Without Sovereignty, Without Being

Transcript

1 J O D . C A P U T O H N i l a i o v a U n l v e r s i t y V n I T H O U T S O V E R E I G N T Y , W I T H O U T B E I N G : W I N C O N D I T G O N A L I T Y , T H E C O M I N G U O D A N D M D R R I D A ’ S D E M O C R A C Y T O C O E E Extracts of this article have previously been published in France Today, the Journal of French Travel and Culture, . ! S THERE SOMETHING “unconditional” that is nonetheless without “sovereignty?” Is there something that makes an unconditional claim I or without to unconditional force claim power? Is there something laying that, even if it were a certain power or force, would be at most a “force without force” or a “power of powerlessness?” Does there something unconditional that would Is be nor be something ? neither the this pose we which in the unconditional resist being very language of question? Might be that the unconditional would not really have a seat in it that would conditions that obtain in being being, be no match for the the can unconditional? be that whatever has being it come to be only under Might certain conditions while the unconditional would somehow be otherwise than being, a kind of demi-being, almost like a ghost, almost nothing? But something unconditional happens, if sovereignty and without being, without without force and without power, would it have the wherewithal to transform new? us, turn us around, to make us to Would it, could it, be something truly and revolutionary, or would it lie and lifeless lame ineffective? Could something be revolutionary having revolutionary power? Could something that is without force faible at best a “weak force” ( ) be strong enough to save us? is the cluster of questions that Jacques Derrida has been raising of late, That of that at the heart of some strike our fondest and most unquestioned questions 1 questions, Deep and probing presuppositions. even matters of ultimate concern, far Paul have said, in any case very might from the “relativism ” with Tillich which he is wrongly charged (V, 13). But for all that these are also highly topical and contemporary questions, as contemporary as September 11, questions that 9 2003 4.3 AUGUST JCRT

2 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 10 raises in midst of the most concrete politics of the day, of the “war on Derrida the and terrorism states,” of national sovereignty, international law and the ” “rogue the United Nations. analogy—or symbiosis—among the soul, the state an the universe. and Imagine a as a prestigious premise that goes back and far as Plato’s is That venerable one that has guided our thinking ever since antiquity. Republic Just as there is , one in Heaven, the Father (sic) Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, but God universe, but the analogy goes there is the one King governing the governing so finally, (and governing the family), and so, father each man (sic) is the state one of his own actions. We modern democrats congratulate lord on having ourselves revolutionized schema, having turned it upside down, by ridding it of its this power structure. have shown the king the door (or even handed top-down We head) constitutional replaced him with a his democracy, according to him and have power the bottom up. We from gradually gotten around to which rises the vote to every adult citizen, regardless of race or gender, propertied or giving Let be not. no mistake: that was no little achievement for which we are there finished. and today, is far from even We have even gotten grateful which, to God and made God a lot around gender sensitive and egalitarian and more much patriarchal. So the revolution has less more or less complete, at seemed least in principle. by head, But the truth is, while we have inverted the old schema, turning it on its giving power people, we have not slipped free of its most basic to the of itself, which goes unchallenged. Modern that sovereignty presupposition, considered the revolution complete—at least in principle, democracies have as will be finished making this actually never if they repopulate the one work— center with the people, running the lines of power from the bottom up. sovereign that, separate though they Consider church and state, modern democracies, even light in are run by the “Enlightenment,” of what Kant called spawned the Autonomy means answering only to a law ( nomos “autonomy.” that you give ) yourself autos ), which is the only way ( be “rational” for Kant, which means not to to allow your reason to be overwhelmed by an alien power. That model is the of secularized cousin a theological image of God Almighty, the brightest light, the most agent, and the most serene and sovereign freedom of all. autonomous philosopher, as itt, the conservative political Schm defines the sovereign Just Carl terms of his power to suspend the law in to make an exception of himself (V, and 211-12), in its most extreme so, in the eleventh century theologian formulations, Peter Damian, for example, the omnipotence of God is such that God has the the power the laws of reason, even to suspend point of changing the past, to to make it to be that what happened (that the city of Rome was founded) had not on happened, God so minded. So, were this point at least, our modern and monarchies democracies are continuous with the ancien régime , with JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

3 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 11 and oligarchies the old ontotheologies, all of which rely upon aristocracies and of a classical schema of God the Father, of “the some version completely 2 ( W hile they have shifted the rule kratia ) from a of sovereignty.” theological idea few to the people sovereign demos ), no mean achievement, our modern one or ( left space of sovereignty and the undisturbed. So have democracies autonomy mighty nation-states stride the earth where once mighty kings inspired fear now having trembling—and power to inspire fear and trembling, to terrorize, and the is built right into the idea of sovereignty (V, 214). is circle, beginning and ending in the perfect That is what a Autonomy a self. wants to be. Everything begins and ends in the people, in a sovereign democracy the government by the people, for the people—under God, who is an of people, democracy perfect, and prestigious circle. A powerful makes a perfect even more upon return (V, 31, 34). Whatever goes out from the people comes back to itself the like the “going out” ( exitus ) and “return” ( reditus ) of God in Christian people, or Aristotle’s mover. One nation, under God: after a Neoplatonism prime a comes nation or people. But must sovereign democracy be a God the sovereign is the very idea of sovereignty? incompatible with a true or Or sovereignty democracy? it be that wherever Might tries to come, radical democracy would have to go? Do we not require a new sovereignty revolution, democratic not revolution to democracy but a revolution in democracy, one that turns the a into screw of democracy once again and thereby turns it democracy? 1 Derrida takes up these issues in several places, most recently in in a Time of Terror: Philosophy Dialogues Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida with ed. with commentary by Giovanna Borradori , 2003), Galilée, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), hereafter PTT, and in Voyous (Paris: hereafter “V” in the body of the text). For “weak force” ( force faible ) see V, 13. See also (in brackets without Kamuf in Jacques Derrida, Without Alibi, ed. and trans. Peggy University “The Condition,” University a 2002), 202-37, where Derrida which describes Stanford university (Stanford: Press, right it not while is structured by the unconditional does to ask any question. It offers which, exist, resistance, even a “force” of resistance, of dissidence and disobedience, to the order of being— the powers that be, to sovereign states, to economic powers, and to the powers of the media, the to the church, etc. (204). But since this unconditionality has never existed, this popular culture, of university very vulnerable to the influence impotent, power. The humanities are be invincible is privileged place in which this unconditional freedom would be theorized and presented. The the university autonomy or “immunity” (220) of the (213-14), does freedom, make for a sovereign not university (235), since sovereignty has to do with power and the real order. The task of the university then is to acquire external power nor to withdraw into the interior of an inner and neither freedom, the to negotiate the difference between unconditional two, to move back and forth but way the and the unconditional in such a between as to “resist effectively, by allying itself conditional with extra-academic forces, in order to organize an inventive resistance” to all the figures of to sovereignty also means the “university” is not That be identified with a physical campus, but (236). it is found wherever the voice of this dangerous perhaps poses the possibility of the impossible. Nor are does think that the philosophers of the future he necessarily to be found in philosophy departments or even in the academy (PTT, 106). 2 of “University,” 235. See also PTT, 111, 124. Derrida says that he doubts that the “value sovereignty can be completely secularized or de-theologized.” (PTT, 113). JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

4 CAPUTO: 12 Without Sovereignty, Without Being ever secular dem ocracies think they are or have becom e, the truth is How modern so always theology to secularize, a that, for secularization presupposes that for worse, secularism is the continuation of theology by better means. or another is ays what Derrida calls “som e alw ed theologem e” (V, 155), a There unavow bit of undigested theology lodged certain the throat of even the most secular in societies. deciding what is the controlling element in this symbiotic Without it our clear that a certain idea of God is a traveling companion of system, is of certain and a understanding understanding of the social system and ourselves 3 barely the “heritage of a is secularized theology.” that The sovereignty undecidability here is archaic; it goes all the way down. Are we made in the image of or is God made in our image? Are both God and self simply God, of systems dominant social systems, or might it be that social reflections give the expression of a deeper preunderstanding outward self and God? How would to standing we Where would we be that? when we pronounced that know decision? How would we have gotten clear of the dominant social system, self- understanding or theological presuppositions long enough to resolve inherited the fluctuation? is enough to describe that symbiosis without attempting to It find its law . So if any effort to radicalize dem ocracy, to carry the revolution one step would involve extricating democracy from the politics of further, the altogether, then in whatever direction the symbiotic fluids flow, sovereignty coming of coming of the democracy to come must be accompanied by a new God, by God to come. A radical democratic revolution would not mean a new accomplishment once all and a final for of secu- and theology jettisoning larization, but rather a parallel radicalization of theology. would be it like to rid ourselves of the theology, the politics and But what the of What would it be like to refashion theology around anthropology sovereignty? politics without to refashion a sovereignty, without sovereign nation a God and to refashion our self-understanding in terms of a self without states, sovereign These are all lim it concepts, im ponderables, paradoxes, the ipseity? the stuff and nourishes deconstruction, just feeds sort of aporetic very that in which deconstruction thrives. Can we imagine the element of a God “coming” 4 Derrida asks. without “Nothing is sovereignty, sure, of course, than a god less 3 Derrida, “University,” 207. 4 In a Roundtable at the “Religion and Postmodernism 3" conference, held at Villanova in September, 2001, Derrida “We usually identify God with the almighty, that is, with absolute power. I'm said: the now seminars and in texts, by following trying political thread, to deconstruct, so to speak, in a onto-theological of sovereignty. God is supposed to politics absolutely powerful in our tradition. I be don't know if it is Christian or not. I'm trying to think of some unconditionality that would not be of sovereign, to deconstruct the theological heritage is, the concept, the political concept, of that sovereignty, without abandoning the unconditionality of gifts, of hospitality, and so on. That means not that unconditionality might be associated some with power but with weakness, with weakness, some powerlessness. Now some would say this is still Christian. There is in Jesus Christ JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

5 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 13 sovereignty, nothing less sure than his coming, of course.” (V, 161) To without is God thus as difficult—as impossible—as trying to think of the would imagine be a a without the ipseity of the self, the per se or of se subsistence of one self com ing then lord one’s own domain. Would we not of be flirting with a God the is who hardly be God, who would hardly who a God without being or would be, being ( Dieu sans l’être ) and a self that would not be itself, a self without God a ? soi sans l’être being And would not a nation without national without self, without be excuse for a nation, a nation poor nationhood, l’état sans sovereignty a , without manhood? God forbid (V, 161)! l’être Voyous , Derrida raises these In the whole chain or symbiotic questions—tackling system of sovereignty—in a deeply political context, to which we will return . Suffice for the mom ent to note that the French word voyou , perhaps below it voie a means a street runner, from hooligan, or riff-raff, is used to derived , “rogue Americanism: états voyous are the les states.” Why take on translate an formidable opponents? Why try to wipe away the entire horizon? Because such thinks Derrida very idea of “sovereignty” is undemocratic. “The abuse of the It is the idea of sovereignty” (V, 145). of is built right into it. power constitutive the sovereign asserts the right to For on his own, unilaterally, regardless of act the of the majority. He only answers will laws that he gives himself, which to agrees majority means that he only goes along with the will of the majority if the with him The sovereign reserves the right to make an exception of him self and . not common his will over to the does will, thus withdrawing from the circle give does of order to stand apart. The sovereign in not let go; he does not democracy, share ( partager ) his power (V, 73 ff.); he does not make gifts or expenditures without return. means that the very idea of sovereignty cannot withstand That has the light of what Derrida white been calling since 1989 the withering “democracy to come,” a democracy all the way down, which is a democracy does without ( sans l’être ), for being being not extend as far as this democracy, any which is still to come. That means, as we will see shortly, that sovereign nation is a rogue! To the symbiosis of the democracy to come and of the God to come speak of l’avenir they belong to the same future ( both ), to the same coming means that venir ), to the same structure of the à venir . They are coming together; they will ( over arm arm, like traveling companions, arrive in ( metaphorein ) on the carried same vehicle. But why should we bother ourselves with such an impossible some vulnerability, some powerlessness, but there you see that the powerlessness of course is also a some sign the almighty. I'm trying to think of of divinity dissociated from power, if it is possible. This longer would have heavy ethical and political consequences, but it would deserve a long, much answer.” JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

6 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 14 which does do us the courtesy of even existing, when the democracy, not that problem dem ocracies are so pressing? It is not so much that beset s existing with bothering as that it is bothering with us. For it is calling us, it we are at our keeping democratic hearts up sleep, night. We disturbing us, provoking always already in the train of its solicitation, find by a call ourselves disturbed calls us before we call upon it. If it does not have the structure of that upon is of it has the structure that a call from beyond being to which being, because not breathless, catch up. If we dare cannot say of this democracy being, always “it is” we cannot avoid saying that “it calls;” we cannot that its ringing in silence our It calls because it promises. There is something astir in the word ears. something “promised,” we can hardly resist, something “democracy,” something if Shall is irresistible, then is it not an irresistible force? Still, “unconditional.” it sovereign say “dem ocracy” is a word of then force and pow er, nay, even we that word of divine authority? That would be to fall down before the old god, the a that one to the order of being and power, whereas Derrida is venturing belongs otherwise, onto seas, trying to think god uncharted trying to tell a out more new story about God (V, 215-16), whole some sort of vulnerable, non- about sovereign, God, some sort of “force suffering force” or some “power of without powerlessness,” for which we have no concept. ing the Derrida is dream which of som ething unconditional, som ething for current conditions are no match, something that belongs to another of being of of or the promise. The unconditionality call the democracy to that the order, is not that of unconditional force come the unconditionality of a promise thus but has compromised with the conditions of not For Derrida—and this is that being. residually phenomenological about deconstruction—we today find something ourselves always in the world on the receiving end of an already are promise have inherited. We we constituted by such uncompromisable that summoned by their voice. Something, which is promises, a thing, lays an not unconditional upon us— uns in claim nehmen , as Heidegger would Anspruch say—not as a sovereign power in the order of being that invades and overpowers that us, but as a summons provokes us, a call that incites us, a promise that lures us and our desire. Something of unconditional appeal, without the force awakens sovereignty. not something be—without being—of unconditional of Might port or value, might som ething not be—w ithout im object of an being—the unconditional or love? Might it not desire an unconditional claim upon us make without overpowering us, without belonging to the order of being and power from and it not lay claim to us Might beyond being, luring being on—to force? come? We are inching closer to the democracy to come, and inching closer to the Let coming But what might that be like? God. us attempt a risky analogy. Let us and force assume that the promise belongs to the order of the “good,” while JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

7 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 15 are attendant “being,” running the risk of using very classical terms power upon sort of usually sets out to disturb. On this analogy we cast that the Derrida Neoplatonic being, Levinasian terms of a good beyond the a good Derrida in and the exist not does not reach as far as because good, a good that is does that being from excess, where being always and already falls short beyond the being of It not so much that the good fails to be as that being fails short of the good. is good being, not fail the test of the but being fails the test of the good. good; does of rises like a command from the ashes up being. The good is without The good but this “without” is not the name of being, lack but an excess. On this analogy, a what is calling the “unconditional” belongs to the order of the Platonic Derrida and Neoplatonic Good while sovereignty belongs to the order of being. But no more than an analogy, and of limited use, because were it to hold that is more to way, then the democracy a come would not represent a call in rigorous a a would simply be a recall, but repetition of the classical doctrine for revolution Plato and Christian Neoplatonism . For the call of in a certain way is certainly that coming Plato, who is our inescapable heritage, is not the call of the Good in from Republic articulated (509), where the Good is the as an ultimate sovereign power, ( a ( kurios ) in its own kingdom as basileia ), the very knowledge of which king to power entitles one a rule. Plato’s Good is not the power of powerlessness but more powerful power, sovereign and superlative, which imposes an than subordinates, and upon its sensible order which is the analogical hierarchical stuff of sovereignty. The Good is the super-powerful origin of very reason the that right about everything and gets the better is everything ( a raison de tout) . It of reigns with all the majesty and dignity of the father of all, of the arche . Plato has supplied us the fundamental vocabulary of the onto-theological politics of with for sovereignty Nor is the call (V, the democracy to come, which comes 193-94). along with a coming God, a recall or rehearsal of Christian Neoplatonism. For name the for Derrida is not the “unconditional” of a hyperousios , a hyper-being Godhead beyond or higher than being , a beyond God ( Gottheit über Gott ), not if Derrida “rightly for an atheist.” Far from being a hyperbeing what passes of calls call is perfectly capable unconditional being described as a Derrida the as a shade or a specter, a demi-being, ghost, real enough to do anything but not able to haunt us with uncanny only above all, the haunting possibilities, 5 possibility of the impossible. What Derrida has in mind by the unconditional is neither a hyperpower nor a hyperbeing, neither form of the Good nor God the Father Almighty, but the the powerless of the power of a powerlessness, solicitation or promise or power 5 of This is of course the dominant trope of Derrida’s of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work Specters , trans. Peggy Kamuf (New York: Routledge, 1994). Mourning, and the New International JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

8 CAPUTO: 16 Without Sovereignty, Without Being which in discourse belongs not to the metaphysically provocation, Derrida’s but prestigious the “good beyond being” of to the humble and category loaded the “perhaps,” the peut-être threatening to irrupt sphere within and to of from 6 of être, the the dangerous conditions of the possibility of the disturb perhaps possible that solicits us from afar. His “unconditional’ is constituted im as a not being being but as a “call” coming from beyond being to something beyond or unconditional call to something beyond being—here the unconditional the ocracy to com e. Not a form or a being but a dem ise without the power to prom keep promise, a call without the force to its what it calls for, a call whose enforce realization is exposed to all the hazards of the khora , which is the opposite end of the kingly that starts at the top with the Good. Of the democracy—or the line “it is come we would not say “it God—who but “it calls,” which is how to is” comes.” calls without the worldly wherewithal It enforce its demands or to be to enforced, to create the concrete entitative conditions in the world in which its unconditional would be realized. Derrida’s unconditional belongs to the appeal order of the call, to the order of the order or com mand, but not to the order of conditions. existing exousiai ) or entitative ( Nor is its unconditional call authorities a categorical imperative, for it lacks the imperial authority to be an imperative, so it is not of Kantian lineage either. force or What then? How can the democracy to come call upon us without power or authority? trace of what Derrida means is found in Levinas’s famous A kill” of of murder. “Thou shalt not impossibility is the first word, example the is, it is a command inscribed on the face of the that and in that sense comes other, from “on high,” but it com es not with majesty of worldly height or pow er, or the with the authority of a divine command or of a command of pure reason, but vulnerable with of the most helpless and penury one. It is inscribed on the the face of anyone, but most palpably on the face of the helpless victim . Thus, the of impossibility murder is a law in the order of the call, but not alas of being Derrida where it is an all too banal and common fact. uses an hospitality as example of sovereignty, where he means the appeal unconditionality without e.g.—who the the stranger, the immigrant, by has not the made wayfarer, to lay down his head, who lacks the power to defend him or herself, wherewithal powerlessness, only defenselessness, the power of is the appeal to defense whose helpless (V, 204). The call of hospitality calls unconditionally however the good and humble the real conditions under which the call is issued. So too the call of the and dem ocracy to com e, of and for the com ing God, is issued from the for face of the street people, and in that sense from a certain voyou . 6 “University,” 234; Derrida, Negotiations: If It Were Possible, ‘Within Such Limits’...,” in “As 2002), Interventions and Interviews , ed. and trans. Peggy Kamuf (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 343-70. JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

9 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 17 the call not simply negative, a prohibition of violence or murder, but an But is the affirmative something unconditional to happen. When call call, for which place, conditions are already in for something made something occurs the really conditions conventions, then nothing and “happens” in by possible these sense. W hen som eone com es who has been invited, the made an strong who short that is not hospitality; hospitality happens only when the exclusive list, 7 shows at our door. Only the one can really happen. impossible uninvited up us. the the coming God, can save only The theological dream in Only impossible, dream of the dem ocracy to com e, the “unavow ed theologem e,” is the the God not traditional ontotheology, nor of Christian Platonism, nor the Aristotelian of Mover, who the Platonic Good is the purity of power. Who can deny, First like that come notion of a sovereignty to asks, in which justice and law Derrida his of been might go under the name combined the god mentioned in would have “Nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten ,” a god Heidegger’s come who will come to to somehow us (V, 155-56; PTT, 190n14)? Allow me to say, in fear and save the that for one can deny it. I am trembling, to cast my sole vote in I willing minority deny it. For it is only and true. Remember, this is the author’s half unintended, say avowal of his “unavowed,” his authorial intention to to what is identify what behind his conscious intentions as an author, of lies unconsciously is, half principle, at best only half conscious. It is he true, for Derrida’s which in an of à venir , événement , bears , important analogy to Heidegger’s use of use venir Zukunft and Ereignis . Hence the very idea of the à venir , and of the kommen, ing ise here the prom ise of the com contains, God, in Derrida, has a form al it prom in Heidegger’s notion of a wait or watch or expectation, in this time of parallel the flight the gods, in which thinking attends to of traces of the com ing god, the Heidegger zukommnende, zukünftliche Gott , by which the means der transforming historical event another beginning. Unlike Osam a bin Laden, neither Derrida of are Heidegger to go to heaven; both expecting waiting upon an historical nor is transformation or revolution in “this world” (PTT, 114). the other half is not true, But the parallel is strictly formal. That is why for Derrida that this is a concedes interpretation” of Heidegger, one that “fanciful would have “shocked Heidegger.” So add Derrida’s vote to mine; we both deny The it; beginning to build a majority. are democracy to come “is certainly not we what ‘he [Heidegger] meant’” and he would have regarded—“wrongly,” Derrida of adds—the that Derrida dreams body as “the absolute international technological state,” whereas, for Derrida: ... have resembles an ‘absolute technological state’ less than that which I nothing 7 “University,” 234. JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

10 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 18 about under terms faith, messianicity, democracy to come , the untenable spoken the a promise institution , an institution that is strong in justice, just, of international sovereign without sovereignty , and so on” (PTT, 190n14). hat the unavow ed theologem W in Derrida in a non-fanciful e then is is than God of the “promise,” which the after all a less interpretation? Nothing and prophetic god, and very the “promise” is also a Heideggerian Jewish if it Jewish before it is Heideggerian, as Marlène Zarader has shown, figure is something part Heidegger would never have any being of, that is to Jewish that 8 Heidegger “think.” never For while never was interested in calling say, avow, prom ises and being laid claim to, and was not interested in being laid claim to he by Or, if Heidegger was interested in justice it was the mystified, justice. justice of dike that had nothing to do with suffering mythologized all-gathering 9 was not interested in the justice of the great ungathered and flesh. Heidegger Derrida— is precisely what interests which and the Jew ish unwashed demos the justice due the voyous , the prophets— people. Despite his ridiculous street romanticizing the wisdom of Schwarzwald farmers, demos and hoi polloi were of not power the words of elemental definitely in the Greek language upon among his Heidegger to meditate high up in which Hütte . Indeed the God who chose from us would come to save us in Heidegger’s myth of Being would come to save dem ocracy, present or to com e, and the revolution of which Heidegger was past, god, would an ultra-right revolution. His been as he himself dreaming have out, is the god of the pointed not the biblical god, while Derrida’s god is poet, 10 profoundly prophetic. Derrida’s “fanciful” interpretation of Heidegger’s suspicion of existing democracies depends upon ignoring that Heidegger—who planetary is that democracy is what is needed in an age of convinced not dom (V, 157)—entertains a ination reactionary, aestheticizing and right radically wing suspicion of dem ocracy. Heidegger’s god will deliver less dem ocracy not ), more, more democracy ( plus de démocratie no which is not to be confused with ( Derrida’s own suspicion that there is more to democracy de plus démocratie ) than democracy delivers present. Derrida’s unavowed theologeme is much less at 8 Marlène La dette impensée: Heidegger et l’héritage hébraïque (Paris: Seuil, 1990). Zarader, 9 I have made this argument in more detail in Demythologizing Heidegger Indiana (Bloomington: University 1993). See Martin Heidegger’s Interview with Der Spiegel Press, “Only a God Can Save : Us,” trans. Maria Alter and John D. Caputo, Philosophy Today , 20, no. 4 (Winter, 1976): 267-84. 10 See Heidegger, “Appendix,” The Piety of Thinking Essays by Martin Heidegger , trans. and ed. James G. the Hart University Press, 1976), 65; for Indiana prophetic reading of Derrida, see (Bloomington: Mark Dooley’s interview with Jacques Derrida “The Becoming Possible of the Impossible” in A Passion the Impossible: John D. Caputo in Focus for (Albany: SUNY Press, 2003), 21-34 and John D. The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997). Caputo, JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

11 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 19 11 Heidegger’s god of the poets, God forbid, than the prophetic God. us be clear. The unconditional promise by which Derrida is solicited is Still, let be not the covenant made with Abraham and Moses by the identified to with than One be his name, no more blessed with the the Lord God, God, 12 Aristotle, philosophemes of of or Heidegger. Derrida’s is a faith Plato or Kant or institutions, without theocracy religious without a religion without and faith in the unconditional and the church, But this faith is also a incalculable. Derrida by reason (V, 211). Reason is a movement back and forth what means the incalculable calculable, calculating always in the face of the the and between calculability open to the incalculable. incalculability, the irrational keeping While Kant in allowing reason to be lay by something other, reason for for overcome is precisely defined by Derrida openness to the other, to the event, to the its future, desire for the incalculable and the unconditional, for the promise. its is not by consensus, as for Haberm as, which would alw ays Reason measured certain promise, and compromise, but by the a which is open- present closure to a that is not entirely foreign Reason—in the religious idea that the ended. way is a capax dei , a capacity for God or for the infinite—is defined by Derrida mind the by which is always infinite, by the possibility of the impossible, by promise, it deeply language, for example, if in is an example, the something inscribed lodged in the word “democracy.” Derrida’s idea of promise is marked by reason faith, a faith in reason that belongs to by “Enlightenment to come” (V, 167 ff.), an so that the distinction between faith and reason remains porous. by this But who is making who promise? Who knows? It is a promise made knows whom from who knows where and calling to something to-come coming is hear knows what. But then to whom is it made? To us, to those who that who word, it, have inherited the in whatever language. What is it promising? who coming Who knows what the democracies are Who to or what is coming knows? to democracy or what democracy is to come? It is a promise lodged in language coming itself, a hint of things to come, a trace of a whisper, god, a promise that a 11 See the four points on which Derrida distinguishes deconstruction from Heideggerian Destruktion in V, 206-207 n2. 12 Inasmuch as it attracts by desire, without the force of moving or efficient causality, the “promise” in of the “to come” can fact by be likened to Aristotle’s first cause, which is a telos that moves the attracting. the fact that Aristotle’s telos is from highest actuality, what Derrida has in apart But would be a telos without a teleo logy , without imposing a teleological order, or a final regulative mind of to It moves by way of promoting a kind pursue. endless or atelic goal So it would be restlessness. at best a telos without telos. If one could imagine a radical object of desire that does not exist and that Aristotle’s does impose a teleological order, then one would imagine a Derridean correlate to not primary prime unmoved, a kind of mover undeconstructible deconstructor. Like Aristotle, and unlike as the One God of the great monotheisms, there would be a plurality of such undeconstructibles, many as there are orders of desire, were there any at all, that is, as many as are desired. JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

12 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 20 us before have it, a promise that is engaged as soon as we are engaged in has we soon as open our mouths. The unconditional promise is language, as we nor power, it a hyperbeing of prestigious act, or a word of nobody’s is speech and categorical but a fragile command, powerless solicitation a God, or night. awakened in and by language itself in a khoral fetching this as haunting as as “democracy to come” would also be Anything and to calls and it would relate undeconstructible,” existing and Derrida “ what dem ocracies just the way justice, which highly unconditional, deconstructible is related the force of law, where laws to always positive and conditional. The is are to come, s’il y en a democracy is not deconstructible, while existing democratic , polities juridical systems, which enjoy the prestige of being and the power of and possible, are The democracy to come, accordingly, is the deconstructible. demanding (PTT, 134), which solicits us from afar, the the impossible, impossible desire of as the object of a possible beyond desire for som ething im us, to come. That alone should be enough to tell unforeseeable that us “deconstruction” the least bad word for a profoundly affirmative undertaking is unearth least most deeply buried and unfulfilled promises lodged in our to the words—words “democracy,” “justice” and bad the “gift” and “forgiveness,” like words “friendship” These are the “hospitality.” that Derrida has analyzed and ethico- an more and more in recent years in what som e would say represents political turn although he protests the idea that this is all in deconstruction, of (V, these are also words But such undeniable biblical new 64). something they bring his unavowed theologeme more and more to resonance level that the of an explicit confession or circumfession. the democracy to come call for? If does call comes from the heart of a What the lodged deep within the word democracy, and if it calls to us democrats promise Like are democrats, what does it say? yet any call of conscience worthy not who the name, in Heidegger or Levinas, say, it pronounces us guilty, guilty of of yet the of a nullity, of not basis being democrats, infinitely being to responsible respond to the call to be or become democratic, asking us to put off the old way 13 and around. O my democratic friends, there are no democrats. to Derrida turn modern like Kierkegaard—whom he is always following addresses democracies 135)—addressing Christendom: they are both faced with (PTT, task of the disabusing audiences of the illusion their they already are Christian or that democrats and that becoming Christian or democratic is just what is being asked the of in asking us to turn around, So democracy to come calls for a them. revolution, one more revolution (at least) beyond the first wave of democratic 13 Derrida In Politics of Friendship , trans. George Collins (London and New York: Verso, 1997), thus adapts the saying attributed to Aristotle by Diogenes Laertius, “oh my friends, there are no friends.” JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

13 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 21 revolutions. That brings us to politics. I the figure of a symbiotic system because Derrida’s reflections in have used and Voyous so much guided by the figure of life itself, of the health elsewhere are in of ) of keeping them safe ( sauf ), living a salutary state ( salut ), hale santé ( things, It is in keeping with this figure that he says that and today is whole. democracy from auto-immune disease, redeploying a figure he first used in suffering an 14 Reason.” Democracy today is a victim of the and illogical logic” “Faith “strange meant a thing destroys the very thing that is which to fortify ( munis ) it by living attack by a foreign body (V, 173). The result is against instead of attacking that the it attacks itself and tolerates or plays host to the presence of the other, So democracies think that if, as a practical matter, they are to aggressor. often must democracy themselves safe from they and learn how to survive, make in anti-democratic their own bodies. Thus, within order to make tolerate forces American way of life safe against the threat of terrorists who threaten the democracy, Attorney John Ashcroft wants to abridge the democratic General rights of citizens (V, 64-65), or the erican of prisoners being held in rights Am Bay, even as the Rehnquist court Guantanamo seen fit to profoundly abridge has the liberties of Americans to keep civil streets of democracy safe. When, in the the in 1992, the Algerian government saw that the elections were going to result election of Islamic party that would abolish democracy, it an anti-democratic of democratically in the name election democracy, which a held suspended place where the people enjoy the right to means their own leaders (V, 54 a choose That course is nothing new. of Salvador Allende was democratically ff.). When in Chile, Henry Kissinger said that the United States was not going to let elected injured interests (read: the United States) be democracy by a lot of damn of the (a loose translation of demos ) in Chile expressing their dem ocratic will for a fools president. knows that you cannot trust democracy, which Everybody socialist a suicidal is that we have to protect it against (V, 57). Auto-immunity has side thus a kind of pharmakon (PTT, 124), when the body is poisoned by the very drug that is to save it. An absolute democracy could bring a democratic end to meant that Socialists is built right into democracy. The National democracy; were risk elected. democratically art of governing democratically is to know when The to democracy its own immunities suppress the undemocratic and attack should itself ( autos )—in the interests of democracy, of course. of Or Of our own self-interest, the interest America! our “self” ( autos ), the of interests of a “sovereign” nation (under God)? God bless America. But the very partager idea a democracy is to divide and share ( of ) sovereignty among the 14 and See “Faith and Reason,” trans. Samuel Weber, in Acts of Religion, ed. Gil Anidjar (London New York: Routledge, 2002), 40-101; and PTT, 94 ff.. JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

14 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 22 To have in democracy is to trust and have faith in the many, to give people. faith rule of sovereign one or few and share it am ong the many, am ong the up the the may. the be true to what idea of democracy demands that we “people,” come To own we up our attachment to our give private will. Democracy unselfish, be that achieved without the anxiety, the fear and the trembling, that cannot be every sacrifice, all the sacrifice of the self, which is at bottom accompanies above this sacrifice So if we were true to be. idea of democracy, we every must what up with another and more radical idea would auto -immunity, one that is end of sim self-destructive but rather breaks dow n ply “ipseity” of the “self,” its not the and mastery (V, 71), in order to open the self to sharing with “the autonomy 15 That in turn would require a revolutionary turn, in which we would other.” the model dem ocracy follow s from one of autonom y to one of reverse that 154), to the one would agree (V, be governed by the many, “heteronomy” where is self others, those among whom one the too. The symbiotic effect of the by the idea of political sovereignty would be to undoing redescribed the have autonom self in term s of the other in the self, as a self that is not identical ous itself, already self that is always with divided within itself, inhabited by the a then a other, of many selves. The self itself com would turn out to be a kind plex a “mob-rule,” of democratic polity, the unruly rule of the many, a certain kind of voyoucracy, which possible translation of the Greek word demokratia (V, 97). is a are immunize the sovereign self, if we against sui-cidal about this we ourselves If , or “sui-sovereignty,” democracy will not have to put up with this sovereign sui the pseudo-dem auto-im munizing fake that passes itself off ocracy, self-aborting to today. then will mean the right democracy criticize one self for Auto-immunity (V, 126). is not just abstract theory. This is all about September 11, all about politics This During today. war, things were maxim ally dangerous but perfectly the cold “MAD” Two superpowers guided by the sovereign logic of “mutual clear. large destruction” kept each other more or less in check. Occasionally, most assured into in Cuban missile crisis, we stared the the notably But for the most abyss. part, sovereign nations guided by self-interest are not suicidal and it proved to be in best interests of each to respect the space of the other. This absurdist the at worked produced a sim ulacrum of logic a lack of war that seem ed and peace, times as much like war as almost When the cold war ended, things peace. became more complicated, but no less dangerous, its place taken by the war on international terrorism, on what “we” call the “rogue states” that finance, and between support terrorists. Not a war harbor superpowers, but between the and 15 of Derrida works out this argument (V, 67 ff) accepting the spirit but worrying over the letter by Bridget Jean-Luc Nancy’s revisioning of freedom in the Experience of Freedom, trans. McDonald (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993); he comments especially on pp. 70-71. JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

15 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 23 legitimate states respect international law (the true and the respectable, that the good) the axis of evil, the “rogues,” the outlaws, the evil and empire, no for law or life, “MAD” now have having given way to hooligans, who respect “WMD” (concealed “weapons of mass destruction”) illusion. September 11, 2001 shattered that seemed. With the collapse of Or it so towers, the whole facade of a “war” on rogue “states” also the twin collapsed. it clear that the “enemy” is no longer an identifiable “state” with Now is faceless, a but elusive bands of city, stateless terrorists and capital diplomats sacrifice their lives to take out large buildings, willing Pentagon and the to the House and to poison or kill itself, numbers of innocent people in White countless cities with suicidal stealth. The classical concepts large war too had fallen. The of collapse the towers exposes the deeper anxiety that simmers beneath the of of a on the “rogue states.” The second Gulf War was an effective bravado “war” prop this that illusion—Derrida wrote to book in 2002, before the way up the to enhance the standing with to people for a president war—not mention re-election in a coming presidential campaign. But the cold truth is, after seeking end cold the the war, the rogue states are not states (V, 148-151, 212-14; PTT, of who 101, are faceless terrorists hiding They knows where, in 98, 110-11). som ew here in Som alia, say, and a disguise, other places, and if they get thousand their on weapons of mass destruction, hands that they can conceal on their ones and all. person, or in a vehicle, God help us we We knew where Moscow was could train on the precise place, but we do not know who or where our missiles states are. the same token, the legitimate by are precisely the people these But ones who assert their sovereign and unilateral right to act in their own interests. Clinton address in his 1993 Bill to the United Nations, the United States said As when multilaterally possible, but unilaterally when necessary (V, 147), act will or the we have the authorization of whether UN General Assembly or even not the Council, which we can usually control, whether or not we are in Security of But law or hum an rights. defiance that is precisely what one international for by outlaw state, with no respect an international law, that is, a rogue means state. Derrida says, “So there are no longer any rogue states and there are only 150)—that rogue states” (V, is, the rogues are not states , and the states are rogues (by exercising the self-styled legitimate states behave like rogues). sovereignty, a pretty is built right into being sovereign; it is Being much what one rogue more means rogue state (V, 214). There are a rogues than you think, the USA by first, then the UK, then France, if you just count how many times these sovereign states exercised veto power in the Security Council on behalf of their their exousiai The that be, the powers , that shaped the national–sovereign–interests. United Nations saw to it that the UN is another one of those democracies that has has im itself against dem ocracy. It munized done this by establishing a Security powerful most Council whose principal function is to insure the security of the JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

16 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 24 against the many in the General Assembly. The Security Council few democratic secure serves of the five permanent members. Why just those the to sovereignty makes were the last world war. Might of right. The they five? Because winners prevails, not the strongest reason. strongest reason, la raison du plus fort, e sure, idea of the dem ocracy to com very is not just utopic but aporetic, be To the to submit national sovereignty to the higher for of an simply authority body be once again to leave the place of sovereignty international would state, to not with a king or nation it, but with a world and repopulate standing would not dispel the state. of sovereignty but reconstitute a new This notion of or world sovereignty (PTT, universal We would have dissipated, figure 115). inated or distributed sovereignty still more dissem the king to the widely—from nation, the nation to the community of nations—but the end result would from a sovereign of just the sort that Kant and Hannah Arendt rejected. be mega-state the a to come” would not be Derrida world-state, which would For “democracy anything be many ways even more terrifying than could of which a national or in 16 capable. no No system of law, sovereignty legal sovereignty or mega- is however widely based, would embody justice or be “the last word” sovereignty, a 115). to come could never take democracy purely legal or juridical (PTT, The as a system of law ( droit ), for form, would alw ays be without being as dem and it of As such, the democracy to justice. would be a-cosmopolitan or post- come admitting sovereignty,” cosmopolitan, without at most of a certain “sovereignty some kind force or power—since force or power is what constitutes the of justice sort , in which, per impossibile, kratia would have the force of law—some of and the law would be just, law, manipulated or ignored at will by the most not powerful That is the impossible, nations. promise inscribed in the word the democracy, on which no existing world body can deliver (PTT, 119-20). The is promise the “democracy to come” in bound up with the promise inscribe inscribed in the words “united nations,” a body to come that would be free of the members, hegemonic its most powerful of with a “wholly other” influence security council (V, 161), on which the present world body cannot deliver on because of the roguish behavior of the sovereign pow ers the council. security at But is astir in these words which ise least point us in the right prom the which gives us the right “heading.” Derrida in fact thinks that this is direction, 17 “European promise,” as Giovanna Borradori puts it. much a He thinks very 16 fundamentalist In the wildly popular Christian Tim apocalyptic Left Behind ! series of LaHaye and by Jerry the first and pivotal thing undertaken Jenkins, the anti-Christ, the very antipode of the B. messianic peace, is the establishment of a world government engineered through a take over of the United Nations and the disarmament of the member states. 17 See Giovanna Borradori in Terrorism: 169-72 in her helpful commentary “Deconstructing PTT, Pascale-Anne Derrida” in PTT, 137-72. See also The Other Heading: Reflections on Today's Europe, trans. Brault and Michael Naas (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992). JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

17 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 25 there is to hope for in this regard from Europe than from the United that more is insufficiently still too dominated by a pledged States, which secularized, and is religion, so that its “war on terrorism” Judaic a still allegiance to Christian against religious of Jewish and Christian doctrine war Islam, a war by marked a political theologies,” both Abrahamic, a war among the Messianisms of of “two is center. symbolic Jerusalem Even though this movement of which the still and relatively unfulfilled in Europe, the is secularization incomplete of extricating the political order from religious authority is Enlightenment ideal there the advanced Enlightenment has made more headway (PTT, 116- more and 18 117). claim there something that lays The to us unconditionally but is question, power or force, is directed at “us,” without of us—Americans and Europeans, all democrats theologians, Westerners and non-Westerners— anyone who is and with the logic of sovereignty. The democracy to come calls for a associated cruel ocratic revolution, still more radically dem and revolution, a another new the name of the democracy to come, in revolution we will break more in which still the ancien régime of with itself, dreaming of the decisively sovereignty possibility of the impossible, of incalculable democracy without sovereignty. a Dreaming the incalculable, but also calculating, because one must count very of the and ways of counting how devise member voices of the carefully carefully assembly will count, who will be allowed to democratic at what age, with vote, what etc. (V, 63). That revolution that status, being called for will also cut is reconceive to deeply into our psyche and our psychology, because it will force us the self, famous liberal individual, in terms of the other one who lays claims that it me, it will cut into our theology, because as will force us to reimagine to even God without sovereignty. God forbid! is called for in and by What democracy to come is the unconditional gift, the which not seek a return on one’s does the gift, in which the self gives investment, up its power, the power of the “I can,” the power of the possible, which is what the constitutes What we have asked of self. king, we now must ask of a ourselves: to give up power, to share and divide it. What is called for is a self that 18 We should not mistake of sense in which Derrida associates himself with the idea the secularization. the He embraces the critical attitude cultivated by the Enlightenment with regard to the political doctrines —the concrete messianisms—over religious political order. But then of hegemony adds parenthetically—but “notice I am not saying with regard to religion or faith” (PTT, 116-17) he the that with regard to the messianic. That is because is, very idea of the democracy to come itself, a the form of idea faith in a pure messianicity, the very takes of a to come, which indicates that his pure position stated is post-secular. His idea of a precisely à venir , a pure messianic, remains more with and deeply Abrahamic; it is not a Buddhist idea, for example, where peace has to do residually be the excising of desire, recognizing the unreality of the past and the future, and allowing oneself to saturated with the present. JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

18 CAPUTO: Without Sovereignty, Without Being 26 its power a gift without return, a self without ipseity. What is called for shares in the hospitality other, to the stranger and the immigrant, to the unconditional to is hungry and huddled masses. What is called tired, is a transforming and the for revolution which the self turns itself in out and lets itself by transfixing inside claimed by the other. is What for is to im agine God otherw ise, to turn our thinking about God called around, almost upside down or inside out: In of an onto-theology of sovereignty, I refer, under the name of God, speaking One of to the determination of a sovereign and hence indivisible God, give But the name of God would omnipotence. us something else to think, when even, mortal for example a vulnerable non-sovereignty, suffering and divisible, thought capable himself, of regret (a contradicting which is neither impossible of nor without example), that would be a wholly other story and perhaps that of a god who would be deconstructed even in his ipseity. (V, 215-216) is calls, what is calling, what is called for What the God to come, the coming of a power, God to save us, a God who has no seat of no sovereign authority, no ontological prestige, and mortal, who has not the wherew ithal to lay vulnerable power down whose only power is the head, of a powerless but unconditional his appeal. “The democracy to come— (V, 161) salut.” The God to come— viens , oui, oui. JOHN D. CAPUTO is David R. Cook Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University. He is chair of the editorial board of the Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory . ©2003 John D. Caputo. All rights reserved. Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory 4.3 (August 2003) JCRT 4.3 (August 2003)

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