Community and resistance in Heidegger, Nancy and Agamben

Philosophy and Social Criticism 37 (3):259-271 (2011)
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Over the last two decades the work of Jean-Luc Nancy and Giorgio Agamben has attracted widespread attention both within philosophy and more broadly across the human sciences. Central to the thinking of Nancy and Agamben is a shared theory of community that offers a model of resistance to oppressive power through radical passivity. This article argues that this model inherits the inadequacies of Martin Heidegger’s attempts to conceptualize society and history. More specifically, Heidegger’s understanding of collective history in terms of ‘destiny’ implicitly regulates the figure of community proposed by Nancy and Agamben. This alignment with the Heideggerian notion of destiny means that these later thinkers fail to offer a credible model of resistance in terms of concretely determined means of productive counter-practices. As a consequence the usefulness of the thinking of Nancy and Agamben as a conceptual framework for emancipatory politics is at best extremely limited



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Brian Elliott
Portland State University

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