The concept of community is one of the most frequently used and abused of recent philosophical or socio-political concepts. In the 1980s, faced with the imminent collapse of communism and the unchecked supremacy of free-market capitalism, the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy (in The Inoperative Community) and the writer Maurice Blanchot (in The Unavowable Community) both thought it essential to rethink the fundamental basis of “community” as such. More recently, Nancy has renewed the debate by unexpectedly attacking Blanchot’s account of community, claiming that it embodies a dangerously nostalgic desire for mythic and religious communion.
This book examines the history and implications of this controversy. It analyses in forensic detail Nancy’s and Blanchot’s contrasting interpretations of German Romanticism, and the work of Heidegger, Bataille, and Marguerite Duras, and examines closely their divergent approaches to the contradictory legacy of Christianity. At a time when politics are increasingly inseparable from a deep-seated sense of crisis, it provides an incisive account of what, in the concept of community, is thought yet crucially still remains unthought.
1. Community and its Discontents / 2. Shared Legacies / 3. Community, Sacrifice, Writing / 4. Dissenting Opinions / 5. From Myth to Religion to Politics / 6. Serious Controversy / Chronology / Bibliography / Index
Leslie Hill is Emeritus Professor of French Studies at the University of Warwick. His many publications include Maurice Blanchot and Fragmentary Writing (2012), Radical Indecision: Barthes, Blanchot, Derrida, and the Future of Criticism (2010) The Cambridge Companion to Jacques Derrida (2007), Bataille, Klossowski, Blanchot: Writing at the Limit (2001), Blanchot: Extreme Contemporary (1997) and Beckett's Fiction (1990).
This is a study of unparalleled richness and acuity. Taking his starting-point in a landmark intellectual exchange between Nancy and Blanchot in the 1980s, Hill sheds important light on key debates in French and European thought of recent decades, whilst also relating these issues back to the politics and intellectual currents of the 1930s, and flagging up the pertinence of these contexts for our own fraught contemporary political scene.
Leslie Hill examines Nancy’s strange change of direction in his response to Blanchot’s thinking of community, and is the first to explain in meticulous detail how and why Nancy, while still admiring Blanchot, recently began to attack the famous writer who was, like him, Derrida’s friend in thought. This is an impressive, compelling, and original contribution to an ongoing debate.