Academic journal article Melbourne Journal of Politics

Alternative Communities, Alternatives to Community(*)

Academic journal article Melbourne Journal of Politics

Alternative Communities, Alternatives to Community(*)

Article excerpt

Introduction: An Offering ... And All the Angels of Heaven Besides

   A little tree stands in the meadow and many more nice little trees besides.
   A little leaf freezes in the frosty wind and many more lonely little leaves
   besides. A little pile of snow glimmers by the brook and many more white
   little piles besides. A little hilltop laughs down on the valley and many
   more nasty hilltops besides. And behind all this the devil and many more
   poor devils besides. A little angel turns aside his weeping face and all
   the angels of heaven besides.

   Robert Walser, `A Little Landscape'.

   The prince of darkness is a gentleman.

   Shakespeare, King Lear, III, iv

What does it mean to speak of alternative communities and alternatives to community? What does it mean today, especially today when the promise of a New World Order is said to have been broken, perhaps by the old world disorder?

What is implicated in our recognition of the violence that has been done to and in the name of `community'; defined by and reciprocally defining subsisting identities (individuals) as the attempt to realise an essence? And what might be a politics that does not stem from such a will?

These questions (and many others) form the departure point for the studies of community and its alternatives to be considered in this offering. An offering because, like those texts, polemical or programmatological approaches are antithetical to the ideas explored and played with there and here.

This offering, then, will begin with the question of human association, the construction of modern community as the self-evident and self-authenticating myth of its own origins. What is lost in such a construction? There will be an examination of the perceived `problem' with(in) community through an analysis of Julia Kristeva's Strangers to Ourselves(1) and Jean-Luc Nancy's discussion of the `loss' of community in The Inoperative Community.(2)

In Part Two, we move to a consideration of the politics of individuation within the modern (and `postmodern') community, and the ways in which `community' may not be constructed by individuals so much as prohibited by that anterior construction. Derrida's The Other Heading(3) and Giorgio Agamben's The Coming Community(4) will be important here. That construction in turn brings us to the question of meaning itself (and its alternatives), discussed in the third section with particular emphasis on the myth that is community in

Jean-Luc Nancy's Inoperative Community.

Finally, Being and its post-Heideggerian, post-secular implications will be raised in the juxtaposition of the Derridean aporia, Agamben's quodlibet and the `literary communism' of Nancy. For it is in the contrapuntal bringing together of such texts as these and the preparedness to go far beyond them that we may conceive of alternative conceptions of being neither of nor for community but in community, being not as singularity indifferent to its common property nor as examples (exemplars) of universal commonality - the divine, the essence - but being-such as we are, being thus.

1. The Politics of Human Association

   Society was not built on the ruins of a community. It emerged from the
   disappearance or the conservation of something - tribes or empires -
   perhaps just as unrelated to what we call `community' as to what we call
   `society'. So that community, far from being what society has crushed or
   lost, is what happens to us - question, waiting, event, imperative - in the
   wake of society.

   Jean-Luc nancy, The Inoperative Community.

   When questioned as to the wisdom of its course, the newly converted fanatic
   of nationalism answers that `so long as nations are rampant in this world
   we have not the option to freely develop our higher humanity. We must
   utilize every faculty that we possess to resist the evil by assuming it
   ourselves in the fullest degree. … 
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