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Community at Loose Ends

Community at Loose Ends

Edited by the Miami Theory Collective
Copyright Date: 1991
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 140
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  • Book Info
    Community at Loose Ends
    Book Description:

    Community at Loose Ends was first published in 1991. In the face of urgent contemporary appeal for a new sense of community, discussions in the West are marked by a demonstrable paucity of fresh ways to theorize the issue. Taking their cue from all-but-universal use of the term “community” as an unquestioned value, the contributors to Community at Loose Ends rethink what is meant by community when both the New Left and the New Right claim for themselves the enthusiastic appeal the notion still garners. This volume takes as its point of departure the issues discussed in Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy and Jean-Luc Nancy’s The Inoperative Community. These issues include subjectivity, history, the significance of literature, and the constitution of political action. The volume explores “community” as a concept whose presupposition of an immanent unity is challenged by the poststructuralist respect for difference and the demands of a host of social movements (feminism, gay and lesbian rights, ecological activism, and civil rights). Any revitalized notion of community will therefore have to be articulated with these and other political realities and ethical demands that require not only collective involvement but also a fundamental rethinking of what it means to “be together.”

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5585-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxvi)
    Georges Van Den Abbeele

    What is the peculiar evocative force of the notion of community? What is its apparently irresistible attraction and ability to mobilize the energies of the most diverse groups, all of which are first and foremost constituted by their very interpellationascommunities? Is there not an element of demagoguery or mystification at work in the seductive appeal to community that merits our critical scrutiny before we so quickly subscribe to its ideological prestige? Might there not be a way to analyze that element, to isolate and if possible to dislodge it, in order for uscriticallyto evaluate the workings...

  4. Of Being-in-Common
    (pp. 1-12)
    Jean-Luc Nancy

    What could be more common than to be, than being? We are. Being, or existence, is what we share. When it comes to sharing nonexistence, we are not here. Nonexistence is not for sharing. But being is not a thing that we could possess in common. Being is in no way different from existence, which is singular each time. We shall say then that being is not common in the sense of a common property, but that it is in common. Being is in common. What could be simpler to establish? And yet, is there anything of which ontology has...

  5. On the Limit
    (pp. 13-18)
    Peggy Kamuf

    Nothing can authorize anyone—me, for example—more than anyone else to respond to the text by Jean-Luc Nancy, “Of Being-in-Common.”* Indeed, not having been trained as a philosopher, I should be less authorized to respond in this place where perhaps ultimate demands are being made on the possibilities of philosophical discourse. Yet, if the ultimate demand of thought is to think together not what or who we are, but onlythatwe are in common without commonality, then indeed, as Nancy writes, the task “can no longer be simply philosophical.” I will proceed, then, in the hope that my...

  6. Community and the Limits of Theory
    (pp. 19-29)
    Christopher Fynsk

    Jean-Luc Nancy beginsThe Inoperative Communitywith the following words:

    The gravest and most painful testimony of the modern world, which possibly involves all other testimonies to which this epoch must answer (by virtue of some unknown decree or necessity, for we bear witness also to the exhaustion of thinking through History), is the testimony of the dissolution, the dislocation, or the conflagration of community.¹

    All writing of this time, he suggests, answers in some way to this testimony, or is gathered in it.What is said in our timeis the absence of community.

    I believe this is true....

  7. Communism, the Proper Name
    (pp. 30-41)
    Georges Van Den Abbeele

    I would like to speak about names, about the politics of names, and about the politics of a particular name.

    Section 92 of Jean-François Lyotard’sDifferendbrings to a provisional close a long development, which in light of its debt to Saul Kripke could be entitled “Naming and Contingency.” As part of a general strategy to counter those revisionist historians like Robert Faurisson who would deny the existence of the Holocaust, Lyotard seeks to reorient the criteria for historico-political reality away from the easily refutable and vulnerable testimony of eyewitnesses and toward the rigorous triangulation of phrases that identify the...

  8. A l’insu (Unbeknownst)
    (pp. 42-48)
    Jean-François Lyotard

    If we had time—but that’s the whole point,we don’t have the time(after a certain age, this is well known; whereas earlier, we believe we have time; to grow older is to learn that we will not have had the time; and Europe is old, face-liftings notwithstanding)—if we had time, we would seize the opportunity afforded by subjects like “The Politics of Forgetting” or “May ’68: Twenty Years Later” to make a point by taking stock of where we are (faire le point). An illusory wish, and necessarily so. Points are marked out in space—in the...

  9. Communal Crisis
    (pp. 49-69)
    Verena Andermatt Conley

    From the solitude of the North Woods, I am led to wonder what it means to meditate on our chosen topic of community. My library here is in keeping with my surroundings:Wildflowers of North America, Our Birds, andThe Edible Mushroom, volumes that will inflect somewhat, I hope, the words to follow. The book on mushrooms features glossy reproductions of the exquisite morel, whose name—when pronounced with a little French inflection—is not without echoes of the philosophers’ moral law. In a guide to the study of boreal trees, I learn about their communities with divisions into canopies...

  10. Democratic Citizenship and the Political Community
    (pp. 70-82)
    Chantal Mouffe

    The themes of “citizenship” and “community” are being discussed in many quarters of the left today. It is no doubt a consequence of the crisis of “class” politics and indicates the growing awareness of the need for a new form of identification around which to organize the forces struggling for the radicalization of democracy. I do indeed agree that the question of political identity is the crucial one, and I consider that to attempt to construct “citizens’ ” identities should be an important task of democratic politics. But there are many different visions of citizenship and central issues are at...

  11. Community and Its Paradoxes: Richard Rorty’s “Liberal Utopia”
    (pp. 83-98)
    Ernesto Laclau

    Antifoundationalism has so far produced a variety of intellectual and cultural effects, but few of them have referred to the terrain of politics. It is one of the merits of Richard Rorty’s work to have attempted, vigorously and persuasively, to establish such a connection. In his most recent book,Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, he has presented an excellent picture of the intellectual transformation of the West during the last two centuries and, on the basis of it, has drawn the main lines of a social and political arrangement that he has called a “liberal Utopia.” It is not that Rorty...

  12. Laclau’s and Mouffe’s Secret Agent
    (pp. 99-110)
    Paul Smith

    I want here to address some of the questions arising from Ernesto Laclau’s and Chantal Mouffe’s book,Hegemony and Socialist Strategy(1985). This book has, of course, been a central text for the discussions of community in the context of the conference to which this essay was originally a contribution. The book has also been of particular relevance to my own work on the categories of “subject” and “agent” in the human sciences, as well as constituting a major and controversial intervention into the political debate on the left in Europe and America. My discussion here will try to do...

  13. On the Dialectics of Postdialectical Thinking
    (pp. 111-120)
    Richard Terdiman

    In the paper he presented to this colloquium, Jean-François Lyotard told us there was no dialectic. But I want to claim there was a dialectic in what he told us. (I also want to say that I found what he told us moving—émouvant—and important.) And I want to make a further point, or point further. Or, with respect, to point Jean-François Lyotard further. And along with him something that I will be calling—with blissful imprecision—poststructuralism.

    Poststructuralism’s power seems to me rooted in some fundamental paradoxes. Poststructuralism is a fundamentally anti-essentialist mode of thinking. I would argue...

  14. Recalling a Community at Loose Ends
    (pp. 121-130)
    Linda Singer

    The writing of community, especially when mobilized by a strategy of critical revision, is a task of retrieving and unraveling loose ends, one’s own as well as the multiple and often contradictory significations conjoined or recollected by this collective signifier. It is a task that although it lacks any definitive authorizing foundation, is always already situated, paradigmatically, politically, libidinally, and institutionally. The condition of being situated in the contemporary world order, marked as a “global village” linked by technologies of transport, communication, and information systems that reconfigure spatiotemporal distances and limits, is a complex affair of overdeterminations and polymorphous affiliations....

  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 131-134)
  16. Contributors
    (pp. 135-136)
  17. Index
    (pp. 137-139)