Date of Award
Joint Ph.D. Program in Study of Religion
Community, Fascism, Liberalism, Political philosophy, Political theory, Sovereignty
This dissertation takes up the exchange between three prominent French thinkers on the question of “community”: Georges Bataille, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Maurice Blanchot. Taken together, and starting with Bataille’s prewar writings and communitarian activism in the 1930s, the exchange between them now spans nearly a century. Georges Bataille’s importance as a political thinker and writer was brought out of relative obscurity with the publication of Jean-Luc Nancy’s “La Communauté désoeuvrée” in 1983. Less than a year after the appearance of Nancy’s inaugural essay, Maurice Blanchot, a close friend of the late Bataille, published La Communauté inavouable. Blanchot’s text was partly a response, at times a rejoinder, to both Nancy’s argument and his reading of Bataille.
My aim in this study is threefold. First, I situate the exchange between Bataille, Nancy, and Blanchot within a larger problematic at the center of contemporary European political thought: namely, that of the antagonistic relationship between “community,” understood in terms of a constitutive relation to alterity and plurality (or “multiplicity”), and “sovereignty,” understood as the political claim to “ground” or “found” community in a unitary and uniform “communal subject” — e.g., the sovereign will of “a People,” whether conceived as the ostensibly free and egalitarian demos of liberal democracies, or the openly anti-democratic and populist Volk of fascist or neo-fascist authoritarianisms.
Second, given the strained appeal to Bataille in Nancy’s and Blanchot’s contrasting approaches to the question of community, I devote two chapters to Bataille with the aim of letting his writing and thinking speak for itself. I argue that it is impossible to claim or reclaim Bataille as a consummate thinker of community without giving equal weight to his obsession with sovereignty. Lastly, I return to the debate between Nancy and Blanchot, drawing attention to the philosophical rift between them. I argue that Blanchot’s insistence, following Levinas, that the question of community must cede priority to the ethical relation in which each “one” finds themselves responsible or accountable to every “other,” poses a fundamental challenge to Nancy’s Heideggerian ambition to think of community within the larger project of an “ontology of the common.”
Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.
Gregory J. Grobmeier
Received from ProQuest
Grobmeier, Gregory J., "Community Unclaimed: Plurality and the Problem of Sovereignty in Bataille, Nancy, and Blanchot" (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1933.
Philosophy, Political science, French literature