‘Before, Across, and Beyond’: Derrida, Without National Community

  • Philip Leonard


Community is where communication masquerades as communion, where artifice is disguised as essence, where the subject experiences ecstasy and death, and where theory fails. These are just some of the conclusions that Jean-Luc Nancy arrives at in The Inoperative Community. Principally concerned with how the roots of social and political systems have been conceived, Nancy argues that theories of culture’s origin gravitate towards the idea that the individual is an agent who creates social and cultural structures in its own image. Community, according to such an immanentist understanding of cultural foundations, represents the extension of a subject for whom association is a basic necessity. Nancy locates one such model of the community in Rousseau’s work: here community is seen as an authentic form of regional collectivity, one that binds together groups of people who possess shared characteristics and who live in close proximity with each other. For Rousseau, however, this local affiliation is increasingly threatened by modernity’s anonymous institutions: modern political systems interrupt neighbourly bonds between individuals, and the objective of political theory should therefore be to re-assert the intimacy of local association.


National Identity Cultural Theory National Community International Terrorism National Particularity 
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© Philip Leonard 2005

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  • Philip Leonard

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