Thoughts Out to Jean-Luc Nancy

It is a shame to hear of Jean-Luc Nancy’s passing.


I cannot claim to be deeply familiar with his work, but I often enjoyed reading the occasional interview or article by him. What’s more, as someone who had an earlier interest in Blanchot and Bataille, I naturally had an interest in the discussions on the nature of community which occurred between Nancy and Blanchot.


The kind of philosophy which Nancy was engaged in, full of talk about “being” and “plurality” and “immanentism”, no longer preoccupies me like it once did. Nonetheless, I’ve found him to be more engaging than many who emerge from such a tradition, and he was an early figure to speak of (write of?) “Communism” in a way that intrigued me. The question of what, exactly, it means to have community without reverting to myths of original community (from which we have fallen), or to a purely immanent state—”closed upon oneself”—which is undivided and the constant goal of work, still seems relevant to me.


De-naturalizing community, taking an encounter with “Others” before a division “Individual/Community”, and therefore asking whether there is a “We” or a “being” which does not close off cultures or encounters into a “natural” state; or drive us towards an “authentic”, “intensive” injunction towards death.


Do I think Nancy’s themes of “equality of non-equivalence” or “structions” or “literary communism” necessarily provide deep insight into the catastrophes of today? Probably not. But I do think he engages admirably with questions of community. His statement in an interview with Pierre Chaillan seems worth reflection:

“Of course, it is necessary to predict and calculate: but we must first manage to see what must be seen and therefore fore-seen… It’s always a question of something beyond the possible! The burgher of 1430 had no idea what would happen in 1492, when Columbus reached an ‘American’ island. And in 1930, we had little idea of Europe and the world in 1992. Which is not to say that nothing should be done: we should be careful, but careful of what is not visible, not recognisable, not formed…”

I hope other people are inspired—even those that move on like me—by his work.
-P.H.

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