Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 10

On Deconstructing Nostalgia for Community within the West: The Debate between Nancy and Blanchot

ROBERT BERNASCONI Memphis State University

I
T h e basic thrust of Nancy's discussion of community could not be clearer nor, in terms of the philosophical framework within which he operates, more compelling. According to him, what dominates the concept of community, what constitutes its appeal, is nostalgia (CD, 31; IC, 10): " t h e natural family, the Athenian city, the Roman Republic, the first Christian community, corporations, communes, or brotherhoodsalways it is a matter of a lost age in which community was woven of tight, harmonious, and infrangible b o n d s " (CD, 2 9 - 3 0 ; IC, 9). " U n t i l this d a y , " he writes, "history has been thought on the basis of a lost c o m m u n i t y o n e to be regained or reconstit u t e d " (CD, 29; IC, 9). Nancy describes the political form of this nostalgia as totalitarianism, although it should always be remembered that, on his analysis, the label serves equally well for those societies that describe themselves as democratic as those that do not. Provocative though the claim might be, it is not difficult to find evidence for Nancy's view if one looks at the price that the so-called advanced democracies exact, both from their own poor and from other countries, to secure the goal of economic expansion (IC, xxxvii). Furthermore, the history of the political is found to harmonize with the
4
3

ROBERT

BERNASCONI

ON DECONSTRUCTING NOSTALGIA

FOR

COMMUNITY WITHIN THE WEST

history of metaphysics. The concept of community is dominated by what might be called in another context "the desire for presence" but is here captured by the phrase " a n absolute immanence of man to m a n " (CD, 14; IC, 2). For Nancy, the fact that the retrospective consciousness of the lost community is constitutive of the W e s t "from its very beginnings" is of itself sufficient grounds for suspicion of the concept of community: " a t every moment in its history, the Occident has given itself over to the nostalgia for a more archaic community that has disappeared, and to deploring a loss of familiarity, fraternity and conviviality" (CD, 31; IC, 10). T h e deconstruction of community begins with the acknowledgment that community aims at an impossible immanence. Were, per impossible, this immanence ever attained, it would result not in the accomplishment of community, but its suppression (CD, 35-36; IC, 12). There never were communities of the kind whose loss is mourned by those who conceive of community as a work to be produced from out of the space of the loss of community. " L o s s " is not an accident that has befallen community; " l o s s " is constitutive of community (CD, 35; IC, 12). Deconstruction points, therefore, to the formal concept of "a community without community" (CD, 177; IC, 71) in the sense of "a community without communion" (LD, 580; IC, 144). However, this is only a beginning. The attempt to give content to this phrase preoccupies Nancy throughout his subsequent essays on community. Nancy, therefore, is not content simply to criticize a certain concept of community. A deconstructed concept of community allegedly emerges from out of the metaphysical conception of community. In the second part of the paper I will chart the course of Nancy's discussion of community, paying particular attention to the sources on which he d r a w s in order to flesh out the notion of a community without communion. Such a study will prove useful when it comes to clarifying the debate about community between Nancy and Blanchot, a task that will occupy the third and longest part of this essay. Their debate helps clarify an aspect of Nancy's thought that might not otherwise be so clear: his refusal of radical alterity, his refusal of the Other. In the fourth section of the essay I shall suggest that, given deconstruction's tendency to remain content with highly problematic concepts of the W e s t and of Western philosophy, inherited without sufficient questioning from Heidegger, this refusal of the Other threatens in certain contexts to transform the idea of a community without communion into a community without remainder. The suspicion is fuelled by an occasional but highly revealing essay addressed to the Chcanos, as well as by the tenor of various scattered references to " t h e W e s t . " T h e fifth section suggests in conclusion that this is one of the points where deconstruction's questions recoil sharply on itself.

II
N a n c y first a n n o u n c e d the task of rethinking the notion of c o m m u n i t y at the end of Le partage des voix, a text written d u r i n g April a n d M a y of 1982, a n d published later the s a m e year. T h e impetus a r o s e from a consideration of Heidegger's " d i s a r t i c u l a t i o n " of hermeneutics, b o t h in Being and. Time a n d in " T h e Dialogue on L a n g u a g e Between a J a p a n e s e a n d an I n q u i r e r . " Heidegger opened hermeneutics to " a n entirely different d i m e n s i o n of hermeneuein" (PV, 13; SV, 212). To a certain extent h e r m e n e u t i c s r e m a i n e d in touch w i t h the traditional Schleiermacherian task of " t h e u n d e r s t a n d i n g of the o t h e r , " b u t only by radically revising the terms: it was no longer a question of " u n d e r s t a n d i n g " a n d the o t h e r was no longer the h u m a n other (PV, 8586; SF, 2 4 5 - 4 6 ) . "Others [Autrui] c a n n o t be identified as the other [l'autre]" (PV, 87; SV, 246). Hermeneia is, in other words, the a n n o u n c e m e n t of the other by the other, the a n n o u n c e m e n t of finitude by way of finitude (PV, 88; 5 F , 2 4 6 - 4 7 ) . T h e decisive term by which N a n c y sought to retain the language of alterity, while at the same time reliving it of the sense of there being "a g r a n d - o t h e r " (un grand Autre) (PV, 85; SF, 245), WAS partage: a sharing t h a t was also a division. Hermeneia is the a n n o u n c e m e n t of the s h a r i n g of voices (PV, 68; SV, 237). To exist is to be a b a n d o n e d to this sharing a n d its "difficult" c o m m u n i t y : "this s h a r i n g is w h a t we are" (PV, 83; SF, 244).' T h i s , N a n c y suggests, opens "a new task with regard to c o m m u n i t y . " However, it seems to me t h a t w h a t one hears in the elaboration of the task has rather less to do with c o m m u n i t y , at least in any political sense, t h a n it has to do with the conditions for the possibility of a certain hermeneutics. " P e r h a p s the time h a s come to w i t h d r a w every logical or teleological founder [fondatrice] of the c o m m u n i t y , to w i t h d r a w f r o m interpreting o u r being-together, in order to u n d e r s t a n d t h a t this being-together is only, for all that it is, the shared-being of the 'divine l o g o s ' " (PV, 90; SV, 2 4 7 - 4 8 ) . N a n c y , it should be said, h a d already taken Plato's phrase, " t h e divine logos," and interpreted it as a "being-outside-of-oneself" (l'tre-hors-de-so) (PV, 68; SF, 237). It would soon b e c o m e clear t h a t N a n c y understood this p h r a s e to point beyond the ecstatic m o m e n t of Plato's philosophy to Bataille, whose sense of ecstasy a n d of c o m m u n i t y was explored in " T h e Inoperative C o m m u n i t y . " 2 " T h e Inoperative C o m m u n i t y " was written between A u g u s t and O c t o b e r 1982 a n d published in the 1983 spring issue of Ala. It w a s heavily revised a n d a u g m e n t e d in 1986 w h e n it was republished as the lead essay of a book with the s a m e title. For the book, two shorter essays were added, " M y t h I n t e r r u p t e d " a n d ' " L i t e r a r y C o m m u n i s m , ' " b o t h o f which also focused heavily on Bataille. Following the publication of the book, N a n c y continued to pursue the same themes, b u t he shifted his focus from Bataille to Heidegger. T h i s is clearly a p p a r e n t from two essays t h a t were first published in

ROBERT

BERNASCONI

ON

DECONSTRUCTING

NOSTALGIA

FOR

COMMUNITY

WITHIN

THE

WEST

English and then subsequently added to an expanded edition of La communaut dsoeuvre that a p p e a r e d in France in 1990: " O f B e i n g - i n - C o m m o n " and " F i n i t e H i s t o r y . " T h e following year, in 1991, a short text written with Jean-Christophe Bailly, La comparution (politique venir), seemed to concede that these discussions, from the outset confined to t h e level of t h e political (le politique), impinged also on politics (lapolitique). T h e cherished distinction of the Centre de recherches philosophiques sur le politique collapses. 3 In general, any survey of N a n c y ' s works would reveal the impressive sight of a thought undergoing constant change a n d a willingness to revise earlier positions. Alongside Bataille and Heidegger, reference to a third figure is crucial for understanding N a n c y ' s discussions of c o m m u n i t y : M a u r i c e Blanchot. T h e >omewhat puzzling word dsoeuvr, most often found in the p l u r a l a n d used to refer to idlers, is explicitly borrowed f r o m Blanchot. N a n c y introduces it quite late in " L a c o m m u n a u t d s o e u v r e " to underline the f a c t t h a t comnunity does not arise from the d o m a i n of work, but is something that belongs o the experience of finitude (CD, 7 8 - 7 9 ; IC, 31). M o r e i m p o r t a n t l y still, Blanchot, upon the a p p e a r a n c e of " L a c o m m u n a u t dsoeuvre" in 1983, vrote a short book, The Unavowable Community, the first part of which took its ;tarting-point directly f r o m N a n c y ' s essay. T h e title of the first p a r t of The Unavowable Community, " T h e Negative C o m m u n i t y , " 4 is d r a w n f r o m Bataille. 3ataille's phrase, " t h e negative c o m m u n i t y : the c o m m u n i t y of those w h o ave no c o m m u n i t y " (CI, 45; UC, 24. Also CI, 83; UC, 50), seems to be an expression of t h a t " c o m m u n i t y without c o m m u n i t y , " whose clarification ^iancy sought. By offering Bataille's "negative c o m m u n i t y " as " t h e ultimate b r m of the c o m m u n i t a r i a n experience" (CI, 4 6 - 4 7 ; UC, 25), Blanchot can, it least on first sight, be understood as refining a n d finding f u r t h e r w a r r a n t or N a n c y ' s decision to t u r n to Bataille as " t h e one w h o has w i t h o u t a d o u b t ;one f u r t h e s t in the crucial experience of the c o m m u n i t y ' s m o d e r n d e s t i n y " CD, 44; IC, 16, cited CI, 13; UC, 4). Both agree t h a t Bataille's i m p o r t a n c e ies in t h e fact that he identified "insufficiency" (insuffisance), " i n c o m p l e t i o n " inachvement), or " i n c o m p l e t e n e s s " (incompltude) as the " p r i n c i p l e " of comnunity (CD, 87; IC, 35; CI, 15; UC, 5).
I l l

publication of The Unavowable Community in a note t h a t describes the genesis of N a n c y ' s own book (CD, 105; IC, 42). M o r e strikingly still, the essay " M y t h I n t e r r u p t e d " a d o p t s B l a n c h o t ' s concept o f " t h e u n a v o w a b l e comm u n i t y " w i t h o u t any a p p a r e n t reservations (CD, 147; IC, 58). It is this impression of N a n c y ' s comfortable c o m m u n i t y with Blanchot a b o u t community t h a t I would like now to disturb. Clarifying the difference between them, which to the best of my knowledge has not previously been d o n e , will itself highlight the philosophical decisions that any r e t h i n k i n g of c o m m u n i t y must make. T h e d e b a t e can also be offered as an illustration of the s o m e w h a t discreet forms of criticism t h a t often o p e r a t e between F r e n c h thinkers, in m a r k e d contrast to the r a t h e r more direct a p p r o a c h t h a t is customary in Britain a n d the U n i t e d States. T h e question that B l a n c h o t ' s text raises is posed in the following passage early in The Unavowable Community: However, if the relation of m a n with m a n ceases to be t h a t of the S a m e with the Same, but r a t h e r introduces the O t h e r as irreducible a n d g i v e n the equality between t h e m a l w a y s in a situation of dissymmetry in relation to the one looking at the O t h e r , then a completely different relationship imposes itself a n d imposes another f o r m of society which one would h a r d l y d a r e call a " c o m m u n i t y . " Or else one accepts the idea of n a m i n g it thus, while asking oneself w h a t is at stake in the concept of a c o m m u n i t y a n d w h e t h e r the c o m m u n i t y , no m a t t e r if it h a s existed or not, does not always point to the absence of c o m m u n i t y . (CI, 12; UC, 3) In the wake of a n u m b e r of theorists, including N a n c y , w h o have exposed how the ideal of i m m a n e n c e h a s sustained b o t h c o m m u n i s m and individualism, w h a t is the force of Blanchot's " o r " ? Are these h a r d alternatives? Or is the l a n g u a g e of dissymmetry a n d of t h e O t h e r to be j u d g e d equivalent to or, less strenuously, reconcilable with, the language of t h e a b s e n c e of c o m m u n ity? Blanchot does not explicate the p h r a s e " t h e absence of c o m m u n i t y , " b u t he cites its e m p l o y m e n t by Bataille in Contre Toute Attente (CI, 13; UC, 34). Nancy subsequently found the p h r a s e also in Bataille's 1947 essay " T h e Absence of M y t h " (CD, 151; IC, 60) a n d so a p p e a l s to it in " M y t h Interr u p t e d . " N a n c y explicates " t h e a b s e n c e of c o m m u n i t y " in such a way as to emphasize its continuity with w h a t he h a d already referred to in " T h e Inoperative C o m m u n i t y " as a "loss" constitutive of c o m m u n i t y (CD, 35; IC 12). T h i s loss h a s n o t h i n g to do w i t h " t h e r e t r o s p e c t i v e consciousness of the lost c o m m u n i t y " N a n c y exposes as nostalgia in The Inoperative Community (CD, 30; IC, 10). R a t h e r , the suggestion is t h a t although " t h e i m m a n e n c e a n d the i n t i m a c y of c o m m u n i o n " sustains the idea of community, c o m m u n i t y assumes " t h e impossibility of its own i m m a n e n c e " (CD, 42; IC, 15). If Bataille, a n d by extension N a n c y , represent o n e of the alternatives posed

tlanchot presented The Unavowable Community as simply one f u r t h e r stage in already long-standing reflection on community and on communism for /hich the publication of Nancy's book simply provided the occasion. He was owhere directly critical of Nancy. In return, Nancy did everything he could reinforce the impression that Blanchot accepted his position on communy. T h e revised version of " T h e Inoperative C o m m u n i t y " offered no rponse to Blanchot, a l t h o u g h there was a brief acknowledgement of the

ROBERT

BERNASCONI

ON DECONSTRUCTING NOSTALGIA

FOR

COMMUNITY

WITHIN

THE

WEST

by Blanchot, the other alternative can be identified with Levinas, in spite of he fact that Blanchot uses the term " d i s s y m m e t r y " in place of Levinas' more :haracteristic " a s y m m e t r y . " In " T h e C o m m u n i t y of L o v e r s " Blanchot evokes the " d i s s y m m e t r y that, according to Levinas, m a r k s the irreciprocity )f the ethical relationship between the O t h e r fautrui] a n d me, I w h o am never >n equal terms with the other [Autre], an inequality m e a s u r e d by the im>ressive thought: T h e O t h e r (Autrui) is a l w a y s closer to God than I am whatever m e a n i n g one gives that n a m e that names the u n n a m e a b l e ) " (CI, >7-68; UC, 40). Blanchot, one senses, is reluctant to face the alternative he limself poses. He prefers not to h a v e to choose between Bataille's (and f a n c y ' s ) discourse on the absence of community and Levinas' discourse on he Other. Both discourses are explored, b u t L e v i n a s ' seems to be favored. ust as " T h e Negative C o m m u n i t y " offers a restatement of a core part of f a n c y ' s a r g u m e n t in terms of the O t h e r , so " T h e C o m m u n i t y of L o v e r s " Iludes to a possible L e v i n a s i a n r e a d i n g of D u r a s ' " T h e M a l a d y of D e a t h . " r h i s is the context of the p a s s a g e that I j u s t quoted. T h e far-reaching |uestion it raises is that of the relation between love and ethics, or more irecisely, between love and Levinasian ethics. O n c e one has recognized that, s Blanchot insists, " t h e fulfillment of all v e r i t a b l e l o v e " would consist in its ieing realized according to the m o d e of loss (CI, 71; UC, 42), the parallel /ith Nancy's discussion of community is clear. W h a t sounds like nostalgia is ot nostalgia at all. " L o s s " does not refer here to a n y t h i n g one has ever had: for the ' and the 'other' do not live in the s a m e time, are never together synchronously), can therefore not be contemporary, b u t separated (even yhen united) by a 'not yet' which goes hand in h a n d with an 'already no onger' " (CI, 71; UC, 42). T h e crucial point of difference between Nancy and Uanchot is located at this point where, at first sight, they seem closest: in the ourse of their discussion of the death of the O t h e r . On t h e face of it, there is total a g r e e m e n t b e t w e e n them. Blanchot's iscussion of death culminates in a series of quotations from Nancy's " T h e noperative C o m m u n i t y " from which he does not distance himself. T h a t is /hy Nancy, in return, can cite in " I n t e r r u p t e d M y t h " Blanchot's brief u m m a r y at the end of " T h e Negative C o m m u n i t y " of that discussion of eath, as if he agreed w i t h Blanchot's fuller analysis, which, I shall n o w how, he does not and cannot. T h e discussion of death is crucial to N a n c y ' s a r g u m e n t . Nancy questions, s did Blanchot also, the idea of a community of death according to which ne's death might be s u b l a t e d in a f u t u r e c o m m u n i t y for the sake of which ne sacrifices oneself (CD, 38; IC, 13). T h i s , Nancy observes, w a s the emand Hitler m a d e on the G e r m a n people. 5 Nancy finds the resources to ambat it in H e i d e g g e r ' s account of Being-toward-death in Being and Time, 'here the metaphysics of the s u b j e c t is put in question (CD, 4 0 - 4 1 ; IC, 14).

, s j f * ^

If H e i d e g g e r in the 1930s took up the question of community in the f o r m of a discourse on the destiny of the people, it w a s , Nancy explains in a p a s s a g e a d d e d to The Inoperative Community in 1986, b e c a u s e H e i d e g g e r h a d not integrated his analysis of Being-toward-death with that of Mitsein (CD, 41; IC, 14). It is that integration that Nancy a t t e m p t s in " T h e Inoperative C o m m u n i t y , " although, as he himself is well a w a r e , it necessitates a complete inversion of Heidegger's analysis. Nancy focuses on Heidegger's analysis of the impossibility of a genuine experience of the dying of O t h e r s in section 47 of Being and Time (CD, 8 2 - 8 3 ; IC, 33). T h e concept of representation or d e p u t i z i n g (Vertretbarkeit), as it functions in the political realm, cannot be extended to the d e a t h of others. 6 In other words, I can a l w a y s represent you at a f u n e r a l , so long as the funeral does not h a p p e n to be your own. Heidegger, in pages that have received careful attention from a n u m b e r of thinkers, including Levinas, 7 does allow that one can sacrifice o n e s e l f o n e ' s l i f e f o r the O t h e r , b u t that does not " t a k e the O t h e r ' s d y i n g a w a y from h i m " (SZ, 240; BT, 284). T h e fact that death represents a limit to community as it might ordinarily be conceived suggests to Nancy, however, not the existentialist isolation described by one generation of French writers, but another concept of community. C o m m u n i t y is calibrated on death as on that of which it is precisely impossible to make a work (other than a work of death, as soon as one tries to m a k e a work of it). C o m m u n i t y occurs in order to a c k n o w l e d g e this impossibility, or more e x a c t l y f o r there is neither function nor finality h e r e t h e impossibility of m a k i n g a work o u t of death is inscribed a n d acknowledged as " c o m m u n i t y . " (CD, 4 1 - 4 2 ; IC, 15) T h i s is the introduction of the idea, if not yet by n a m e for a f e w more pages, of " t h e inoperative c o m m u n i t y " : " t h e community that no more makes a w o r k out of death than it is itself a w o r k " (CD, 41; IC, 14). Deconstruction of nostalgia for community is at the s a m e time deconstruction of the f u t u r e community for which one is required to sacrifice one's life. A l t h o u g h Nancy's discussions of death are in an u n m i s t a k a b l y Heideggerian register, they are no longer subordinated to a Heideggerian purpose. Nancy finds sharing precisely w h e r e Heidegger finds individualization. H o w e v e r , Blanchot, w h e n he takes up this discussion, does so only after he has established a Levinasian register, for example, by employing the section titles, " T h e death of the o t h e r " (La mort d'autrui) a n d " T h e N e i g h b o r of the O n e D y i n g " (Le prochain du mourant). Blanchot q u o t e s f r o m N a n c y Bataille's p h r a s e " i f it sees its fellow-being die, a living being can s u b s i s t only outside itself" (CI, 21; UC,9). However, Blanchot changes the m e a n i n g it had in Nancy by introducing it with the explanation that w h a t places me outside myself is my taking the other's death upon myself as the only death that concerns me.

10

ROBERT

BERNASCONI

ON DECONSTRUCTING NOSTALGIA FOR COMMUNITY WITHIN THE WEST

II

It is not only Bataille that Blanchot commissions for his own purposes. He also takes certain lines from Nancy a n d reinterprets them for his own purposes. Blanchot finds the following claim from " T h e Inoperative Comm u n i t y " to be among the "most decisive" in the essay: If community is revealed in the death of the Other, it is because death is itself the true community of mortal beings: their impossible communion. (A 24. Cited CI, 2 3 - 2 4 ; UC, 1 0 - 1 1 ) Nancy's suggestion seems to be that just as my being-towards-death disrupts my sense of myself as a subject or an ego with projects, so also the death of others disrupts community as "a project of fusion" or "a project at all" (CD, 42; IC, 15). This is emphasized in the expanded version of the quoted sentences in the 1986 edition of the essay: If community is revealed in the death of the Other, it is because death itself is the true community of I's that are not egos. It is not a communion that fuses the egos into an Ego or a higher We. It is the community of Others [autrui]. T h e true community of mortal beings, or death as community, is their impossible communion. (CD, 42; IC, 15) By contrast, Blanchot, who gives the impression that he is doing no more than explicating Nancy's text, writes that "mortal substitution is what replaces c o m m u n i o n " (CI, 24; UC, 11). In other words, Blanchot identifies community without communion as substitution. In case the reference to Levinas is missed, Blanchot underlines it in " T h e Community of Lovers." He cites Phaedrus, who said in Plato's Symposium that only those who love consent to die for others: in the myth best known from Euripides' version, only Alcestis was prepared to die in place of Admetus, her husband (Symposium 179b). Blanchot comments in parentheses that this would truly be an instance of "substitution" in the sense of "the one for the o t h e r " (CI, 7 4 - 7 5 ; UC, 44), a phrase borrowed directly from Levinas. 8 Followers of Nancy who are unsympathetic to Levinas have every right to reject Blanchot's reading as a gross misunderstanding. Nancy's own response is to impose on Levinas the transcendental symmetry that, according to Derrida in "Violence and Metaphysics," makes possible the two empirical asymmetries. 9 Both Levinas and Blanchot would surely have to reject another of Nancy's insertions, when he says that the I's "are always others [autrui] (or else they are nothing)" (CD, 42; IC, 15). By the same token, what could Levinas understand by Nancy's phrase "community of others"? In case one is in any doubt as to the direction in which Nancy is leaning, inspired by the hermeneutic considerations that Le partage des voix lent to the quest, consider this sentence, also added in 1986: Community is that singular ontological order in which the other and the same are alike [sont le semblable], that is to say, in the sharing of identity. (CD, 84; IC, 34)

Even if one recalls that the context of these lines is the rejection of the idea of an origin of identity, a place now held by "the sharing of singularities" (CD, 83; IC, 33), and even if one allows that the French text is not as flat as the English translation, one can nevertheless see a vast difference opening up between Nancy's account and that offered by Blanchot. T h e difference is perhaps most apparent in two areas: their respective discussions of the political and the ethical, and in particular, the relation between ethics and love, which is where Blanchot takes the issue and is followed there by Nancy. In 1983 Nancy had found the political meaning of community in the imperative "we must not stop writing" (il ne faut pas cesser d'crire) (A, 48). In 1986 it was extended to say that one must also not stop "letting the singular outline of our being-in-common expose itself" (CD, 100; IC, 41). 1 0 This is in clear continuity with the task set in Le partage des voix that there be an announcement or articulation of finitude. T h i s in turn gives rise to Nancy's idea, drawn from Bataille, of "literary c o m m u n i s m . " Nancy continued to talk of "writing or literature" as " t h e call that convokes u s " (CD, 178; IC, 71), while at the same time insisting that "it defines neither a politics, nor a writing, for it refers, on the contrary, to that which resists any definition or p r o g r a m " (CD, 198; IC, 81). T h e imperative seemed to survive the phrase "literary c o m m u n i s m " itself." Nancy's " O f Being-in-Common' presents another version of it: "'Philosophy' and 'community' have this ir common: a categorical imperative . . . not to let go of sense in c o m m o n " (CD 2 3 3 - 3 4 ; OBC, 11-12). T h e commitment, therefore, seems to be increasingly to the articulation of an ontology. This is reflected in the way Nancy in 199( expanded The Inoperative Community's three essays that essentially focused oi Bataille by adding two essays on Heidegger. T h e trajectory that Nancy has followed and the extent to which he believe that the task to think community can be met only by an ontology, am specifically an ontology of largely Heideggerian inspiration, has served t strengthen the extent to which one is obliged to choose between the alterna tives set out by Blanchot at the beginning of The Unavoidable Communi quoted earlier. Furthermore, this trajectory has given added resonance to passage in " T h e Community of Lovers" where Blanchot seemed to sic decidedly with Levinas against the dominance of ontology. Having correcte those commentators on Levinas who identify his ethics with a morality of la that is opposed to passion, Blanchot writes in clear agreement with Levina: An ethics is possible only w h e n w i t h ontology (which always reduces tl Other [Autre] to the Same) taking the back s e a t a n anterior relation c; affirm itself, a relation such that the self is not content with recognizing tl O t h e r , with recognizing itself in it, but feels that the Other always puts into question to the point of being able to respond to it only through responsibility that cannot limit itself and that exceeds itself without e hausting itself. (CI, 73; UC, 43)

12

ROBERT

BERNASCONI

ON DECONSTRUCTING NOSTALGIA FOR COMMUNITY WITHIN THE WEST

13

As one reads this description of ethics as possible only when the O t h e r puts the self in question, one should recall how in " T h e Negative C o m m u n i t y " the death of the O t h e r " M y presence for another who absents himself by d y i n g " i s introduced in answer to the question: " W h a t , then, calls me into question most radically?" (CI, 21; UC, 9). T h e O t h e r a n d that means ultimately the death of the O t h e r r e n d e r s community as communion impossible. Nancy's disagreement with Levinas extends to the question of the relative priority of the O t h e r and of the inoperative community. 1 2 Nancy rejects the contention that the relation to the face is primordial: "I can, on the contrary, grasp the relation with the face only as secondary and as constituted" (PF, 261; IC, 105). 13 There is a decisive difference between Levinas and Nancy here and Blanchot can be found siding with Levinas, at least insofar as Blanchot proposes that the death of the O t h e r "founds community" (CI, 22; UC, 9). Of course, neither Blanchot nor Levinas, after Totality and Infinity, portrays the order of foundation in simple terms. T h e Other is an interruption. Blanchot, for example, says t h a t "in the homogeneitythe affirmation of the Same-understanding d e m a n d s that the heterogeneous appear suddenly" (CI, 6 8 - 6 9 ; UC, 41). So, in terms of Duras' The Malady of Death, it is a question of "a movement that cannot abide any n a m e n e i t h e r love nor desire" and that tears the community of lovers from ordinary society (CI, 79; UC, 47). T h e essential end of the unavowable community is therefore "the destruction of society" (CI, 80; UC, 48). It is unlikely that Levinas would ever offer such an example. It is still less likely that he would develop it in precisely these terms. But Blanchot's account, as he himself was well aware, is in many ways structurally similar to t h a t found in Levinas. By contrast, Nancy declares that Being itself is communal: "Being is in c o m m o n " (OBC, l). 1 4 O r , as "Shattered Love" attests, "the essence of Being is something like a h e a r t t h a t is to say: that which alone is capable of love" (PF, 234; IC, 88). Something like a heart, a broken heart, which is the only kind of heart (PF, 250; IC, 99). From a Levinasian perspective, Nancy's own ontological elucidation of the "inoperative community," by rendering the face to face secondary, obliterates alterity. Nancy's account thus remains tied to the philosophy of immanence that Nancy himself sets out to avoid.

O r p h e u s , " by virtue of its readiness to take the risk of offering to help other.' determine their identity. 1 5 Nancy addresses himself not to the Europear visitors to the art exhibition but to Chcanos, albeit not without acknowledg ing the problem of the name (SC, 197; BS, 41). He tells them: It is no longer a matter of what was called the encounter, or confrontatioi "with the other." You are more other than others, both the same as us and cut from yourselves and from us, as we too are cut. . . . (SC, 199 BS, 49) Nancy seems to be suggesting that one can no longer talk of the violen encounter between Europeans and Mejicanos, to employ terms that are them selves violent, and then, subsequently, between White Americans and Mex ican Americans. This is not because "you Chcanos" have become one wit " u s , " but because identities and boundaries have become increasingly cor fused, not least because one form of the encounter, from early on, was sexua " T h e y are your ancestors, all of them, Indians and Indian-killers. Cut race; mixed blood" (SC, 197; BS, 42. Also SC, 198; BS, 44). It is also, of course, a Nancy notes in passing, because "the West imagining itself in the East . . only furthered the West, aggravated it, and the same sun set in anothf o c e a n " (SC, 197; BS, 4 1 - 4 2 ) . On this basis Nancy invokes "another cor figuration o f . . . community" (SC, 199; BS, 48): T h e Community: what if it was no longer the closure that excludes, but tl multiple, cut network from which only exclusion is excluded? Neither tl integration of nations, nor the disintegration of the masses, nor a "middle between the two, always threatened by the two: how might we conceive > that? {SC, 200; BS, 52) Nancy does not answer the question, but the surprise is that it should 1 asked at all, as if a community without exclusion was not itself another for of immanentism, another form of totalitarianism. By the same token there is every reason to be nervous about the w; Nancy takes up the theme of love in "Shattered Love." In the course of wh seems to be a clear response to Blanchot's appeal to a community of lovei Nancy touches on the question of the identity and content of what passes f "the Occident." In a characteristically bold gesture, Nancy addresses tl relation of philosophy to love under the rubric " T h i n k i n g is love." It is sa to be "the general epigraph" to all philosophy's treatises, including tho prior to Plato's Symposium, even though philosophy is said never to arrive this thinking (PF, 2 2 8 - 2 9 ; IC, 8 4 - 8 5 ) . However, it is less Nancy's provoc tive exposition of love that concerns me here, than his assumptions about t Occident. Nancy never seems to question the idea that philosophy belongs the Occident. T h e only question he addresses is whether the same is not al true of love. However, when he introduces the possibility of exploring t relation of love and thinking "outside of the Occident," he dismisses it wi

IV
W h a t is at stake in Nancy's insistence that alterity is secondary? It is not necessary to speculate because Nancy spells out the implications in "Beheaded S u n , " a remarkable short essay written for the catalogue of an exhibition by Chicano artists held in Barcelona in 1989. It is a text courageous in its foolhardiness, that in some ways recalls Sartre's "Black

12

ROBERT

BERNASCONI

ON DECONSTRUCTING NOSTALGIA

FOR COMMUNITY WITHIN THE WEST

15

shocking rapidity. T h e reader is simply told that even if "that which is not the Occident is, in fact, no stranger to any of the figures or forms we know as love . . . what is at issued, outside of the Occident, is not love absolutely" (PF, 239; IC, 91). Nancy emphasizes the point: Only the Occident designates within love . . . an ordering (or disordering) principle of the totality of being and of beings, of nature, of the city, of knowledge, and of God. Only the Occident raises with this one name, "love," such a claim to universality. T h a t this claim is continually disappointed or ridiculed, that it is continually found guilty of delirium, of contradiction or of bad faith, only confirms its imperious, demanding, insistent, or insidious character. (PF, 2 3 9 - 4 0 ; IC, 9 1 - 9 2 ) Nancy's conclusion, then, is that "nothing leads us more surely back to ourselves (to the Occident, to philosophy, to dialectic, to literature) than love" (PF, 240; IC, 92). W h a t makes this more remarkable is that when a few pages earlier Nancy had claimed that he had identified that which structures "all occidental experience and expression of love," he had added in parentheses the observation that "it is not certain that the 'Occident,' here, might not include both Islam and B u d d h i s m " (PF, 232; IC, 87). Although it is remarkable that it appears that Nancy never clearly resolves this uncertainty, it is even more striking that Nancy seems prepared to consider the contribution of Islam and Buddhism only by including them within the definition of the Occident.
V

At the beginning of this paper I quoted Nancy's claim that "nostalgia for a more archaic community" has accompanied " t h e Western world" from its beginnings {CD, 31; IC, 10). In " M y t h I n t e r r u p t e d " the same idea was presented, but with a finality that is wholly disarming. Having recalled the Nazi myth, Nancy suggests, in a somewhat sweeping gesture that now seems to be somewhat characteristic of his attempts to diagnose the present, that "we no longer have anything to do with m y t h , " or at least those myths that stage or set to work a Volk (CD, 117; IC, 46). However, what Nancy has encapsulated in the figure of myth is what he calls "the entire pretension on the part of the West to appropriate its own origin, or to take away its secret." T h e idea of myth alone perhaps presents the very Idea of the West, with its perpetual representation of the compulsion to return to its own sources in order to re-engender itself from them as the very destiny of humanity. (CD, 117-18; IC, 46) T h e philosophy classroom may well be the place where the ritual that sustains the mythical idea of the West is most passionately repeated. No doubt such gatherings differ from the ancient assemblies where people

gathered to hear again the stories of the assemblies from which they derive, but are they essentially different (CD, 109-13; IC, 4 3 - 4 5 ) ? Nancy's description of a compulsion to return to the sources of the West "in order to re-engender itself from them as the very destiny of h u m a n i t y " might serve as an adequate account of the standard reading of what Heidegger means by destructuring, which is, of course, the immediate source of Derrida's conception of deconstruction. Furthermore, it becomes increasingly apparent that the idea of the West, on which destructuring and also to a certain extent deconstruction depend, is itself a myth. It is a myth usually constructed by the twofold movement of including under the title of the West whatever is valued while dismissing everything else as worthless. It is, in other words, sustained by a singular denial of alterity in favor of what might today be called a totalizing community. Levinas might share all those tendencies in his own conception of the West and of philosophy, arguably with much greater violence than Nancy. Even so, the tendency is best questioned by an event that Levinas has outlined better than anyone: the encounter with the O t h e r who puts me in question. 1 6 Although deconstruction recognizes that "a radical trembling can come only from the outside," and that this trembling is played out "in the violent relationship of the whole of the West to its other," 1 7 deconstruction has remained attached to a received idea of the West. It has, with few exceptions, not heretofore exploited the encounter with what is often referred to, somewhat inadequately, as other cultures. The focus has fallen on the complex relation of Hebraism a n d Hellenism that has been so highly distorted by philosophers in recent centuries. It has fallen also on the margins of Western philosophy, but not, for the most part, on the philosophies that have been consigned to the margins or have been denied the n a m e of philosophy altogether, for no better reason t h a n that the identity of philosophy has been decided in advance. It is true that in addition to the passages cited in which Nancy seems to accept uncritically a notion of the West that derives from Heidegger, 1 8 there are texts which might be mined for evidence of a more complex relation to the West. 1 9 However, when it comes to thinking about community, what is most surprising is Nancy's lack of an historical engagement. Aside from Nancy's general insistence that the West is characterized by a certain nostalgia for community from its beginnings, he fails to offer a detailed engagement with the historythought as " W e s t e r n " or otherwiseof the concept of community. Although Nancy is attempting, as he says, a deconstruction of "the system of c o m m u n i o n " (CD, 46; IC, 17), one looks in vain among his writings for the serious historical account of the metaphysical conception of the community that would necessarily underlie any such deconstruction. Elsewhere, in the context of a discussion of the deconstruction of fascism and

12

ROBERT

BERNASCONI

ON

DECONSTRUCTING

NOSTALGIA

FOR

COMMUNITY

WITHIN

THE

WEST

16

democracy, Nancy insists that "words and concepts have a history and we can hardly understand them if we do not take that history into account" (OH, 102). T h e same must surely also be true of community. It is not hard to find evidence of the problems that await Nancy simply because he does not attend to this work of remembering. T h e few historical references that Nancy offers tend to be problematical. For example, his brief history of the concept of community in " T h e Inoperative C o m m u n i t y " names Rousseau. Rousseau is described as "perhaps the first thinker of community, or more exactly, the first to experience the question of society as an uneasiness directed toward the community, and as the consciousness of a (perhaps irreparable) r u p t u r e in this community" (CD, 29; IC, 9). 2 0 This is a fairly widespread characterization of Rousseau, but it is one not readily supported by Rousseau's texts. Rousseau employs the word " c o m m u n i t y " sparingly; for example, only once in the First and Second Discourses. 21 His remarks about the festival notwithstanding, the kind of society Rousseau was nostalgic for was a rural society where the people had very little contact with each other. Even Hegel, who Nancy also mentions in this regard (CD, 29; IC, 9. Also OH, 109), tended to address community (Gemeinde) as a religious rather than a political concept. Nancy is on firmer ground when he refers to Tnnies' distinction between Gesellschaft and Gemeinschaft (OH, 109n), but Nancy chose to emphasize Tnnies' Hegelian training at the expense of his indebtedness to Otto Gierke. If one is looking to locate within the tradition the roots of a political philosophy based on nostalgia for community specifically, then it is to Gierke that one should look. 22 T h e reference is important because it suggests that nostalgia for community perhaps began as nostalgia for the medieval guilds, rather than as nostalgia for the Greek polis, such as one finds it, most notably, in H a n n a h Arendt's The Human Condition.23 Nancy is therefore correct insofar as he links the concept of community to the Greek family, the first Christian communities and the medieval guilds, but it is far from clear that nostalgia is constitutive of those communities. This nostalgia arises only subsequently within certain determinate contexts that themselves need to be carefully analyzed in order to understand what is being sought. But the fact that, as Nancy recognizes, "the breakdown in c o m m u n i t y " is decisive only quite late within the modern era (CD, 2 8 - 2 9 ; IC, 9), creates a tension between what Nancy acknowledges as historical and what he wants for the sake of his deconstruction of Western philosophy. Nancy wants nostalgia for community to be constitutive of the West from its very beginnings (CD, 31; IC, 10). O n e cannot solve the problems that arise within Nancy's attempt to deconstruct both the metaphysical conception of community and the nostalgia it evokes simply by relying on a stronger historiological analysis, important though that may be. T h e tension between Nancy's historiological account of

nostalgia for community and the history of the West to which he relates it reflects a tension that is characteristic of deconstruction more generally. Historiological concern for the past is never entirely free from concern for the future. This is quite apparent, for example, in the case of Gierke, whose investigations were by no means unconnected with G e r m a n nationalist sentiments of the late second half of the nineteenth century. 2 4 Similarly, Heidegger's Destruktion could easily be mistaken for simple nostalgia if one relied solely on the formulations from section six of Being and Time without regard for the discussion of historicality undertaken in the book's Second Division. 2 5 Even once one has acknowledged that destructuring takes place, not out of nostalgia for Greece, but for the sake of certain "positive possibilities of the tradition" (SZ, 22; BT, 44), it remains the case that the identity Heidegger gives to that tradition, the unrelenting privileging of Greece, remains problematic, not least because it is intimately connected with the privileging of Germany. Nancy, like Derrida, is well aware of this issue in Heidegger. T h e analysis of Nazi myth that Nancy gave with Lacoue-Labarthe provides an excellent analysis of the role of Greece in Aryan mythology. 2 6 Their analysis culminates in the d e m a n d that " a n analysis of Nazism should never be conceived as a dossier of simple accusation, but rather as one element in a general deconstruction of the history in which our own provenance lies." 2 7 Nevertheless, however successful an analysis of " t h e provenance and meaning of deconstruction" (OH, 101) might be in distinguishing Heideggerian Destruktion from Derridean dconstruction, however decisively it separates nostalgia from the positive intention that is directed to "the meaning of the future-to-come (l'a-venir)" (OH, 104), so long as the identity of "our history" is not seriously put in question, the attachment of a certain kind of deconstruction to what it knows as the history of Western metaphysics remains questionable. Perhaps Nancy knows this too. O n e could argue that, even if Nancy seems more concerned to establish the claim that "condemning the West is only the reverse of glorifying it" (OH, 113), the very title of the essay, " O u r History," reflects the extent to which Nancy is prepared to question the identity on which the deconstruction of Western metaphysics rests. T h e question, however, is not simply whether he is sufficiently sensitive to this issue, b u t whether he is not obliged to reflect a certain ambiguity between questioning the identity of the West, while at the same time always depending on it, that appears to be constitutive of deconstruction. T h e r e is something haunting, in this context, about the fact that "Violence and Metaphysics," one of Derrida's very first exercises in deconstruction, began by marking a community of remembrance at the same time that it posed the question of the Greek and the other of the Greek. He wrote of a cluster of questions about the end of philosophy that he later collected under the title "the question of the closure":

12

ROBERT

BERNASCONI

ON DECONSTRUCTING NOSTALGIA

FOR

COMMUNITY

WITHIN

THE

WEST

19

It may even be that these questions are not philosophical, are not philosophy's questions. Nevertheless, these should [devraient] be the only questions today capable of founding the community, within the world, of those who are still called philosophers, in r e m e m b r a n c e [par un souvenir] . . .28 Would this be a community constituted by loss or would it be a nostalgic community? Perhaps it can never entirely avoid the latter, however hard it attempts to be the former, and perhaps because it cannot avoid trying so hard. To put the question more bluntly, does not deconstruction tend at a certain moment to be threatened by nostalgia for so-called Western metaphysics, securing Western philosophy's identity at the very moment that it questions it? I would, in any case, acknowledge that this seems to be reflected in some of my own earlier efforts at deconstruction. And I would humbly suggest that Nancy also is not always as intent on trying to avoid nostalgia as he might be, in his incessant insistence on recalling and reconstituting the West as the destiny of humanity. 2 9

NOTES
1. S e e a l s o J . - L . N a n c y , L'exprience de la libert (Paris: G a l i l e , 1988), 95. 2. N a n c y cites Bataille as saying: " I f it sees its f e l l o w - b e i n g die, a living b e i n g c a n subsist o n l y outside itself [hors de soi] . . ." {OC 7: 2 4 5 - 4 6 . C i t e d CD, 43; IC, 15). 3 . T h e d i s t i n c t i o n w a s set o u t i n the o p e n i n g address t o the C e n t e r b y N a n c y and L a c o u e L a b a r t h e in N o v e m b e r 1980 (Rejouer le politique [Paris: G a l i l e , 1981], 1 5 - 1 9 ) . It w a s a l r e a d y q u e s t i o n e d b y N a n c y Fraser i n 1984 i n " T h e F r e n c h D e r r i d e a n s : Politicizing D e c o n s t r u c t i o n or D e c o n s t r u c t i n g the Political," Unruly Practices ( 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, 1989), 6 9 - 9 2 . W h e t h e r o r not Bill R e a d i n g s ' d e f e n s e o f the d i s t i n c t i o n w o r k s a g a i n s t N a n c y Fraser's alleged m i s u n d e r s t a n d i n g of it as a reinscription of the theoretical a n d the practical, his a t t e m p t to d e f e n d it by m o d e l l i n g it on the o n t o l o g i c a l difference is u l t i m a t e l y d o o m e d to fail b e c a u s e it is d e c o n s t r u c t i o n a b o v e all that h a s s h o w n h o w the ontic invariably " c o n t a m i n a t e s " o n t o l o g i c a l purity: " T h e D e c o n s t r u c t i o n o f Politics," in Reading de Man Reading, ed. L i n d s a y W a t e r s a n d W l a d G o d z i c h ( 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, 1989), 2 4 2 - 4 3 . T h e r e are a l r e a d y a t least three e x c e l l e n t p r e s e n t a t i o n s i n English o f N a n c y ' s texts o n c o m m u n i t y ; they h a v e e a c h used the d i s t i n c t i o n b e t w e e n le politique a n d la politique as the grid in t e r m s of w h i c h those texts s h o u l d be a p p r o a c h e d : D a v i d I n g r a m , " T h e Retreat o f the Political i n the M o d e r n A g e : J e a n - L u c N a n c y on T o t a l i t a r i a n i s m a n d C o m m u n i t y , " Research in Phenomenology 18 ( 1 9 8 8 ) : 9 3 - 1 2 4 ; C h r i s t o p h e r Fynsk, "Foreword: E x p e r i e n c e s of F i n i t u d e , " in The Inoperative Community,

ABBREVIATIONS
A BS BT J . - L . N a n c y , " L a c o m m u n a u t d s o e u v r e , " Ala 4 ( 1 9 8 3 ) : 1 1 - 4 9 . J . - L . N a n c y , " B e h e a d e d S u n , " Qui Parle, V o l . 3, no. 2 ( 1 9 8 9 ) : 4 1 - 5 3 . ; 4.

viixxxv; S i m o n C r i t c h l e y , The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas ( O x f o r d : Blackwell, 1992), 2 0 0 - 2 1 9 . It is in this c o n t e x t that I h a v e c h o s e n to m i n i m i z e the role of the d i s t i n c t i o n i n m y p r e s e n t a t i o n o f N a n c y , i n the h o p e o f f i n d i n g a n o t h e r a p p r o a c h that d o e s n o t suffer the s a m e fate. I t e n d to refer to the t w o parts of The Unavowable Community by their respective titles not so m u c h t o m a i n t a i n their s e p a r a t e identities a s t o m a k e readily a p p a r e n t h o w i n t e r t w i n e d they are. 5. " S o the A r y a n is essentially the o n e w h o sacrifices h i m s e l f to t h e c o m m u n i t y , to the race; that is, the o n e w h o gives b l o o d for A r y a n B l o o d . H e i s t h u s not only 'the o n e w h o sacrifices h i m s e l f , ' he is, in essence, sacrifice, the sacrifice" ("L'insacrifiable," in Une pense finie [Paris: G a l i l e , 1990], 95; t r a n s l a t e d by R i c h a r d L i v i n g s t o n , u n d e r the title " T h e U n s a c r i f i c e a b l e , " Literature and the Ethical Question, ed. C l a i r e N o u v e t , Yale French Studies 79 [ 1 9 9 1 ] : 3 3 ) . 6 . W h a t H e i d e g g e r a c t u a l l y s a y s i s that " t h e great m u l t i p l i c i t y o f w a y s i n w h i c h o n e p e r s o n c a n b e represented b y another, n o t only e x t e n d s t o the m o r e refined m o d e s o f p u b l i c l y b e i n g w i t h o n e another, b u t i s likewise g e r m a n e t o those possibilities o f c o n c e r n w h i c h are restricted w i t h i n different r a n g e s , a n d w h i c h are cut to the m e a s u r e of o n e ' s o c c u p a t i o n ; o n e ' s social status, or o n e ' s a g e " (SZ, 239; BT, 2 8 4 ) . 7. . L e v i n a s , " M o u r i r p o u r . . .," in Entre nous (Paris: G r a s s e t , 1991), 229. 8. E. L e v i n a s , Autrement qu'tre ou au-del de l'essence ( T h e H a g u e : M a r t i n u s Nijhoff, 1974), 179; t r a n s l a t e d by A l p h o n s o Lingis, u n d e r the title Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence ( T h e H a g u e : M a r t i n u s Nijhoff, 1981), 141. 9. J. D e r r i d a , " V i o l e n c e et m t a p h y s i q u e , " in L'criture et la diffrence (Paris: Seuil, 1967), 1 8 4 - 8 5 ; translated b y A l a n Bass, u n d e r the title " V i o l e n c e a n d M e t a p h y s i c s , " i n Writing and Difference ( C h i c a g o : U n i v e r s i t y of C h i c a g o Press, 1978), 1 2 5 - 2 6 . 10. It w o u l d be d i s i n g e n u o u s to d i s m i s s the sense of the o b l i g a t i o n here in the c o n t e x t of N a n c y ' s o w n i n s i s t e n c e on Derrida's il faut, e v e n if N a n c y ' s a p p r o a c h to the latter s u g g e s t s that it also need n o t be u n d e r s t o o d as ethical in the c o n v e n t i o n a l sense ( " L a v o i x libre dr l ' h o m m e , " in l.es fins de l'homme, C o l l o q u e de Cerisy [Paris: G a l i l e , 1981], 1 6 3 - 8 2 ) . 11. N a n c y w a s never v e r y h a p p y with the p h r a s e "literary c o m m u n i s m . " T h e 1983 version o f " T h e I n o p e r a t i v e C o m m u n i t y " i n t r o d u c e d the e x p r e s s i o n as o n l y very p r o v i s i o n a l (Ala 4

M. H e i d e g g e r , Being and Time, trans. J. M a c q u a r r i e a n d E. R o b i n s o n (Oxford: Blackw e l l , 1967).

CD CI IC

J . - L . N a n c y , La communaut dsoeuvre (Paris: C h r i s t i a n B o u r g o i s , 1990). M. B l a n c h o t , La communaut inavouable (Paris: M i n u i t , 1983). J - - L . N a n c y , The Inoperative Community, trans. Peter C o n n o r et al. ( M i n n e a p o l i s : U n i versity of M i n n e s o t a Press, 1991).

LD

J . - L . N a n c y , " D e s lieux d i v i n s , " in (Qu'est-ce que Dieu?, H o m m a g e l'abb D a n i e l C o p p l e t e r s d e G i b s o n (Brussells: F a c u l t s universitaires S a i n t - L o u i s , 1985), 5 3 9 - 8 7 .

OBC

J . - L . N a n c y , " O f B e i n g - i n - C o m m o n , " in Community at Loose Ends, ed. the M i a m i T h e o r y C o l l e c t i v 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, 1991), 1 - 1 2 .

OC OH PF PV SC SV

G . Bataille, O e u v r e s C o m p l t e s , 1 2 vols. (Paris, G a l l i m a r d , 1 9 7 0 - 8 8 ) . J . - L . N a n c y , " O u r H i s t o r y , " Diacritics, vol. 20, n o . 3 (Fall 1990): 9 6 - 1 1 5 . J . - L . N a n c y , Une pense finie (Paris: G a l i l e , 1990). J . - L . N a n c y , Le partage des voix (Paris: G a l i l e , 1982). J . - L . N a n c y , "Soleil c o u c o u p , " in Le dmon des anges ( N a n t e s : C e n t r e de recherche pour l e d v e l o p p e m e n t culturel, 1989): 1 9 7 - 2 0 1 . J . - L . N a n c y , " S h a r i n g V o i c e s , " in Transforming the Hermeneutic Context, ed. G a y l e O r m i s ton a n d A l a n Schrift ( A l b a n y : S t a t e U n i v e r s i t y o f N e w York Press, 1990): 2 1 1 - 5 9 .

SZ UC

M. H e i d e g g e r , Sein und Zeit ( T i i b i n g e n : N i e m e y e r , 1967). M. B l a n c h o t , The Unavowable Community, trans. Pierre Joris ( N e w York: S t a t i o n Hill Press, 1988).

E n g l i s h translations h a v e o c c a s i o n a l l y b e e n m o d i f i e d for the sake of uniformity a n d precision.

12

ROBERT

BERNASCONI

ON DECONSTRUCTING NOSTALGIA

FOR

COMMUNITY WITHIN THE

WEST

21

(1983): 46). Although that observation was dropped in 1986, N a n c y at the same time m a d e the c o m m e n t that it was a "clumsy expression" (CD, 67; IC, 26) "named thus only as a provocative gesture" (CD, 197; IC, 80). T h e phrase was rejected because of its equivocal character ("I am not speaking of a c o m m u n i t y of letters") in "of B e i n g - i n - C o m m o n " (CD, 230; OBC, 10). 12. T h i s corrects David Ingram's otherwise excellent article, where the similarities between Levinas and N a n c y are emphasized at the expense of the differences ( " T h e Retreat of the Political in the Modern A g e , " 108. See also 114). 13. See also CD, 207 and 224; OBC, 4 and 7. 14. " B e i n g - i n - C o m m o n " is a phrase that appears only once in the 1983 version of the essay (CD, 68; IC, 27), although a number of further references were subsequently added in 1986. 15. J.-P. Sartre, "Orphe noir," in Anthologie de la Nouvelle posie ngre et malgache, ed. L. Senghor (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1948), v i i - x l i v ; translated by John MacCombie, under the title "Black Orpheus," in What is Literature? (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 2 8 9 - 3 0 . 16. See R. Bernasconi, " W h o is my neighbor? W h o is the Other? Questioning 'the Generosity of Western Thought'," in Ethics and Responsibility in the Phenomenological Tradition, N i n t h A n n u a l S y m p o s i u m of the Simon Silverman Center (Pittsburgh: D u q u e s n e University, 1992), 1 - 3 1 . It would seem that N a n c y would be able to recognize this experience. In "Divine Places," he writes of how in place of c o m m u n i o n there is th exposure of all and of each, such that "in our great metropolises" different " c o m m u n i t i e s " exist side by side and risk the face to face encounter: "Before w h o m , at this precise m o m e n t , am I writing? Before w h a t Arabs, what Blacks, what Vietnamese, and in the presence or absence of which of their gods?" (LD, 5 7 9 - 8 0 ; IC, 1 4 3 - 4 4 ) . 17. J. Derrida, "Les fins de l ' h o m m e , " in Marges de la philosophie (Paris: Minuit, 1972), 162; translated by Alan Bass, under the title " T h e Ends of M a n , " in Margins of Philosophy, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1982), 1 3 4 - 3 5 . 18. For an explicit acknowledgement of the debt, s e e J . - L . N a n c y , "Exscription," On Bataille, ed. Allan Stoekl, Yale French Studies 78 (1990): 49. 19. For example, L'oubli de la philosophie (Paris: Galile, 1986). Or, as I shall suggest later, the brief essay occasioned by the scandal of Paul de M a n ' s journalism, "Our History" ( O H ) . 20. More promising from a deconstructive point of view is the suggestion that the i n - c o m m o n is "no doubt enigmatically volunteered between the lines of the Social Contract despite Rouss e a u " (CD, 232; OBC, 11), thereby opening up the possibility of a double reading o f t h a t text from the point of view of the question of c o m m u n i t y . 21. See L o and Michel Launay, Index-Concordance du Discours sur les sciences et les arts et du Discours sur les origines de l'ingalit (Geneva: Slatkine, 1981). Even so, the great Rousseau scholar, R. A. Leigh, neglected this and can be found saying that "Rousseau unquestionably prefers societies where the word community keeps all its meaning" ("Liberty and Authority in On Social Contract," in Rousseau's Political Writings, ed. Alan Ritter and Julia C o n a w a y Bondanella [New York: W. W. Norton, 1988], 239). It is true, however, that Rousseau attributes to the collective body formed by the social contract "a c o m m o n self," just as he attributes to the h u m a n race "a feeling of c o m m o n existence" (Oeuvres compltes [Paris, Gallimard, 1964], 3:361 and 2 8 2 - 8 4 ; translated by J. R. Masters, under the title On the Social Contract with Geneva Manuscript [ N e w York: St. Martin's Press, 1978], 53 and 159). 22. O t t o von Gierke, Das deutsche Genossenschaftsrecht, 4 vols. (Graz: Akademischen Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1954). Although there is no English translation of the whole work, various selections are available in translation, most recently, from v o l u m e one, Community in Historical Perspective, trans. Mary Fisher (Cambridge: C a m b r i d g e University Press, 1990). See also A n t o n y Black, Guilds and Civil Society (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984), esp. 2 1 0 - 1 7 .

23. See Peter Fuss, " H a n n a h Arendt's Conception of Political C o m m u n i t y , " in Hannah Arendt: The Recovery of the Public World, ed. M e l v y n A. Hill ( N e w York: St. Martin's Press, 1979), 1 5 7 - 7 6 . Nancy's indebtedness to Arendt is most apparent in "Le 'retrait' du politique," which he coauthored with Lacoue-Labarthe, Le retrait du politique (Paris, Galile, 1983), 1 8 3 - 9 8 . Inevitably there have to be questions about their use of an author whose work is nothing if not nostalgic. 24. A. Black, Guilds and Civil Society, 2 1 6 - 1 7 . 25. See R. Bernasconi, "Repetition and Tradition: Heidegger's Destructuring of the Distinction between Essence and Existence in Basic Problems of Phenomenology," in The Early Heidegger: New Texts, New Perspectives, ed. T. Kisiel and J. van Buren (Albany: State Univeristy of N e w York Press, forthcoming). 26. It is perhaps worth noting in this regard the observation of T i m o t h y Clark that "the thought of Blanchot and Derrida is limited by being preponderantly a debate with one p h e n o m e n o n , namely fascism and questions of J e w i s h identity" (T. Clark, Derrida Heidegger, Blanchot (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 1 4 1 - 4 2 . W i t h o u t deciding one way or the other about Blanchot and Derrida, I would suggest that Clark's criticism that "the possibility of heteronomic thought still seems overly schematic and abstract in this field" [of racism] might well apply to N a n c y . 27. P. Lacoue-Labarthe and J -L. N a n c y , " T h e Nazi M y t h , " trans. Brian H o l m e s , Critical Inquiry 16 (1989): 312. 28. "Violence et mtaphysique," 118; "Violence and Metaphysics," 79. N a n c y quotes these lines in "La voix libre de l'homme" (169) stopping, however, just before the words "in remembrance." T h i s is insignificant except perhaps in the present context of this question of deconstruction as a community of remembering that seems itself at times to border on nostalgia. 29. Earlier versions of this paper were given at the Collegium Phaenomenologicum, Perugia, in J u l y 1992, and at the University o f T e x a s , Austin. I am grateful to the participants of both occasions and above all to Michael N e w m a n for persuading me to go further in differentiating Blanchot from Levinas, and to Kelly Oliver, for showing me that I needed to develop and integrate my scattered remarks on history. Christine Harris and J o h n Drabinski helped me revise my text for publication. I am also grateful to T i m Walters, w h o sent me a copy of his paper "Jean-Luc Nancy's 'Infinitely Finite' C o m m u n i t y , " and Simon Critchley who allowed me to see an advance copy of the revised and extended version of the discussion of N a n c y that can already be found in The Ethics of Deconstruction. U n d e r the title "Re-tracing the Political: Politics and C o m m u n i t y in the Work of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and J e a n - L u c N a n c y , " it will appear in Violence, Struggle and the Political, ed. M. Dillon and D. Campbell (Minneapolis: University of M i n n e s o t a Press).