Revolution without Guarantees: Community and Subjectivity in Nancy, Lingis, Sartre and Levinas

Andrew Ryder


Jean-Luc Nancy’s The Inoperative Community, a collection of writings first published in 1985 and 1986, suggests an understanding of community as irreducibly linked to finitude. Alongside this, he advocates a redefinition of the project of revolutionary communism. This endeavor draws equally on the writings on communication of Georges Bataille and the insistence on finitude found in Martin Heidegger. First, we should recapitulate Nancy’s argument in order to determine his presentation of a novel politics as well as the links and disjunctions of his predecessors. More than this, I would like to suggest that a reading of Alphonso Lingis’s The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common, published almost a decade later, suggests an intriguing and promising extension or modification of Nancy’s argument. In particular, Lingis suggests an understanding of revolution that appears somewhat closer to the Marxist tradition. I argue that this is partly a result of an inheritance from Emmanuel Levinas, and in particular his account of ethical subjectivity, which, surprisingly, can be productively allied with the political thought of Jean-Paul Sartre. This friendship between the ethics of Levinas and the politics of Sartre suggests the best groundwork for Lingis’s development of Nancy’s insights.


Community, Politics, Revolution

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