At this point, I will conclude by returning to the event that is spreading across the world at the present time (let me say it again, October 2001) and especially across the Western world and along its edges, upon its internal and external confines (if there are any longer any external confines), taking on all the traits of an unleashing of passion. It is self-evident that figures of passion—whether that of an All-Powerful God or that of a Liberty that is no less theurgic—cover up and reveal by their confronted gestures everything that one knows about the extortion, the exploitation, the manipulation that the present movement of the world is displaying, allowing to unfold. But it is not enough to unmask, even though that is necessary at the outset. What must also be considered is that these figures of passion do not happen along by accident to occupy an empty space: that empty space corresponds to a truth of community. The call to a wrathful god, as much as the affirmation, ‘In God we trust’, instrumentalises in a symmetrical fashion a need, a desire, an anxiety of the being-together. This call and this affirmation each renews being-together as a work—at the one time a heroic gesture, an impressive spectacle, an insatiable trade. In doing so, these two actions ensure the revelation of the secret all the while withholding its spark. In truth, they mask its secret, and quite precisely beneath the all too avowable name of ‘God’. It falls to us to think from this starting point: without god or master, without common substance, what is the secret of ‘community’ or being-with?

☛ “The Confronted Community” by Jean-Luc Nancy, tr. by Amanda Macdonald (Postcolonial Studies, vol. 6, no 1, p. 33, 2003). Originally published as La Communauté affrontée, Paris: Galilée, pp. 48-50, November 2001. © 2001, Éditions Galilée

Jean-Luc Nancy wrote this short essay on October 15, 2001, a little more than a month after the September 11 attacks. It was first published in French on November 2001. Below is the original French version:

À ce point, je conclurai en rejoignant l’événement qui se propage aujourd’hui (je le redis, octobre 2001) à travers le monde et particulièrement à travers le monde occidental et sur ses bords, sur ses confins internes et externes (s’il en est encore d’externes), en prenant tous les traits d’un déchaînement passionnel. Il va de soi que les figures de la passion ― qu’elles soient celle d’un Dieu Tout-Puissant ou celle d’une Liberté d’ailleurs non moins théurigique ― recouvrent et révèlent de leurs mimiques affrontées tout ce que l’on sait des extorsions, des exploitations, des manipulations que déploie le mouvement actuel du monde. Mais il ne suffit pas d’ôter les masques, bien que cela soit tout d’abord nécessaire. Il faut aussi considérer que ces figures passionnelles ne viennent pas par hasard occuper une place vide: cette place est celle d’une vérité de la communauté. L’appel à un dieu courroucé ou l’affirmation «In God we trust» instrumentalisent de manière symétrique un besoin, un désir, une angoisse de l’être-ensemble. Ils en font de nouveau une oeuvre ― à la fois un geste héroïque, un spectacle imposant, un trafic insatiable. Ce faisant, ils assurent révéler le secret tout en lui gardant son éclat. En vérité, ils masquent ce secret, et précisément sous le nom trop avouable de «Dieu». Il nous revient de penser à partir de là: sans dieu ni maître, sans substance commune, quel est le secret de la communauté, ou de l’être-avec?

Previously: “The Confronted Community”

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