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The Aggrieved Community

Nancy and Blanchot in Dialogue

Kevin Hart


Does “community” contain an ineradicable memory of “communion,” and thereby inevitably have conceptual ties to Christianity, if not to fascism? Or can the word, rather, indicate a new way of being in common, one that became briefly visible in the communist experiment, understood first as the appearing of the truth of democracy before it collapsed under the weight of ideology and militarism? While Jean-Luc Nancy identifies motifs from Maurice Blanchot’s early right-wing political commitments in his later left-wing thought, this essay addresses and critiques another of Nancy’s claims: that despite Blanchot’s affirmation of a community unregulated by a reference to unity, he is, in fact, committed to the Christian notion of communion. However, Blanchot distanced his notion of inter-subjectivity from any conception of God, proposing, instead, a “dissymmetric” rather than asymmetric relation, grounded in the encounter of the Other’s death rather than in some trace of the divine.