The Truth of Democracy

The Truth of Democracy

The Truth of Democracy

The Truth of Democracy

Synopsis

The initial provocation for The Truth of Democracy was the fortieth anniversary of May 68 and the recent criticism (some by French President Nicolas Sarkozy himself) leveled against the ideals and actors at the center of this important but still misunderstood moment in French history. Nancy here defends what he calls simply "68" without apology or equivocation, calling it an essential stage in the search for the "truth of democracy." Less a period within time than a critical moment or interruption of time, 68 needs to be understood, Nancy argues, as an "event" that provided a glimpse into the very "spirit of democracy," a spirit that is linked not to some common vision, idea, or desire (such as the Nation, the Republic, the People, or Humanity) but to an incommensurability (the infinity of man or man's exceeding of himself) at the origin of democracy.Written in a direct and accessible, almost manifestolike style, The Truth of Democracy presents a forceful plea that we rethink democracy not as one political regime or form among others but as that which opens up the very experience of being in common. By rearticulating many of the themes and terms he has developed elsewhere (from community and being in common to the singular plural) in relationship to an original analysis of what was and still is at stake in May 68, The Truth of Democracy is at once an eloquent summary of much of Nancy's work and a significant development of it. It is as if, forty years after being first scrawled across university walls and storefronts in France, one of the most famous slogans of May 68 had received in The Truth of Democracy its most eloquent and poignant theoretical elaboration: "Be realistic, demand the impossible!"

Excerpt

There is a very close and very deep connection between the commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of 68 and the current flurry of interest, as witnessed by so many publications, around the question of democracy. Though we were unable truly or fully to recognize it at the time, 68 initiated a calling into question of democracy's self-assurance, which might have seemed to be bolstered by the progress of decolonization, by the growing authority of the representations of the “state of law” and of “human rights,” and by the ever clearer call for a form of social justice whose models would not be based upon the presuppositions implied by the term communism in the limited sense in which it had come to be understood.

It is for this reason that there is an anniversary of 68 only in the sense that we can indeed celebrate forty years—the time for a coming of age that can still be concerned and adventurous—of a process, mutation, or impetus that, in that year of the “March 22 Movement,” threw out but the first anticipatory signs and that today is at best still in its early stages.

There is thus no reason to speak of a “legacy” of 68, whether one declares oneself, in a rather ridiculous way, to be in favor of doing away . . .

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