Friday, December 21, 2012

From "The Aesthetic Dimension: Aesthetics, Politics, Knowledge," by Jacques Rancière

As usual, my emphases / underlinings / paragraphs.

Democracy to come thus cannot be a community of substitutable persons. In other words, what the democracy to come can oppose to the practice of nation-states is not the action of political subjects playing the part of the anyone.

It is the commitment to an absolute other, an other that can never become the same as us, that cannot be substituted— or, we can add, an other that cannot stage his or her otherness, that cannot stage the relationship between his or her inclusion and his or her exclusion.

Democracy to come is a democracy without a demos, with no possibility for a subject to perform the kratos of the demos.

Such a democracy implies another status of the heteron: the heteron as the outside, the distant, the asymmetric, the nonsubstitutable. Derrida’s notion of hospitality implies much more than the obligation to overstep the borders of nation-states in order to deal with what he calls the “ten
plagues” of the International Order. What the hospes goes beyond is above all the border that allows reciprocity or substitutability.

In this sense, the hospes is the strict opposite of the demos. The character of the hospes opens up an irreconcilable gap between the stage of the possible or the calculable and the stage of the unconditional, the impossible, or the incalculable.

What this precludes is the aesthetic performance of the as if. The hospes erases the heterotopy of the demos as he creates a radical gap between the sphere of political compromise and the sphere of the unconditional, between the calculable of the law and the incalculable of justice.

What is dismissed by this opposition is the performance of those who play the part of the demos that they are not. When protesters say in the streets that “this is just” or “this is unjust,” their “is” is not the deployment of a determinant concept subsuming its object. It is the clash of two justices, the clash of two worlds. This is what a political dissensus or heterotopy means.

But it is the kind of justice that Derrida rules out. In his view there can only be either the normal, consensual application of the rule operating as a machine or the law of unconditional justice. This is what the “to come” means.

The ethical to come is the opposite of the aesthetic as if. It means that democracy cannot be presented, even in the dissensual figure of the demos, that is, of the subject that acts as if it were the demos.

There can be no substitution of the whole by the part, no subject performing the equivalence between sameness and otherness. The heterotopy of the demos is substituted by two forms of irreducible heterogeneity: the temporal heterogeneity of the to come and the spatial heterogeneity of the hospes.

These two forms are combined in the figure of the first-comer and the newcomer. The hospes or the newcomer is the other that cannot come to the place of the same, the other whose part cannot be played by an other. 

This dissymmetry is clearly spelled out by Derrida in Rogues when he identifies the anyone that is at the heart of the democracy to come. This anyone is not the subject of a dissensus, the subject who affirms the capacity of those who have no capacity. It is the object of a concern. Derrida gives to the “first to happen by [le premier venu],” a term he borrows from Jean Paulhan, a quite significant meaning; it is, he says, “anyone, no matter who, at the permeable limit between ‘who’ and ‘what,’ the living being, the cadaver, and the ghost.”

The anyone thus becomes the exact contrary of what appeared first; it is the absolute singularity of the figure that Aristotle conjured up at the beginning of Politics, the being that is less or more than the human being—less insofar as it is the animal, the cadaver, or the ghost that is entrusted to our care (a` revoir). The other, in that sense, is whoever or whatever that requires that I answer for him, her, or it. This is what responsibility is: the commitment to an other that is entrusted to me, for whom or for which I must answer.

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