meditation (ii) the political nomad

January 24th, 2013 | No comments yet

In reality there exists no political society or association but only one political entity — one political community. The ever present possibility of a friend-and-enemy grouping suffices to forge a decisive entity which transcends the more societal-associational groupings. The political entity is something specifically different, and vis-à-vis other associations, something decisive. Were this entity to disappear, even if potentially, then the political itself would disappear.

— Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political (45)

This is the context in which to read Derrida’s work on friendship: when one deconstructs the friend/enemy distinction, one gets at the heart of Schmitt’s antagonistic definition of the political. If hospitality always implies the risk of a stranger becoming a friend, a friend an enemy, and so forth, these friend/enemy distinctions are never concrete, nor can be. Schmitt recognises as much — is this not the place of the State, to render decisive this indistinction through citizenship or exile? — but he rarely troubles the distinction when advancing the thesis of the political; the political, by principle, demands that this distinction remain rather steadfast.

Were it not steadfast, as Schmitt writes, “even if potentially, then the political itself would disappear.” In a land of hazy associations, of indistinct boundaries between friends/enemies, the political would disappear. But what operates in its absence? What is that which disappears the political? Is it a “politics” under erasure, a “politics” of différance?

Of which there can be no such thing — not for reasons mystical or obscure, but because différance is precisely this unfixed timing / spacing that would render the possibility of a politics impossible; différance is process-difference: thus when Derrida affirms that there can be no positive politics of deconstruction, is it not also because he must accept certain postulates or limits of the Schmitt’s concept of the political?

This acceptance of that which must be deconstructed is a trait — a necessary paradox, technically — of the entire intellectual endeavour Derrida engages in. It also goes to show that when Derrida argues that he is primarily affirmative, that he affirms that which he deconstructs, he is not practicing intellectual dishonesty: he’s correct. You have to affirm to deconstruct; there cannot be a deconstruction that commences from a negation.

As Schmitt says, the political community is the decisive entity. It cannot be indecisive. Yet all sorts of problems arise when translating this concept into a positive, historical formula. Schmitt clarifies that the political is not equivalent with sectarian politics, ie with politics as representative, or democratic, and so forth. It is a condition of possibility for politics, in all its forms, including all nondemocratic exercises of power. As such the political is a fundamental operation; it is (a) a grouping and (b) a grouping defined by friend/foe and thus (c) decisive.

Yet what happens to the indecisive? Are they now foes to their former friends? Certainly this can be the consequence when one takes positions such as Derrida’s; if one doesn’t sign up for this or that stripe of vogue leftism or rightism, speaking at the level of politics, then one is often exiled and outcasted. But what would be the effect at the level of the political? Is there not a potential connection here to Deleuze’s philosophy of the nomad, as those whom are neither friend nor foe, but wandering, indecisive between the two?

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