File spoon-archives/postanarchism.archive/postanarchism_2004/postanarchism.0403, message 79

Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2004 11:20:56 -0800 (PST)
Subject: [postanarchism] Dunphy: "The 'New International' as An-Arche" (2)

The main difference between Critchley's "ethical
anarchy" and the Radical Orthodoxy's "eucharistic
anarchy" is Critchley's purchase on "ethical anarchy"
without the acknowledgement of the transcendence that
drives it. Critchley embodies reserve regarding the
fundamental Levinasian claim that behind the human
face is the face of infinity: the face of God.
Instead, Critchley -- rendering the capitalised
Levinasian "Other" always in the lower case51 --
maintains that behind the face is the face of only the
neighbour describing this as the "reactivation of the
political in terms of its ethical source."52 This
"ethical source" -- what Critchley describes as an
incalculable ethical demand or as the infinite demand
of justice -- is what the Radical Orthodoxy recognise
as the imago dei.


If Critchley is advocating a return to a kind of "post
deconstructive" humanism (by looking into the face of
the Other) as the basis for the "New International,"
then the Radical Orthodoxy are proposing a
"supra-humanism" -- in terms of the imago dei -- as a
possible modus operandi for doing politics in a post
national setting. Put simply, the Radical Orthodoxy's
notion of "eucharistic anarchy" is nothing other than
the performative affirmation and restoration of the
imago dei within humanity. This is why
non-transcendent accounts of human community, though
provocative, cannot deliver on the unity they propose
apart from an appeal to transcendence. This anarchy is
achieved by participating in the unity of the
Eucharist overcoming the scattering of humanity that
comes with the originary loss of the imago dei. This
originary loss of the unity of the trace of
transcendence is not something that can be restored
with any surrogates such as a social contract: this is
something beyond the consent of subjectivity. Here,
human solidarity is something that goes profoundly
deeper than contractual law, this is why the Radical
Orthodoxy recognise desire as the heart of the two
cities' ideological dissent from one another.53 This
is why justice is not a matter of law, but a matter of


The Eucharist is a symbol for the achievement of unity
enacted in and by the imago dei. It is a catalyst for
mutual participation: not only is the Host offered in
sacrifice, the communicate is also taken up into the
fundamental nexus of Eucharistic engagement yielding
not only unity with the divine, but an identification
with others who also participate in the solidarity of
the Body. The Host is an icon of kenosis -- the
self-emptying sacrifice of the Host elicits a
reciprocal response from the Body: one sacrifice
achieving another. This is akin to Levinas's being who
empties itself of its being. We are nourished and in
turn nourish others; we receive the gift and in turn
become a kind of gift. One of the Radical Orthodoxy,
William Cavanaugh, expands on this notion:

As members of the Body, we then become nourishment for
others -- including those not part of the visible Body
-- in the unending Trinitarian economy of gratuitous
giving and joyful reception.54


The greatest anarchic possibilities for a global
Eucharistic community must be seen against an
apocalyptic horizon, against a moment that is always
arriving and yet has not arrived necessitating our
continual engagement with the Other. In this way, the
anarchic possibilities for politics are always an on
going performance. The inclusive possibilities of the
Radical Orthodoxy's "eucharistic anarchy" forecast an
eschatological solidarity that must continually be
achieved. This kind of unity mirrors the trans
historical dimensions of Critchley's "New
International" to include the confessional dead -- a
most disenfranchised people group -- as well as those
yet to make profession. Not only is this a trans
national anarchy, it is a trans temporal communion of
the dead as well as the unborn.


This is an anarchy premised on reconciliation and
peace. In the Eucharist, not only are humanity and
divinity reconciled in sacrificial fusion,
accomplishing a confessional community of faith, but
the participant is also reconciled to the world
through enacting anarchic peace. The invitation is
given to others to become enfolded in the Eucharistic
community, which lives under the law of the modern
state while affirming ultimate loyalties that
ideologically undermine every temporal form of human


It is within this framework that the etymology of the
word "religion" takes on added meaning. "Religion"
from its Latin root, religio, denotes the idea of an
obligation to something, what might be described as a
bond or a kind of solidarity.55 As well, religio also
elicits the existential response of the participant,
constraining or sanctioning subjectivity.56 My claim
is that "religion" is in great need of re-envisioning,
not in terms of material institutions demanding
allegiance to certain historical practices, but as an
ideological "world people" who embody and enact the
most fundamental anarchy -- a humanism premised on the
imago dei: a supra-nationalism beyond all
geo-political spaces. Solidarity of this accord begins
with the discovery of a face of the Other affirming a
new kind of humanism, a "post deconstructive
humanism." Ironically, one cannot affirm any kind of
humanism while hating other humans. That is, we must
be prepared to look into the face of even our enemies
if we are to realise the truly radical nature of the
anarchy I am proposing here.


To my mind, the "New International" is nothing other
than a "post-deconstructive humanism" with an anarchic
political impulse, and this is a good thing. Derrida
has earlier defined the "New International" as a
globally deconstructed human polity without national
geo-political identity. If for Levinas, justice begins
in placelessness, then perhaps this is where the "New
International" must also begin: in anarchic exile.
But, as those living in the vacuum of the World Trade
Towers disaster, it is fair to ask whether such a
conception of globalisation is still possible. For
Levinas, justice begins in the face of the Other in
the refusibility of murder. Although one may wonder
whether looking into the face of the Other would
really keep anyone from intended murder, Levinasian
philosophy would still insist upon apprehending the
humanity in the face of the Other before a life is
taken. The looming question is whether military
technology has kept us from looking into the face of
the Other? Would Islamic radicals have driven their
hi-jacked civilian airliners into the Trade Towers had
they been able to peer into the widened eyes of an
office Trade Tower worker frantically making one last
phone call to a loved one? Would U.S. military troops
in their "War on Terrorism" drop infrared-guided
bombfire on Afghani/Iraqi "military targets" if they
could see the terror in the eyes of a young Islamic
girl, veiled, in fear, and not think about the trauma
of losing one's own daughter back on American soil? If
it took a Nazi dog to recognise Levinas's humanity in
a military labour camp almost sixty years ago, what
will it take for us to affirm what is human? Must we
stoop so low just to catch a glimpse of humanity? Do
we recognise the face of the Other only at the point
of utter degradation? Did the Nazi guards recognise
Jewish humanity only at the point of screams? The
Levinasian claim that rationality functions as a
totality within a history of western ontology as
something which represents, conceptualises and then
distances us from the face of the Other, makes
violence and ultimately murder, possible. That is to
say, if the rationalisation of the Other into a
concept occurs from an ideally disengaged
subjectivity, then a "post deconstructive humanism"
argues for post national persons already in relation.


A nation's power to ratify its own rationalisation was
exemplified in the problematic surrounding National
Socialism and is still the attending anxiety one
senses around certain forms of nationalism: whether
right, left or centre. My claim, broadly conceived, is
that, although incomplete and in need of further
tactical strategies of hegemonisation, Levinasian
ethical anarchism is highly suggestive of the way
ahead, especially if it is open to supplementation by
postmodern theological political insights. Perhaps
such a dialogue between the former and the latter
might enlarge the prospects of a global anarchic
humanity that has of late come into serious jeopardy.
Unless the political can once again find its ethical
source, unless international law can rediscover
justice, unless the state can reclaim the anarchic
possibilities in democracy, unless we can peer into
the face of the Other and affirm the impossibility of
the Other's murder, then surely this "War on
Terrorism" and all of its elicited responses, is just
one of many terrors yet to come. I will also add that
unless academics of the new left -- post Marxist, post
deconstructive, post orthodox, or whatever -- venture
out past the margins of "high theory" and discover new
modes of engaging the world politically, and not just
re-presenting it in another overly-determined
conceptualisation within the academy, then our gulf
between academe and the popular world will widen, no
matter how much one may want to resist such

In short, I have tried to signal how a leftist,
anarchic politics may function as a theoretical model
for political action by mapping the transit from the
aesthetic demand of the Levinasian Other in me, to my
enactment of the political decision in the public
sphere of civic life. That is to say, politics does
not reduce, in the first instance, only to pure
praxis. Accordingly, any consideration of
globalisation as a kind of post nationalism will
always boomerang back to a discussion of aesthetic
transcendence, whatever the form. In other words, our
collective human problem at the dawn of another
millennium is to once again rearticulate the "source"
of our humanity, to oppose all totalities who wish to
transgress it and, against all muscular nationalisms
that may rise up, to affirm anarchy as perhaps one
political enactment open to encounter that which is
the Other. For only when we are able to look into the
face of even our enemy and affirm their humanity will
the possibility of a global human community come
within reach.


Works Cited

Critchley, Simon. Ethics, Politics, Subjectivity.
London: Verso Books, 1999.


Derrida, Jacques. Specters of Marx: The State of the
Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International,
Trans. Peggy Kamuf. London: Routledge, 1994.


Levinas, Emmanuel. Entre Nous: Thinking-of-the-Other.
Trans. M. Smith and B. Harshav, New York: Columbia
University Press, 1998.


Levinas, Emmanuel. Otherwise than Being or Beyond
Essence. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1998.
Originally published as Autrement qu'être, Dordrecht,
Netherlands: M. Nijhoff, 1974.


Levinas, Emmanuel. Totality and Infinity: an Essay on
Exteriority. Trans. Alphonso Lingis. Pittsburgh:
Duquesne University Press, 1969. Originally published
as Totalité et Infini, The Hague, Netherlands: M.
Nijhoff, 1961.


Milbank, John, Catherine Pickstock and Graham Ward,
eds. Radical Orthodoxy. London: Routledge, 1999.


Mouffe, Chantal, ed. Deconstruction and Pragmatism:
Simon Critchley, Jacques Derrida, Ernesto Laclau and
Richard Rorty, London: Routledge, 1996. 


1Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on
Exteriority, trans. Alphonso Lingis, Pittsburgh:
Duquesne University Press, 1969, pg. 43. (Hereafter
abbreviated as TI). 
2Levinas, TI, 27. 
3Levinas, TI, 43. 
4For Heidegger, the hermeneutical experience of Dasein
has a double structure, which can be articulated as
the gesticulation between inauthenticity and
authenticity, between the everyday mundane
particularities of life and the momentary mastery of
that everyday. This is the fundamental structure of
aletheia, that is, truth as concealment-unconcealment
and as Dasein's projection of itself as "thrown
throwing off." Self-knowledge and actualisation, for
Dasein, occurs in the tortured dialectic between
being-in-the-world with das man -- something
inauthentic and forgetful -- and self mastery over the
forgetfulness of the everyday where Dasein glimpses
its destiny against the horizon of finitude. The point
to be made here is that Dasein, the post metaphysical
account of the Heideggerian subject, is the origin and
return of the dialectic between authenticity and
inauthenticity. In other words, Dasein has become the
totality in which the hermeneutical circle experiences
its on going dialectic, that is, the hermeneutical
circle has become a totalising ontology and Dasein its
embodied master. In this way, Dasein possesses an
extremely robust consciousness in which all things
find there beginning and end. The hermeneutical
circle, at least in Heidegger's thinking, is closed.
See Simon Critchley, "Enigma Variations: An
Interpretation of Heidegger's Sein und Zeit," in
Ratio, Vol. XV, No. 2, June 2002. I have benefited
greatly from Critchley's description of what I am
calling the ontological closure of the Heideggerian
self. In Critchley's own words: "Heidegger describes
thrown projection as an enigma [...]After considering
the meaning and etymology of the word "enigma", I
trace its usage in Sein und Zeit, and try and show how
and why the relations between Heidegger's central
conceptual pairings -- state-of-mind (Befindlichkeit)
and understanding (Verstehen), thrownness and
projection, facticity and existentiality -- are
described by Heidegger as enigmatic. My thesis is that
at the heart of Sein und Zeit, that is, at the heart
of the central claim of the Dasein-analytic as to the
temporal character of thrown-projective
being-in-the-world, there lies an enigmatic apriori.
That is to say, there is something resiliently opaque
at the basis of the constitution of Dasein's
being-in-the-world which both resists phenomenological
description and which, I shall claim, is that in
virtue of which the phenomenologist describes." pg.
154. It is this enigmatic dialectic that Critchley is
exploring which I see as the ontological closure of
subjectivity and it is this that I see Levinas's
philosophy in reaction against. Or again, "Dasein is
always sucked into the turbulence of its own
projection. I imagine it is a little like driving a
car without a wind-screen: the faster you drive, the
greater the resistance. Dasein is the name of a
recoiling movement that unfolds only to fold back on
itself. Its existentiality, its projective
being-ahead-of-itself, is determined through and
through by facticity, it is always already thrown in a
world, and in a world, moreover, ontically determined
in terms of fallenness: the tranquillised bustle of
das Man ('the one' or 'the they'). pg 155. 
5I am indebted to the insights of Jens Zimmerman for
the idea that Levinasian transcendence is that
infinity which breaks open the closure of the
Heideggerian/Gadamerian hermeneutical circle. 
6Levinas, TI, 51. 
7Levinas, TI, 51. 
8Levinas, TI, 53. 
9Levinas, TI, 187. 
10Levinas, TI, 191. 
11Levinas, TI, 191. 
12Levinas, TI, 192. 
13Levinas, TI, 192. 
14Levinas, TI, 192. 
15Levinas, TI, 192. 
16Levinas, TI, 193. 
17Levinas, TI, 193. 
18Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the
Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International,
Trans. Peggy Kamuf, London: Routledge, 1994, xix. 
19Derrida, Specters, 184. 
20Derrida, Specters, xix. 
21Simon Critchley, Ethics, Politics and Subjectivity,
London: Verso Books, 1999, pg. 99. (Hereafter
abbreviated as EPS). 
22Derrida, Specters, 90. "A deconstructive thinking,
the one that matters to me here, has always pointed
out the irreducibility of affirmation and therefore of
promise, as well as the undeconstructibility of a
certain idea of justice (dissociated here from law)." 
23Derrida, Specters, 23. 
24Simon Critchley, "The Hypothesis, the Context, the
Messianic, the Political, The Economic, the
Technological: On Derrida's Spectres of Marx" in EPS
pgs. 143-182. 
25That is to say, one might regard the aesthetics of
Derridean politics as in need of hegemonisation. In
other words, Critchley's project of hegemonising the
left will chart the movement from social theory (the
aesthetics of Derrida's "New International") to social
praxis (Critchley's political decision).
Hegemonisation can be thought of as the creation of
certain material and cultural conditions whereby some
idea, theory or ideology might be rendered normative
in a given historical context. 
26Derrida, Specters, 183. 
27Derrida, Specters, 85. 
28Derrida, Specters, 84. Karl Marx was a proponent of
the state inasmuch as the state existed as the means
by which its own exhaustion would be realised making
way for his notion of the post national "Communist
International": that idealistic political space where
perfect harmony and equality would be embodied by all.

29Derrida, Specters, 85. 
30Derrida, Specters, 102. 
31Simon Critchley, "Deconstruction and Pragmatism" in
EPS, 100. 
32Critchley, EPS, 100. 
33Critchley, EPS, 101. 
34Critchley, EPS, 262. 
35Critchley, EPS, 263. 
36For a terse account of Levinas's conception of
"non-intentional consciousness" see "Non intentional
Consciousness" in Emmanuel Levinas, Entre Nous:
Thinking-of-the-Other, trans. M. Smith and B. Harshav,
New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. 
37Critchley, EPS, 263. 
38Critchley, EPS, 275. 
39Critchley, EPS, 276. 
40Critchley, EPS, 277. 
41Critchley, EPS, 277. 
42Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being or Beyond
Essence, Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1998.
"The notion of anarchy we are introducing here has a
meaning prior to the political (or antipolitical)
meaning currently attributed to it. It would be
self-contradictory to set it up as a principle (in the
sense that anarchists understand it). Anarchy cannot
be sovereign like an arche. It can only disturb the
State -- but in a radical way, making possible moments
of negation without any affirmation. The State then
cannot set itself up as a Whole. But, on the other
hand, anarchy can be stated. Yet disorder has an
irreducible meaning, as refusal of synthesis." p 194,
n. 3. 
43Critchley, EPS, 282. 
44Critchley, EPS, 282. 
45Critchley, EPS, 282. 
46Milbank, Ward and Picstock (eds), Radical Orthodoxy,
London: Routledge, 1999. See especially pages 194-198 
47Simon Critchley, EPS, see especially pages 282-283
in "The Other's Decision in Me: What are the Politics
of Friendship?" 
48William Cavanaugh, "The City" in Radical Orthodoxy,
pg. 194. 
49Cavanaugh, The City, 194. 
50Emmanuel Levinas, trans. Alphonso Lingis, Totality
and Infinity: an Essay on Exteriority, (Pittsburgh:
Duquesne University Press, 1969.) See especially
pgs187-219 in "Sensibility and the Face" and "Ethics
and the Face." 
51Though Alphonso Lingis, in his translator's preface
(pg. 24) to Totality and Infinity notes "With the
author's permission, we are translating "autrui" (the
personal Other, the you) by "Other," and "autre" by
"other." In doing so, we regrettably sacrifice the
possibility of reproducing the author's use of capital
or small letters with both these terms in the French
text," my position regarding Critchley's rendering of
the Levinasian Other in the lower case makes a
different point, namely, his reserve regarding the
possibilities of the Other as the infinite opening up
onto the ineffable, the sublime, that is,
transcendence. In Critchley's own words, the
difference is simply found in Levinas's inconsistent
prose: "Levinas makes a distinction between two forms
of otherness, distinguished by autre and autrui in
French, which are sometimes capitalized and sometimes
not in Levinas's rather unsystematic prose style."
Critchley, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Levinas,
(CUP 2002), pg 16. 
52Critchley, EPS, 283. 
Cavanaugh, The City, 195. 
54Cavanaugh, The City, 196. 
55The Canadian Oxford Dictionary with reference to the
Latin root religio. 
56Notre Dame University On-line Latin Lexicon. 

Floyd B. Dunphy is completing an interdisciplinary PhD
in the departments of English, Architecture and
Comparative Literatures at the University of British
Columbia, Vancouver. His articles have appeared in
journals such as Symposium: Journal of the Canadian
Society for Hermeneutics and Postmodern Thought and
Comparative Literature. He can be reached at 

(the original essay can be found at but you may have to
go through a library computer to access it...)

===="Being at one is god-like and good, but human, too human, the 
     Which insists there is only the One, one country, one truth and
         one way."

- Friedrich Hölderlin, 1799

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