n g else (to another end). D i v i n e creation a n d the royal decision tionality (in terms of means); but this does not prevent the object
compose its double image: to make or u n m a k e a w o r l d , to s u b m i t f r o m being s y m b o l i c a l l y (or fantastically) invested again. W i t h re-
to a w i l l , to designate an enemy. A l t h o u g h anticipated by the leg- gard to this, t h i n k of a sickle, a hammer, a set of gears, and even a
islative power a n d c o n t r o l l e d by the judicial power, this is w h y the c i r c u i t board. But today (and in the past, for that matter), there is
executive power attains to an exceptional state [of power] in war; no better place for such s y m b o l i s m to adhere to f u n c t i o n in such
in spite of everything, however, this occurrence touches u p o n (de an i m m e d i a t e l y obvious m a n n e r as in the images of the weapons
jure and de facto) the very extremity of decision m a k i n g and power of war. Such adherence u n d o u b t e d l y comes f r o m the fact that this
(powerful decision a n d decisive power) where it accomplishes its image does not present a tool of destruction, but rather the affir-
"executive" essence most properly, the sovereign essence of B e i n g — m a t i o n of the sovereign right of the sovereign power to execute a
122 War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne 123

sovereign d e s t r u c t i o n , or to execute itself in d e s t r u c t i o n , as D e - represent his absolute a n d final character, his sovereignty, a n d its
struction (of the other sovereign). T h i s is not really a f u n c t i o n ; it is armed forces must carry the flag of his glory.
a destination: to give and receive collective death, death sublimated It is at this very p o i n t that the law of the r e p u b l i c — o f any k i n d
i n t o the destiny of the c o m m u n i t y , the c o m m u n i t y identified in a of r e p u b l i c , even today's r e p u b l i c s — i n e v i t a b l y comes up against
sovereign exposition to death. (Is D e a t h the true Sovereign in this [touche] the exception of the p r i n c e , whatever the f o r m of govern-
w h o l e affair? We w i l l c o m e back to this.) m e n t m i g h t be. E v e n today, d e m o c r a c y has not p r o f o u n d l y dis-
T h u s , war borders on art. T h i s is not to say that it borders on the placed this schema; it has o n l y suppressed or repressed it, back into
art of war, the technology of the strategist; it is to say, rather, that it the shadow of its o w n uncertainties (that is, the uncertainty c o n -
borders on art understood absolutely in its m o d e r n sense, technê as c e r n i n g its o w n sovereignty, an u n c e r t a i n t y that even today re-
a m o d e of the execution of B e i n g , as its m o d e of finishing in the m a i n s cosubstantial w i t h i t ) . L i k e w h a t is repressed, t h e n , the
explosive brilliance [éclat] of the beautiful a n d sublime, that d o u - schema of the sovereign exception never stops returning, a n d it re-
bled rivalry for sovereignty that occurs w i t h i n the blossoming [éclo- turns as the perversion of democracy, whether this return happens
sion] of physis. (Moreover, physis no longer takes place except as me- in the i n n u m e r a b l e coups d'etat of its history or in b e c o m i n g to-
diated through technê, or one c o u l d say that it never takes place " i n talitarian (where the exception transforms itself i n t o a d o u b l i n g of
itself," or in any other way, except as the image of the sovereignty of the structure of the State by another [structure] w h i c h incarnates
techne.) U n d o u b t e d l y , the aestheticization of the warlike spectacle true sovereignty).
also comes f r o m denial [dénégation] or d i s s i m u l a t i o n . B u t this m a - Since W o r l d W a r I, however, it is democracy as s u c h — s u c h as it
n i p u l a t i o n does not exhaust an aesthetic (a sensible presentation) has ended up presenting itself as the general p r i n c i p l e of h u m a n -
of the destiny of c o m m u n i t y : the death of i n d i v i d u a l s is i m m e d i - ity, i f not h u m a n i t y ' s E n d — t h a t has been supposedly e n d o w e d
ately recuperated w i t h i n the figure of the Sovereign Leader or N a - w i t h the right to war, thereby transforming war i n t o the defense of
t i o n where the c o m m u n i t y finds its finishing. W a r is the m o n u - the res publica of h u m a n i t y . T h i s presupposes that a neutral c o u n -
ment, the festival, the somber and pure sign of the c o m m u n i t y in try (the U n i t e d S t a t e s — w h e n one thinks about it, as l o n g as there
its sovereignty. are several sovereigns, neutrality is a strange f o r m of sovereignty)
decides to take leave of its neutral p o s i t i o n in the name of h u m a n
rights, a n d that it explicitly designate as its enemy, not a people or
In essence, war is collective, a n d the collectivity that is e n d o w e d a n a t i o n , but governments judged to be dangerous to the g o o d of
w i t h sovereignty (the K i n g d o m , State, or E m p i r e ) is by definition all peoples ("civilized" . . . ). In w o r l d war, democracy does not go
endowed w i t h the right to war (as T h o m a s A q u i n a s writes, "bellum to war against a sovereign ( G e r m a n y a n d the countries of the A l -
particulare non proprie dicitur"). T h e entire history of the concept liance), but against bad leaders.
of war demonstrates that its d e t e r m i n a t i o n is located w i t h i n the ( N o t e added 6 A p r i l 1991: today, in the face of the suppression
constant play between its relation w i t h the res publica (the c o m - of the K u r d s by the same sovereign leader on w h o m was inflicted
m o n w e a l t h as good a n d end i n itself) a n d its relation w i t h the Prin- the "police action" of law, the Powers hesitate between respect for
ceps (the p r i n c i p l e a n d principate o f sovereign authority). N o t o n l y his sovereignty w i t h i n his o w n borders a n d an affirmation by the
is the latter in charge of the former, not o n l y is the Prince in pos- "international c o m m u n i t y " of a right to interfere in the matters of
session of the a r m e d forces necessary to the [maintenance of the] certain countries. . . . Today, there is no better way to illusttate the
R e p u b l i c , but the c o m m o n w e a l t h as s u c h m u s t also present a n d inconsistencies a n d aporias that b e l o n g to the c o u p l i n g of "inter-
124 War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê 125

national law" a n d "sovereignty." T h i s said, however, it is evidently A u g u s t i n e to Boniface. Sparta was that state w h i c h gave itself war
not these conceptual difficulties that motivate the various different as the end of its structure a n d formation, a n d Plato subjected it to
judgments and hesitations. . . . These difficulties do express the ac- a severe critique. W h a t constitutes the p r i n c i p l e of final peace has
tual state of a w o r l d e n c u m b e r e d by sovereignty, but it is a w o r l d u n d o u b t e d l y shifted more than once, not o n l y in f a c t — w h i c h is
that does not k n o w h o w to displace or go beyond sovereignty.) more than evident, but in theory itself (for example, by m i x i n g the
In order for the decision to go to w a r — a g a i n s t Germany, against logic of "peace" together w i t h a logic of religious c o n v e r s i o n , or
I r a q — i n the name of h u m a n rights to become a decision (and not w i t h a logic of the occupation of a territory claimed as an i n h e r i -
a wish), it was necessary that this decision take f o r m a n d force in tance). Nonetheless, the general theoretical regulation of Western
a n d by way of the sovereignty of a S t a t e — a n d / o r an alliance of war remains that of pacificatory war (a m o t i f that has been ex-
States. W h e n one or several States speak in the name of the rights tended so far as to i n c l u d e the e x p o r t a t i o n of certain c o l o n i a l i s t
of m a n , and, under this name, put to use the prerogatives of the jus forms of "peace"). Western war denies itself as sovereign end, a n d
belli, this continues to operate as a sovereign decision (or an alliance its denial, of course, constitutes its admission.
of such decisions). In a sense, this is even an increase of sovereignty It w o u l d be necessary here to take the t i m e to analyze the c o m -
in comparison w i t h that of the prince. T h i s is why, in the G u l f War, plex play between the three great m o n o t h e i s m s " o f the B o o k , "
the tug of war [le va-et-vient] between the authority of the U n i t e d w h i c h are also the three monotheisms " o f c o m m u n i t y " a n d , there-
Nations and the U n i t e d States (and, if one considers it carefully, the fore, of sovereignty. A l t h o u g h each of t h e m has its o w n particular
authority of some other States as well) has been so complex and so complexity, b o t h Israelite (at least u n t i l the destruction the T e m -
simple at the same t i m e , so delicate a n d so indelicate. T h e legiti- ple) and Islamic m o n o t h e i s m reserve a place for a p r i n c i p l e of war
macy w i t h o u t sovereignty of "international law" needed a sovereign that does go together [se confond] w i t h the peace of the peoples.
technê—and not just a means of execution, as we have been made C h r i s t i a n m o n o t h e i s m presents another complexity, w h i c h mixes
to believe. B u t this sovereign, in t u r n , needed the legitimacy of h u - the m o d e l of the pax romana together w i t h the m o d e l of the war
m a n rights in order to establish its decisions and pretensions, w h i c h against the Infidels. E v e n as a religion of love, it does not s i m p l y
c o u l d o n l y be of global d i m e n s i o n s , just like the p r i n c i p l e s a n d go together w i t h a p r i n c i p l e of peace: for there are enemies of love,
promises of the law (which itself still remains w i t h o u t f o u n d a t i o n , where d i v i n e love is of another essence than h u m a n love. In the
that is, w i t h o u t sovereignty and w i t h o u t "finishing"). process of its b e c o m i n g - m o d e r n , a process it has been engaged in
f r o m the very start, C h r i s t i a n love recuperates w i t h i n itself the
irenic principle of Greek philosophy (which presupposes the break-
H e r e , as everywhere else, it is solely a q u e s t i o n of the p u b l i c d o w n of the E p i c and imitates this b r e a k d o w n in the installation
G o o d and o f Peace. F r o m Plato a n d Aristotle t o C h r i s t i a n a n d Re- of logos) a n d becomes entirely a p r i n c i p l e of peace, a n d peace in
p u b l i c a n doctrines, the w h o l e history o f o u r t h i n k i n g about war terms of universal h u m a n rights. It is here that the god of love loses
testifies to this. N o t that l o n g ago, H e n r y Kissinger declared "the his d i v i n i t y little by little, a n d love in peace loses its sovereignty.
goal of all wars is to ensure a durable peace," a n d his j u d g m e n t of- T h e peace of h u m a n i s m is w i t h o u t force or grandeur; it is n o t h i n g
fered there was u p h e l d (or weakened?) by twenty-five centuries of other than the enervation of war.
p h i l o s o p h i c a l , theological, ethical, a n d j u r i d i c a l repetition. West- D e p r i v e d of the T e m p l e a n d of any place for sovereignty, State,
ern [occidentale] war always has peace as its end, even to such a ex- a n d soil, Jewish m o n o t h e i s m needs to be annihilated, somewhere
tent that it is necessary to "battle peacefully," as was put forth f r o m b e y o n d war itself [dans un au-delà de la guerre même], precisely be-
126 War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne 127

cause of this lack of sovereignty. On the other side, taken up in the eignty of peace is not perfectly symmetrical w i t h the sovereignty of
service of W e s t e r n statism a n d n a t i o n a l i s m , the Islamic jihad war. Instead, peace w o u l d be the "supreme" g o o d , where its su-
reignites the flame of the Crusades in the face of peace and the rule premacy c o u l d not manifest itself as such, either in glory, power,
[police] of law. In each instance, however, Jewish m o n o t h e i s m can or collective i d e n t i f i c a t i o n . T h e w h i t e dove remains. . . . Peace
identify a n d s u m m o n [assigner] anew the s u b l i m e Sovereignty it w o u l d be the supremacy of the absence of any supreme d i s t i n c t i o n ,
puts i n t o play; while at every m o m e n t , Islam can take the absolute the absence of exception at the heart of any rule, everywhere i n -
Sovereignty that seals its c o m m u n i t y a n d plunge into c o n t e m p l a - definitely a n d equally closed in on itself. B u t , in this way, peace
t i o n a n d abandonment. In this way, then, triple m o n o t h e i s m is po- cannot fail to have, for the whole of our culture, some aspect of re-
s i t i o n e d w i t h i n a d o u b l e regime that is c o n s t i t u t e d , on the one n u n c i a t i o n w i t h i n it. T h i s is because, in the end, a n y t h i n g that is
h a n d , by the war of Sovereignties a n d , on the other, by the tension properly to be called Sovereignty requires the incandescence of the
between its execution a n d its r e t r e a t — a tension that occurs in each exception a n d the identifiable d i s t i n c t i o n of its finishing. (In fact,
one of t h e m , a n d between t h e m . do we ever identify a peace, presented in person, except under the
B u t as such, the symbiosis of this triple m o n o t h e i s m , a n d its n a m e a n d i n s i g n i a of an e m p i r e — p a x romana, pax americanaî)
other/same philosophical m o n o l o g i s m , presents itself under a sign T h e sovereignty of law, w h i c h w o u l d necessarily structure peace,
of the war of principles: sovereign war (that of three gods at war w i t h is inevitably, a n d to however s m a l l an extent, sovereignty by de-
the triple god) versus pacificatory w a r — o r again, the confrontation fault—whereas true sovereignty takes place not o n l y in plenitude
between sovereign war and sovereign peace. T h i s confrontation is but in excess a n d as excess. E v e n now, this f u n d a m e n t a l d i s p o s i -
present in p h i l o s o p h y itself, between an absolute appeal for peace t i o n prevents war f r o m ever s i m p l y b e c o m i n g a technique destined
(that demanded by the logos) and incessantly resorting to the schema to enlist force i n t o the service of right, w i t h o u t it also always being
of the polemos (also demanded by the logos, through w h i c h it m e d i - the technê of sovereign affirmation.
ates itself). B u t the sovereignty of peace remains a promised and/or
ideal sovereignty, w h i l e the sovereignty of war is already given. It
leaves intact the trace of divine refulgence f o u n d w i t h i n the polemos, It is not sufficient, therefore, to keep r e t u r n i n g to the final exi-
the trace of the epic song, and of royal privilege. It is in this way that gency of peace, any more than it is sufficient to denounce the i l l u -
even today, in philosophy and in all the nerve centers of our culture, sion of such an a i m a n d rely on the realism of force. In essence,
war undertaken for peace can never stop being war for war's sake, these two different faces of the same attitude have regulated o u r
and against peace. T h i s is true no matter what course such war may c o m p o r t m e n t to the recent war, by means of the total or partial re-
take. T e c h n o l o g y in the service of peace cannot avoid being taken pression of what I have attempted to lay out here. To remain at this
up again i n t o the technê of sovereignty, that is, into Sovereignty as p o i n t , however, is to prepare the way for the wars to c o m e — a n d
technê, the execution a n d finishing of the c o m m u n i t y , where c o m - w i t h o u t even b o t h e r i n g to k n o w if the restraint that has been
m u n i t y allegedly has n o t h i n g to do w i t h physis and does not desire s h o w n in certain aspects of c o n d u c t i n g this war (to such an extent
its "nature" f r o m technêpolitike. (In this regard, it w o u l d be neces- that there was not "truly" a war, although there has been all the de-
sary to show how, w i t h the Greeks, technê politike in principle splits sirable destruction) does not, in fact, represent a small step toward
itself into sovereign technê and the technê of justice or law, thereby a complete "relegitimation" of war, where the conditions of such a
m a k i n g the project of suturing them together impossible). possibility w o u l d not be as far away as one w o u l d have l i k e d to be-
It follows f r o m this that, w h e n a c l a i m to it is made, the sover- lieve or been led to believe.
128 War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne 129

At this point, one m i g h t object that the emphasis placed on the Ecotechnics [Écotechnie]
symbolic order of sovereignty denies, either at the same time or in
t u r n , the authenticity of the need for law and the play of economic A l l that said, it still remains that the persistence [rémanence] or
forces. N o t at all, as we w i l l see. Rather, a symbolic order so widely reinvention of war does not occur outside history, even if our epoch
and deeply woven into the whole culture produces all its effects in appears to be the great suspension of the historicity by w h i c h we
the real (and thus, for example, in economy and law; in truth, how- have been carried along. T h e conflict between the police a n d the
ever, none of these "orders" s i m p l y comes f r o m the symbolic or the bellum proprie dictum is also the effect of a historical displacement
r e a l . . . ). It is important not to misunderstand these effects. Just as of great importance, a n d of great consequence, for war.
m u c h as art, a n y t h i n g that is properly to be called war is absolutely T h e first " w o r l d w i d e " w a r corresponds to the emergence of a
archaic in its symbolic character, w h i c h indicates that it escapes from schema of w o r l d w i d e proportions, w h i c h imposes itself on the sov-
being a part of "history" u n d e r s t o o d as the progress of a linear ereigns themselves. T h u s , war/police action [la guerre-police] is de-
and/or cumulative time. B u t it returns to this w h e n it is a matter of localized; for example, it has less to do w i t h the borders of the sov-
o p e n i n g anew a certain space w i t h i n this time: the space of the pre- ereign States themselves t h a n w i t h the m u l t i p l e forms of the
sentation of Sovereignty. T h i s "archaism" (again, like that of art) thus "presence" of these States that span the w o r l d (interests, zones of
obeys laws that are more deeply set w i t h i n our civilization, in such influence, a n d so o n ) . As s u c h , war/police action also becomes a
a way as to indicate that it is s o m e t h i n g more than a regrettable confrontation of "worldviews": a "worldview" is never the attribute
h o l d o v e r [ fâcheuse survivance]. B u t it is precisely because it is not of sovereignty; by definition, sovereignty is higher than any "view,"
consistent to treat war like a regrettable holdover f r o m a bygone age, and the " w o r l d " is the i m p r i n t of its decision. T h e powers have the
always tendentiously effaced in the progress a n d project of a global w o r l d as the space given for the play of their sovereignties. B u t
humanity, that it is all the more important and urgent to t h i n k what w h e n this space is saturated a n d the play closed off, the w o r l d as
is at stake in its "archaism," a n d to t h i n k this for ourselves today. such becomes a p r o b l e m . It is no longer certain that the finish of
( A t h o r o u g h e x a m i n a t i o n o f this space o f sovereignty a n d war this w o r l d can be envisaged in the same way that the w o r l d of sov-
o b v i o u s l y w o u l d require s o m e t h i n g quite different f r o m w h a t I ereigns was. T h e w o r l d , that is, m a n or global humanity, is not the
have just o u t l i n e d above. T h i s w o u l d be an enormous project, in s u m total of h u m a n i t y or the installation of a new sovereignty (con-
particular as regards offering different analyses of the "sacred." Sov- trary to what h u m a n i s m sought a n d desired, even to the p o i n t of
ereignty has always been m i x e d up w i t h the "sacred" t h r o u g h the exhaustion). T h e war/police action o f global h u m a n i t y puts the
m e c h a n i s m of exception a n d excess, but the implications of sover- ends of "man" directly i n t o play, whereas sovereign war exposes the
eignty have still not been as clearly thought out as those of the "sa- end itself. A n d just as w a r — a n d a r t — c o m p o s e d the technai of sov-
cred" itself (as though this is the effect of an obscure interest in not ereignty, so g l o b a l h u m a n i t y has no techne of its o w n : however
k n o w i n g too m u c h about the sovereignty that is always at w o r k ) . thoroughly "technological" our culture m a y be, it is o n l y technê in
B u t there w o u l d also need to be a lot of w o r k done w i t h regard to suspension. It is not surprising that war haunts us. . . .
a psychoanalysis that c o u l d manage, in a way different f r o m what As a corollary to the development of a w o r l d market, one can see
has always been done, to treat collectivity or c o m m u n i t y as such in the i n v e n t i o n of w o r l d war the result of all the wars that a c c o m -
( w h i c h F r e u d always seems to s u b m i t , volens nolens, to the schema panied the creation of the contemporary w o r l d : on the one h a n d ,
of the Sovereign), not to m e n t i o n the sexual difference that is a l - there are the A m e r i c a n R e v o l u t i o n a r y W a r a n d C i v i l War, wars in
ways p u t i n t o play v i a war . . . ). the tradition of sovereign war a n d bearing the self-affirmation of a
130 War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne 131

new a n d distinct Sovereignty (during the nineteenth century, these O n e can see that the p r o b l e m is radical. It is not solely a matter of
served as the m o d e l for the wars and/or f o u n d i n g of nations, p r i n - c o m b i n i n g the needs of c o o r d i n a t i o n , that is, to see h o w interna-
cipally the new G e r m a n y ; even later, this m o d e l was inherited by tional cooperation goes together w i t h the respect for the sovereign
various colonies); on the other h a n d , there is the war of liberation rights of States. It is also not solely a matter of i n v e n t i n g n e w
in the name of h u m a n k i n d , in the name of its "natural" rights a n d politico-juridical forms (whether one goes in the direction of the de-
fraternity, such as it was invented in the F r e n c h R e v o l u t i o n . It is liberative A s s e m b l y or in the direction of a global Federation, there
this second m o d e l that no longer corresponds strictly to the sover- is no leaving these aporias b e h i n d ) . S u c h forms h o l d fast to the
eign schema: it oscillates between a general revolt against the very g r o u n d , a n d to g r o u n d i n g per se. Moreover, it is one of the tasks of
order of sovereigns (who are called tyrants, a t e r m that makes an law a n d its formalism to b r i n g to light the w o r k of g r o u n d i n g that
appeal for a possible legitimacy of rebellion w i t h i n the ethico-ju- goes on in the p u r i f y i n g of concepts. B u t clearly, law itself does not
r i d i c a l tradition) a n d a p o l i c e d a d m i n i s t r a t i o n o f h u m a n k i n d , have a f o r m for what w o u l d need to be its o w n sovereignty.
w h i c h restrains itself f r o m abusing its governance. T h e p r o b l e m is put forward clearly, a n d in a decisive manner, at
As such, then, the global state of war expresses a simple need, as the very place o f s o v e r e i g n t y — o r o f the E n d .
either its cause or its effect: it needs an authority that goes b e y o n d T h e p r o b l e m is not a matter of fixing up [aménager] sovereignty:
that of Sovereigns e n d o w e d w i t h the right to war. Strictly speak- in essence, sovereignty is untreatable, but the untreatable essence
i n g , there is no place for this need w i t h i n the space a n d logic of of sovereignty, in fact, no longer belongs to a w o r l d that is
sovereignty. M o r e precisely, it can be analyzed in one of the f o l - "global." T h u s , the p r o b l e m is indeed one of g r o u n d i n g something
l o w i n g ways: either this authority w o u l d have to be a global sover- in an entirely n e w way, s o m e t h i n g for w h i c h there are neither rea-
eignty, w h i c h c o u l d not be in a state of war w i t h anyone on earth sons (why? for what? for w h o m is there or must there be a global
(but o n l y w i t h all the galactic empires o f science f i c t i o n , w h i c h world?) nor any applicable models. G l o b a l h u m a n i t y , or m a n after
demonstrates that we really o n l y have one m o d e l at our disposal h u m a n i s m , is exposed to a l i m i t or an abyss of g r o u n d i n g , of e n d
f r o m w h i c h to extrapolate. . . . ); or this authority is of another na- a n d exemplarity.
ture, a n d of another o r i g i n (and end), than that of sovereignty. H o w e v e r relative it m a y be, however m i x e d up it is w i t h the rise
a n d fall of m a n y u n c o n v i n c i n g a n d particularist claims to "sover-
eignty," the "return of war" expresses essentially a need or impulse
F r o m the League of N a t i o n s to the U n i t e d N a t i o n s , there has for sovereignty. N o t o n l y do we have n o t h i n g other than models
been an incessant p u t t i n g into play of the aporias of such "supra- of sovereignty, but Sovereignty in itself is also a p r i n c i p a l m o d e l
sovereignty," b o t h f r o m the standpoint of its legitimate foundation or schema of " c i v i l i z a t i o n " where " g l o b a l i z a t i o n " is at w o r k . It is
a n d f r o m the standpoint of its capacity to e n d o w itself w i t h an ef- on the m o d e l or schema of "that w h i c h has n o t h i n g above itself,"
fective force. To different degrees, analogous problems are posed of the unsurpassable, the u n c o n d i t i o n a l , or the n o n s u b o r d i n a b l e .
by the various transnational organizations of A f r i c a n or A s i a n It is the m o d e l o f all this quo magis non dici potest where o r i g i n ,
States. In yet another way, E u r o p e itself is c o m i n g up against the p r i n c i p l e , e n d , finishing, leader, a n d b r i l l i a n c e [éclat] c o m e to-
p r o b l e m of inter-, trans-, or supranational sovereignty; in this case, gether again for us. . . . B u t global h u m a n i t y is another sort of ex-
it is not p r i n c i p a l l y a p r o b l e m that pertains to war, except as re- tremity, another quo magis. . . , to w h i c h this m o d e l no longer
gards the transformations of the two great m i l i t a r y alliances already pertains.
underway. A l t h o u g h the d o m i n i o n of this m o d e l is m a i n t a i n e d by default,
132 War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê 133

o n l y law appears to elude it. T h i s is because, right away, law sets it- question of war, except by means of ever more war, u n t i l we have
self up between first principles and final ends (the sovereign space crossed through this problematic field.
is the figure; the juridical space is the interval). L a w consents to let H o w [is one] to t h i n k w i t h o u t e n d , w i t h o u t finishing, w i t h o u t
principles a n d ends fall under an authority other than its o w n , and s o v e r e i g n t y — a n d , in this, w i t h o u t resigning oneself to a weak, i n -
this consent belongs to its structure. It thus escapes from the m o d e l s t r u m e n t a l , a n d slavishly h u m a n i s t t h i n k i n g o f the law (and/or
o n l y in order to designate anew the places where the m o d e l applies: " c o m m u n i c a t i o n , " "justice," the " i n d i v i d u a l , " the " c o m m u n i t y " —
at each of the two extremities, p r i n c i p l e s a n d ends. Sovereignty all of w h i c h are concepts that are debilitated insofar as there has
cannot stop h a u n t i n g us, since it is at these extremities that law, of been no response to this question)?
its o w n accord, locates authority [l'instance] as the exception a n d
the excess, w h i c h is also the authority of exemplarity.
W i t h i n such exemplarity, there is always an exception that pro- It is not sufficient, however, to ask the question in this way. Even
vides, or gives, the rule. ( T h u s , the sovereign warrior was able to it if is w i t h o u t reason, e n d , or figure, it is clearly the case that the
provide a model that d i d not simply lead to battle. In the end, how- "global (dis)order" has b e h i n d it all the effectiveness of what we call
ever, the history of sovereignties is a history of devastation. . . . ) But "planetary technology" and " w o r l d economy": the double sign of a
w i t h i n the dissolution of exemplarity there are two elements: on the single network of the reciprocity of causes and effects, of the c i r c u -
one h a n d , the exception into w h i c h the rule is reabsorbed; on the larity of ends and means. In fact, this network or order is what is
other, a rule w i t h o u t example (the law), that is, w i t h o u t finish. w i t h o u t - e n d [sans-fin], but w i t h o u t - e n d in terms of millions of d o l -
Ever since the i n v e n t i o n of "natural" m a n (an expression where lars a n d y e n , i n terms o f m i l l i o n s o f therms, kilowatts, o p t i c a l
"natural" really signifies "technological"), we have insisted on clos- fibers, megabytes. If the w o r l d is a w o r l d today, then it is p r i m a r i l y
i n g o u r eyes to the absence of the foundation of l a w — a n d , along a w o r l d according to this d o u b l e sign. L e t us call this ecotechnics.
w i t h this, we have insisted on i g n o r i n g the foundational role sov- It is remarkable that the c o u n t r y w h i c h has thus far been the
ereignty plays in the schema of the exception (divine creation, orig- s y m b o l o f t r i u m p h a n t ecotechnics also concentrates w i t h i n itself
inary violence, the f o u n d i n g hero, the royal race, imperial glory, the the figure of the sovereign State (supported by the arche-law of its
soldier's sacrifice, the genius at w o r k , the subject of one's o w n law, foundation and by the hegemony of its d o m i n a t i o n ) a n d the figure
the subject w i t h o u t faith or law . . . ). In this way, we have ignored of the law (present in its foundation, a n d thought to structure "civil
what is t r u l y at stake in war. By way of the j u d g m e n t that war is society"). T h e Soviet w o r l d was supposed to have represented the
" e v i l , " even as an evil w h i c h is sometimes "necessary," we repress revolution that both reverses a n d goes b e y o n d this triple determi-
the t r u t h that war is the m o d e l of executive and finitive [ finitrice] nation, restoring a s o c i a l - h u m a n whole in itself as end. In fact, this
technê, as l o n g as the end is thought as sovereign end; in a parallel w o r l d was not the w o r l d of the State, or law, or ecotechnics, but a
manner, beneath the j u d g m e n t that the law is a " g o o d , " but a for- p a i n f u l l y c o n t o r t e d i m i t a t i o n of the three a n d their various rela-
m a l g o o d w i t h o u t any force, we repress the t r u t h that the law tions, put to the service of the pure appropriation of power. B u t it
w h i c h is w h o l l y w i t h o u t any m o d e l or f o u n d a t i o n , w h e n it is not is no less remarkable that these two entities shared, in their differ-
governed by sovereignty, represents a technê w i t h o u t e n d . T h i s is ence a n d opposition (in the " C o l d W a r " of two Sovereigns fixed or
what our t h i n k i n g does not k n o w h o w to deal w i t h (except to c o n - frozen in different ways), as a k i n d of asymptote or c o m m o n line of
fine it in "art," for better or worse) a n d what in every technology flight, s o m e t h i n g that one w o u l d have to call sovereignty w i t h o u t
creates fear in o u r t h i n k i n g . We w i l l not have responded to the sovereignty, to the extent that this w o r d a n d its schema remain i n -
War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne 135
134

evitable: that is, the supreme d o m i n a t i o n of w h a t w o u l d neither apart, t r a m p l i n g d o w n , c i v i l i z e d violence, a n d the brutalities that

have the brilliance [éclat] of origin nor the glory of accomplishment are mere caricatures of ancient, sacred violence. W a r is nowhere and

in a sovereign presence; a l t h o u g h there was no G o d , no hero, no everywhere, related to any e n d w i t h o u t any longer being related to

genius, there r e m a i n e d the logic of the subject of exception, the itself as supreme e n d . In a sense, then, ecotechnics is also pure

subject w i t h o u t the law of its o w n law, a n d there remained an exe- techne, the pure technê of nonsovereignty: b u t because the e m p t y

c u t i o n , an indefinite and u n e n d i n g finishing of this logic. Ecotech- place of sovereignty remains o c c u p i e d , e n c u m b e r e d by this very

nics m i g h t be the last figure w i t h o u t figure of the world's slow drift v o i d , ecotechnics does not attain toward another t h i n k i n g of the end

i n t o sovereignty w i t h o u t sovereignty, i n t o finishing w i t h o u t e n d . w i t h o u t end. By way of the administration a n d control of "compe-


t i t i o n , " ecotechnics substitutes c r u s h i n g blows for sovereignty.
In this way, t h e n , the recent war m i g h t have been a p o w e r f u l
resurgence of sovereignty (while perhaps w a r n i n g us to expect o t h -
ers) a n d , at the same t i m e , the o p e n i n g of a passage that leads to
the regime (or reign?) of sovereignty w i t h o u t sovereignty, a passage F r o m n o w o n , then, ecotechnics is the name for " p o l i t i c a l econ-

that opens up f r o m inside war itself. B u t just as there has been an omy," because according to our t h i n k i n g , if there is no sovereignty,

attempt to skirt the issue of war by m a k i n g it i n t o a police action, then there can be no politics. T h e r e is no longer any polis since the

there has been an attempt to avoid the necessary c o u p l i n g of vic- oikos is everywhere: the h o u s e k e e p i n g of the w o r l d as a single

tory and defeat by m a k i n g it a matter of negotiation, where what is h o u s e h o l d , w i t h " h u m a n i t y " for a mother, "law" for a father.

at stake is " i n t e r n a t i o n a l law" as the guarantor of ecotechnics. At B u t it is clearly the case that this b i g f a m i l y does not have a fa-

the same t i m e , all sides have refused to c o u n t the dead in a clear ther or a mother, a n d that, in the e n d , it is no more oikos than po-

way (to say n o t h i n g of the d i s t i n c t i o n between dead soldiers a n d lis, (ecology: W h a t semantics, what space, what w o r l d can it offer?)

dead civilians): given the plausible report of at least one dead (in T h i s situation can be s u m m a r i z e d in three points:

the N o r t h , in the W e s t . . . ) for every five h u n d r e d dead (in the 1. It i m p l i e s a triple d i v i s i o n that is in no way a sharing of sover-

S o u t h , in the E a s t . . . ), it seems that victory a n d defeat are grow- eignties: the d i v i s i o n of the rich f r o m the poor; the d i v i s i o n of the

i n g closer together, terms w h i c h themselves are as untenable as they integrated f r o m the excluded; a n d the d i v i s i o n of the N o r t h f r o m

are insignificant. Finally, as everyone knows perfectly w e l l , the true the S o u t h . T h e s e three d i m e n s i o n s do not overlap as easily as is

realm of this war has revealed itself to be that of ecotechnical war, sometimes presented, but this is not the place to speak to that. It is

or c o n f r o n t a t i o n , a destructive a n d appropriative m a n e u v e r i n g solely a matter, here, of e m p h a s i z i n g that these d i v i s i o n s i m p l y

w i t h o u t sovereign brilliance. S u c h war yields n o t h i n g to real war struggles a n d conflicts of great violence, where every consideration

as far as power a n d the technologies of r u i n a t i o n a n d conquest are of sovereignty is in vain a n d always b o r r o w e d . In a d d i t i o n , if the

concerned. schema of "class struggle" hides itself (and u n d o u b t e d l y , it is no

T h e class struggle was supposed to be the other of b o t h sovereign longer even admissible, at least in a certain historical d i m e n s i o n ) ,

war and ecotechnical war. If one claims that this struggle is no longer then n o t h i n g remains to prevent violence f r o m being camouflaged

taking place, or that it no longer has a place in w h i c h to take place, as ecotechnical c o m p e t i t i o n . Or rather, n o t h i n g remains except for

then one is also saying that there is no conflict outside of sovereign bare justice: B u t what is a justice that w o u l d not be the telos o f a

war (called a "police [action]," in order to be d e n i e d at the very history, or the privilege of a sovereignty? It is necessary, t h e n , to

p o i n t of its return) and ecotechnical war (which is called "competi- learn h o w to t h i n k this e m p t y place. . . .

tion"). N o w h e r e , then, is there war, a n d everywhere there is tearing 2. Ecotechnics damages, weakens, and upsets the f u n c t i o n i n g of
136 War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê 137

all sovereignties, except for those that in reality c o i n c i d e w i t h of m a k i n g it seem as though it has been disposed of or sublimated.
ecotechnical power. N a t i o n a l i s m s , whether they be of an ancient T h i s s p a c i n g of the w o r l d is itself the empty place of s o v e r e i g n t y
lineage or of recent extraction, deliver themselves up to the painful T h a t is, it is the e m p t y place of the e n d , the e m p t y place of the
i m i t a t i o n s of a m u m m i f i e d sovereignty. T h e current space of sov- c o m m o n g o o d , and the e m p t y place of the c o m m o n as a good. Or
ereignty, w h i c h c a n n o t be recuperated by any c o s m o p o l i t a n i s m i f y o u like, it is the empty place of justice (at the f o u n d a t i o n o f the
(because c o s m o p o l i t a n i s m is always the dreamlike opposite of the law). W h e n the place of sovereignty is empty, neither the essence
sovereign order), w h i c h is also the space of the finishing of identity of the "good," nor that of the " c o m m o n , " nor the c o m m o n essence
in general, is solely a distended space full of holes, where n o t h i n g of the g o o d can be assigned any longer. Moreover, no essence at all
can c o m e to presence. can be assigned any longer, no finishing at all: o n l y existences are fi-
3. By way of hypocrisy a n d denial, but not w i t h o u t significance nite [or finished]; this is also what the spacing of the w o r l d means.
for all that, ecotechnics gives value to a p r i m a c y of the c o m b i n a - H o w to t h i n k w i t h o u t a sovereign End? T h i s is the challenge of
tory over the d i s c r i m i n a t i n g , of the contractual over the hierarchi- ecotechnics, a challenge that up u n t i l n o w has not been taken u p ,
cal, of the network over the organism, a n d more generally, of the but w h i c h this war is perhaps finally b e g i n n i n g to make absolutely
spatial over the historical. A n d w i t h i n the spatial, it gives p r i o r i t y urgent. In order to begin to respond, it is necessary to begin again
to a m u l t i p l e a n d delocalized spatiality over a u n i t a r y a n d concen- w i t h the f o l l o w i n g : ecotechnics washes out or dissolves sovereignty
trated spatiality. T h e s e motifs compose an epochal necessity (the (or rather, the latter i m p l o d e s in the former). T h e p r o b l e m c o n -
effects of this m o d e are secondary, a n d do not in any way i n v a l i - cerns the empty place as such, a n d is not about w a i t i n g for some re-
date this necessity). Today, t h o u g h t passes t h r o u g h these motifs, t u r n or substitution. There w i l l be no more sovereignty; this is what
insofar as such t h i n k i n g is of this w o r l d , that is, of this global w o r l d history means today. T h e war, along w i t h ecotechnics, lets us see
w i t h o u t sovereignty. B u t this is indeed w h y the entire difficulty of the place of the sovereign State as e m p t y f r o m n o w o n .
this t h i n k i n g is concentrated here. O n e m i g h t give a general for- T h i s is also w h y ecotechnics itself can s u m m o n the figure of sov-
m u l a t i o n of it in the f o l l o w i n g way: H o w [do we] not confuse this ereignty into this e m p t y place. T h u s the gaping open of the f o u n -
spacing of the w o r l d w i t h either the spreading out of significations dation of law, and all the questions revolving a r o u n d exception and
or a gaping o p e n of m e a n i n g [ O T ] ? excess, can be forgotten in the sovereign brilliance that the power
E i t h e r significations are spread out a n d d i l u t e d to the p o i n t of properly w i t h o u t power, w h i c h polices the w o r l d order and watches
insignificance in the ideologies of consensus, dialogue, c o m m u n i - over the price of p r i m a r y resources, borrows in the time of war. Or
cation, or values (where sovereignty is thought to be n o t h i n g but a else, to p u t it in another way, the e m p t y place of the one w h o re-
useless m e m o r y ) , or a surgery w i t h o u t sutures holds o p e n the gap- cites an epic tale is n o w o c c u p i e d by the sovereign figure of the
i n g w o u n d of m e a n i n g , in the style of a n i h i l i s m or aestheticizing prophet of the m o r a l L a w (who can, at the same time, make h i m -
m i n i m a l i s m (where the gaping w o u n d itself emits a black g l o w of self into the narrator of smaller, more familiar epics, like "our boys
lost s o v e r e i g n t y ) — t h i s not any less ideological. T h e r e are no i m - f r o m Texas"). O v e r a n d against this, another figure attempted to
provements made either w i t h regard to justice or identity. reignite the A r a b epic, w i t h the sole a i m o f t a k i n g part i n the
ecotechnical power of the masters of the w o r l d . . . . In both cases, it
was necessary that the models, the identifiable examples of the sov-
In order to t h i n k the spacing of the w o r l d (of ecotechnics), the ereign allure, guarantee the best p r e s u m p t i o n of justice, or of peo-
e n d of sovereignty must be faced head-on, w i t h o u t reserve, instead ple [ou de peuple].
138 War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne 139

T h e empty place of Sovereignty w i l l give rise to more or less suc- sovereign w o r k of death as it appears). ( O r else, if it is necessary to
cessful substitutions o f this type, that is, u n t i l this place as such is go further w i t h the same logic, in c o n t i n u i n g war b e y o n d itself,
submitted to questioning and deconstruction, that is, u n t i l we have a n d death b e y o n d death, there is the n i g h t a n d fog of extermina-
asked the q u e s t i o n about the e n d w i t h o u t reserve, the q u e s t i o n tion.) D e a t h , or identification in a figure of (the) death ( w h i c h is
about the e x t r e m e - l i m i t o f f i n i s h i n g a n d identify, w h i c h i s f r o m the entirety of w h a t we call sacrifice, of w h i c h war is a supreme
n o w on the question of a nonsovereign meaning as the very sense of f o r m ) , provides the a i m of sovereignty, w h i c h appropriates itself in
the humanity of humans and the globalness of the world. order to c o m e to an e n d .
T h e relation of a nonsovereign meaning, w h i c h we are to invent, In d o i n g this, however, it has not gone far enough. Being-exposed-
to the archaism of Sovereignty is u n d o u b t e d l y still more c o m p l e x to-death, if this is indeed the " h u m a n condition" (finite existence), is
than this. T h e very spacing of the w o r l d , the o p e n i n g of the discon- not a "being-yôr-death" as destiny, decision, and supreme finishing
tinuous, polymorphous, dispersed, dislocated spado-temporality pre- off. T h e finishing of finite existence is an u n f i n i s h i n g [infinition],
sents something of itself in Sovereignty: just this side of its figures w h i c h everywhere overflows the death that contains it. T h e i n - f i -
a n d their urgent [impérieuses], eager presences. It has also always, nite m e a n i n g of finite existence implies an exposition w i t h o u t b r i l -
a n d maybe f r o m the very start, exposed itself as spacing, that is, as liance: discreet, reserved, discontinuous, and spacious, accordingly
the a m p l i t u d e (of a brilliance), as the elevation (of a power), as the such existence does not even reach the point of the sovereign extremity.
distancing (of an example), as the place (of an appearing). In t u r n , "Sovereignty is NOTHING": Bataille exhausted h i m s e l f in t r y i n g
this is w h y these same motifs can serve the ardent and nostalgic re- to say this, but anyone w o u l d exhaust themselves in (not) saying
calling of sovereign figures, war p r i m a r y a m o n g them, or access, to this. W h a t this sentence "means" cuts off one's breath (I do not re-
the spaciousness of the spacing, to the (dis)locality of the place, an ally w a n t to go i n t o it further here), but it most certainly does not
access we must invent. (For example, and to be quite brief: the same m e a n that sovereignty is d e a t h — q u i t e to the contrary.
process calls on A m e r i c a a n d A r a b i a , a n d exposes the pieces of a I w i l l o n l y say the f o l l o w i n g : the sovereign e x t r e m i t y signifies
diverse a n d m i x e d - u p reality, none of w h i c h is s i m p l y "Arab" or that there is n o t h i n g to "attain"; there is no " a c c o m p l i s h m e n t " or
" A m e r i c a n , " a n d w h i c h compose an errant, strange "globalness.") "achievement"; there is no " f i n i s h i n g " ; or rather, for a finite finish-
W i t h a certain obscurity a n d ambivalence, the global w o r l d o f ing, the execution is without end. T h e global w o r l d is also the finite
ecotechnics itself definitively proposes the t h o r o u g h g o i n g execu- w o r l d , the w o r l d of finitude. F i n i t u d e is spacing. S p a c i n g "exe-
t i o n of sovereignty. " T h o r o u g h g o i n g " here means: g o i n g to the ex- cutes" itself infinitely. N o t that this means endlessly b e g i n n i n g
treme, o f its logic a n d m o v e m e n t . U n t i l our o w n times (but this again, but that meaning no longer occurs in a totalization a n d pre-
c o u l d c o n t i n u e . . . ), this extreme l i m i t always finished itself by sentation (of a finite a n d accomplished infinite). M e a n i n g is in not
means of war, in one way or another. B u t f r o m n o w o n , it appears finishing w i t h meaning.
— t h i s is our h i s t o r y — t h a t the extreme p o i n t of sovereignty s i t u - W i t h i n this " n o t h i n g , " there is no repression or s u b l i m a t i o n of
ates itself still further out, a n d that the d i s r u p t i o n of the w o r l d sig- the violent burst of sovereignty: never to be finished w i t h , there is
nifies for us that it is not possible not to go any further. W a r itself, an explosion and violence [that comes] f r o m beyond war, the light-
w h i c h supposes that we can detach the appropriation of wealth and n i n g of peace. ( J e a n - C h r i s t o p h e B a i l l y suggested to me that I fi-
power f r o m it, does not go any further than the brilliance of death nally render the eagles of war as peaceful.)
and destruction (and after everything else, the voracious a p p r o p r i - In a sense, this is technology itself. W h a t is called "technology,"
ation that war i s — a l w a y s a l r e a d y — m a y not be so extrinsic to the or again what I have called ecotechnics (in itself, w h i c h w o u l d be
140 War, Right, Sovereignty—Technê War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne 141

liberated f r o m capital), is the technê of finitude or spacing. T h i s is eration are all contained in the f o l l o w i n g (provisional) statement:
no longer the technical means to an E n d , but technê itself as i n - f i - sovereignty is n o t h i n g . As a consequence of h a v i n g learned this
nite e n d , technê as the existence o f finite existence i n all its b r i l - m u c h , the m u l t i p l i c i t y of "peoples" m i g h t be able to a v o i d b e i n g
liance a n d violence. It is "technology" itself, but it is a technology engulfed in the hegemony of one sole people, or in the turbulence
that, of itself, raises the necessity of a p p r o p r i a t i n g its m e a n i n g of the desire to c l a i m the sovereign d i s t i n c t i o n for everyone. As
against the appropriative logic of capital a n d against the sovereign such, it m i g h t become possible to t h i n k what has not been t h i n k -
logic of war. able to this p o i n t : a p o l i t i c a l articulation of the w o r l d that escapes
In the e n d , the q u e s t i o n is not whether war is " b a d . " W a r is f r o m these two dangers (and for w h i c h the m o d e l of the "Federa-
" b a d , " a n d it is absolutely so, especially w h e n the space where it t i o n " is not available). Therefore, law c o u l d expose itself to the
deploys itself no longer permits the glorious a n d powerful presen- n o t h i n g o f its o w n f o u n d a t i o n .
tation of its figure (as the figure of the death of all figures). W h e n It w o u l d be a matter, therefore, of going to the extreme w i t h o u t
this space . . . constitutes spacing, the intersection of singularities, an example, w h i c h belongs to the " n o t h i n g " of sovereignty. H o w to
a n d not the confrontation of faces or masks. t h i n k , h o w to act, h o w to do w i t h o u t a model? T h i s is the question
that is avoided, and yet posed, by the entire tradition of sovereignty
O n c e " r e v o l u t i o n " has also been exposed to the nothing of sover-
It is here that our history comes u p o n its greatest danger a n d its eignty, one has to take seriously h o w the execution w i t h o u t m o d e l
greatest opportunity. It is here in the still p o o r l y perceived impera- or e n d m a y be the essence of technê as a revolutionary essence.
tive of a w o r l d that is in the process of creating its global c o n d i - W h a t if each people (this w o u l d be the revolutionary word), each
tions, in order to render untenable a n d catastrophic the sharing of singular intersection (this w o u l d be the ecotechnical word), substi-
riches a n d poverty, o f integration a n d exclusion, o f every N o r t h tuted a w h o l l y other logic for the logic of the sovereign (and always
a n d S o u t h . Because this w o r l d is the w o r l d of spacing, not of fin- sacrificial) m o d e l , not the i n v e n t i o n or the m u l t i p l i c a t i o n of m o d -
i s h i n g ; because it is the w o r l d of the intersection of singularities, e l s — f r o m w h i c h wars w o u l d i m m e d i a t e l y f o l l o w — b u t a logic
not of the identification of figures (of individuals or of masses) ; be- where singularity was absolute a n d w i t h o u t an example at the same
cause it is the w o r l d in w h i c h , in short, sovereignty is exhausting time? W h e r e each one w o u l d be "one" only in not being identifiable
itself (and, at the same t i m e , resisting this w i t h gestures that are in a figure, but in-finitely distinct through spacing, and in-finitely
b o t h terrifying a n d p a t h e t i c ) — f o r all of these reasons, a n d f r o m substitutable through the intersection that doubles spacing. To par-
w i t h i n the very heart of the appropriative power of capital (which o d y H e g e l , this c o u l d be called global [or world] singularity, w h i c h
itself started sovereignty's decline), ecotechnics obscurely indicates w o u l d have the right w i t h o u t right to say the law of the w o r l d .
the technê of a w o r l d where sovereignty is n o t h i n g . T h i s w o u l d be a Peace comes at the price of abandoned sovereignty, the price of that
w o r l d where spacing c o u l d not be confused w i t h spreading out or w h i c h goes beyond war, instead of always r e m a i n i n g w i t h i n it.
w i t h gaping open, but o n l y w i t h "intersection." I am w e l l aware of the fact that all of this does not let itself be
T h i s is not given as a destiny; it is offered as a history. As technê, conceived of easily. It is not for us, not for our t h i n k i n g , modeled as
ecotechnics is still to be liberated f r o m "technology," "economy," it is on the sovereign m o d e l ; it is not for our warlike t h i n k i n g . B u t
and "sovereignty." At least we are beginning to learn what the c o m - this is certain: there is n o t h i n g on the h o r i z o n except for an u n -
b i n e d lesson of war, law, a n d "technological civilization" is after all; heard-of, inconceivable t a s k — o r war. A l l t h i n k i n g that still wants
we have learned that the orientation, theme, a n d motive of this l i b - to conceive of an "order," a " w o r l d , " a " c o m m u n i c a t i o n , " a "peace"
142 War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne War, Right, Sovereignty—Techne 143

is absolutely n a i v e — w h e n it is not s i m p l y hypocritical. To appro- M e x i c o , or the populations of I n d i a or C h i n a ? W h a t is an "ethnic-


priate one's o w n time has always been unheard of. B u t everyone can ity"? W h a t is a religious c o m m u n i t y ? A r e the Shiites a people? A n d
clearly see that it is time: the disaster of sovereignty is sufficiently the H e b r e w s and/or Israelis and/or Jews? A n d the "ex-East G e r -
spread out, a n d sufficiently c o m m o n , to steal anyone's innocence. mans"? W h a t are the relations of a "sovereign" people to a " p o p u -
lar" people? W h e r e to place tribes, clans, brotherhoods? A n d I have

Postscript, M a y 1991 to insist on this, where to place classes, levels, margins, milieus, so-
cial networks? T h e almost-monstrous m u l t i p l i c a t i o n of these ques-
In the m i d s t of the general climate of " h u m a n i t a r i a n a i d " set up tions is the m a r k of the p r o b l e m about w h i c h I am speaking. N e i -
as the perverse game that is b e i n g played by war's protagonists, ther the sovereign m o d e l , nor the a u t h o r i t y of the law addresses
"sovereignty" is m o r e present t h a n ever. (Does S a d d a m have the this p r o b l e m ; they o n l y deny it. Instead, what is of concern here is
right to it? W h o grants it to h i m ? W h a t is he d o i n g w i t h it? A n d globalness as a proliferation of " i d e n t i t y " w i t h o u t e n d or m o d e l —
what about the Kurds? A n d the Turks? A n d what is a border? W h a t a n d it m a y even be a matter of "technology" as the techne of a new
is police force? Or else, a little further away, what about nuclear ca- horizon of unheard-of identities.
pacity as Algeria's sovereign concern? Or the accord between the
U S S R a n d the eight republics to regulate the tense play of their
sovereignties, in spite of everything else? Or what about K u w a i t re-
t u r n e d to sovereignty for purposes of a brutal settling of accounts
and for the shameless recruitment of F i l i p i n o a n d E g y p t i a n m a n -
power? W h a t is the character of Bangladesh's sovereignty, where a
cyclone has just made five m i l l i o n people homeless? a n d so forth.)
T h e proliferation of these a m b i g u i t i e s — w h i c h are, in fact, those
o f the end o f s o v e r e i g n t y — m a k e s m e afraid o f b e i n g m i s u n d e r -
stood if I say that we s h o u l d go (or that we already are) b e y o n d its
m o d e l a n d its order. By saying this, I do not m e a n for a instant to
d e m a n d that a K u r d , an A l g e r i a n , a G e o r g i a n , or, for that matter,
an A m e r i c a n s h o u l d a b a n d o n the i d e n t i t y a n d independence for
w h i c h these proper names f u n c t i o n as a sign. B u t what w i l l always
cause a p r o b l e m is the question of exactly w h i c h sign is of concern
here. If sovereignty has exhausted its m e a n i n g , a n d if it is every-
where acknowledged that it is in d o u b t , u n d e r h a n d e d — o r e m p t y
— t h e n it is necessary to reconsider the nature a n d function of such
a sign. For example, what is a people} T h e Iraqui "people," the C o r -
sican "people," the C h i c a n o "people," the Z u l u "people," the Ser-
b i a n "people," the Japanese "people": Is it always the same concept?
If there is a "concept," then does it i m p l y "sovereignty"? A n d what
about the "people" o f H a r l e m , o r those o f the shanty towns i n
§ Eulogy for the Mêlée
(For Sarajevo, March ipps)

"Sarajevo" has become the expression of a complete system for


the r e d u c t i o n to identity. It is no longer a sign on the way, or a
1

sign in history; it is no longer a possible destination for business


trips or i l l i c i t rendezvous, or the u n c e r t a i n space for a fortuitous
meeting or distracted wandering. It is a dimension-less p o i n t on a
diagram of sovereignty, an ortho-normative gauge on a ballistic and
political computer, a target frozen in a telescopic sight, and it is the
very figure of the exactitude of t a k i n g a i m , the pure t a k i n g a i m of
an essence. Somewhere, a pure Subject declares that it is the Peo-
ple, the Law, the State, the Identity in the name of w h i c h "Sara-
jevo" must be identified purely a n d s i m p l y as a target.
Sarajevo is s i m p l y a name or a sign that grabs o u r a t t e n t i o n
[même plus un nom, un écriteau qu'on nous cloue sur les yeux], so that
there w i l l no longer be a Sarajevan landscape, or trips to Sarajevo,
but o n l y a pure and naked identity. It is such so that n o t h i n g else
w i l l get m i x e d in w i t h it, and so that we do not get m i x e d up in it,
that is, we other c o s m o p o l i t a n Europeans.

A city does not have to be identified by a n y t h i n g other than a


name, w h i c h indicates a place, the place of a mêlée , a crossing and
1

a stop, a k n o t a n d an exchange, a gathering, a disjunction, a circu-


lation, a radiating [un étoilement]. T h e name of a city, like that of a

145
146 Eulogy for the Mêlée Eulogy for the Mêlée 147

country, like that of a people a n d a person, must always be the name entangles it w i t h , its o w n o r i g i n a n d p r i n c i p l e . W h a t is called for,
of no one; it must never be the name of anyone w h o m i g h t be pre- then, is a eulogy m i x e d w i t h reserve, a reserve that is appropriate
sented in person or in her own right [en propre]. T h e "proper name" if one wants to avoid g i v i n g a eulogy that itself goes so far as to be-
has no significance [signification], or what there is to it is n o t h i n g tray its object by i d e n t i f y i n g it too w e l l . T h i s is w h a t m u s t be
more than a sketch of a description that is, by all rights a n d in fact, avoided.
indefinite. Inchoate a n d stochastic meaning: it is a mixture of syl- In fact, it has to be said right away that the most just a n d beauti-
lables stirred on the b r i n k of a semantic identity that is b o t h gently ful eulogy of the mélange w o u l d be to not have to give it, exactly be-
a n d obstinately deferred. As soon as the proper name points to [ar- cause the notion [of the mélange] itself c o u l d not even be discerned
raisonne] a presence in person, a sovereign Subject, this sovereign is or identified. T h i s very notion presupposes the isolation of pure sub-
threatened; it is encircled, besieged. In order to live in Sarajevo, stances, and the work of m i x i n g them. It is an idea that is at h o m e in
there was no need to identify Sarajevo. B u t now, those w h o die in the laboratory. B u t does this same way of t h i n k i n g do justice to the
Sarajevo die f r o m the death o f Sarajevo itself; they die f r o m the pos- idea of a painting as a eulogy for a mélange oi colors? P a i n t i n g never
s i b i l i t y — i m p o s e d b y g u n f i r e — o f i d e n t i f y i n g some substance o r has a n y t h i n g to do w i t h the spectrum of colors; it o n l y has to do
presence by this name, a presence measured by the yardstick of the w i t h the infinity m i x e d in w i t h a n d derived f r o m their nuances.
"national" or the "state," a b o d y - s y m b o l set up precisely in order to It is exactly because it was possible for there to be the i g n o b l e
create b o d y a n d s y m b o l where there had o n l y been place a n d pas- talk of "ethnic cleansing" that it is necessary to respond. B u t this
sage. T h o s e w h o are exiled f r o m Sarajevo are exiled f r o m this place, response w i l l not be just another, symmetrical way of t a l k i n g . T h i s
expelled by this body. T h e y are exiled f r o m the m i x , f r o m the that is w h y conferring too m u c h identity on the mélange itself must be
mêlée that made up Sarajevo, but w h i c h , as a result, made n o t h i n g , avoided; in order to ensure this, the emphasis w i l l be displaced, a n d
engendered no ego. T h e "proper" name must always serve to dissolve an attempt w i l l be made to m o v e f r o m the mélange to the mêlée.
the ego: the latter opens up a m e a n i n g , a pure source of m e a n i n g ;
the former indicates a mêlée, raises up a m e l o d y : Sarajevo.

T h e w h o l e task, here, is to do right by identities, but w i t h o u t


c e d i n g a n y t h i n g to their frenzy, to their p r e s u m i n g to be substan-
I have been asked for a "eulogy of the mélange." A n d I w o u l d 3
tial identities ("subjects," in this sense). T h i s task is enormous, a n d
like to give a eulogy that is itself " m i x e d " [mélangé]. T h i s is not to it is very simple. It is the task of a culture r e m a k i n g itself, or the re-
say that it w i l l be a m i x t u r e of eulogy a n d blame, so as to e n d in a casting of t h i n k i n g such that it w o u l d not be crude or obscene l i k e
balanced account of profits a n d losses. N o r is the idea to deliver every thought of purity. It means m i x i n g together again the v a r i -
a " m i t i g a t e d " e u l o g y that w o u l d evoke an extreme f o r m of half- ous lines, trails, a n d skins, w h i l e at the same time describing their
heartedness, w h i c h is a curious concept. In the e n d , it is a matter heterogeneous trajectories a n d their webs, b o t h those that are tan-
(everyone understands that it is there; it is right there before o u r gled a n d those that are distinct. It is the task of never believing in
eyes; for the m o m e n t , it is w i l l suffice to k n o w h o w to gather what the simple, homogenous, present " m a n . " O r w o m a n . O r C r o a t o r
it is a question of a n d h o w to w e l c o m e it) of c o m i n g up against all Serb or B o s n i a n . It is the task of k n o w i n g (but of w h a t k n o w l -
sorts o f w i n d s a n d t i d e s — a n d i t i s q u i t e clear i n w h a t d i r e c t i o n edge?) that the subject of knowledge is n o w o n l y someonf, a n d like
these are m o v i n g . It is solely a matter of not g i v i n g a n y t h i n g away, every someowf, someone of mixed blood.
either regarding identity or regarding what mixes identity up i n , or
148 Eulogy for the Mêlée Eulogy for the Mêlée 149

A mélange is a delicate and fragile t h i n g , b o t h subtle a n d volatile, obtuse, a n d fearful. I always h o l d my peace in the face of l o n g dis-
w h i c h is often made thick [épaisse] a n d obscure these days. In fact, courses and great c o l l o q u i a on the subject of racism. It seems to me
there does e x i s t — a n d I am not the first one to p o i n t it o u t — a eu- that too m u c h h o n o r is p a i d to this trash. For similar reasons, this
logy for the mélange that resonates w i t h a conventional sort of po- is w h y I am embarrassed by the idea of a "eulogy for the mélange":
litical correctness, that is, w i t h the normative stiffening of the most as if the mélange w o u l d have to be some sort of value or authentic-
w e l l - f o u n d e d demands. S u c h a eulogy wholeheartedly celebrates ity to be uncovered, even t h o u g h it is o n l y a piece of evidence, or,
generalized m u l t i c u l t u r a l i s m , hybridization, exchange, sharing, and if one looks at it more closely, even though it does not exist if there
a sort of transcendental variegation. is never a n y t h i n g "pure" that can be a n d must be " m i x e d " together
A l t h o u g h we k n o w things are not so s i m p l e , we n o w feel that [mélanger] w i t h some other "purity."
h a v i n g such w h i r l w i n d s , mixtures, wanderings, a n d interferences Therefore, what is at q u e s t i o n , here, is in no way a matter of
are n o t e n o u g h , that is, as they are. O r rather, a n d first o f a l l : we s t i c k i n g to a fair mean [ juste milieu] held between t w o o p p o s i n g
k n o w that they do not allow themselves to be thought as they are. theses, exactly because there are these two theses o n l y to the extent
T h i s is the w h o l e question. that there is, first of a l l , the simplification a n d distortion of what is
B u t we also k n o w , o n l y too w e l l , that there still remains a dis- at stake.
course that takes advantage of the simplifications of the other in or-
der to go one better than d i s t i n c t i o n , identity, property, or purity,
and in order to be able to use the w o r d " c o s m o p o l i t a n , " for exam- By d e f i n i t i o n , the mélange is not a s i m p l e substance to w h i c h
ple, w i t h an obvious overtone of mistrust, even disgust (sometimes place a n d nature c o u l d be assigned, to w h i c h one c o u l d lay c l a i m as
clearly associated w i t h anti-Semitism). such, and w h i c h , as a result, one c o u l d p l a i n l y eulogize. Identity is
In the e n d , a n d rightly so, there are those w h o place these two by definition not an absolute d i s t i n c t i o n , removed f r o m everything
correctnesses back to back, a n d w h o recite an i n t e r m i n a b l e cate- a n d , therefore, distinct f r o m n o t h i n g : it is always the other of a n -
c h i s m o f u n i t y i n diversity, c o m p l e m e n t a r i t y , a n d well-tempered other identity. " H e is d i f f e r e n t — l i k e everyone" (Bertolucci's Last
differences. T h i s w e l l - i n t e n t i o n e d discourse, sometimes w e l c o m e Tango in Paris). Difference as such is indiscernible. N e i t h e r mélange
in m o r a l a n d p o l i t i c a l emergencies, remains a discourse of i n t e n - nor identity can be p i n n e d d o w n . T h e y have always already taken
tions a n d exhortations. It does not reach as far as the very things place, are always already gone, or always already still to come. A n d
w i t h w h i c h it deals. they are in common, shared by all, between all, through one another.

First of a l l , let us be clear: the simplistic eulogy of the mélange Precisely because the mélange is m i x e d (it is mixed [mêlé], a n d it
has a n d is capable of p r o d u c i n g errors, but the simplistic eulogy of is a mêlée), it is not a substance. N o r is it possible to replace the
p u r i t y has supported a n d still supports crimes. As such, there is no n o n s u b s t a n t i a l i t y of its contents w i t h a supposed consistency of
s y m m e t r y in this regard, no e q u i l i b r i u m to h o l d to, no fair m e - that in w h i c h it is contained. T h i s is exactly the p r o b l e m w i t h ide-
d i u m . T h e r e is n o t h i n g to be discussed. T h e least bit of discussion, ologies of the melting pot, where the pot is supposed to c o n t a i n , in
the smallest deferral to racism or to purification, in whatever f o r m , all senses of the w o r d , the enigmas of the mélange, as well as its dis-
already participates in such c r i m e . Moreover, this c r i m e is always ruptive forces, all by virtue of its o w n identity.
a d o u b l e c r i m e , b o t h m o r a l a n d intellectual. A l l racism is s t u p i d , H y b r i d i z a t i o n i s not "some t h i n g . " A n d i f the h y b r i d , w h i c h
Eulogy for the Mêlée Eulogy for the Mêlée

each one of us is in his or her o w n way, is someone, it is n o t by single t h i n g , nor is it ever the same. On the one h a n d , the mélange
virtue of any essence of h y b r i d i z a t i o n (a contradictory notion), but is an " i t happens," rather t h a n an " i t is": displacements, chances,
rather insofar as it provides a p u n c t u a t i o n , or a singular configura- m i g r a t i o n s , c l i n a m e n s , meetings, l u c k , a n d risks. O n the other
t i o n , for the essencelessness of h y b r i d i z a t i o n . To essentialize the h a n d , it is not "one": in a mêlée there are meetings a n d encounters;
mélange is to have already dissolved it, melted it d o w n i n t o some- there are those w h o c o m e together a n d those w h o spread out,
t h i n g other than itself. Therefore, one must not say "the" mélange those w h o c o m e i n t o contact a n d those w h o enter i n t o contracts,
a n d , above a l l , one must not deliver its eulogy. those w h o concentrate a n d those w h o disseminate, those w h o
T h e mélangeas such can take o n , or seem to take o n , two differ- i d e n t i f y a n d those w h o m o d i f y — j u s t l i k e the t w o sexes i n each
ent identities: that of a fusion or a t h o r o u g h g o i n g osmosis, or that one o f us.
of an a c c o m p l i s h e d state of d i s o r d e r [mise en désorder achevée]. T h e mélange is not s i m p l y " r i c h " in the diversity it mixes to-
T h e s e two fantastical extremities are a l c h e m y a n d entropy, ex- gether. In fact, this diversity constantly escapes it, as l o n g as it is
tremities that, in the e n d , come together a n d identify w i t h one an- n o t h i n g itself. T h e r e is a quantitative discourse o f " m u t u a l e n r i c h -
other in an apocalypse or a black hole. B u t the mélange is, in fact, m e n t , " a discourse that is at b o t t o m capitalist and profiteering. B u t
neither the one nor the other, nor is it the fair m e a n between the this is not a question of wealth or poverty. C u l t u r e s , or w h a t are
two. It is s o m e t h i n g else, or again, it "is" in another way, in quite k n o w n as cultures, do not m i x . T h e y encounter each another, m i n -
another way. gle, m o d i f y each other, reconfigure each other. T h e y cultivate one
another; they irrigate or d r a i n each other; they w o r k over a n d
p l o u g h t h r o u g h each other, or graft one o n t o the other.
It w o u l d be better, then, to speak of mêlée: an action rather than T o begin w i t h — b u t where i s there a n absolute b e g i n n i n g ? —
a substance. T h e r e are at least two sorts of mêlée, even though there each one of t h e m is a configuration, already a mêlée. T h e first c u l -
m a y never be a mêlée "pure a n d s i m p l e . " T h e r e is the mêlée of a ture c o n s t i t u t e d a mêlée of races or species, erectus, faber, sapiens.
fight, a n d the mêlée of love. T h e mêlée of A r e s , a n d the mêlée of T h e West, w h i c h is so p r o u d of the " G r e e k miracle" of its f o u n d -
A p h r o d i t e . T h e y are m i x e d w i t h one another, not identified. It is i n g , should always meditate on the ethnic a n d cultural diversity, on
not a matter of entropy or alchemy. It is a contest that can never the m o v e m e n t s of peoples, the transfers a n d transformations of
take place w i t h o u t desire a n d w i t h o u t attacks of jealousy, w i t h o u t practices, the twists and turns of language or mores, w h i c h went to
the appeal to the other as always other. make up or configure the " H e l l e n i c s . " T h e h i s t o r y of this mêlée
(But the mêlée of Ares is not m o d e r n war, w h i c h , more often than s h o u l d be reread:
ever before, involves no mêlée at all: m o d e r n war begins by extermi-
nating h a n d - t o - h a n d combat; it aims to crush a n d suppress c o m - Thus, at the beginning of the second millennium, a phenomenon of
extraordinary novelty was created; a cosmopolitan culture was put into
bat, rather than attempting to set it aside; in fact, it has no space for
place in which one could recognize the contributions of those diverse
combat. Instead, it spreads everywhere and kills, violates, irradiates,
civilizations that were built on the edge of the sea, or in the middle of
gasses, and infects the w h o l e " c i v i l " space. Today, war is an u n l i m -
it. Some of these civilizations were those that became empires: Egypt,
ited a n d pure mélange. It is not the mêlée. W i t h regard to orgies a n d
Mesopotamia, Asia M i n o r of the Hittites; still others of these set to sea
p o r n films, the same can be said of the mêlée of A p h r o d i t e . ) and were supported by certain cities: the Syro-Lebanese coast, Crete,
T h e mélange, therefore, is not. It happens; it takes place. There is and much later, Myceanea. But they all communicated with one an-
mêlée, crisscrossing, weaving, exchange, sharing, a n d it is never a other. A l l of them, even Egypt, ordinarily so closed in on itself, turned
Eulogy for the Mêlée Eulogy for the Mêlée 153

toward the outside with a passionate curiosity. This is the epoch of tone of a "culture," as well as the various different voices a n d apti-
voyages, of exchanges of presents, diplomatic correspondence, and tudes [portées] for interpreting this tone. There is such a t h i n g as a
princesses who were given as spouses to foreign kings as proof of new French culture, but it itself has various voices, and nowhere is it pre-
"international" relations. It is the epoch where, in Egyptian tomb sented in p e r s o n — e x c e p t for those w h o confuse it w i t h the coq
paintings, there appeared, in their native dress, all the peoples of the sportif or w i t h Dupond-la-Joie. Voltaire's voice is not that of Proust,
Near East and the Aegean: Cretans, Myceans, Palestinians, Nubians,
w h i c h is not Pasteur's, w h i c h is not R i t a M i t s o u k o ' s . It is perhaps
Canaanites. . . . 4

never purely and simply F r e n c h . W h a t is F r e n c h , a n d what is not,

Every culture is in itself " m u l t i c u l t u r a l , " not o n l y because there i n Stendhal, H u g o , Picasso, Lévinas, G o d a r d , J o h n n y H a l l y d a y ,

has always been a previous acculturation, a n d because there is no K a t ' O n o m a , C h a m o i s e a u , D i b ? O n c e again, however, this does not

pure a n d simple o r i g i n [provenance], but at a deeper level, because mean that there is no " F r e n c h identity": it means that this sort of

the gesture of culture is itself a m i x e d gesture: it is to affront, c o n - identity is never s i m p l y identical in the sense that a pencil is i d e n t i -

front, transform, divert, develop, recompose, c o m b i n e , rechannel. cally the same yesterday and today (assuming that this is not mate-
rially i n e x a c t . . . ). T h e identity o f the pencil leaves this pencil far
less identifiable as "this one here," w h i c h , up to certain p o i n t , re-
mains any pencil at all. T h i s is exactly not the case w i t h the identity
It is not that there is no " i d e n t i t y . " A culture is single a n d
of a culture or a person. To indicate the difference, this latter iden-
u n i q u e . (If this is what one must settle for in the w o r d "culture,"
tity can be called an ipseity, a "being-its-self" ["être-soi-même"].
w h i c h seems to identify already that w i t h w h i c h it is concerned.
B u t this w o r d identifies precisely n o t h i n g . It is to settle for short- An ipseity is not [founded on] the pure i n e r t i a of the same,

c i r c u i t i n g all the difficulties that bear d o w n en masse if one tries to w h i c h w o u l d remain quite p l a i n l y the same in the sense of being

say "people," "nation," "civilization," "spirit," "personality.") A " c u l - the self-same [posé çà même soi-même]: one c o u l d i m a g i n e this as

ture" is a certain "one." T h e fact a n d law of this "one" cannot be f o r m i n g the being of a stone or a G o d . An ipseity leaves off exactly

neglected; even less can it be denied in the name of an essential- where it is identified. Because of this, a network of exchanges is re-

ization of the "mélange." q u i r e d , a network of recognition, of references f r o m one ipseity to

B u t the more this "one" is clearly distinct a n d distinguished, the another, f r o m difference to difference. An ipseity is valued by the

less it m a y be its o w n or pure f o u n d a t i o n . U n d o u b t e d l y , the task other a n d for the other, in consideration of the other, these others

is w h o l l y a matter of not confusing d i s t i n c t i o n a n d foundation; in to w h o m it gives a n d f r o m w h o m it takes a certain identifiable

fact, this p o i n t contains everything that is at stake philosophically, t o n e — a l l by way of its singular t o u c h . That is to say, insofar as it is

ethically, a n d p o l i t i c a l l y in what is b r e w i n g [se trame] a r o u n d unidentifiable, it is b o t h i n i m i t a b l e a n d impossible to assign i d e n -

"identities" a n d "subjects" of all sorts. T h u s , the absolute distinc- t i t y to a n y one. In a very precise way, ipseity names w h a t , for an

tion o f the ego existo, p r o v i d e d b y Descartes, must not be confused identity, is always a n d necessarily impossible to identify.

w i t h f o u n d a t i o n in the p u r i t y of a res cogitans, w i t h w h i c h it is In fact, a pure identity w o u l d not only be inert, empty, colorless,

j o i n e d together. F o r example, the " F r e n c h " i d e n t i t y today no a n d flavorless (as those w h o lay c l a i m to a pure i d e n t i t y so often

longer needs to f o u n d itself in Vercingétorix or Joan of A r c in order are), it w o u l d be an absurdity. A pure identity cancels itself out; it

to exist. can no longer identify itself. O n l y what is identical to itself is i d e n -

T h e u n i t y and uniqueness of a culture are unique precisely on ac- tical to itself. As such, it turns in a circle and never makes it i n t o

count of a mélange, or a mêlée. It is a "mêlée" that defines the style or existence.


154 Eulogy for the Mêlée Eulogy for the Mêlée

W i t h all due rigor, w h o was ever pure e n o u g h to be an A r y a n death f o u n d in the ashes of c r e m a t o r i u m ovens or in the a c c u m u -
w o r t h y of the name? We k n o w that this question c o u l d drive a true lations of charnel-houses.
N a z i , a N a z i absolutely identified w i t h his cause or w i t h his o w n To put it another way: in a paradigmatic manner, the systematic
concerns, to sterilization or even suicide. rape o f B o s n i a n w o m e n deployed all the various f i g u r e s o f this
P u r i t y is a crystalline chasm where the identical, the proper, the delirious affirmation of "unitary" c o m m u n i t y : rape in order to beget
authentic is engulfed by itself; it is n o t h i n g at all, a n d it drags the "bastards" regarded as unacceptable, excluded a p r i o r i f r o m the as-
other a l o n g in order to carry it i n t o the abyss. T h e absolute a n d s u m e d u n i t y ; rape in order, therefore, to make obligatory the abor-
vertiginous law of the proper is that in appropriating its o w n p u r i t y t i o n of these bastards; rape in order to then k i l l these bastards a n d ,
[<î'appropriant sa propre pureté], it alienates itself purely a n d simply. thus, to destroy the possibility of there being a bastard; and rape so
A n o t h e r f o r m of the mélange is the mélange-with-itself self-mixing, that this repeated act assigns its victims to the fantasy u n i t y of their
autism, auto-eroticism. " c o m m u n i t y . " In the end, it is rape in order to show in every possi-
ble way that there do not have to be relations between c o m m u n i t i e s .
Rape is the zero act; it is the negation of sex itself, the negation of all
A language is always a mêlée of languages, s o m e t h i n g half-way relation, the negation of the c h i l d , the negation of the w o m a n . It is
in-between Babel as the f o r m of total confusion a n d glossolalia [or the pure affirmation of the rapist in w h o m a "pure i d e n t i t y " (a
speaking in tongues] as the f o r m of i m m e d i a t e transparency. A "racial" identity . . . ) finds n o t h i n g better than the submission to
style is always a crisscrossing of tones, b o r r o w e d elements, disper- the ignoble m i m i c r y of what it denies: relation a n d being-together.
sions, a n d developments, to w h i c h it gives a n e w twist or t u r n . Of (In a general sort of way, what is u n d o u b t e d l y paradigmatic in rape
course, each style seems to tend toward m a k i n g an ultimate or sov- is that it operates by way of that relation of w h i c h it is also the nega-
ereign t u r n , the t u r n toward an absolutely proper language, an ab- t i o n . It sinks its teeth into relation, i n t o the mêlée.)
solute idiolect. B u t an absolute idiolect or i d i o m w o u l d no longer W h a t we have in c o m m o n is also what always distinguishes a n d
be a language, a n d c o u l d no longer m i x w i t h others in order to be differentiates us. W h a t I have in c o m m o n w i t h another F r e n c h m a n
the language that it is: being no longer translatable exactly in order is the fact of not being the same F r e n c h m a n as h i m , a n d the fact
to be the untranslatable that it is. A pure idiolect w o u l d be idiotic, that our "Frenchness" is never, nowhere, in no essence, in no figure,
utterly deprived oi relations a n d , therefore, of identity. A pure c u l - b r o u g h t to c o m p l e t i o n . T h i s is not the absence of a figure, but a
ture, a pure property, w o u l d be i d i o t i c . p l a n always being sketched out, a fiction always being invented, a
mêlée of traits. A n d it is not that identity is always "on the way," pro-
jected onto the h o r i z o n like a friendly star, like a value or a regula-
W h a t is a c o m m u n i t y ? It is not a macroorganism, or a b i g f a m - tive idea. It never comes to be; it never identifies itself, even as an
i l y (which is to assume that we k n o w what an organism or a family infinite projection, because it is already there, because it is the mêlée.
is . . . ). T h e common, h a v i n g - i n - c o m m o n or b e i n g - i n - c o m m o n , ex- /already am w h e n my mother a n d father c o m e together [se mê-
cludes interior unity, subsistence, a n d presence in and for itself. Be- lent] ; I b r i n g t h e m together [qui les mêle] ; I a m their mêlée, a n d
i n g w i t h , being together and even being " u n i t e d " are precisely not thus I do not b r i n g myself to be.
a matter of being "one." W i t h i n unitary c o m m u n i t y [communauté W h a t is a people? C e r t a i n l y there are such things as ethnic traits.
une] there is n o t h i n g but death, and not the sort of death f o u n d in A Sicilian c o u l d rarely be mistaken for a N o r w e g i a n (even t h o u g h
the cemetery, w h i c h is a place of spacing or distinctness, but the the N o r m a n s d i d , i n the past, forcibly m i x themselves i n t o Sic-
156 Eulogy for the Mêlée Eulogy for the Mêlée 157

i l y . . . ). B u t what about a Sicilian " o f the people" a n d a Sicilian of T h i s is the mêlée of Ares a n d the mêlée of A p h r o d i t e , the mêlée of
the upper echelons of society? C o u l d they be confused? It w o u l d , the one a n d the other: whether this comes to blows and i n t e r t w i n -
in fact, be more likely that, in C h i c a g o , one w o u l d confuse a S i c i l - ings, assaults a n d cease-fires, rivalry a n d desire, s u p p l i c a t i o n a n d
ian " o f the people" a n d a Pole " o f the people," or that elsewhere, defiance, dialogue a n d c o n t e n t i o n [différend], fear a n d pity, a n d
one w o u l d confuse someone f r o m the Palermo upper class a n d laughter too. A n d , on the flip side, it is the mêlée of H e r m e s , a
someone f r o m the upper class of L y o n . U n d e r the pressure of want- mêlée of messages a n d paths, bifurcations, substitutions, c o n c u r -
i n g to have n o t h i n g more to do w i t h classes, one ends up d e n y i n g rences of codes, configurations of space, frontiers m a d e to be
the most c o m m o n , everyday evidence. U n d o u b t e d l y a class cannot passed t h r o u g h , so that there can be passages, b u t ones that are
be thought of as an identity, a n d , indeed, certain varieties of total- shared—because there is never any identity that is not shared: that
itarianism (perhaps all) were made possible by c o n f i g u r i n g classes is, d i v i d e d , m i x e d up, distinguished, entrenched, c o m m o n , substi-
according to identity and not according to their conditions. B u t it is tutable, insubstitutable, w i t h d r a w n , exposed.
precisely not a question of p l a y i n g one identity off another. It is a W h y is it that an " i d e n t i f i c a t i o n p h o t o " is m o s t often poorer,
question of practicing singularities, that is, that w h i c h gives itself duller, a n d less " l i f e l i k e " than any other photo? A n d even more,
a n d shows itself o n l y in the plural. T h e L a t i n singuli means "one by w h y are ten identity photos of the same person so different f r o m
one," a n d is a w o r d that exists o n l y in the p l u r a l . Ipseity exists o n l y one another? W h e n does someone resemble himself [in a photo] ?
as singularly distributed. Insofar as one can speak in the f o l l o w i n g O n l y w h e n the photo shows s o m e t h i n g o f h i m , o r her, s o m e t h i n g
way, ipseity is "itself" d i s t r i b u t i o n , d i s s e m i n a t i o n , the o r i g i n a r y more than what is identical, more than the "face," the "image," the
sharing of that w h i c h never is—ipse itself-—and is nowhere present "traits" or the "portrait," s o m e t h i n g more than a copy of the d i a -
as such, " i n person." Ipse"ls" its o w n dispersion. critical signs of an " i d e n t i t y " ("black hair, blue eyes, snub nose,"
It is not n o t h i n g — i n d e e d , it is e v e r y t h i n g — b u t it remains for a n d so on). It is o n l y w h e n it evokes an u n e n d i n g mêlée of peoples,
us to t h i n k this totality of dispersion, of this all-one [tout-un] that parents, works, pains, pleasures, refusals, forgettings, transgressions,
is all m i x e d up. expectations, dreams, stories, a n d all that trembles w i t h i n a n d
struggles against the confines of the image. T h i s is not s o m e t h i n g
imaginary; it is n o t h i n g but what is real: what is real has to do w i t h

The mélange does not exist any more than p u r i t y exists. T h e r e is the mêlée. A true identification p h o t o w o u l d be an i n d e t e r m i n a n t

no pure mélange, nor is there any p u r i t y that is intact. N o t o n l y is mêlée of photos a n d scribbles [graphies] that resemble n o t h i n g , u n -

there no such thing, this is the very law of there is not: if there were der w h i c h one w o u l d inscribe a proper name.

something that was pure and intact, there w o u l d be nothing. N o t h -


i n g exists that is "pure," that does not come i n t o contact w i t h the
other, not because it has to border on something, as if this were a Such an inscription [légende] w o u l d be meant to be read, deci-
simple accidental c o n d i t i o n , but because t o u c h alone exposes the phered, and recounted, but it w o u l d not be a m y t h : to say it more
l i m i t s at w h i c h identities or ipseities can distinguish themselves [se precisely, it w o u l d not confer an identity on the ipse or on some one
démêler] f r o m one another, w i t h one another, between one another, of w h o m it w o u l d be the legendum est, the "this is to be read."
f r o m a m o n g one another. W h a t is to be read is what is written. M y t h is not w r i t t e n , but pro-
T h e mêlée is not accidental; it is originary. It is not contingent; jected a n d p r o n o u n c e d ; it is b r a n d i s h e d about or springs f o r t h
it is necessary. It is not; it happens constantly. purely, w i t h o u t habituation, w i t h o u t a history. N o t o n l y does m y t h
158 Eulogy for the Mêlée

identify, it identifies itself above all: it is the infinite presupposition


of its o w n identity a n d authenticity. If, in m y t h i c m o d e , I say the § The Surprise of the Event
names "Ares," " A p h r o d i t e , " " H e r m e s " or "France," then I have al-
ready said more than all that m i g h t be said about t h e m , a n d n o t h -
i n g legitimate c o u l d be said about them that w o u l d not also already
be authenticated by t h e m in advance. T h u s , o n l y the very voice of
France c o u l d express what is F r e n c h . M y t h is a m e a n i n g that is its
o w n subject; m y t h is where the proper name is the i d i o m of an i d -
iolect [en tant qu'idosémie d'un idiolecte].
B u t what is w r i t t e n , a n d what is to be read, is that w h i c h has not
preceded its o w n habituation; it is the mêlée of the traces of a mean-
i n g that gets lost in l o o k i n g for itself a n d i n v e n t i n g itself. I read
that Sarajevo is a city d i v i d e d i n t o at least three cities, b o t h succes-
sive a n d simultaneous, a n d that Bosna-Saray is there m i x e d w i t h T h e title of this essay s h o u l d also be w r i t t e n or read as: " T h e
M i l j a c k a a n d Ilidza. Surprise: Of the Event." It concerns not o n l y the "surprise," in the
sense of its being an attribute, quality, or property of the event, but
the event itself, its being or essence. W h a t makes the event an event
is not o n l y that it happens, but that it s u r p r i s e s — a n d maybe even
that it surprises itself (diverting it f r o m its o w n " h a p p e n i n g " ["ar-
rivée"], not a l l o w i n g it be an event, surprising the being in it, al-
1

l o w i n g it to be o n l y by way of surprise).
B u t let us begin at the b e g i n n i n g . We w i l l begin w i t h the f o l -
l o w i n g sentence, by w h i c h something undoubtedly started to d a w n
on m o d e r n t h i n k i n g ; that is, s o m e t h i n g began to surprise itself in
it, something w i t h w h i c h we have not yet finished: "Butphilosophy
is not meant to be a narration of happenings but a cognition of what
is true in them, andfurther, on the basis of this cognition, to c o m p r e -
h e n d that which, in the narrative, appears as a mere happening [or
pure event—Trans]." T h i s sentence is f o u n d in the second book of
2

Hegel's Science of Logic, in a text entitled " T h e N o t i o n [Concept]


in G e n e r a l , " w h i c h serves as an i n t r o d u c t i o n to "Subjective L o g i c ;
or the D o c t r i n e of the N o t i o n . "
T h i s sentence can be read in two ways. A c c o r d i n g to the first
reading, w h i c h is certainly the most obvious because it closely c o n -
forms to what passes for the canonical interpretation of H e g e l i a n
t h i n k i n g , this sentence signifies that the task of p h i l o s o p h y is to

159
i6o The Surprise of the Event The Surprise of the Event 161

conceive that of w h i c h the event is only the p h e n o m e n o n . Let us be ( N o t e that this d o u b l e constraint on the subject of the event
more precise. F o r philosophy, there is first of all the t r u t h that is comes up elsewhere in Hegel, for w h o m it undoubtedly constitutes
c o n t a i n e d i n what happens, a n d then, i n light o f this t r u t h , the a general law. To give an example, in the i n t r o d u c t i o n to the Phi-
c o n c e p t i o n of its very p r o d u c t i o n or effectuation, w h i c h appears losophy of History, H e g e l writes, " I n the pure light of the d i v i n e
f r o m the outside as an "event, pure a n d simple (bloss)" exactly be- idea, w h i c h is not a simple ideal, there disappears that appearance
cause it is not conceived. On this account, the event-ness of the according to w h i c h the w o r l d w o u l d be an insane event, sheer stu-
event [événementalité de l'événement] (its appearance, its c o m i n g to p i d i t y [ein verrucktes, torictes Geschehen]." Here, too, the question is
pass, its t a k i n g place—das Geschehen) is o n l y the external, appar- put forward as to the status of the predicates: Is every event insane
ent, and inconsistent side of the effective presentation of truth. T h e [insensé]^ If the w o r l d is a sane [sensé] event, then is its m e a n i n g
advent of the t r u t h as real, w h i c h is contained in the concept, dis- independent of its event-ness?)
qualifies the event as a simple, narrative representation.
T h i s first reading, however, cannot h o l d . W i t h all due rigor, the
logic of the concept in w h i c h one is engaged here s h o u l d not be u n -
3
It is necessary, therefore, to engage in a second reading, p a y i n g
derstood as a logic of the category or the idea thought of as an "ab- more attention to the difference that i n f o r m s this sentence f r o m
stract generality" (as in K a n t ) ; on the contrary, it is a logic of "the the Logic. It is the difference between, on the one h a n d , the k n o w l -
identity of the concept a n d the t h i n g " (as Hegel's text says a little edge of the t r u t h that is f o u n d " i n " the t h i n g (reality, the subject)
further on). A c c o r d i n g to this logic, the concept conceives (under- that occurs and, on the other hand, and "further" ( ferner), the c o n -
stands, puts f o r t h , a n d founds) all d e t e r m i n a t i o n , all difference, ception of that w h i c h appears as [a] simple event. In other words,
a n d all exteriority f r o m the p o i n t of view of real effectivity. T h i s is the emphasis is not placed on the t h i n g which happens (the c o n -
w h y the concept, understood in this way, is the element in w h i c h it tent or the n o n p h e n o m e n a l s u b s t r a t u m ) , b u t on the fact that it
is revealed (again, in the same text) that "the Appearance [or phe- happens, the event-ness of its event (or else, its event rather than
n o m e n o n ] , is not d e v o i d of essential being, but is a manifestation its advent). U n d o u b t e d l y , this event-ness, insofar as it is conceived
of essence." In fact, rather than being the opposite of simple, phe-
4
in terms of the t r u t h of the t h i n g , is distinguished f r o m the phe-
n o m e n a l t r u t h , the concept is that p h e n o m e n o n w h i c h takes h o l d n o m e n o n ; in fact, it is its opposite, but o n l y in d i s t i n g u i s h i n g it-
of itself as the t r u t h . self as the n o n p h e n o m e n a l t r u t h of the phenomenal itself as such,
It is not obvious, t h e n — s t a y i n g w i t h the straightforward "canon- that is, distinguished as event, as Geschehen.
ical" r e a d i n g — t h a t the expression "event, pure and simple" must be In this sense, the task of p h i l o s o p h y is broken d o w n i n t o two
understood only in a unilateral way, as if the predicates c o u l d deter- parts: (i) to k n o w the truth of that w h i c h takes place; and (2) to con-
m i n e the essence of the subject: as if the event as such was o n l y and ceive of taking place as such. By means of this d i f f e r e n c e — a differ-
necessarily "pure a n d simple" (inessential). On the contrary, maybe ence that is certainly not immediately apparent and is hardly, if ever,
it does not r e m a i n — a n d it surely must n o t — " p u r e a n d simple," as analyzed in itself, but nonetheless remains very clear {ferner), Hegel
that consistency w h i c h is proper to the event. In other words, the represents the task of philosophy as the task of conceiving the taking
conceived event w o u l d remain the event conceived, w h i c h itself place of t r u t h beyond the true [outre le vrai]. In other words, it is to
w o u l d entail certain consequences. conceive of the t r u t h of the taking place of the t r u e — o r again, to
conceive o f the evenire o f the true beyond its eventus, w i t h o u t it fail-
ing to be its truth. As a result, it is a truth beyond truth itself.
i62 The Surprise of the Event The Surprise of the Event 163

It is by way of this difference or this surplus of t r u t h — n o t the ity of h i s t o r y — w h e n it is u n d e r s t o o d as a s i m p l e episode {blosses


truth above the true, but the truth of the taking place of the t r u e — Geschehen). (In fact, one c o u l d reread the pages that precede the
that H e g e l opens up modernity, where the o p e n i n g of m o d e r n i t y is sentence w i t h w h i c h we began f r o m this perspective.) T h e event is
n o t h i n g other than the o p e n i n g of t h i n k i n g to the event as such, to not an episode; it is, if it is at all necessary to say that it is, that it be
the truth of the event beyond every advent of meaning. In the open- [qu'il y a i t ] — t h a t is, that there be something, s o m e t h i n g different
i n g - u p of m o d e r n i t y (or, put another way, in the closure of meta- than the i n d e t e r m i n a n c y [indifference] of B e i n g a n d nothingness,
physics, w h i c h is itself n o t h i n g other than the event of the opening, to use the language of the n u m e r i c a l logic of b e c o m i n g . T h e event
the event opening t h i n k i n g to the surplus that overflows the origin), indicates what has to be t h o u g h t at the very heart of b e c o m i n g ,
there is this trace p o i n t e d in the direction of the event as such. p o i n t i n g to it as s o m e t h i n g more deeply w i t h d r a w n and more de-
T h i s is what is at stake: the task of p h i l o s o p h y is not a matter of cisive than the "passage-into" to w h i c h it is o r d i n a r i l y reduced. I n -
s u b s t i t u t i n g for the narrative Geschehen some substratum or sub- sofar as it is understood as "passage-into," b e c o m i n g p r i m a r i l y i n -
ject that does not happen or occur, but s i m p l y is (which, insofar as dicates that w h i c h is passed into, the having-become [letre-devenu]
it is sup-posed [sup-posé], has always already b e e n — t h e " b e i n g o f its result. B u t i n order for the passage to take place, i n step w i t h
what it was," the to ti en einai of A r i s t o t l e ) . B e y o n d the t r u t h of the passing [dans le pas du passer], there must first be the agitated
what happens, what is happening, what is in the happening, what "unrest" (haltungslose Unruhe), w h i c h has not yet passed a n d does
6

has happened, what has always already happened in the happening not pass as s u c h — b u t happens.
itself, it is a matter of t h i n k i n g that it happens; it is a matter of the
h a p p e n i n g or, rather, the h a p p e n i n g "it-self," where " i t " is not the
"self" that " i t was," since it has not happened. In other words, it is T h i s is the way in w h i c h H e g e l wants to t h i n k the essence of
a matter of t h i n k i n g sameness itself, as the same as n o t h i n g Geschehen as Geschehen. O r , at the very least, his t h i n k i n g tends to-
[mêmeté même, en tant que même que rien]. w a r d this thought as if toward its o w n v a n i s h i n g p o i n t . M o r e pre-
T h i s may be w h y it is, for H e g e l , a matter of t h i n k i n g Geschichte, cisely, H e g e l wants to t h i n k the essence of what escapes a logic in
not so m u c h in the sense of "history" as we understand it (and as w h i c h essence is understood as substance, subject, or g r o u n d , in fa-
H e g e l h i m s e l f understands it), b u t rather [as] the entire B e i n g or vor of a logic of the "to h a p p e n , " the w h o l e essence of w h i c h is in
act, the entelechy of Geschehen. Geschichte, t h e n , w o u l d not b e — the state of "agitation" that consists in not subsisting (haltungslos).
that is, not only, or in the first p l a c e — t h e productive succession of Moreover, the origin of the w o r d Geschehen and its semantic use re-
the different states of its subject. Rather than an u n f o l d i n g , rather fer to racing along a n d leaping, to p r e c i p i t a t i o n a n d suddenness,
t h a n a process or procession, the h a p p e n i n g or the c o m i n g — o r , far more than to process a n d what is p r o d u c e d . (In contrast to the
more to the p o i n t , "to happen," "to come," "to take p l a c e " — w o u l d F r e n c h w o r d "événement," this w o r d does not have the sense of a
be a nonsubstantive verb a n d one that is nonsubstantifiable. T h i s "outstanding or remarkable event," for w h i c h there are other words
is w h y H e g e l refuses to allow p h i l o s o p h y to be identified w i t h the in G e r m a n , b e g i n n i n g w i t h the closely related t e r m Geschehnis,
story of an u n f o l d i n g , that is, identified w i t h all its various episodes whose slight difference nonetheless brings out the verbal, active,
[péripéties]? W h a t he refuses, then, is not the d i m e n s i o n of the "to a n d busy [passant] character of Geschehen.)
happen" as such, w h i c h he w o u l d l i k e to replace w i t h the s i m p l e
a n d stable i d e n t i t y of B e i n g a n d the having-always-already-been.
L o o k i n g at it more carefully, it is clear that what he does refuse is In c o m i n g to this recognition, one certainly touches on the ex-
Geschehen—which is the active essence of Geschichte, the historial- treme l i m i t of what it is possible to make H e g e l say. S u c h is not a
164 The Surprise of the Event The Surprise of the Event 165

matter of exercising interpretive violence, nor is it a matter of mak- one "such"? H e r e , t h i n k i n g is surprised in the strong sense of the
i n g H e g e l , contrary to his o w n m a x i m , leap over his o w n time. It is w o r d : it is caught i n the absence o f t h i n k i n g [elle est prise en défaut
a matter of realizing that he must be made to say this, however sur- de pensée]. T h i s is not to say that it has not identified its object, but
p r i s i n g that m i g h t seem to the " H e g e l i a n s " (if there are any left), rather that there is no identifiable object if "the event" cannot even
a n d a matter of n o t i n g that Hegel's o w n t i m e in p h i l o s o p h y , the be said or seen "as s u c h , " that is, if one cannot even express "the
time of the m o d e r n closure/opening, includes this surprise w i t h i n event" w i t h o u t its losing its event-ness.
i t s e l f — a secret [sourde] anxiety (Unruhe) regarding the event.
T h i n k i n g the event in its essence as event surprises H e g e l i a n
t h i n k i n g f r o m the inside. Of course, such a thought closes in on it- Let us d w e l l u p o n this characteristic of surprise.
self just as q u i c k l y as it is opened. In short, H e g e l lets the Geschehen T h e r e is, then, s o m e t h i n g to be t h o u g h t — t h e e v e n t — t h e very
c o m e a n d go, happen a n d leave, w i t h o u t seizing it. B u t he does nature of w h i c h — e v e n t - n e s s — c a n o n l y be a matter of surprise,
state, nonetheless, that it happens to h i m and that it is what is to can o n l y take t h i n k i n g by surprise. We need to t h i n k about h o w
be thought, although it goes beyond his o w n discourse. t h o u g h t can a n d must be s u r p r i s e d — a n d h o w it m a y be exactly
Or rather, one c o u l d just as easily say the following: Hegel seizes this that makes it t h i n k . Or then again, we need to t h i n k about
the Geschehen; he stops it or inspects it in its c o m i n g and going; he h o w there w o u l d be no thought w i t h o u t the event of t h i n k i n g .
fixes its concept (it is Geschichte). B u t in d o i n g so, he demonstrates To t h i n k the surprise of the event must be s o m e t h i n g other than
that it is exactly in the seizing that he misses it as such. In this way, he q u e s t i o n i n g the u n t h i n k a b l e , in whatever m o d e this m i g h t occur,
opens, volens nolens, the question of the "as such" of the Geschehen. a n d also, of course, s o m e t h i n g other than w i n n i n g over surprise in
T h e "as such" of the event w o u l d be its B e i n g . B u t then this order to detach it f r o m its (sur)prise by assigning it a place under a
w o u l d have to be the b e i n g - h a p p e n i n g , or else the being-that- concept. T h i s u n d o u b t e d l y comes d o w n to t h i n k i n g t h r o u g h the
happens, rather than the B e i n g of what h a p p e n s — t h a t is, of what is leap that is taken at the very core of the H e g e l i a n Geschehen, the
h a p p e n i n g — o r even the B e i n g of the "that it happens." Or to put it dialectical s p r i n g located at that p o i n t where, before b e i n g the
another way, it w o u l d not be the "there is," but the that there is, the means of the [dialectic's] d r i v i n g force, it must be its relaxation or
that without w h i c h there w o u l d be nothing. T h e difference between release, a n d , therefore, its very [elle-même] negativity. As such, it is
"it is" and "there is" consists precisely in the fact that the there marks less a matter of the concept of surprise than of a surprise of [à
the proper instance of the taking place of Being, w i t h o u t w h i c h Be- même] the concept, essential to the concept.
i n g w o u l d not be. T h a t there is = the B e i n g of B e i n g , or the transi- In g o i n g m u c h farther back than H e g e l , as far back as the P l a -
tive B e i n g of the intransitive or substantive B e i n g , the event of Be- tonic a n d Aristotelian topos of "wonder," what may need to be u n -
i n g that is necessary in order for B e i n g to be; it does not in any derstood is the fact that this task is the task of philosophy, a n d that
sense equal the substance, subject, or g r o u n d of Being. T h e event of p h i l o s o p h y is surprised thought [la pensée surprise]. We c o m e back
Being, w h i c h is in no way Being, is nonetheless B e i n g " i t s e l f " — t h e to this topos again a n d again, as if to awaken the idea of a first
same as what has not been, as it were, or, more precisely, the same as "wonder," w h i c h is both a sort of rapture and an admission of ig-
not having been, the same as n o t h i n g . . . . norance, and w h i c h starts such "wonder" on its way toward its o w n
Therefore, what is opened w i t h the question of the "as such" of self-appropriation, that is, its self-resorption.
the event is s o m e t h i n g on the order of a negativity of the "as such." If we pay close attention to the Metaphysics (specifically A 2 ) ,
H o w is one to t h i n k "as such" where the "as" does not refer to any what A r i s t o t l e tells us is that " p h i l o s o p h y " is the science w h i c h is
i66 The Surprise of the Event The Surprise of the Event 167

neither "practical" nor "poetic," a n d the science w h i c h proceeds Let us begin again w i t h this: "the surprise of the event" is a tau-
f r o m wonder—insofar as this is exactly what provides access to that tology. A n d it is precisely this t a u t o l o g y that must first be ex-
science w h i c h is its o w n e n d . W o n d e r , t h e n , does not appear as pressed. T h e event surprises or else it is not an event; so it is all a
some ignorance to be overcome or as an aporia to be s u r m o u n t e d , matter of k n o w i n g what "surprise" is.
w h i c h w o u l d be a situation wherein one science c o u l d not really be In a b i r t h or in a d e a t h — e x a m p l e s w h i c h are not examples, but
distinguished f r o m the others; instead, w o n d e r appears as a dispo- more than examples; they are the t h i n g i t s e l f — t h e r e is the event,
s i t i o n t o w a r d sophia for its o w n sake. W o n d e r , then, is p r o p e r l y s o m e t h i n g ] awaited, something that m i g h t have been able to be. It
philo-sophical. O n e c o u l d even appeal to this interpretation in say- can also be formulated like this: what is awaited is never the event;
i n g that w o n d e r is already, by itself, f o u n d w i t h i n the element of it is the advent, the result; it is what happens. At the e n d of n i n e
sophia or, in a parallel manner, that sophia holds w i t h i n itself the m o n t h s , one expects the b i r t h , but that it takes place is what is
m o m e n t of wonder. (In the same passage, A r i s t o t l e declares that structurally unexpected i n this w a i t i n g . O r more precisely, the u n -
the philomuthos, that lover of myths and their astonishing wonders, a w a i t e d — a n d the u n a w a i t ^ ^ / f — i s not "the fact that" this takes
is also, in some way, a philosophos.) In as m u c h as it is c o n t a i n e d place, in the sense that this "fact" m a y itself be c i r c u m s c r i b e d
w i t h i n sophia a n d not suppressed, the m o m e n t of w o n d e r is that w i t h i n the sequence of a process and be a given of the experience.
of a surprise kept at the very core of sophia a n d constitutive of it, It is not "the fact that"; it is the that itself of the "that it happens" or
insofar as it is its o w n end. On the one h a n d , knowledge that is not the "that there is." Or even better, it is the " i t happens" as distinct
ordered or arranged by a n y t h i n g else is valuable o n l y as its o w n ap- f r o m all that precedes it a n d f r o m everything according to w h i c h
pearing; on the other h a n d , a n d reciprocally, the appearing itself is it is codetermined. It is the pure present of the " i t h a p p e n s " — a n d
the o n l y true object of k n o w l e d g e — i f it can, in fact, be an object. the surprise has to do w i t h the present as such, in the presence of
Sophia must surprise itself, a n d the surprise must be " k n o w n . " the present insofar as it happens.
T h u s , the surprise of the event w o u l d not o n l y be a l i m i t - s i t u a - T h a t it happens is a quidditas, w h i c h is neither that of "what
tion for the knowledge of B e i n g , it w o u l d also be its essential f o r m happens" nor of the " i t happens." It is not even that of the succes-
a n d essential e n d . F r o m the very b e g i n n i n g of p h i l o s o p h y to its sion or simultaneity of the "that" at the heart of all "that's." As K a n t
end, where its b e g i n n i n g is replayed in new terms, this surprise is says, in order to t h i n k of some t h i n g that occurs in a series, it is
all that is at stake, a stake that is literally i n t e r m i n a b l e . necessary to conceive of it as the change of a substance (which [it-
A g a i n , it is necessary to stay precisely w i t h i n the element of w o n - self] remains identical, as in the " F i r s t A n a l o g y of E x p e r i e n c e " ) ,
d e r — t h a t is, w i t h i n what c o u l d never p r o p e r l y be made i n t o an and it is necessary to refer this change back to causality ("Second
"element," but is instead an event. H o w is one to stay in the event? A n a l o g y o f E x p e r i e n c e " ) . " [ T h e ] concept o f alteration supposes
H o w is one to h o l d o n t o it (if that is even an appropriate expres- one a n d the same subject as existing w i t h two opposite determina-
sion) w i t h o u t t u r n i n g it i n t o an "element" or a "moment"? U n d e r tions, a n d thereby as a b i d i n g . " O u t s i d e this concept of change,
7

what conditions can one keep t h i n k i n g w i t h i n the surprise, w h i c h there is s i m p l y no concept of "some t h i n g , " for then there w o u l d
is its task to think? be " c o m i n g into being a n d passing away of substance," w h i c h can-
We w i l l examine some of these c o n d i t i o n s , at least in a p r e l i m i - not take place " i n t i m e , " but rather must take place exclusively as
nary way. time itself. Yet, "time cannot be perceived i n itself." T h e pure oc-
c u r r i n g {das blosse Enstehen)—in other words, the ex nihilo a n d also
i68 The Surprise of the Event The Surprise of the Event

the in nihilum—is n o t h i n g for w h i c h there is a concept; it is time y o n d the knowable or the s a y a b l e — a n d , as such, restricted to the
"itself," its paradoxical identity a n d permanence as "empty t i m e . " beyond-speech a n d beyond-knowledge of a mystical negativity. It
T h e event as s u c h , then, is e m p t y t i m e or the presence of the is neither a category nor a metacategory distinct f r o m B e i n g . 1 0

present as negativity, that is, insofar as it happens a n d is, as a re- Rather, it is right at [à même] Being, the necessary c o n d i t i o n for the
sult, n o n p r e s e n t — a n d in s u c h a w a y that it is not even "not yet categorization of Being: for saying it, addressing it, s u m m o n i n g [in-
present" (which w o u l d reinscribe everything in a succession of pre- terpeller] it to the level of the surprise of its unexpected arrival.
sents already available " i n time"), but is, on the contrary, the sort As such—als Geschehen, als Entschehen, a Is Verschwinden, as tak-
[of thing] that n o t h i n g precedes or succeeds. It is t i m e itself in its i n g place, appearing, d i s a p p e a r i n g — t h e event is not "presentable."
appearing, as the appearing that it is. 8 (In this sense, it exceeds the resources of any phenomenology, even
B u t e m p t y t i m e or the v o i d of t i m e "as s u c h , " a v o i d w h i c h is t h o u g h the p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l theme in general has never been
not an emptiness interior to any f o r m , but the c o n d i t i o n of the more magnetized by a n y t h i n g else). B u t it is not, for all that, " u n -
formation of every form, is not a "thing in itself," beyond reach a n d presentable" like some h i d d e n presence, for it is the unpresentable
accessible o n l y to an intuitus originarius. " E m p t y t i m e , " or the ar- or, rather, the unpresentifiable of the present that is right at the pre-
t i c u l a t i o n of the nihillquid as nonsuccessive, as the h a p p e n i n g or sent itself. T h e unpresentifiable of the present is the difference that
c o m i n g of s o m e t h i n g in general, is t i m e itself, in that it is not suc- structures the present, as has been k n o w n f r o m the time of A r i s t o -
cessivity, b u t that w h i c h does not succeed a n d is not p e r m a n e n t tle right up u n t i l the present day, via Husserl a n d Heidegger. T h a t
substance. O n e w o u l d have to say it in the f o l l o w i n g way: it is per- this difference of the present is not presentable does not mean that
manence w i t h o u t substance, the present w i t h o u t presence; rather it is not t h i n k a b l e — b u t this c o u l d mean that t h i n k i n g , in order to
than the c o m i n g [la venue], it is the unexpected arrival [sur-venueY be thought, must itself become s o m e t h i n g other than a seeing or
of the t h i n g itself. It is neither (successive) time, nor (distributive) k n o w i n g ; it must make itself the surprise of/in its "object." In D e -
place, n o r (extant) t h i n g , b u t rather the t a k i n g place of some- leuzian terms, a becoming-surprise of t h i n k i n g must correspond to
t h i n g — t h e event. To use a w o r d that is heavy w i t h the weight of the unexpected arrival of the present (of B e i n g ) .
an enormous t r a d i t i o n , w h i c h it w i l l be necessary to problematize
later, it is creation.
E m p t y time, or negativity as time, or the event, makes itself the In this formulation, there is no event "as such." T h i s is because
" i n itself" of the " t h i n g in itself." U n d o u b t e d l y , this is exactly what the event as e v e n t — t h a t is, quo modo or according to its o w n m o d e
K a n t was unable to grasp. It is also what H e g e l and those of us w h o {evenire quo modo evenit), the event according to the appropriate-
come after h i m , w i t h i n the insistent t r a d i t i o n of passing along a ness a n d measure of the event i t s e l f — i s not what is p r o d u c e d or
t h i n k i n g of the event, are constantly addressing. " T i m e " or "the c o u l d be s h o w n (as the spectacular, as the n e w b o r n infant, as the
event" (both of these terms are still too f i r m l y rooted in a thematic dead m a n ) . Rather, it is the event as it comes about [é-vient], as it
of continuous-discontinuous succession) m a r k out, or just are, the happens. A l m o s t immediately, one can discern that in similar cir-
"position of existence" as such: the nihillquid that cannot even be cumstances the m o d a l as is confused w i t h the temporal as (the one
expressed as " f r o m the nihil to the quid." T h i s is the event of Be- that is used when one says "as it happened, there was a flash of light-
i n g , neither as an accident nor as a predicate, but as the B e i n g of n i n g " ["comme il arrivait, il y eut un éclair"]). H e r e , quo modo =
B e i n g [l'être de l'être]. quo tempore.
A c c o r d i n g to these conditions, the event is not "something" be- T h e m o d e of the event, its "as such," is t i m e itself as the t i m e of
The Surprise of the Event The Surprise of the Event 171
I70

the unexpected arrival. A n d the t i m e of the unexpected arrival is t i m e itself, that is, as that w h i c h admits n o t h i n g presupposed, not
"empty" time. T h e v o i d of time, or better still, the v o i d as time, the even, or especially not, a presupposition. To do so w o u l d be to ad-
v o i d in the m o d e of t i m e , is "negativity for itself" (the phrase by m i t an antecedent of time [in] to itself. T h e rupture of n o t h i n g , the
w h i c h H e g e l defines time in the Encyclopedia in §257). B u t this is leap of n o t h i n g i n t o n o t h i n g , is the extension of negativity; or to
not negativity understood as Hegel understood it, as "abstractly re- be more precise, since the negative is not s o m e t h i n g that can be
lated to itself" ( w h i c h , in short, a m o u n t s to the K a n t i a n " v o i d " ) . stretched like a rubber b a n d , [it is] negativity as tension, a tension
In this case, one w o u l d remain firmly rooted in a m o d e l of the suc- that is not itself progressive, but is all in one go, in a single stroke,
cession of presents, a succession d i v i d e d up a n d reconnected by the tension/extension of B e i n g , "that there is."
this abstract negativity. Rather, the relation of negativity to i t s e l f — If the event of the "that there is" has negation as its c o r o l l a r y
" b i r t h and death," as H e g e l says in the same s e c t i o n — m u s t be u n - "and not n o t h i n g , " it does not have it as its n e g a t i v e — w h i c h is to
derstood as the nonabstract, itself understood as not the result [of say, not as just another inverse a n d s y m m e t r i c a l p o s s i b i l i t y : that
some process]. ( T h i s is exactly what H e g e l lets fall by the wayside, there be " n o t h i n g " in the place 0/something. T h i s is because there
but also what he is very close to w h e n he names time "the abstract is no place for the t a k i n g place of a " n o t h i n g " in the guise of
being"). W h a t is neither abstraction nor result is the unexpected " s o m e t h i n g . " " A n d not n o t h i n g , " as it is used above, does not
arrival; in fact, it is negativity "for itself," but for itself o n l y insofar m e a n that this is not " n o t h i n g " w h i c h exists. On the contrary, it
as it is the position of B e i n g or existence. says that n o t h i n g exists except for " s o m e t h i n g , " a n d that "some-

T h i s positivity of negativity is not its dialectical fecundity. In or- t h i n g " exists w i t h no presupposition other t h a n its o w n existence,

der to a v o i d r e o p e n i n g the w h o l e issue of d e c o n s t r u c t i n g the d i - the extension of " n o t h i n g " as the tension of its becoming-present,

alectic, let us just say that this positivity is the exact reverse of this of its event.

fecundity, w i t h o u t g o i n g so far as to say that it is its dialectical (In this, it must be conceded that the t h i n k i n g of existence w o u l d
sterility. It is B e i n g or existence that exists, [which is] neither en- prove " n o t h i n g . " B u t the p r o o f of n o t h i n g is not necessarily, or ex-
gendered nor unengendered, but w h i c h arrived unexpectedly, ar- clusively, the anguish of n o t h i n g n e s s — w h i c h always runs the risk
rives u n e x p e c t e d l y — o r again, is "created." of projecting this "nothingness" as the abysmal presupposition (and

Negativity, here, does not deny itself a n d is not raised up out of postsupposition) of Being. Instead, the experience [preuve] of n o t h -

itself. It does s o m e t h i n g else; its o p e r a t i o n , or its i n - o p e r a t i o n , is i n g is what we are trying to approach: the thinking-surprise [pensée-

otherwise a n d obeys another m o d e . O n e c o u l d say that it becomes surprise] of the event.)

strained: tension a n d extension, the o n l y means by w h i c h some-


t h i n g c o u l d appear as "passing-through" a n d "process," the n o n -
t e m p o r a l a n d n o n l o c a l extension of the taking-place as such, the W h a t , then, is the surprise?
spacing t h r o u g h w h i c h time appears, the tension of n o t h i n g w h i c h T h i s is exactly what can no longer be asked. T h e surprise is not
opens time. As Heidegger put it: Spanne. a n y t h i n g . It is not some newness of B e i n g that w o u l d be surpris-

T h e unexpected arrival: the n o t h i n g stretched t o the p o i n t o f i n g in comparison to the B e i n g that is already given. W h e n there is

rupture a n d to the leaping-off p o i n t of the arrival, where presence the event (whether there is the event o n l y for the totality of beings

is presented [pres-ente]. or for diverse, dispersed, a n d u n c e r t a i n b e i n g s — w h i c h comes

There is a rupture and a leap: rupture, not in the sense of a break d o w n to the same t h i n g ) , it is the "already" that leaps u p , a l o n g

w i t h the already presupposed temporal c o n t i n u u m , but rupture as w i t h the "not yet." It leaps [over] every presented or presentable
172 The Surprise of the Event The Surprise of the Event 173

present, a n d this leap is the c o m i n g , or the pre-sence or prae-sens no one leapt. T h e s u r p r i s e — t h e e v e n t — d o e s not belong to the or-
itself w i t h o u t a present. der of representation. T h e surprise is that the l e a p — o r better the
W h e n "the infant is b o r n , " as H e g e l says in the famous passage " i t , " the "someone" w h o occurs in the leap a n d , in short, occurs as
f r o m the Phenomenology, the event is not that the infant is b o r n , the leap " i t s e l f " — s u r p r i s e s itself. It is surprised; it is insofar as it is
because this was already well established in the order of process and surprised that it i s — a n d it is as surprise, surprising itself in the glar-
the m o d i f i c a t i o n of substance. Instead, the event is the i n t e r r u p - i n g absence of being-present. It surprises itself precisely insofar as
t i o n of the process, that leap w h i c h H e g e l represents as the " q u a l i - it represents neither "itself" nor its surprise. T h e leap coincides w i t h
tative leap" of the "first breath" (or even, as he says elsewhere, as the surprise; it is n o t h i n g but this surprise, w h i c h still does not even
the " t r e m b l i n g " w h i c h crosses t h r o u g h a n d divides the maternal "belong" to it.
substance in utero). To use Heidegger's language, to be b o r n or to T h e tension or extension of the leap, that is, the spacing of time,
die is not "to be," but to be " t h r o w n i n t o B e i n g . " the discord of B e i n g as its truth: this is the surprise. T h e Spanne is
T h i n k i n g the leap can o n l y be accomplished by a leap of thought not surprising in that it comes to trouble or destabilize a subject that
— b y thought as a leap, as the leap that it knows and is aware of be- was there, but in its taking someone there where he is not, or insofar
i n g , necessarily. B u t it knows itself and is aware of itself as surprise as it overtakes h i m , seizes h i m , paralyzes h i m insofar as he is not there.
(surprise in its knowledge and awareness, surprise as knowledge and T h i s "not being there" is exactly the most appropriate m o d e of
awareness). T h e surprise is n o t h i n g except the leap right at [à même] "being there," since it is a matter of "leaping into B e i n g , " or a mat-
B e i n g , this leap where the event and t h i n k i n g are "the same." In a ter of existing. " N o t to be there" is not to be already there, but to
certain way, the t h i n k i n g of the surprise repeats the P a r m e n i d i a n be the there itself (which is the principal existential c o n d i t i o n of Da-
sameness of B e i n g and t h i n k i n g . sein). T h e "there" is the spacing of the tension, of the ex-tension. It
It leaps; but w h o or what is this "it"? N o t h i n g , no one. "It" o n l y is space-time; it is not space, not time, not a c o u p l i n g of the two,
is in the leap. T h a t is, it e x i s t s — i f the ek-sisting of existence is not a source-point outside the two, but the originary division [coupe]
made of the tension and extension between B e i n g a n d the being, and chiasm that opens them up to one another.
between n o t h i n g a n d s o m e t h i n g . It leaps i n t o n o t h i n g , a n d this is T h e surprise is the leap i n t o the space-time of n o t h i n g , w h i c h
h o w it exists. It is to leap into n o t h i n g . It is itself the articulation does not come "before" or f r o m "elsewhere"; as such, it is the leap
of the difference between n o t h i n g and s o m e t h i n g , a n d this differ- i n t o the space-time of space-time "itself." It is the taking place of
ence is also a différend [ein Austrag, dispute, conflict, d i s t r i b u t i o n , place, of the there that is not a place "for" B e i n g , but B e i n g as
s h a r i n g — a s Heidegger lays out in the second v o l u m e of his N i e t - place, being-the-there. It is not present B e i n g , but the present of Be-
zsche lectures). There is a disagreement between B e i n g a n d the be- ing insofar as it happens, a n d therefore insofar as it is not.
ing: B e i n g is in disagreement w i t h the present, given, disposed be- It is in this way that the surprise of the event is n e g a t i v i t y — b u t
ing-ness [étantité] of the being, a n d the b e i n g is in disagreement not negativity as a resource, as an available f o u n d a t i o n , as n o t h -
w i t h the substantial, f o u n d i n g essentiality of B e i n g . T h e disagree- ingness or an abyss f r o m the depths of w h i c h the event w o u l d
m e n t is a disagreement w i t h that w h i c h , by according Being to the come; for such an "event" w o u l d still be a result. T h e n o t h i n g (in
being, would have eased the tension of ek-sisting. Disagreement, then, order to keep this d r i e d - u p w o r d a n d to make it incisive for every
constitutes the event: the nonpresence of the c o m i n g to presence, "abyss" a n d all their various depths), w h i c h is "at b o t t o m " ["au
and its absolute surprise. fond"] n o t h i n g a n d no more than the n o t h i n g of a leap i n t o n o t h -
B u t this is not a surprise for a subject. No one is surprised, just as i n g , is the negativity that is not a resource but the affirmation of
174 The Surprise of the Event The Surprise of the Event 175

ek-sistent tension: its intensity, the intensity or surprising tone of in being gathered at a p o i n t of o r i g i n (for ontology, there is no B i g
existence. B a n g ) . Because it is or creates surprise, its nature and structure are
such as to be dispersed in the flow [l'aléa] of events, a n d , as a re-
sult, also in the flow of that w h i c h does not constitute an event and
A c c o r d i n g to these c o n d i t i o n s , if a s c h e m a t i s m of the surprise w i t h d r a w s discreetly i n t o the i m p e r c e p t i b l e c o n t i n u u m , i n t o the
were n e c e s s a r y — a n d it is necessary; it is what concerns us here; it m u r m u r of "life" for w h i c h existence is the exception.
is necessary to give the a p r i o r i c o n d i t i o n s of grasping the surprise If the event were fundamental a n d u n i q u e in the o r d i n a r y — o r
as such, the c o n d i t i o n s of a surprise seizure of s u r p r i s e — i t c o u l d "metaphysical"—sense of these words, it w o u l d be given, a n d this
be said that the surprise is the schematism itself. F o r if the schema- g i v i n g w o u l d also be the o r i g i n a r y d i s s o l u t i o n of all event-ness.
tism is the p r o d u c t i o n of a "pure v i s i o n , " anterior to every figure, T h e r e w o u l d be no surprise. O n l y because it is not given, but i n -
and if "pure v i s i o n " is itself the ex-position of t i m e as "pure auto- stead happens, is there surprise a n d an unpredictable [aléatoire]
affection,"" it is in pure auto-affection that vision sees itself seeing m u l t i p l i c i t y of what m i g h t n o w be called the arrivals (or the "arriv-
a n d , in this way, sees—(the) n o t h i n g . In general, the schematism ings") of the u n i q u e event. In this sense, there are o n l y events,
is p r i n c i p a l l y the v i s i b i l i t y of n o t h i n g as a c o n d i t i o n for the possi- w h i c h means that "there is" is eventlike [événementiel] (Sein, Ereig-
b i l i t y o f any v i s i b i l i t y o f s o m e t h i n g . I n every vision o f s o m e t h i n g , nis). T h i s means they are not o n l y diverse, discrete, a n d dispersed,
the vision first of all sees itself as pure v i s i o n , seeing n o t h i n g , seeing b u t also rare. O r , in other words: the event is s i m u l t a n e o u s l y
n o t h i n g t h e r e — a n d yet, it is already " v i s i o n , " a n d as such is ahead u n i q u e , innumerable, a n d rare.
of itself or outside itself, not a figure a n d the figure of the n o t h - It never stops h a p p e n i n g — a n d surprising. T h i n k i n g never stops
i n g — t h i s surprising figure w i t h o u t figure that the event of B e i n g c a t c h i n g itself in the act [se surprendre à] of seeing it c o m i n g , its
traces in a flash. open l o o k t u r n e d u p o n the transparency of n o t h i n g . A thought is
Therefore, the s c h e m a t i s m — a n d along w i t h it, all transcenden- an event: w h a t it t h i n k s happens to it there, where it is not. An
tal i m a g i n a t i o n — w o u l d neither be some sort of "image" (as is al- event is a thought: the tension and leap i n t o the n o t h i n g of B e i n g .
ready well k n o w n ) nor some sort of arche-image, any more than it It is in this sense that " B e i n g a n d t h i n k i n g are the same" a n d that
w o u l d be a sort of sublime abyss of the breaking d o w n of these i m - their sameness takes place according to the incisive ex-tension of
ages. M o r e simply, more u n i m a g i n a b l y , it w o u l d be the event- ek-sistence.
schema, the l i g h t i n g of the trace stretched out right at n o t h i n g and It is also in this sense that it m i g h t be said that the creation of
the pure affirmation of existence. F i n a l l y , it w o u l d not even be the w o r l d is the thought of G o d . [ W e c o u l d say this] if f r o m n o w
" b i r t h " or "death," but o n l y what these incisions dissect: the B e i n g o n — g i v e n that the u n c o n d i t i o n e d is no longer subjected to the
of a being, its event. c o n d i t i o n of the supreme b e i n g — i t were not also necessary for us
W i l l it be said, then, that this event is u n i q u e — i n the sense in to t h i n k this w i t h o u t " G o d " and w i t h o u t a "creator": this is what is
w h i c h Heidegger speaks of the " f u n d a m e n t a l event of D a s e i n " ? 12
meant by the d e m a n d to t h i n k of the event as we have inherited it
Certainly. In a certain respect, there is n o t h i n g apart f r o m an event, from Hegel.
a n d there is n o t h i n g " o f the event" that is scattered here a n d there [Since Hegel] at the very l e a s t — i t m i g h t be necessary to pay
w i t h no connection to essential event-ness. There is an event, a sur- some renewed attention to the w o r k of Parmenides himself, par-
prise. W h a t exists does not recover; it does not return. It is to exist. ticularly to h o w ontological t r u t h is inscribed there in the recita-
B u t the u n i t y of the event is not n u m e r i c a l . It does not consist t i o n of an event. After all, the p o e m i m m e d i a t e l y opens o n t o the
i 6
7 The Surprise of the Event

present w i t h "the horses w h i c h carry m e , " where n o t h i n g indicates


a s t o p p i n g p o i n t in any f o r m a l way. In fact, the speaker's chariot § H u m a n Excess
enters the d o m a i n of the goddess, b u t this d o m a i n is o n l y pre-
sented as the road opened w i d e by the gaping o p e n i n g that Dike
agreed t o o p e n . H e , the " y o u n g m a n , " the one w h o " k n o w s " o r
"sees" his road "pass t h r o u g h all the cities," does not c o m e d o w n
f r o m his chariot. He is i n s t r u c t e d by the goddess a l o n g the way,
w i t h o u t stopping, instructed not about B e i n g but about the " i t is."
Passing t h r o u g h the o p e n i n g , he sees that there is; that is all that
happens to h i m , a n d n o t h i n g else ever h a p p e n s — w h e n s o m e t h i n g
happens.
It is precisely this that must be said and t h o u g h t — t h e r e is n o t h -
i n g but this to say a n d to t h i n k ; all m e a n i n g is there.
W h a t m e a n i n g , then? T h e m e a n i n g that makes it the case that Measure is the name for the propriety [convenance] of one B e i n g
"there is"; that w h i c h destines or provokes B e i n g i n t o happening; to another, or to itself. On the one h a n d , as propriety to another,
that w h i c h sends B e i n g on its way i n t o h a p p e n i n g — i n t o happen- measure is that " d i m e n s i o n " for w h i c h there is no prescribed p r o -
ing/arriving/leaving. W h a t is this? T h i s cannot be represented as p r i e t y except for that of c o n v e n t i o n . Systems of measurement
an a x i o m , or as a fact. It w i l l be said that it is an " i t must." [mesure] are all grounded, at least in part, on considerations of use
W r i t t e n beneath the title of the last m o v e m e n t of Beethoven's (which are more or less m i x e d up w i t h various kinds of symbolism).
Q u a r t e t , op. 135—"the decision made w i t h d i f f i c u l t y " — h e added On the other h a n d , apart f r o m every i n t e n t i o n toward some sort
this w e l l - k n o w n note: "Muss es sein? Es muss sein." ( T h i s c o u l d be of use, it is always possible to measure the average life of a m a n in
interpreted in the f o l l o w i n g way: " M u s t it (be)? It must (be)" ["Le m i l l i o n t h s of a second, or in definite fractions of the t i m e it takes
f a u t - i l (être)? Il le faut (être)"]). If B e i n g s i m p l y were, n o t h i n g for the light of a distant star to reach us. T h i s is h o w the c u r i o s i -
w o u l d ever happen, and there w o u l d not be any t h i n k i n g . In a d d i - ties that fill almanacs are o b t a i n e d (the height of the c o l u m n
t i o n , the " i t must" is not the expression of a simple, i m m a n e n t ne- formed by all the books in the Bibliothèque N a t i o n a l e . . . ), facts
cessity (of a nature or destiny). Necessity itself can o n l y be the de- d e v o i d o f m e a n i n g but not o f t r u t h , albeit infinitely impoverished
c i d e d response of t h i n k i n g to the suspense of B e i n g wherein it is t r u t h . W i t h i n this order of t r u t h , excess is impossible. Q u i t e to the
surprised: Muss es sein? contrary, it is the perfect d o m a i n of large numbers, shifts in scale,
i n c o m m e n s u r a b l e s , all the surpluses w i t h regard to averages, a n d
so forth. Seven m i l l i o n six h u n d r e d thousand p o u n d s sterling for
C a n o v a s The Graces is a c o m m e r c i a l t r u t h that is neither measured
nor excessive. T e n b i l l i o n people on E a r t h is a prospective d e m o -
graphic t r u t h , w h i c h is neither measured nor excessive as such.
In t u r n , these figures themselves measure something: the engage-
m e n t w i t h certain evaluations w i t h i n a market, the engagement
w i t h a certain n u m b e r of risks and tasks in a w o r l d (in a w o r l d that

177
178 Human Excess Human Excess 179

becomes w o r l d l y by this very engagement). In other words, each T h e figures are there n o t o n l y as elements of the discourse; they
time these figures measure a responsibility. precede it. In a certain way, they indicate its m e a n i n g in advance
T a k i n g account o f the "excess" o f large n u m b e r s s o m e t i m e s of all its articulated significations. " C a p i t a l " itself may also be ab-
comes d o w n to s i m p l y establishing a p r o p r i e t y that has no sense solutely general exposition a n d exponentiality.)
of "excess" w i t h relation to itself (as is the case w i t h curiosities Just as in the vain exercise of curiosity (or its exact opposite), here
f r o m almanacs, record books, or the purely spectacular e x h i b i t i o n too, "excess" is its o w n propriety and forms the measure of an " u n -
of the universe's d i m e n s i o n s — a l l of it science a n d t r u t h for fools). h e a r d - o f " ["inouïe"] measure. It measures itself; that is, it is en-
B u t sometimes, it is also a matter of b r i n g i n g a certain responsi- gaged as totality. In today's w o r l d , excess [la démesure] is not an ex-
b i l i t y to light. E a c h of these gestures is the reverse of the other, so cess [un excès], in the sense that it is indeterminant w i t h relation to
that the proliferation of large numbers in our culture, our interests n o r m a t i v e structures; it does not f o r m a m o n s t r o u s excrescence
a n d our needs (the size of a c o m p u t e r memory, the price of a n u - a n d , as such, is not d o o m e d to perish. It constitutes a tendentious,
clear submarine, a n d so on) also defines the exponential growth of c o n t i n u e d a p p r o x i m a t i o n of totality. It indicates not so m u c h the
such responsibility. degree or q u a n t u m of its magnitude [grandeur] (six or ten or forty
(Sergio M o r a v i a h a d this feeling, albeit in a f o r m that was still m i l l i o n , or even 13 or 20 meters square of arable l a n d per person by
imprecise a n d too M a n i c h e a n , w h e n he wrote: " E v i l today is called the year 2050), but m a g n i t u d e itself as an absolute w h i c h touches
' N u m b e r ' . . . . N u c l e a r weapons, weapons of mass h o m i c i d e , were u p o n another p r o p r i e t y o f B e i n g (or the h u m a n , o r m e a n i n g —
b o r n o f N u m b e r . W i t h o u t N u m b e r , their i n v e n t i o n w o u l d have however we w a n t to say it). T h i s can be illustrated in the f o l l o w -
been meaningless. T h u s , the N u m b e r of the species is opposed to i n g way: the B i g B a n g is not about "very large" quantities (of time,
the N u m b e r of the e n d of the species."') energy, the d i m e n s i o n s of the Universe, a n d so o n ) , it is about a
It is not w i t h o u t reason that the figures for genocide a n d other magnitude (the Universe) that is entirely its o w n measure, a n d the
forms of extermination have become, if not names properly speak- measure of no other.
i n g , at least the semantemes o f modernity. "Six m i l l i o n " is indisso- T h i s m a g n i t u d e , w h i c h is its o w n "excessive" measure or mea-
ciable f r o m the Shoah. "Six m i l l i o n " (as well as figures for other ex- sured excess, also provides the scale of a total responsibility: w h e n
terminations a n d massacres), as it is used, does not m e a n the same it is t h o r o u g h l y analyzed, the w h o l e matter of the B i g B a n g c o n -
as being "very b i g " or "too h i g h , " excessive or out of p r o p o r t i o n . cerns the fact that the true "measure" of the universe is f o u n d in
W o u l d it be " w i t h i n measure" to k i l l ten Jews, or a h u n d r e d A r m e - the "excessive" responsibility that we have for it, or w h i c h we take
nians, or twenty-five Tutsis? Is it " w i t h i n measure" to let two peo- on f r o m that very m o m e n t we measure in this way. M a n as the
ple die of hunger rather than a m i l l i o n ? These figures do not des- measure of all things has taken on a new, excessive meaning: far re-
ignate a surpassing or g o i n g b e y o n d [dépassement] (of what norm? m o v e d f r o m every relation to the h u m a n as some mediocre stan-
of what average?). T h e y indicate an order, a register appropriate to dard, a n d also far removed f r o m its remnants, this m e a n i n g relates
engagement a n d responsibility, of w h i c h they are themselves a part. h u m a n s themselves to an i m m e n s i t y of responsibility.
( O f course, one must trace back to M a r x the role large numbers In an age where h u m a n i t y is understood as the p o p u l a t i o n of a
play in what m i g h t be called m o r a l e x p o s i t i o n . In order for the very large n u m b e r of people, the humanitas of h u m a n i t y itself ap-
f u n c t i o n these numbers serve to j u m p out in front of our eyes it is pears as an excess that gives the measure or sets the standard against
enough to glance t h r o u g h any n u m b e r of chapters f r o m Capital, w h i c h we must measure ourselves. As such, a m u r d e r is excessive
for example, the chapter on the " G e n e r a l L a w of A c c u m u l a t i o n . " in relation to the o r d i n a r y mores of a social group. B u t an exter-
ISO Human Excess Human Excess I8i

m i n a t i o n (the name of w h i c h indicates all too well what it is say- w o r l d is accurate or not. W h a t is i m p o r t a n t is that we have set up
i n g : to go to t e r m , exhaust the account [épuiser le compte], to mea- this m o d e l — a n d that it gets exhausted. It is exhausted because it
sure a people o n l y against its existence w i t h i n totality), this itself does not take i n t o account (as the proper m o d e , as the p r o p r i e t y
measures a social relation, or its absence, as it were. T h e opposite of B e i n g to itself) that the measure of the m o d e r n w o r l d is itself
of an e x t e r m i n a t i o n cannot be f o u n d [by l o o k i n g for some] "just the "excessive" m o d e of infinity.
measure": it must reclaim the same totality. T h i s is also the m e a n - Its origin [provenance] is undoubtedly C h r i s t i a n ; or rather, C h r i s -
i n g of d e m o g r a p h i c mastery: h u m a n i t y as totality clearly comes tianity was o n l y ever the installation of this infinite m o d e of B e i n g .
d o w n t o b e i n g humanity's responsibility. T h i s r e s p o n s i b i l i t y i s Properly speaking, C h r i s t i a n i t y had l o n g concealed the truth of this
given w i t h o u t measure, because the question is not h o w m a n y peo- infinite m o d e under the apparent preservation of a measurable mea-
ple the E a r t h or the universe can support, but rather w h i c h people sure, the measure of the created B e i n g [l'être créé]. As a creature, Be-
it can support, w h i c h existences. N u m b e r , here, i m m e d i a t e l y c o n - i n g had to observe the propriety of its dependence. B u t insofar as
verts its magnitude into moral magnitude: the size of h u m a n i t y be- the w h o l e of creation essentially carries the m a r k or vestige of its
comes indissociable f r o m its dignity. creator as its proper m o d e (man in the image of G o d was n o t h i n g
more than the pinnacle of this structure or process), it itself has as
its propriety the immensity, the nonmeasure, of the creator. To p u t
B u t this dignity, this humanitas, is not itself given as a measure it m o r e precisely, this is the nonmeasure of the act of creation
(to believe that it is constitutes the notorious weakness of all dis- (where the subject creator is n o t h i n g other than its act), w h i c h has
courses of "measured" and measuring h u m a n i s m ) . In a certain way, as its property the lack of measure and the fact that it operates w i t h -
all calls to "measure" are in v a i n , since there is no excess that can out measure, as distinct f r o m all cosmogony. In fact, creation means
be d e t e r m i n e d w i t h relation to a given measure, n o r m , scale, or the n o n o r i g i n [non-provenance] of existence as such, w i t h no other
m e a n . T h u s , the use and/or rule that gives the measure must itself measure or mode, and it means Being's absolute and exclusive pro-
be invented. priety to itself.
In our culture, a l o n g period of rule was needed in order to recall As for " G o d , " he is o n l y the interpretation of this excess in terms
h o w m u c h the ancient w o r l d was a w o r l d of measure, a n d h o w it of a process a n d as the agent of p r o d u c t i o n . B u t this is also why,
was that under this heading, perhaps more than any other, it h a d even w i t h i n the f r a m e w o r k of this interpretation, creation has
to be a m o d e l for us (model a n d measure, m o d e l of measure, a n d brought about so m a n y c o m p l e x elaborations on the structure a n d
measure of the m o d e l : this all makes up a large part of our history extent of his act: on the "ex n i h i l o , " on G o d ' s expansion out of
and metaphysical constitution). It was a w o r l d of well-defined l i m i t , h i m s e l f or retreat into himself, on the various themes of love, glory,
a w o r l d o f the horizon, o f phronesis, mesotes, and metron. Hubris was giving, or abandonment. A l l these considerations gravitate toward
the measurable excess par excellence, and one knew, or c o u l d k n o w the f o l l o w i n g : "creation" is the absolute measure, the B e i n g w h i c h
i n p r i n c i p l e , i f Ajax, A n t i g o n e , o r C r e o n , Caesar o r B r u t u s sur- is, unto itself, the pure a n d simple propriety of its existence.
passed the measure a n d one c o u l d k n o w w h i c h measure was ex- T h e result is that the f o r m u l a for G o d , as the measure of all
ceeded. T h u s , measure is the p r o p r i e t y of B e i n g to itself. It is its things, does not have the same m e a n i n g for P l a t o as it does for
m o d e (its temperament, its r h y t h m , its o w n [propre] coherence), H e g e l . For Plato, G o d is the measure of a relation between each ex-
not its d i m e n s i o n . isting t h i n g [existant] a n d its o w n m o d e of being; as such, G o d is
It is not i m p o r t a n t whether this interpretation of the ancient the absolute measure of the m o d a l i z a t i o n of beings. F o r H e g e l ,
182 Human Excess Human Excess 183

G o d is the excessive measure [(dé)mesure] according to w h i c h B e i n g finitude that consists in b e i n g its o w n excessive measure. T h e re-
is modalized as B e i n g , essentially and in every existing t h i n g (which sult is not B e i n g as a substance, but B e i n g as responsibility.
also i m p l i e s that his o w n m o d e has just as m u c h to do w i t h n o t h - To be responsible is not, p r i m a r i l y , b e i n g i n d e b t e d to or ac-
ingness and b e c o m i n g ) . countable before some normative authority. It is to be engaged by
Up to a certain p o i n t , Hegel represents this m e a s u r e — t h e being- its B e i n g to the very e n d of this B e i n g , in such a way that this en-
m o d a l [l'être-mode] of B e i n g itself—as an absolute measure, as an gagement or conatus is the very essence of B e i n g . ("Engagement"
absolutely finished or accomplished infinity. is, after all, a g o o d translation of "conatus.")
T h i s can be transcribed i n t o another register in the f o l l o w i n g T h e epoch that appears to us as the epoch of very large numbers,
way: for H e g e l , as w e l l as for Plato, there is an absolute justice to the one we can describe as that of "exponential B e i n g , " is in fact
absolute measure. In m o d a l i z i n g itself, B e i n g confers on itself the the epoch of B e i n g w h i c h is exposed to a n d as its o w n i m m e n s i t y
right modes [justes modes] o f its modalities (and precisely because in the strictest sense: n o t h i n g measures it, a n d it is precisely that
it modalizes itself, or because its structure is subjectivity). In p r i n - w h i c h measures the existence w h i c h engages it, a n d w h i c h it en-
ciple, t h e n , this justice in itself defines the g o o d . W h a t follows gages in the m o d e of a responsibility that is itself i m m e n s e . " H u -
f r o m this is that there is, of itself, a just social order and a just sov- m a n i t y " a n d "globalness" ["mondialité"] n o w m e a n this engage-
ereignty. F o r us, in t u r n , the m o d a l i z a t i o n of B e i n g is that of the m e n t w i t h o u t measure [or this measureless engagement].
without-measure [sans-mesure] as such. W h a t we still interpret i n Either the time to come w i l l k n o w to take the measure [of things],
the ancient or C h r i s t i a n ways as "excessively large," whether it be or there w i l l be the loss of all measure, and existence along w i t h it. In
speed, p o p u l a t i o n , massacres, poverty, the universe, or nuclear b o t h a d i s t u r b i n g a n d exhilarating way, this is what is i m m e n s e l y
power, for example, is o n l y the m o d a l i z e d translation of the f o l - grand in what is happening to us today, to the extent [à mesure] that
l o w i n g : "creation" is n o w understood as the act of B e i n g w h i c h is we are exposed to it.
w i t h o u t measure its o w n measure [comme l'acte de l'être qui est sans
mesure sa propre mesure].
Perhaps we can also understand the universal constants of m o d -
ern physics in this way, for example, the speed of light or quantum
of energy. These do not measure themselves against other things,
but, on the contrary, are the o r i g i n of all possible measure. These
days, fait lux means that there is a "speed" against w h i c h all speed is
measured a n d w h i c h is not measured against a n y t h i n g superior
(that is, it is fixed merely by convention). It is no longer the w o r d
o f G o d [ a creator] w h o w o u l d have measured this speed i n ad-
vance. It is no longer a w o r d at a l l . B u t the universe that has this
constancy is "creation." B e i n g [étant] w i t h o u t a creator is not cre-
ation; creation is s i m p l y B e i n g . C r e a t i o n is that there is B e i n g in
this way, a n d not otherwise. B e i n g , then, is finite, in the sense that
there is no "infinite speed," but its finitude has no measure; it is its
o w n total measure of B e i n g . In this sense, it is infinite, but an i n -
Cosmos Baselius

Nomos basileus. . . .
—Pindar

T h e u n i t y of a w o r l d is not one: it is made of a diversity, a n d


even disparity a n d o p p o s i t i o n . It is in fact, w h i c h is to say that it
1

does not add or subtract anything. T h e u n i t y of a w o r l d is n o t h i n g


other than its diversity, a n d this, in t u r n , is a diversity of worlds. A
w o r l d is a m u l t i p l i c i t y of worlds; the w o r l d is a m u l t i p l i c i t y of
worlds, a n d its u n i t y is the m u t u a l sharing a n d exposition of all its
w o r l d s — w i t h i n this w o r l d .
T h e sharing of the w o r l d is the law of the w o r l d . T h e w o r l d has
n o t h i n g other; it is not subject to any authority; it does not have a
sovereign. Cosmos, nomos. Its supreme l a w is w i t h i n it as the m u l t i -
ple a n d m o b i l e trace of the sharing that it is. Nomos is the distrib-
u t i o n , apportionment, a n d allocation of its parts: a piece of terri-
tory, a portion of food, the delimitation of rights and needs in each,
a n d at every t i m e , as is fitting [// convient].
B u t h o w does it fit? T h e measure of the s u i t a b i l i t y [la conve-
nance] —the law of the law, or absolute j u s t i c e — i s o n l y in the
2

sharing itself a n d in the exceptional singularity of e a c h — o f each


instance [cas], each a c c o r d i n g to this sharing. Yet, this sharing is
not given, a n d "each" is not given (that w h i c h is the u n i t y of each
part, the occurrence of its instance, the c o n f i g u r a t i o n of each
w o r l d ) . T h i s is not an accomplished d i s t r i b u t i o n . T h e w o r l d is not
given. It is itself the g i v i n g [le don]. T h e w o r l d is its o w n creation
(this is what "creation" means). Its sharing is p u t into play at each

i85
i86 Cosmos Baselius Cosmos Baselius 187

instant: the universe i n expansion, the u n - l i m i t a t i o n o f i n d i v i d u - i s t n e coexistence b y w h i c h i t defines itself a s existence itself a n d a
als, the infinite need o f justice. w o r l d i n g e n e r a l — b o t h , a t once.

"Justice" designates w h a t needs to be rendered (as one says in Coexistence holds itself just as far f r o m j u x t a p o s i t i o n as it does
E n g l i s h , "to render justice"). W h a t needs to be restored, repaired, f r o m integration. Coexistence does not happen to existence; it is
given in return to each existing singular, what needs to be attrib- not added to it, a n d one can not subtract it out: it is existence.
uted to it again, is the g i v i n g w h i c h it is itself. A n d this also entails Existence is not done alone, if one can put it this way. It is Being
that one not k n o w exactly (that one not k n o w "au juste," as is said that is alone, at least in all the o r d i n a r y senses w h i c h are given to
in French) w h a t or w h o is an "existing singular," neither where it B e i n g . B u t existence is n o t h i n g other t h a n B e i n g exposed: begin-
begins nor where it ends. Because of the incessant g i v i n g a n d shar- n i n g f r o m its s i m p l e i d e n t i t y i n itself a n d f r o m its pure p o s i t i o n ,
i n g of the w o r l d , one does not k n o w where the sharing of a stone exposed in appearing, in creation, a n d , as such, exposed to the out-
starts or finishes, or where the sharing of a person starts or finishes. side, exteriority, m u l t i p l i c i t y , alterity, a n d change. ( A n d i n one
T h e delineation is always more a m p l e a n d , at the same time, more sense, to be sure, this is not a n y t h i n g other than B e i n g exposed to
restricted t h a n one believes it to be (or rather, if one is attentive, B e i n g itself, in its o w n " b e i n g , " a n d , as a consequence, B e i n g ex-
one knows all too well h o w m u c h the contours are t r e m b l i n g , m o - posed as B e i n g : exposition as the essence of Being.)
bile, a n d fleeting). E a c h existence [existant] appears in more e n -
sembles, masses, tissues, or complexes than one perceives at first,
a n d each one is also i n f i n i t e l y more detached f r o m such, a n d de- Justice, therefore, is returning to each existence what returns to it
tached f r o m itself. E a c h opens o n t o a n d closes o f f more w o r l d s , according to its unique, singular creation in its coexistence w i t h all
those w i t h i n itself just as those m u c h as outside of, b r i n g i n g the other creations. T h e t w o standards [les deux mesures] are not sepa-
outside inside, a n d the other way a r o u n d . rate: the singular p r o p r i e t y is equal to the singular trace, w h i c h
Suitability, therefore, is defined by the proper measure in each joins it to other proprieties. T h a t w h i c h distinguishes is also that
existence and in the infinite c o m m u n i t y (or c o m m u n i c a t i o n , c o n - w h i c h puts " w i t h " a n d "together."
t a g i o n , contact), o r i n the i n d e f i n i t e o p e n i n g , c i r c u l a t i o n , a n d Justice needs to be rendered to the trace of the proper, in the
t r a n s f o r m a t i o n of a l l existences [les existences] a m o n g themselves. carving up of it that is appropriate each t i m e — a carving up w h i c h
T h i s is not a d o u b l e suitability. It is the same one, for c o m m u - does not cut up or deduct f r o m a f o u n d a t i o n , but a c o m m o n carv-
n i t y is not added to existence. C o m m u n i t y is not some proper c o n - i n g u p that, a l l at once [d'un seul coup], constitutes distance a n d
sistency a n d subsistence of existance as it stands apart f r o m it: ex- contact, such that the coexistence w h i c h i n d e f i n i t e l y intertwines
istence has such o n l y as the sharing of c o m m u n i t y . T h i s (which no w i t h it is the o n l y "foundation" u p o n w h i c h the " f o r m " of existence
longer has a n y t h i n g to do w i t h subsistence by itself, that is, w i t h is [s'enlève]. Therefore, there is no f o u n d a t i o n : there is o n l y the
contact, encounter, porousness, osmosis, a n d r u b b i n g up against, " w i t h " — p r o x i m i t y a n d its d i s t a n c i n g — t h e strange f a m i l i a r i t y o f
attraction a n d repulsion, a n d so forth) is cosubstantial w i t h exist- all the worlds in the w o r l d .
i n g : in each one a n d in every one, in each one as in every one, in
each one insofar as in every one. Translating it i n t o a certain l a n -
guage, it is the "mystical body" of the w o r l d ; in another language, it F o r each one, its most appropriate h o r i z o n is also its encounter
is the "reciprocal action" of parts of the w o r l d . B u t in every case, it w i t h the other h o r i z o n : that of the coexistent, of all the coexis-
i86 Cosmos Baselius Cosmos Baselius 187

instant: the universe in expansion, the u n - l i m i t a t i o n of i n d i v i d u - [ s t n e coexistence by w h i c h it defines itself as existence itself a n d a
als, the infinite need of justice. w o r l d ; g e n e r a l — b o t h , at once.
n

"Justice" designates w h a t needs to be rendered (as one says in Coexistence holds itself just as far f r o m juxtaposition as it does
E n g l i s h , "to render justice"). W h a t needs to be restored, repaired, f r o m integration. Coexistence does not h a p p e n to existence; it is
given in return to each existing singular, what needs to be attrib- not added to it, a n d one can not subtract it out: it is existence.
uted to it again, is the g i v i n g w h i c h it is itself. A n d this also entails Existence is not done alone, if one can put it this way. It is Being
that one not k n o w exactly (that one not k n o w "au juste," as is said that is alone, at least in all the o r d i n a r y senses w h i c h are given to
in French) w h a t or w h o is an "existing singular," neither where it B e i n g . B u t existence is n o t h i n g other than B e i n g exposed: begin-
begins nor where it ends. Because of the incessant g i v i n g a n d shar- n i n g f r o m its s i m p l e i d e n t i t y in itself a n d f r o m its pure p o s i t i o n ,
i n g of the w o r l d , one does not k n o w where the sharing of a stone exposed in appearing, in creation, a n d , as such, exposed to the out-
starts or finishes, or where the sharing of a person starts or finishes. side, exteriority, m u l t i p l i c i t y , alterity, a n d change. ( A n d i n one
T h e delineation is always more ample a n d , at the same time, more sense, to be sure, this is not a n y t h i n g other than B e i n g exposed to
restricted t h a n one believes it to be (or rather, if one is attentive, B e i n g itself, in its o w n " b e i n g , " a n d , as a consequence, B e i n g ex-
one knows all too w e l l h o w m u c h the contours are t r e m b l i n g , m o - posed as B e i n g : exposition as the essence of Being.)
b i l e , a n d fleeting). E a c h existence [existant] appears in more en-
sembles, masses, tissues, or complexes than one perceives at first,
a n d each one is also i n f i n i t e l y more detached f r o m such, a n d de- Justice, therefore, is returning to each existence what returns to it
tached f r o m itself. E a c h opens o n t o a n d closes o f f more w o r l d s , according to its unique, singular creation in its coexistence w i t h all
those w i t h i n itself just as those m u c h as outside of, b r i n g i n g the other creations. T h e two standards [les deux mesures] are not sepa-
outside inside, a n d the other way a r o u n d . rate: the singular p r o p r i e t y is equal to the singular trace, w h i c h
Suitability, therefore, is defined by the p r o p e r measure in each joins it to other proprieties. T h a t w h i c h distinguishes is also that
existence and in the infinite c o m m u n i t y (or c o m m u n i c a t i o n , c o n - w h i c h puts " w i t h " a n d "together."
t a g i o n , contact), o r i n the i n d e f i n i t e o p e n i n g , c i r c u l a t i o n , a n d Justice needs to be rendered to the trace of the proper, in the
t r a n s f o r m a t i o n of a l l existences [les existences] a m o n g themselves. carving up of it that is appropriate each t i m e — a carving up w h i c h
T h i s is not a d o u b l e suitability. It is the same one, for c o m m u - does not cut up or deduct f r o m a f o u n d a t i o n , but a c o m m o n carv-
n i t y is not added to existence. C o m m u n i t y is not some proper c o n - i n g u p that, all at once [d'un seul coup], constitutes distance a n d
sistency a n d subsistence of existance as it stands apart f r o m it: ex- contact, such that the coexistence w h i c h i n d e f i n i t e l y intertwines
istence has such o n l y as the sharing of c o m m u n i t y . T h i s ( w h i c h no w i t h it is the o n l y "foundation" u p o n w h i c h the " f o r m " of existence
longer has a n y t h i n g to do w i t h subsistence by itself, that is, w i t h is [s'enlève]. Therefore, there is no f o u n d a t i o n : there is o n l y the
contact, encounter, porousness, osmosis, a n d r u b b i n g up against, " w i t h " — p r o x i m i t y a n d its d i s t a n c i n g — t h e strange f a m i l i a r i t y o f
attraction a n d repulsion, a n d so forth) is cosubstantial w i t h exist- all the worlds in the w o r l d .
i n g : in each one a n d in every one, in each one as in every one, in
each one insofar as in every one. Translating it i n t o a certain l a n -
guage, it is the "mystical body" of the w o r l d ; in another language, it F o r each one, its most appropriate h o r i z o n is also its encounter
is the "reciprocal action" of parts of the w o r l d . B u t in every case, it w i t h the other h o r i z o n : that of the coexistent, of all the coexis-
i88 Cosmos Baselius Cosmos Baselius 189

tences, of the w h o l e of coexisting. B u t "encounter" is s t i l l to say pears a n d disappears; it divides itself a n d coexists: it is the move-
too little, especially if one does not u n d e r s t a n d that all the h o r i - ment, the agitation a n d general diversity of the worlds that make
zons are sides of the same c a r v i n g u p , of the same w i n d i n g a n d up the w o r l d (and u n m a k e it as well).
lightning-fast trace of the w o r l d (its " u n i t y " ) . T h i s trace is not T h i s is also w h y justice is a l w a y s — a n d maybe p r i n c i p a l l y — t h e
proper to any existant, a n d still less to an other sort of substance need for justice, that is, the objection to a n d protest against injus-
that hangs over the w o r l d : it is the c o m m o n impropriety, the n o n - tice, the call that cries for justice, the breath that exhausts itself in
m e m b e r s h i p [la non-appartenance], the n o n d e p e n d e n c e , the ab- calling for it. T h e law of justice is this unappeasable tension w i t h re-
solute errancy of the creation of the w o r l d . gard to justice itself. In a parallel manner, the law of the w o r l d is an
Justice, then, needs to be rendered at once to the singular ab- infinite tension w i t h regard to the w o r l d itself. These two laws are
soluteness of the proper a n d to the absolute i m p r o p r i e t y of the not o n l y homologous, they are also the same and singular law of ab-
c o m m u n i t y of existences. It needs to be rendered equally [exacte- solute sharing (one c o u l d say: the law of the Absolute as sharing).
ment] to b o t h , to the one a n d the other: such is the play (or the Justice does not c o m e f r o m the outside (what outside?) to hover
meaning) o f the w o r l d . above the w o r l d , in order to repair it or b r i n g it to c o m p l e t i o n . It is
As a consequence, infinite justice needs to be rendered at once given w i t h the w o r l d , given in the w o r l d as the very l a w of its
to the propriety of each one a n d to the c o m m o n i m p r o p r i e t y of all: givenness. Strictly speaking, there is no sovereignty, or c h u r c h , or
t o b i r t h a n d t o death, w h i c h h o l d between t h e m the i n f i n i t y o f set of laws that is not also the w o r l d itself, the severed [or carved-
m e a n i n g . Or rather: to b i r t h and to death, w h i c h are, one w i t h the up] trace that is b o t h inextricable f r o m its h o r i z o n a n d u n a c c o m -
other a n d one in the other (or one t h r o u g h the other), the infinite plishable. O n e m i g h t be t e m p t e d to say that there is a justice for
overflowing o f m e a n i n g a n d , therefore, o f justice. B i r t h a n d death the w o r l d , a n d there is a w o r l d for justice. B u t these finalities, or
about w h i c h there is n o t h i n g fitting to s a y — s i n c e this is the strict these reciprocal intentions, say rather p o o r l y what such justice is.
justice of t r u t h , but where all true speech distractedly aims at the In itself, the w o r l d is the supreme law of its justice: not the given
just measure. w o r l d a n d the "such that it is," but the w o r l d that springs forth as
T h i s infinite justice i s i n n o way visible. O n the contrary, i n t o l - a p r o p e r l y incongruous incongruity.
erable injustice arises everywhere. There are earthquakes, infectious
viruses, a n d people are c r i m i n a l s , liars, a n d torturers.
Justice cannot be disengaged f r o m the gangue or haze of injus-
3

tice. N e i t h e r can it be projected as a supreme conversion of injus-


tice. It constitutes part of infinite justice that it w o u l d fail to de-
liver a decisive b l o w to injustice. B u t there are no reasons that can
be given for h o w a n d w h y this constitutes part of it. It is not sub-
ject to those interrogations that concern reason or the d e m a n d for
m e a n i n g . T h i s constitutes part o f the i n f i n i t y o f justice, a n d o f the
i n t e r r u p t e d creation of the w o r l d : in such a way that the i n f i n i t y is
never anywhere called u p o n to accomplish itself, not even as an i n -
f i n i t e return o f itself i n itself. B i r t h a n d death, sharing a n d coexis-
tence, b e l o n g to the i n f i n i t e . Itself, if one can say it like this, ap-
Reference Matter
Notes

[Epigraph]

EPIGRAPH SOURCE: Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus SpakeZarathustra, trans.


R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Penguin Books, 1969), 102.

1. In opting for "the human" as a translation of l'homme, we elect a


more gender-neutral translation. At the same time, however, we lend the
text a few connotations that Nancy himself clearly wants to avoid. In
reading "the human," then, one must read it in such a way as to not hear
the same sort of "humanist" tone that is out of the question in all the
texts that follow.—Trans.
2. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New
York: Vintage Books, 1974), 180.
3. La terre des hommes literally means "the earth of men." The French
expression is a common one, referring to the earth in its specific charac-
ter as the milieu inhabited by humans.—Trans.

Preface

1. Throughout the work, we translate l'être—which coincides with the


German Sein—as "Being," in keeping with an established, if not entirely
satisfactory, tradition. We do this only when l'être stands alone, however,
and only so as to make Being easily distinguishable from being [l'étant].
The difficulty is that the capital letter has the distracting and often mis-
leading effect of making "Being" appear as a proper name, suggesting
that Being is somehow quite independent of beings. This becomes par-

m
194 Notes to Pages 2 - 5 Notes to Pages 5—10 195

t i c u l a r l y u n c o m f o r t a b l e w h e n the a u t h o r uses c o m p o u n d expressions versal" (François W a r i n , Nietzsche et Bataille: La parodie à l'infini [Paris:
s u c h as être-avec o r être-ensemble, w h i c h clearly refer to the concrete c o n - Presses U n i v e r s i t a i r e s de F r a n c e , 1994], 256).
d i t i o n s i n w h i c h beings always d o f i n d themselves. T h e r e f o r e , w e have 5. Se passer is m o s t c o m m o n l y used to m e a n "to h a p p e n , " b u t trans-
c h o s e n to translate those c o m p o u n d s as " b e i n g - w i t h , " " b e i n g - t o g e t h e r , " l a t i n g i t a s w e d o here has the advantage o f e m p h a s i z i n g w h a t h a p p e n s
and so f o r t h . — T r a n s . a s r e l a t i o n , w h i l e r e t a i n i n g the l i n k w i t h " p a s s i n g " a n d "passage" i n the
2. If, a s the a u t h o r p o i n t s o u t i n the f o l l o w i n g p a r a g r a p h , l a n g u a g e previous s e c t i o n . — T r a n s .
does n o t easily a c c o m m o d a t e i t s e l f t o the l o g i c o f " w i t h , " t h e n the E n g - 6. We have forsaken the c o l l o q u i a l translation of propre—"own" —
l i s h language i s even less g i v i n g t h a n F r e n c h i n t h i s regard. I n o r d e r t o for the m o r e s t i l t e d " p r o p e r " i n o r d e r t o m a i n t a i n the a s s o c i a t i o n w i t h
c a p t u r e a l l its p l u r a l i t y , o n e w o u l d have t o translate être-les-uns-avec-les- " p r o p e r l y , " " a p p r o p r i a t i o n , " a n d s o o n , w h i c h b e c o m e s s i g n i f i c a n t i n the
autres literally as "being-the-ones-with-the-others," b u t w e have o p t e d for course o f the w o r k . — T r a n s .
the s l i g h t l y less p l u r a l , b u t far less p a i n f u l , " b e i n g - w i t h - o n e - a n o t h e r . " — 7. " L e s gens sont bizarres." T h e w o r d bizarre \s translated as "strange"
Trans. t h r o u g h o u t the text i n o r d e r t o preserve the i d i o m . T h i s presents a p a r -
t i c u l a r d i f f i c u l t y o n l y i n the f i n a l sentence o f the f i r s t p a r a g r a p h o f p . 1 0
w h e r e N a n c y d r a w s a t t e n t i o n t o the e t y m o l o g y o f the F r e n c h ( a n d also
Of Being Singular Plural the English) word bizarre.—Trans.

1. It is easy to see the reference here to §32 of M a r t i n Heidegger's Be- 8. Heidegger's das Man is generally translated i n t o F r e n c h as le 'on b u t

ing and Time, trans. J o h n M a c q u a r r i e a n d E d w a r d R o b i n s o n ( N e w Y o r k : has g e n e r a l l y a p p e a r e d i n E n g l i s h a s the "they." W e have a v o i d e d t h a t

H a r p e r , 1962). In a general way, a n d except w h e n it is q u i t e necessary, it h a b i t here because a p l u r a l p r o n o u n is u n w a r r a n t e d a n d w o u l d o n l y serve

i s less t o d e v e l o p a c o m m e n t a r y o n H e i d e g g e r t h a n t o m o v e o n f r o m t o confuse w h a t is, after a l l , a n analysis o f s i n g u l a r i t y a n d p l u r a l i t y . Trans-

h i m , a n d f r o m s o m e o t h e r s — f r o m us. I n t h i s u s a n d i n the r e l a t i o n t o l a t i n g i t a s the " o n e " has the a d d e d a d v a n t a g e o f p r e s e r v i n g echoes o f

H e i d e g g e r , o n e m u s t r e m e m b e r the s i n g u l a r role p l a y e d b y H a n n a h b o t h the author's F r e n c h a n d Heidegger's G e r m a n . — T r a n s .

A r e n d t a n d her reflection o n " h u m a n p l u r a l i t y . " 9. A l t h o u g h the exercise m i g h t be i n s t r u c t i v e , I w i l l n o t s t o p here to

2 . S i n c e the e m p h a s i s i n t h i s essay i s o n " w i t h , " w e have a l m o s t i n - e x a m i n e w h a t " p e o p l e " a n d " o n e " designate i n various languages, o r the

v a r i a b l y translated partager as "to share," b u t i t is i m p o r t a n t to r e m e m - h i s t o r y o f the w o r d " p e o p l e " ["les gens"] (gentes, " G e n t i l e s , " n a t i o n s , a n d

ber that it also means "to d i v i d e " or "share o u t . " It is also w o r t h b e a r i n g so o n ) .

i n m i n d t h a t the adjective partagé is u s e d to d e s c r i b e , a m o n g o t h e r 10. T h i s argot e x p r e s s i o n m e a n s " h i s h e a d i n the c l o u d s " o r " n o t

things, a requited love, a shared meal, a n d a d i v i d e d c o u n t r y . — T r a n s . d o w n - t o - e a r t h , " o r even " o u t o f his m i n d , " b u t w e have used the l i t e r a l

3. À même refers to a r e l a t i o n that b e c o m e s c r u c i a l at several p o i n t s i n t r a n s l a t i o n as the o n l y w a y to preserve the author's p l a y on " b e s i d e " [à

this b o o k , b u t the phrase resists easy d e s c r i p t i o n i n E n g l i s h . A n u n d e r - côté}.—Trans.


s h i r t is w o r n à même the s k i n ; s o m e o n e s l e e p i n g o u t d o o r s m i g h t sleep à 11. A l t h o u g h reasonably accurate, "appears" is a s o m e w h a t pale trans-
même the g r o u n d . N a n c y h i m s e l f has w r i t t e n a b o u t a heart his b o d y re- l a t i o n o f surgit, so s o m e a d d i t i o n a l c o n n o t a t i o n s s h o u l d be b o r n i n m i n d :

c e i v e d i n a t r a n s p l a n t o p e r a t i o n , b u t later rejected, as b e i n g à même his appears s u d d e n l y , a b r u p t l y , even v i o l e n t l y , emerges, w e l l s u p , surges

body. T h e relation i s o n e o f b e i n g r i g h t next to, r i g h t at, o r even i n , w i t h - f o r t h . T h e e m p h a s i s , however, here a n d elsewhere, i s o n the m o m e n t o f

o u t b e i n g w h o l l y a p a r t of. See also B r i a n H o l m e s ' s translator's n o t e i n appearing.—Trans.

Jean-Luc Nancy's The Birth to Presence ( S t a n f o r d , Calif.: Stanford U n i - 12. Bizarre is the F r e n c h w o r d w e have translated as "strange" t h r o u g h -
versity Press, 1993), 396, n 1 2 . — T r a n s . o u t this p a s s a g e . — T r a n s .

4. " B e t w e e n the us a l l ' of abstract u n i v e r s a l i s m a n d the 'me, V of m i s - 13. H a v i n g , g a i n i n g , a n d b e i n g access is w h a t is at issue here, b u t it
erable i n d i v i d u a l i s m , there is the 'we others' of N i e t z s c h e , a t h i n k i n g of s h o u l d be r e m e m b e r e d that accéder also means "to accede t o " o r "to ac-

the singular case that thwarts the o p p o s i t i o n of the p a r t i c u l a r a n d the u n i - commodate."—Trans.


196 Notes to Pages 11-15 Notes to Pages 16—25 197

14. L e t me be q u i t e clear that the a l l u s i o n to L a c a n is deliberate. m u c h a s n o p a r t i n space c a n b e d e t e r m i n e d except i n r e l a t i o n t o the


15. I m m a n u e l K a n t , Critique of Pure Reason, trans. N o r m a n K e m p w h o l e (so that [in its case too] the p o s s i b i l i t y of the parts is based on the
S m i t h ( N e w Y o r k : St. M a r t i n s Press, 1965), 504. A l s o p r e s u p p o s e d here i s presentation o f the w h o l e ) " ( I m m a n u e l K a n t , Critique of Judgment, trans.
M a r t i n Heidegger's Kants These Uber das Sein ( F r a n k f u r t a m M a i n : V i t - Werner S. Pluhar [Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett Publishing C o m p a n y ,
t o r i o K l o s t e r m a n n , 1963). 1987], 293).
16. T h e c o m p l e x a m b i g u i t y N a n c y emphasizes here i s n o t easily cap- 2 0 . See J e a n - L u c N a n c y ' s La deconstruction du christianisme, forth-
t u r e d i n E n g l i s h . I t operates a l o n g t w o axes, o n e h a v i n g t o d o w i t h the coming.
expression à la vérité, the other w i t h the verb accéder. T h e phrase c o u l d be 21. T h e recent b o o k b y Serge M a r c e l , Le tombeau du dieu artisan (Paris:
r e n d e r e d as " W e have access to the t r u t h , " or as " T r u l y , we have access," L e s É d i t i o n s de M i n u i t , 1995) is a n a m a z i n g r e r e a d i n g o f the Timaeus,
b u t either " W e accede t o the t r u t h " o r " T r u l y , w e accede" w o u l d also b e w h i c h m a y offer s o m e t h i n g q u i t e close t o the n o t i o n o f the P l a t o n i c
w a r r a n t e d . In B a t a i l l e s text, the latter axis is d i s s o l v e d ( i n d e e d , does n o t d e m i u r g e o f "creation" I a m t r y i n g t o b r i n g o u t here.
arise) b u t , a s the note b e l o w m a k e s clear, N a n c y w i l l n o t a l l o w the c o n - 22. Eclat is a d i f f i c u l t w o r d to translate, exactly because it has m a n y
n o t a t i o n s o f accession o r a c c o m m o d a t i o n t o d i s a p p e a r . — T r a n s . different m e a n i n g s that d o n o t c o m e together easily i n o n e E n g l i s h w o r d .
17. G e o r g e s Bataille, Histoire des rats. Oeuvres complètes, ///(Paris: G a l - In a l l the essays that c o n s t i t u t e this b o o k , we have translated it as " b r i l -
l i m a r d , 1971), 114. A s a m a t t e r o f fact [à la vérité], m y m e m o r y fails m e l i a n c e , " w h i c h o n l y captures part o f its sense. O t h e r elements o f the w o r d
a n d B a t a i l l e writes "we a t t a i n " ["nous a t t e i g n o n s " ] : to a t t a i n , to g a i n ac- suggest that " b r i l l i a n c e " c o u l d be, a n d m a y b e even s h o u l d be, p r e d i c a t e d
cess [to accede]: as the s p l i t t i n g of the " a l m o s t there" [ T a - p e u - p r e s " ] w i t h a n y o f the f o l l o w i n g adjectives: s h i n i n g , f l a s h i n g , g l a r i n g , explosive,
character o f r e a c h i n g the o r i g i n . B u t I m u s t cite the w h o l e passage f r o m s h a t t e r i n g , a n d s o f o r t h . T h e s e adjectives, i n t u r n , c o u l d b e m a d e i n t o
B a t a i l l e : " W e d o n o t have the means o f a t t a i n i n g a t o u r d i s p o s a l : w e at- n o u n s , a n y o f w h i c h w o u l d also suffice a s a n E n g l i s h t r a n s l a t i o n . T h e
t a i n t o t r u t h ; w e s u d d e n l y attain t o the necessary p o i n t a n d w e s p e n d the p o i n t is that the éclat is both sudden and radiant.—Trans.
rest of o u r days l o o k i n g for a lost m o m e n t : b u t we miss it o n l y at t i m e s , 23. B e n o i t G o e t z uses this t h e m e o f s p a c i n g i n his " L a d i s l o c a t i o n : A r -
p r e c i s e l y because l o o k i n g for i t d i v e r t s u s f r o m i t , t o u n i t e u s i s u n - c h i t e c t u r e et expérience" (thesis, Université de S t r a s b o u r g , 1996); he d i s -
d o u b t e d l y a m e a n s o f . . . forever m i s s i n g the m o m e n t o f r e t u r n . S u d - cusses i t i n r e l a t i o n t o a discourse a b o u t g e n e r a l i z e d " a r c h i t e c t u r e " a n d
denly, i n m y n i g h t , i n m y s o l i t u d e , a n x i e t y gives w a y t o c o n v i c t i o n : i t i s its b e c o m i n g " e x i s t e n t i a l . "
sly, n o l o n g e r even d i s t u r b i n g ( b y d i n t o f its b e i n g d i s t u r b i n g , i t n o 24. See §36, §37, a n d §68c o f Heidegger's Being and Time. I n l o w e r i n g
l o n g e r d i s t u r b s ) , suddenly the heart ofB. is in my heart." the status of c u r i o s i t y by m e a s u r i n g it against t h i n k i n g , w h i c h is a f a i r l y
18. I n S e c t i o n 2, w e translated toucher à as "to t o u c h " since the c o n - t r a d i t i o n a l gesture, H e i d e g g e r c o m p l e t e l y m i s u n d e r s t a n d s a n d cheapens
text specified surfaces that t o u c h o n e another. H e r e , the p r i m a r y sense is a n e l e m e n t o f the m o d e r n w o r l d : science a n d t e c h n o l o g y . I n this way, h e
o f r e a c h i n g o r a t t a i n i n g a n e n d , b u t i t i s also i m p o r t a n t t o bear i n m i n d c h a l l e n g e s w h a t he o t h e r w i s e p r e t e n d s to a f f i r m as b e l o n g i n g to the
the tactile sense, a s w e l l a s the m o r e c o m m o n sense o f " b e i n g i n t o u c h " s e n d i n g " o f B e i n g . I n r e l a t i o n t o the role o f c u r i o s i t y w i t h i n m o d e r n i t y ,
with."—Trans. see H a n s B l u m e n b u r g ' s classic b o o k Der Prozess der theoretishen Neugierde
19. W h e n the a u t h o r presented this section (along w i t h Sections 5 a n d ( F r a n k f u r t a u M a i n : S u h r k a m p , 1966).
6 ) a s part o f " O p e n i n g s : T h e Space o f T h i n k i n g , " a conference a t V a n - 25. In c e r t a i n regards, w h a t f o l l o w s pursues the d i a l o g u e p r o p o s e d by
d e r b i l t U n i v e r s i t y i n J a n u a r y 1996, h e a d d e d the f o l l o w i n g q u o t a t i o n Jacques Rancière i n his b o o k Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy, trans.
f r o m K a n t a s a n e p i g r a p h : " . . . i f w e were e n t i t l e d t o regard m a t e r i a l be- J u l i e R o s e ( M i n n e a p o l i s : U n i v e r s i t y o f M i n n e s o t a Press, 1999).
ings as t h i n g s in themselves . . . the u n i t y that is the basis on w h i c h nat- 26. A n d r é Tosel, Démocratie et libéralismes (Paris: K i m é , 1995), 203.
u r a l f o r m a t i o n s are p o s s i b l e w o u l d b e o n l y the u n i t y o f space, a n d yet See also the chapter e n t i t l e d "L'égalité, difficile et nécessarire."
space is n o t a basis [responsible] for reality of p r o d u c t s b u t is o n l y t h e i r 27. E t i e n n e B a l i b a r , " L a p r o p o s i t i o n d e l'égaliberté" (paper d e l i v e r e d
f o r m a l c o n d i t i o n ; space m e r e l y resembles the basis we are s e e k i n g inas- a t Les conférences d u P e r r o q u e t , n o . 22, Paris, N o v e m b e r 1989).
198 Notes to Pages 25-31 Notes to Pages 37—48 199

28. I agree, t h e n , w i t h Jacques D e r r i d a ' s c r i t i q u e o f f r a t e r n i t y i n his t e n d that w e d o n o t have i t . . . w e c a n n o t i n fact fail t o have i t " ( " A u -
Politics of Friendship, trans. G e o r g e C o l l i n s ( L o n d o n : V e r s o , 1997). B u t I The Philosophical Writings
thor's R e p l i e s to the S i x t h Set o f O b j e c t i o n s , "
must p o i n t o u t that I have also, on occasion, raised the q u e s t i o n of C h r i s - of Descartes, Volume II, trans. J o h n C o t t i n g h a m , R o b e r t S t o o t h o o f , a n d
t i a n fraternity. M o r e o v e r , I have reversed m y p o s i t i o n again a n d again o n D u g a l d M u r d o c h [ C a m b r i d g e : C a m b r i d g e U n i v e r s i t y Press, 1984], 285).
the p o s s i b i l i t y o f l o o k i n g i n t o w h e t h e r f r a t e r n i t y i s necessarily generic o r 37. In a sense, L e v i n a s testifies to this p r o b l e m a t i c in an e x e m p l a r y
congenital. . . . m a n n e r . B u t w h a t he u n d e r s t a n d s as "otherwise t h a n B e i n g " is a m a t t e r
2 9 . See " L ' i n s a c r i f i a b l e , " i n J e a n - L u c N a n c y , Une pensée finie (Paris: o f u n d e r s t a n d i n g "the o w n m o s t o f B e i n g , " exactly because i t i s a m a t t e r
Galilée, 1990). o f t h i n k i n g b e i n g - w i t h rather t h a n the o p p o s i t i o n between the o t h e r a n d
30. François Raffoul's Heidegger and the Problem of Subjectivity ( H i g h - Being.
lands, N . J . : H u m a n i t i e s Press, 1997) is o n e of the first w o r k s that engages 38. M a r t i n H e i d e g g e r , Beitrâge zur Philosophie ( F r a n k f u r t am Main:
i n o p e n i n g u p a p a t h for a réévaluation o f Mitsein, a n d i t does so i n a re- V i t t o r i o K l o s t e r m a n n , 1989), 319.
m a r k a b l e way. 39. J e a n - J a c q u e s R o u s s e a u , The Social Contract, trans. M a u r i c e
31. H e i d e g g e r , Being and Time, 161. C r a n s t o n ( N e w Y o r k : P e n g u i n B o o k s , 1968), 65.
32. J e a n - F r a n ç o i s M a r q u e t ' s Singularité et événement (Grenoble: 40. Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, trans. R . J . H o l l i n g -
J e r o m e M i l l o n , 1995) gives a f u l l a c c o u n t o f the t r a d i t i o n o f t h i n k i n g dale ( N e w Y o r k : P e n g u i n B o o k s , 1969), 229.
a b o u t the o n e , i n the sense o f each o n e a n d the singular, a n d w h a t dif- 41. T h i s is, o f course, a n expression that i s dear t o B a t a i l l e . O n e c o u l d
ferences there are a m o n g o u r various perspectives. B u t even before g o i n g even say that this c o n s t i t u t e d his e x p r e s s i o n , absolutely.
there, o n e s h o u l d l o o k a t those texts w h e r e t h i s p r e o c c u p a t i o n c o m e s 42. See A n t o n i o N e g r i ' s " L a crise d e l'espace p o l i t i q u e , " a n d the rest
t o u s i n the f i r s t place: the texts o f G i l l e s D e l e u z e a l o n g w i t h those o f o f the articles gathered i n n u m b e r 27, " E n a t t e n d a n t l ' e m p i r e , " o f Futur
Jacques D e r r i d a ( a n d this with w i l l d e m a n d its o w n c o m m e n t a r y s o m e Antérieur (Paris: l ' H a r m a r t a n , J a n u a r y 1995).
d a y ) . Basically, this p r e o c c u p a t i o n travels in the same d i r e c t i o n as t h a t 43. See the w o r k gathered together n o t l o n g ago i n Retreating the Po-
u n d e r t a k e n b y G i o r g i o A g a m b e n , o n o n e side, a n d A l a i n B a d i o u , o n the litical, e d . S i m o n S p a r k s ( L o n d o n : R o u t l e d g e , 1997), a n d i nRejouer le
o t h e r (even i f B a d i o u w a n t s t o p u t the q u e s t i o n i n the f o r m o f a n o p p o - politique (Paris: Galilée, 1983).
s i t i o n b y p l a y i n g m u l t i p l i c i t y against the O n e ) . A l l o f this i s t o m a k e the 44. F o r a d e c o n s t r u c t i v e r e a d i n g o f the "as s u c h " o f B e i n g i n f u n d a -
p o i n t that w e are o n l y t h i n k i n g about the ones with the other [les uns avec m e n t a l o n t o l o g y , see the w o r k o f Yves D u p e u x (thesis, U n i v e r s i t é d e
les autres] (by, against, i n spite of, close t o , far f r o m , i n t o u c h w i t h , i n S t r a s b o u r g , 1994).
a v o i d i n g it, i n d i g g i n g t h r o u g h i t ) . 45. T h e t r a n s l a t i o n o f t h e f o l l o w i n g three sections, " C o e x i s t e n c e , "
33. See Part 1, §3 o f I m m a n u e l Kant's Der einzig mogliche Beweisgrund: " C o n d i t i o n s o f C r i t i q u e , " a n d " C o - a p p e a r i n g , " b e n e f i t e d f r o m o u r re-
The One Basis for a Demonstration of the Existence of God trans. G o r d o n v i e w o f the t r a n s l a t i o n o f these offered b y I a i n M a c D o n a l d i n the Uni-
Treash ( N e w Y o r k : A b a r i s B o o k s , 1979). versity of Essex Theoretical Studies Working Papers ( M a r c h 1996).
34. G . W . F. H e g e l , Hegel's Logic, trans. W i l l i a m W a l l a c e ( O x f o r d : O x - 4 6 . See M a r c A u g é ' s A Sense for the Other: The Timeliness and Rele-
f o r d U n i v e r s i t y Press, 1975), 31. vance of Anthropology, trans. A m y Jacobs ( S t a n f o r d , C a l i f : S t a n f o r d U n i -
35. E d m u n d H u s s e r l , Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phe- versity Press, 1998).
nomenology, trans. D o r i o n C a i r n s ( T h e H a g u e : M a r t i n u s N i j h o f f , 1977), 47. M a r c C r é p o n s recent w o r k , " L a p r o b l è m e d e l a diversité h u m a i n e .
140. E n q u ê t e sur la caractérisation des peuples et de la c o n s t i t u t i o n des g é o -
36. D e s c a r t e s h i m s e l f attests t o t h i s , t h a t w e a l l p a r t i c i p a t e i n the g r a p h i e s d e l ' e s p r i t d e L e i b n i z à H e g e l " (thesis, Universiré d e P a r i s - X -
process a n d d i s c o u r s e o f the ego sum: " . . . b y t h a t i n t e r n a l awareness N a n t e r r e , 1995) i s the f i r s t w o r k o f i m p o r t a n c e i n the f i e l d .
w h i c h always precedes reflective k n o w l e d g e . T h i s i n n e r awareness o f one's 48. W e have translated droit as " r i g h t " i n this passage, for the sake o f
t h o u g h t s a n d existence is so innate in all m e n that, a l t h o u g h we m a y pre- c o n s i s t e n c y a n d i n o r d e r t o preserve s o m e t h i n g o f N a n c y ' s p l a y o n the
200 Notes to Pages $0—61 Notes to Pages 61-69 201

w o r d . T o u n d e r s t a n d the passage, h o w e v e r , the reader m u s t r e m e m b e r of the essentiality of the with. B r o a d l y s p e a k i n g , they m i g h t be described as
that droit carries m a n y c o n n o t a t i o n s that, i n E n g l i s h , attach to the w o r d Being as truth, H e i d e g g e r ) a n d the style o f
the style o f c o b e l o n g i n g ( i n
"law."—Trans. c o r r e l a t i o n ( i n ego as meaning, H u s s e r l ) . B u t these s o m e w h a t s c h e m a t i c
4 9 . I am just g o i n g to c o n s i d e r it a s y m p t o m in itself, w h i c h is a s t i l l characteristics c o u l d just as easily be reversed. T h i s is n o t w h a t is m o s t
m o r e r e m a r k a b l e s y m p t o m g i v e n the u n e x p e c t e d r e t u r n t o favor i t has i m p o r t a n t . W h a t is i m p o r t a n t is i n the common t e s t i m o n y o f the era
h a d since the d e a t h o f G u y D e b o r d i n 1995. O n e w o u l d have t o cite the ( w i t h F r e u d , w i t h Bataille, w i t h . . . ), a c c o r d i n g to w h i c h o n t o l o g y must,
articles that appeared at the t i m e to s h o w h o w the reference to D e b o r d f r o m that p o i n t o n , b e the o n t o l o g y o f the " w i t h , " o r o f n o t h i n g .
c o u l d appear to be necessary a n d i m p o r t a n t , c o u l d appear as the last c r i t - 54. As F r a n c i s Fisher, a l o n g t i m e c o m p a n i o n in the r e c o g n i t i o n of this
ical resource o f a w o r l d w i t h o u t c r i t i q u e . O n the q u e s t i o n o f f e t i s h i s m d e m a n d , s a i d , " T h e ' w i t h ' i s a strict d e t e r m i n a t i o n o f the inessence o f ex-
a n d c r i t i q u e , see Jacques D e r r i d a , Specters of Marx: The State of Debt, the istence. B e i n g - a t is i m m e d i a t e l y ' w i t h ' because Dasein has n o essence"
Work of Mourning, and the New International, trans. Peggy K a m u f ( N e w ("Heidegger et la q u e s t i o n de l ' h o m m e " [thesis, Université de Strasbourg,
Y o r k : R o u t l e d g e , 1994). 1995])-
50. " L e f o o t b a l l r e n d i n s i g n i f i a n t e toute autre f o r m e d ' a r t . " T h i s was 55. O n e s h o u l d keep i n m i n d that "coappear" translates com-parution,
a n a d v e r t i s e m e n t for N i k e i n the Paris M e t r o i n A u g u s t 1995. I s h o u l d the exact E n g l i s h e q u i v a l e n t of w h i c h is " c o m p e a r i n g . " T h i s itself is a le-
p o i n t o u t , w h e t h e r i n t e n t i o n a l l y o r n o t , the w o r d " i n s i g n i f i c a n t " was i n gal t e r m that is used to designate a p p e a r i n g before a j u d g e together w i t h
fact w r i t t e n in the m a s c u l i n e [where as "art f o r m " w o u l d require the f e m - another p e r s o n . — T r a n s .
i n i n e ; in the above text, N a n c y corrects the m i s t a k e , m a k i n g the footnote 56. See the f o r t h c o m i n g v o l u m e L'éthique originaire ( w h i c h starts w i t h
necessary—Trans.]. Heidegger).
51. O f c o u r s e , the G r e e k sumbolon was a p i e c e o f p o t t e r y b r o k e n i n 57. F o r i n s t a n c e , see the t i t l e o f P a u l R i c o e u r ' s Oneself as Another,
t w o pieces w h e n f r i e n d s , o r a h o s t a n d his guest, p a r t e d . Its j o i n i n g trans. K a t h l e e n B l a r n e y ( C h i c a g o : U n i v e r s i t y o f C h i c a g o Press, 1992).
w o u l d later be a s i g n of r e c o g n i t i o n . 58. A m a j o r part of the w o r k of P h i l i p p e L a c o u e - L a b a r t h e is d e v o t e d
52. A t r i n i t a r i a n G o d represents a B e i n g - t o g e t h e r as its very d i v i n i t y : to the d e c o n s t r u c t i v e analysis o f this o r i g i n a r y mimesis.
a n d i t i s clear, therefore, that h e i s n o l o n g e r " G o d , " b u t B e i n g - w i t h o f 59. T h i s is true o n l y up to a certain p o i n t . A f t e r a l l , Rousseau d i d have
the o n t o - t h e o l o g i c a l species. H e r e , a n o t h e r m o t i f o f the " d e c o n s t r u c t i o n a k e e n sense of the necessity of the spectacle he so c o n d e m n e d , a n d he
o f C h r i s t i a n i t y , " w h i c h I i n v o k e d i n r e l a t i o n t o the C r e a t i o n , i s t o u c h e d w i s h e d t o t h i n k a sort o f self-surpassing o f s p e c t a c u l a r - r e p r e s e n t a t i o n a l
u p o n . It is also possible to d i s c e r n here the i n t i m a t e c o n n e c t i o n of all the exteriority, b o t h i n terms o f " c i v i l r e l i g i o n " a n d i n terms o f literature. I n
great m o t i f s o f C h r i s t i a n d o g m a , n o n e o f w h i c h d e c o n s t r u c t i o n c a n leave this way, " l i t e r a t u r e " (along w i t h " m u s i c , " o r "art" i n general), a n d " c i v i l
intact. r e l i g i o n " (that is, the presentable figure of secular sociality) are the terms
53. H u s s e r l , Cartesian Meditations, 139. It is u n d o u b t e d l y here, m o r e that serve as precursors to o u r p r o b l e m c o n c e r n i n g m e a n i n g - w i t h . "To
t h a n a n y w h e r e else, that H u s s e r l shows h o w p h e n o m e n o l o g y itself show a m a n to those l i k e h i m s e l f . . . ," o n the one h a n d , a n d to celebrate,
reaches its l i m i t , a n d exceeds it: it is no longer the egoistic k e r n e l , b u t the o n the o t h e r — s i n c e w e c o u l d n o t l i v e the event i t s e l f — i s the i n s t i t u t i v e
w o r l d "as a c o n s t i t u t e d sense" that shows i t s e l f to be c o n s t i t u t i v e (137). pact o f h u m a n i t y itself. T h e m o d e l i s everywhere a n d n o w h e r e , s i n g u l a r
T h e c o n s t i t u t i o n i s itself c o n s t i t u t e d : i n these terms, this i s u n d o u b t e d l y p l u r a l . T h i s is also why, f r o m the very b e g i n n i n g , the p r o b l e m is set up as
the u l t i m a t e s t r u c t u r e o f " l a n g u a g e " a n d o f the " w i t h , " o f l a n g u a g e a s a c o n v e r g e n c e of and a d i v i s i o n b e t w e e n " a r t " a n d " c i v i l r e l i g i o n " . . . .
" w i t h . " T h e i m m e d i a t e c o n t e x t o f the passage shows h o w H u s s e r l means 6 0 . T h i s i s n o t t o say that a n y spectacle whatever w o u l d b e " g o o d o n
to give his m o s t d i r e c t r e p l y to H e i d e g g e r a n d to a t h i n k i n g o f Mitsein the w h o l e . " O n the contrary, a society for w h i c h the spectacular f o r m i s
s t i l l i n s u f f i c i e n t l y f o u n d e d i n the "essential necessity" o f the " g i v e n O b - no longer c o d i f i e d poses, a n d m u s t pose for itself, the m o s t d i f f i c u l t p r o b -
jective w o r l d " a n d its " s o c i a l i t y of various levels" (137). A h i g h l y r e m a r k - l e m s c o n c e r n i n g the spectacle: n o t o n l y m u s t i t c o n f r o n t its subject w i t h
able c h i a s m a i s p r o d u c e d , here, between t w o t h o u g h t s that p r o v o k e a n d a m u l t i t u d e o f e t h i c a l , p r a c t i c a l , e c o n o m i c , aesthetic, a n d p o l i t i c a l d e c i -
cross t h r o u g h o n e a n o t h e r a c c o r d i n g to w h a t c a n o n l y be c a l l e d two styles sions, b u t i t m u s t also, f i r s t o f a l l , recapture a n d f o u n d a n e w the t h i n k i n g
202 Notes to Pages 70-79 Notes to Pages 80-88 203

o f the "spectacle" a s s u c h . M o r e o f t e n t h a n n o t , the general c r i t i q u e o f 68. I w i l l n o t stop to c o n s i d e r here the intricacies of ideas that i n c l u d e
the " s p e c t a c u l a r " — o f m e d i a t i z a t i o n , t e l e v i s i o n , a n d s o o n — p r o v i d e s a n "love" at the core: ros, agap, caritas. N o r w i l l I consider the J u d e o - C h r i s t i a n
a l i b i a n d stage for a v e r y p o o r i d e o l o g y . W h e t h e r i t i s belligerent, w h i n - i n t r i c a c y of the relation between love a n d law. It is o b v i o u s w h a t an enor-
i n g , o r d i s d a i n f u l , i t i s m o s t interested i n p r o p a g a t i n g the n o t i o n that i t m o u s f i e l d o f investigation this represents. O n e invites p u n i s h m e n t i n try-
possesses the k e y to w h a t is an i l l u s i o n a n d w h a t is not. F o r e x a m p l e , it i n g to t h i n k about it in c o n c e p t u a l terms, especially where there is little to
pretends t o k n o w that " p e o p l e " are "fools" because o f " t e l e v i s i o n , " w h i c h say w h e n the w h o l e o f o u r t r a d i t i o n — a l l o u r t h i n k i n g a b o u t " u s " — w i l l
i s t o say, because o f "tele-cracy." B u t this i d e o l o g y k n o w s n o t h i n g a b o u t have to revolve a r o u n d it. T h e task is this: the d e c o n s t r u c t i o n of t h e o l o g -
the g e n u i n e use " p e o p l e " m a k e o f T V — a use that is, p e r h a p s , m u c h ical and/or s e n t i m e n t a l C h r i s t i a n i t y , o f the "love o n e another."
m o r e d i s t a n c e d t h a n the critics w o u l d l i k e t o a d m i t — o r a n y t h i n g a b o u t 6 9 . T h i s also u n d e r l i e s the l o g i c o f the " p o l i t i c s o f f r i e n d s h i p " o f the
the real state, s o m e t i m e s g e n u i n e l y " f o o l i s h , " o f the p o p u l a r c u l t u r e s o f f o r m D e r r i d a proposes t o d e c o n s t r u c t .
earlier t i m e s . T h e c r i t i q u e o f the spectacular has been p e r f o r m i n g its r o u - 7 0 . H e i d e g g e r , Being and Time, 1^6-6^.
t i n e for s o m e t i m e — b u t n o w i t i s b e g i n n i n g t o get o l d . 71. I b i d . , 1 6 4 - 6 5 .
61. I f physis= w h a t presents i t s e l f a n d w h a t a c c o m p l i s h e s itself b y i t - 72. I b i d . , 160. Umwillen m a y be translated as " w i t h regard t o , " "for,"
self, t h e n the " w i t h " i s o f a different order. E v e n " i n n a t u r e , " species p r o - " i n v i e w of," " a c c o r d i n g t o , " " i n favor of," "for the love o f " (um Gottes
liferate a n d live alongside o n e another. Technê w o u l d always have to d o Willen!).
w i t h w h a t n e i t h e r proceeds f r o m n o r t o itself, w i t h disparity, c o n t i g u i t y , 73. I n a l m o s t every case, the v a r i a t i o n s o f "to d i s c l o s e " f o u n d i n this
a n d , t h u s , w i t h a n u n a c h i e v e d a n d u n a c h i e v a b l e essence o f the " w i t h . " p a r a g r a p h are translations o f s o m e v a r i a t i o n o f ouvrir, w h i c h means "to
6 2 . A l l this refers, o b v i o u s l y , t o the w o r k o f D e r r i d a a n d L a c o u e - o p e n . " W e have stayed w i t h "disclose" because i t i s m o r e consistent w i t h
L a b a r t h e o n mimesis, a n d to the w o r k o f E t i e n n e B a l i b a r i n The Phibso- the extant translations o f Heidegger's w o r k , a n d because N a n c y i s clearly
phy of Marx, trans. C h r i s T u r n e r ( L o n d o n a n d N e w Y o r k : V e r s o , 1995), interested in m a r k i n g a certain relation to the H e i d e g g e r i a n t e x t . — T r a n s .
w h i c h insists o n the i n t r i n s i c c o n n e c t i o n s between "the necessity o f ap- 74. I n m o s t o f the o t h e r essays, w e have t r a n s l a t e d surgir as "to a p -
pearance" a n d the "social r e l a t i o n s h i p , " a n d o n the d e m a n d that a n " o n - pear," d o i n g s o i n o r d e r t o m a i n t a i n a c e r t a i n c o n s i s t e n c y w i t h the c o n -
t o l o g y o f the r e l a t i o n " b e elaborated a c c o r d i n g t o these c o n d i t i o n s . text. I n this p a r t i c u l a r essay, w e s w i t c h b a c k a n d f o r t h b e t w e e n "to a p -
63. T h e [ F r e n c h ] R e v o l u t i o n a n d the G e r m a n R o m a n t i c s d i d present pear" a n d "to s p r i n g f o r t h " ; w e chose the later i n those cases w h e r e its
another, r e p u b l i c a n R o m e as the p o l i t i c a l theater that was i m m e d i a t e a n d r e l a t i o n t o g r o w t h a n d surprise i s i m p o r t a n t . — T r a n s .
w i t h o u t theater, w h i c h is to say, the theater of the toga a n d the Senate. 75. J e a n - L u c N a n c y , Corpus (Paris: A n n e - M a r i e M é t a i l i é , 1992), 32.
6 4 . A l t h o u g h the F r e n c h w o r d exposition is m o r e o f t e n t r a n s l a t e d as 76. "Language, w h e t h e r spoken or silent, is the first a n d m o s t extensive
" e x h i b i t i o n , " we have translated it here, a n d in the other chapters, as "ex- h u m a n i z a t i o n o f the b e i n g . O r so it appears. B u t this is precisely the m o s t
p o s i t i o n . " We have d o n e so in order to m a i n t a i n , as m u c h as possible, the o r i g i n a r y d e h u m a n i z a t i o n o f m a n as being living present-there a n d 'sub-
p l a y b e t w e e n i t a n d o t h e r w o r d s t h a t share its r o o t , i n c l u d i n g " p o s e , " ject,' a n d also the w h o l e o f w h a t has o c c u r r e d t o this p o i n t " ["Sprache,
"posed," "position," a n d so o n . — T r a n s . ob g e s p r o c h e n o d e r g e s c h w i e g e n , die erste und weiteste Vermenschung des
65. H u s s e r l , Cartesian Meditations, 156. Seienden. So scheint es. Aber sie gerade die ursprung lichste Entmenschung
6 6 . D a n i e l G i o v a n n a n g e l i , La passion de l'origine: recherches sur l'esthé- des Menschen als V o r h a n d e n e s L e b e n w e s e n und 'Subjekt' und ailes Bish-
tique de la phénoménologie (Paris: G a l i l é e , 1995), 133. erigen"] ( M a r t i n Heidegger, Beitrage zur Philosophie [ F r a n k f u r t a m M a i n :
6 7 . L e v i t i c u s 19:18, w h i c h i s t a k e n u p a g a i n i n M a t t h e w 22:39 a n
d V i t t o r i o K l o s t e r m a n n , 1989], 510).
J a m e s 2:8, "apapéseis t o n plésion s o u ô s seautov," " d i l i g e s p r o c i m u m 77. Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, trans. M i c h a e l H a r d t
t u u m sicut t e i p s u m " : love others a s y o u love y o u r s e l f — t h e " g o l d e n r u l e , " ( M i n n e a p o l i s : U n i v e r s i t y o f M i n n e s o t a Press, 1993), 9 8 - 1 0 0 .
o r c o m m a n d m e n t , w h i c h s u m m a r i z e s , together w i t h the c o m m a n d m e n t 78. M a u r i c e B l a n c h o t , " L i t e r a t u r e a n d the R i g h t t o D e a t h , " i n The
t o love G o d , " a l l the laws a n d p r o p h e c i e s . " Work of Fire, trans. C h a r l o t t e M a n d e l (Stanford, C a l i f . : S t a n f o r d U n i v e r -
204 Notes to Pages ço—102 Notes to Pages 102—i$ç 205

sity Press, 1995). B u t this i s the w h o l e o f B l a n c h o t ' s w o r k , w h i c h never " l a w . " W i t h i n this text, it is a l m o s t i n v a r i a b l y the case that w h e n either
stops t a l k i n g a b o u t this t a l k o f d e a t h , that is, the " u n i q u e b i r t h " o f the the w o r d " l a w " or the w o r d " r i g h t " appears it is as the t r a n s l a t i o n o f droit.
language o f w o r k , w h e r e w o r k u n w o r k s itself. See his " C o m m u n i c a t i o n W e have d o n e o u r best t o r e m a i n a t t u n e d t o the course o f the text a n d
a n d the W o r k , " The Space of Literature, trans. A n n S m o c k ( L i n c o l n : U n i - t o choose the a p p r o p r i a t e t r a n s l a t i o n i n each i n s t a n c e . — T r a n s .
versity o f N e b r a s k a Press, 1982).
79. H e i d e g g e r , Being and Time, 308.
8 0 . I t w o u l d b e easy, b u t t e d i o u s , t o f u r n i s h the o v e r a b u n d a n t e v i -
Eulogy for the Mêlée
dence for this. 1. T h i s essay a p p e a r e d i n G e r m a n i n Lettrelnternationale n o . 21
81. I have i n m i n d , here, the i n d i c a t i o n s f r o m Heidegger's Beitrdge zur ( B e r l i n , 1993), a n d i n S e r b i a n i n Mostovi ( B e l g r a d e , M a r c h 1993); the
Philosophie f r o m page 319 to the e n d , i n o r d e r to, t h e n , take u p again the F r e n c h text appeared i n Transeuropéennes no. 1 ( G e n e v a : C e n t r e européen
ensemble o f k n o w n indications from Being and Time, w i t h the a i m o f de la c u l t u r e , 1993) a n d was r e p r i n t e d i n Mlmensuel, Marxisme, mouve-
suggesting a r e c o m p o s i t i o n i n w h i c h Mitsein w o u l d be actually coessen- ment n o . 71 (Paris, J u l y 1994). T h e request for the piece o r i g i n a l l y c a m e
tial a n d o r i g i n a r y . It is necessary to rewrite Being and Time: this is n o t a f r o m G h i s l a i n e G l a s s o n - D e s c h a u m e s , d i r e c t o r o f Transeuropéennes.
r i d i c u l o u s p r e t e n s i o n , a n d i t i s n o t " m i n e " ; i t i s the necessity o f a l l the 2. T h e F r e n c h w o r d mêlée has entered the E n g l i s h language i n a n i m -
m a j o r w o r k s , insofar as they are ours. O n e c a n guess w i t h o u t m u c h t r o u - p o v e r i s h e d f o r m . T h r o u g h o u t this piece, i t s h o u l d n o t b e read a s m e a n -
ble that this necessity also belongs to the stakes of a p o l i t i c a l r e w r i t i n g . i n g o n l y a c o n f u s e d fight, a fray, scrap, s k i r m i s h , or scuffle, that is, as a
82. I n u s i n g the w o r d l'écartement, N a n c y is l a y i n g o u t e x p l i c i t l y the w o r d i n E n g l i s h . Rather, i t r e m a i n s a n u n t r a n s l a t e d F r e n c h w o r d m e a n -
c o n n e c t i o n to his earlier use o f the w o r d écart. S o , a l t h o u g h we have c o n - i n g a fight, b u t also a m i n g l i n g of a m o r e sexual nature. In a d d i t i o n , as its
sistently translated l'écartement as "the d i s p e r s a l , " so as to m a i n t a i n a cer- c o n n e c t i o n to the verbs mêler a n d se mêler ("to m i x " ) m a k e clear, the ideas
t a i n f l u i d i t y w i t h his use o f " d i s p e r s i o n , " o n e s h o u l d keep i n m i n d that o f m i x t u r e , m i x i n g , m o t l e y , a n d v a r i e g a t i o n are also i m p l i e d . — T r a n s .
w h a t is c o n t a i n e d therein is the reference to s o m e t h i n g l i k e "a dispersal of 3. A g a i n , w e leave the w o r d mélange untranslated, b u t one s h o u l d read
explosive b r i l l i a n c e . " — T r a n s . here its c o n n e c t i o n to the above-cited mêlée, as w e l l as its saying s o m e t h i n g
83. Bei sich: o n e w o u l d have to r e s p o n d , ever since H e g e l at least, to l i k e " m i x t u r e " or " m u d d l e . " It is this latter d e f i n i t i o n that seems to i n f o r m
the c o n s t a n t c r o s s i n g over, the m u t u a l i n t r i c a t i o n a n d d i s t a n c i n g , i n the the t r a n s i t i o n N a n c y wants to m a k e f r o m mélange to mêlée.—Trans.
f u n d a m e n t a l s t r u c t u r e o f the "self," o f the " i n itself," o f the "near t o i t - 4. F e r n a n d B r a u d e l , The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World
self," a n d o f the " r i g h t a t itself." T h e "for itself," since i t occurs a n d i f i t in the Age of Philip II, trans. Siân R e y n o l d s ( B e r k e l e y a n d L o s A n g e l e s :
o c c u r s , is o n l y the result. U n i v e r s i t y of C a l i f o r n i a Press, 1995). N a n c y ' s essay, as it appears in the
o r i g i n a l F r e n c h e d i t i o n , does n o t give the page n u m b e r o f this q u o t a t i o n
f r o m B r a u d e l . S e e i n g as the w h o l e of Braudel's b o o k is m o r e t h a n 1,500
War, Right, Sovereignty-Technê
pages, the t r a n s l a t i o n offered o f the q u o t a t i o n i s ours, a n d n o t f r o m the
1. P u b l i s h e d i n Les Temps Modernes n o . 539 (Paris, J u n e 1991). G i v e n above E n g l i s h e d i t i o n . — T r a n s .
the fact that this text is firmly b o u n d up w i t h the events of the day, I have
n o t a l l o w e d m y s e l f t o m o d i f y i t , apart f r o m s o m e t i n y e d i t o r i a l details.
It h o l d s as w e l l for w h a t ensued.
The Surprise of the Event
S i n c e p u b l i s h e d as " W a r , L a w , S o v e r e i g n t y — T e c h n ê , " Rethinking Tech- 1. In a l m o s t every case, w h a t we translate here as " h a p p e n , " " h a p p e n -
nologies, ed. V e r e n a A n d e r m a t t C o n l e y ( M i n n e a p o l i s : U n i v e r s i t y o f M i n - i n g , " a n d " h a p p e n e d , " is s o m e v e r s i o n o f the F r e n c h w o r d arriver. O n e
nesota Press, 1993). O u r translation benefited greatly f r o m a review of the s h o u l d also keep i n m i n d the various o t h e r translations that m i g h t b e of-
t r a n s l a t i o n offered by Jeffrey S. L i b r e t t in the above t e x t . — T r a n s . fered o f the same w o r d , translations w h i c h suggest o t h e r i m p o r t a n t c o n -
2. It a l m o s t c e r t a i n l y goes w i t h o u t s a y i n g that t r a n s l a t i n g the F r e n c h n o t a t i o n s : "to o c c u r , " "to a r r i v e , " "to c o m e , " "to be on the way," a n d so
word le droit is a d i f f i c u l t task, exactly because it means b o t h " r i g h t " a n d forth.

II
206 Notes to Pages 159—168 Notes to Pages 168-188 207

2. G . W . F. H e g e l , Hegel's Science of Logic, trans. A . V . M i l l e r ( A t l a n t i c 9. Survenir, w h i c h we translated earlier as "to o c c u r , " also has the c o n -
H i g h l a n d s , N . J . : H u m a n i r i e s Press I n t e r n a t i o n a l , 1989), 588. T h e trans- n o t a t i o n o f o c c u r r i n g u n e x p e c t e d l y , a n d the n o u n le survenue means "a
l a t i o n offered by M i l l e r , the o n e we have used in this essay, has a different sudden or unexpected a r r i v a l . " — T r a n s .
e m p h a s i s t h a n the o n e g i v e n i n the F r e n c h t r a n s l a t i o n o f the same sen- 10. E v e n a n d e s p e c i a l l y i f i t "reveals the t h a t - w h i c h - i s - n o t - b e i n g - a s -
tence. T h e F r e n c h t r a n s l a t i o n says s o m e t h i n g m o r e l i k e the f o l l o w i n g : being." Alain Badiou, L'être et l'événement (Paris: E d i t i o n s d u S e u i l , 1988),
" P h i l o s o p h y must not be a story of what happens, but a knowledge of 211. It is " n o t - B e i n g - a s - b e i n g , " t h e n , that is the c o n d i t i o n of B e i n g , or to
w h a t , in s u c h h a p p e n i n g , is true, a n d b e g i n n i n g f r o m the true ir must also b e m o r e precise, the existent c o n d i t i o n o f B e i n g (or the " e x i s t e n t i a l " o f
conceive of w h a t in the narrative appears as a pure event." T h e significant B e i n g i t s e l f ) . N o d o u b t all parties to the disputatio w o u l d agree o n this as
difference c o m e s i n the last phrase, w h i c h i n M i l l e r ' s t r a n s l a t i o n says an (essential) m i n i m u m — a t least insofar as this is o n l y the b e g i n n i n g of
"mere h a p p e n i n g " a n d in the F r e n c h t r a n s l a t i o n says "pure event." ["Aber expressing s u c h a m i n i m u m .
die P h i l o s o p h i e s o l i k e i n e E r z à h l u n g dessen s e i n , was gesehiet, s o n d e r n 11. See § 2 2 a n d §35 o f M a r t i n H e i d e g g e r ' s Kant and the Problem of
eine E r k e n n t i s dessen, was wahr d a r i n ist, u n d aus d e m W a h r e n s o i l sie Metaphysics, trans. R i c h a r d Taft ( B l o o m i n g t o n : I n d i a n a U n i v e r s i t y Press,
ferner das begreifen, was in der E r z à h l u n g als e i n bloftes G e s c h e h e n er- 1990).
s c h e i n t . " ] ( G . W . F. H e g e l , WissenschaftderLogic [ F r a n k f u r t a m M a i n : 12. M a r t i n Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of 'Metaphysics, trans.
S u h r k a m p V e r l a g , 1969], 2 6 0 ) . — T r a n s . W i l l i a m M c N e i l l and Nicholas Walker (Bloomington: Indiana Univer-
3. In the F r e n c h e d i t i o n , " L o g i q u e du c o n c e p t " is the title of the sec- sity Press, 1995), 501 ff.
o n d v o l u m e o f Hegel's Science of Logic, w h i c h is translated b y " S u b j e c -
tive L o g i c ; o r the D o c t r i n e o f the N o t i o n " i n the a b o v e E n g l i s h e d i -
tion.—Trans.
Human Excess
4. I b i d . , 591. 1. Sergio M o r a v i a , Journal européen, trans. D e n i s Fernandez-Récatala
5. T h e m o s t c o m m o n t r a n s l a t i o n o f the w o r d la péripétie w o u l d be a n d G i a n n i B u r a t t o n i (Paris: E c r i t u r e , 1984), 4 8 . T h e t r a n s l a t i o n i n t o
"the event," b u t we have c h o s e n the w o r d "episode" to reserve the speci- E n g l i s h is o u r s . — T r a n s .
ficity o f the t e r m "event" for t r a n s l a t i n g l'événement. B u t o n e s h o u l d also
keep i n m i n d Aristotle's use o f peripeteia.—Trans.
6. H e g e l , Hegel's Science of Logic, 91. Cosmos Baselius
7. I m m a n u e l K a n t , Critique of Pure Reason, trans. N o r m a n K e m p 1. T h i s text was first p u b l i s h e d i n Basileus, an Internet p h i l o s o p h y j o u r -
S m i t h ( N e w Y o r k : St. M a r t i n ' s Press, 1965), 218. n a l , e d . P a u l M i n k k i n e n ( h t t p : / / w w w . h e l s i n k i . f i / b a s i l e u s , M a r c h 1998).
8. T h e r e f o r e , it is a matter of " o r i g i n a r y t e m p o r a l i t y , " the m a j o r c o n - 2 . I n the p r e v i o u s essay, " H u m a n E x c e s s , " w e t r a n s l a t e d the w o r d
cept o f Being and Time. Is s u c h a c o n c e p t itself again s u b o r d i n a t e d to the covenance as " p r o p r i e t y " i n order to m a i n t a i n a certain p r o x i m i t y w i t h the
c o n c e p t o f the t i m e o f presence (already present a n d h o m o g e n o u s w i t h F r e n c h w o r d s propre a n d provenance. I n the above text, w e have rendered
itself), or does it exclude itself f r o m it? T h i s is the m o s t i m p o r t a n t t h i n g at it as " s u i t a b i l i t y " i n o r d e r that it f o l l o w m o r e closely f r o m the verb con-
stake in a debate entirely i n t e r n a l to Heidegger, a n d then o p e n e d between venir, w h i c h means "to be s u i t a b l e , " or "to be fitting." H o w e v e r , i n a few
D e r r i d a a n d Heidegger, a n d i n d e e d between D e r r i d a a n d himself. F o r ex- cases, w e have o n c e again translated covenance as " p r o p r i e t y , " b u t these
ample, compare "Ousia and Gramme: A N o t e o n a N o t e f r o m Being and instances are m a r k e d i n the t e x t . — T r a n s .
Time," Margins of Philosophy, trans. A l a n Bass ( C h i c a g o : U n i v e r s i t y o f 3 . T h e w o r d "gangue" exists b o t h i n F r e n c h a n d E n g l i s h , b u t i t i s n o t
C h i c a g o Press, 1982), a n d p o r t i o n s o f Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money,
often used except in certain specialized discourses. It is the worthless r o c k
trans. Peggy K a m u f ( C h i c a g o : U n i v e r s i t y o f C h i c a g o Press, 1992). Perhaps
o r v e i n m a t t e r f r o m w h i c h v a l u a b l e metals o r m i n e r a l s are e x t r a c t e d . —
it is necessary to t h i n k that it is presence w h i c h precedes i r s e l f — t h a t pres-
Trans.
ents i t s e l f — h e t e r o g e n e o u s to itself, a n d that the event ( o f B e i n g ) is here.
M E R I D I A N

Crossing Aesthetics

Jean-Luc Nancy, Being Singular Plural

M a u r i c e B l a n c h o t / Jacques D e r r i d a , The Instant of My Death I


Demeure: Fiction and Testimony

N i k l a s L u h m a n n , The Social System of Art

E m m a n u a l Levinas, God, Death, and Time

E r n s t B l o c h , The Spirit of Utopia

G i o r g i o A g a m b e n , Potentialities: Collected Essays

E l l e n S. B u r t , Poetry's Appeal: Nineteenth-Century French Lyric and


the Political Space

Jacques D e r r i d a , Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas

W e r n e r H a r n a c h e r , Premises: Essays on Philosophy and Literature


from Kant to Celan

A r i s Fioretos, The Gray Book

D e b o r a h E s c h , In the Event: Reading Journalism, Reading Theory

W i n f r i e d M e n n i n g h a u s , In Praise of Nonsense: Kant and Bluebeard

Giorgio Agamben, The Man Without Content

Giorgio Agamben, The End of the Poem: Studies in Poetics

T h e o d o r W . A d o r n o , Sound Figures
Louis M a r i n , Sublime Poussin E d m o n d Jabès, The Little Book of Unsuspected Subversion

P h i l i p p e L a c o u e - L a b a r t h e , Poetry as Experience H a n s - J o s t Frey, Studies in Poetic Discourse: Mallarmé, Baudelaire,


Rimbaud, Hblderlin
Jacques D e r r i d a , Resistances of Psychoanalysis
The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the
Pierre B o u r d i e u ,
E r n s t B l o c h , Literary Essays
Literary Field
M a r c F r o m e n t - M e u r i c e , That Is to Say: Heidegger's Poetics
N i c o l a s A b r a h a m , Rhythms: On the Work, Translation, and
Francis Ponge, Soap Psychoanalysis

P h i l l i p e L a c o u e - L a b a r t h e , Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics Jacques D e r r i d a , On the Name

G i o r g i o A g a m b e n , Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life D a v i d W i l l s , Prosthesis

E m m a n u e l Levinas, Of God Who Comes to Mind M a u r i c e B l a n c h o t , The Work of Fire

B e r n a r d Stiegler, Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus Jacques D e r r i d a , Points ... : Interviews, IÇJ4—1Ç94

W e r n e r H a r n a c h e r , pleroma—Reading in Hegel J. Hillis Miller, Topographies


Serge Leclaire, Psychoanalyzing P h i l i p p e L a c o u e - L a b a r t h e , Musica Ficta (Figures of Wagner)

Serge L e c l a i r e , A Child Is Being Killed Jacques D e r r i d a , Aporias


Sigmund Freud, Writings on Art and Literature E m m a n u e l Levinas, Outside the Subject
C o r n e l i u s C a s t o r i a d i s , World in Fragments: Writings on Politics, Society, Jean-François L y o t a r d , Lessons on the Analytic Sublime
Psychoanalysis, and the Imagination
Peter Fenves, "Chatter": Language and History in Kierkegaard
T h o m a s K e e n a n , Fables of Responsibility: Aberrations and Predicaments
J e a n - L u c N a n c y , The Experience of Freedom
in Ethics and Politics
J e a n - J o s e p h G o u x , Oedipus, Philosopher
E m m a n u e l L e v i n a s , Proper Names
H a u n Saussy, The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic
Alexander Garcia D i i t t m a n n , At Odds with AIDS: Thinking and
Talking About a Virus Jean-Luc Nancy, The Birth to Presence
Maurice Blanchot, Friendship

Jean-Luc Nancy, The Muses

M a s s i m o C a c c i a r i , Posthumous People: Vienna at the Turning Point

The Specular Moment: Goethe's Early Lyric and the


D a v i d E. Wellbery,
Beginnings of Romanticism
T h i s book, by one of the most innovative and challenging c o n t e m p o r a
thinkers, consists of an extensive essay f r o m w h i c h the b o o k takes its title
a n d five shorter essays that are internally related to " B e i n g Singular P l u r a l . "
O n e of the strongest strands in Nancy's p h i l o s o p h y is his attempt to rethink
c o m m u n i t y and the very idea of the social in a way that does not g r o u n d these
ideas in some i n d i v i d u a l subject or subjectivity. T h e fundamental argument of
the b o o k is that being is always " b e i n g w i t h , " that " I " is not p r i o r to "we," that
existence is essentially co-existence. N a n c y thinks of this " b e i n g - w i t h " not as a
comfortable enclosure in a pre-existing group, but as a m u t u a l a b a n d o n m e n t
a n d exposure to each other, one that w o u l d preserve the " I " a n d its freedom in
a mode of i m a g i n i n g c o m m u n i t y as neither a "society of spectacle" nor via
some f o r m of authenticity.
T h e five shorter essays impressively translate the p h i l o s o p h i c a l insight of
" B e i n g Singular P l u r a l " into sophisticated discussions of national sovereignty,
war and technology, identity politics, the G u l f War, a n d the tragic p l i g h t of
Sarajevo. T h e essay " E u l o g y for the Mêlée," in particular, is a b r i l l i a n t
discussion o f identity a n d h y b r i d i s m that resonates w i t h m a n y c o n t e m p o r a r y
social concerns.
As N a n c y moves t h r o u g h the exposition of his central c o n c e r n , b e i n g - w i t h ,
he engages a n u m b e r of other i m p o r t a n t issues, i n c l u d i n g current notions of
the "other" and "self" that are relevant to psychoanalytic, p o l i t i c a l , and m u l t i -
cultural concepts. He also offers astonishingly original reinterpretations of
major p h i l o s o p h i c a l positions, such as Nietzsche's doctrine of "eternal
recurrence," Descartes's "cogito," a n d the nature of language a n d m e a n i n g .

M E R I D I A N : CROSSING AESTHETICS

S T A N F O R D U N I V E R S I T Y PRESS
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Ascent (\eh) a n d Conseil de Cent (right). Reproduced by
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