The Disavowed Community

The Disavowed Community

The Disavowed Community

The Disavowed Community


Over thirty years after Maurice Blanchot writes The Unavowable Community (1983)-a book that offered a critical response to an early essay by Jean-Luc Nancy on "the inoperative community" - Nancy responds in turn with The Disavowed Community. Stemming from Jean-Christophe Bailly's initialproposal to think community in terms of "number" or the "numerous," and unfolding as a close reading of Blanchot's text, Nancy's new book addresses a range of themes and motifs that mark both his proximity to and distance from Blanchot's thinking, from Bataille's "community of lovers" to therelation between community, communitarianism, and being-in-common; to Marguerite Duras, to the Eucharist. A key rethinking of politics and the political, this exchange opens up a new understanding of community played out as a question of avowal.


Jean-Luc Nancy

If there is a “work-in-progress” in contemporary philosophy, it is undoubtedly in work on community—on the common, communism, communitarianism, being-in-common, being-with, being-together, or again in “living together,” which today designates, in a manner that is poignant and sometimes entirely naïve, the preoccupation of a society shocked by attacks that condemn it in its very being even as society simultaneously experiences itself as uncertain and anxious. I am speaking here of European society, but society in North and South America as well as other countries throughout the world seeking to be democratic are also riven with doubt. the entirety of the Western world believed that it progressed toward the possibility of common existence, of law, freedom, and equality. It believed that this word “democracy” was society’s own true foundation. It had been encouraged to think this by the fact that what called itself “communism” revealed itself to be unfounded, imposed by a will that was no less dominating than the imperialism that had already taken possession of much of the world.

Communism that was labeled “real” collapsed for having exclusively gambled on military power and the domination of a worn- out ideology. For its part, democracy was increasingly recognized as a facade behind which economic power operated, which now contained the real mechanisms of control. Politics lost its most illuminating sense.

We were still a long way from such a severe analysis in 1983. However, we were already quite uneasy by the sense of what was called “politics” and . . .

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