Ce travail de pensée c’est imposé par un motif terrible, que l’histoire de notre siècle (puisque c’est le nôtre) ne cesse de nous tendre, au point que son rappel est aussi lassant qu’inévitable: au nom de la communauté, l’humanité ―mais tout d’abord en Europe― a fait preuve d’une capacité insoupçonnée à se détruire.
☛ “Conloquium” by Jean-Luc Nancy, first published in French as the foreword to the French translation (2000) of Roberto Esposito’s Communitas: The Origin and Destiny of Community (which itself was first published in Italian in 1998). See Communitas. Origine et destin de la communauté, tr. Nadine Le Lirzin, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, coll. Les essais du collège international de philosophie, Paris, 2000, p. 4. The full essay is available online either in HTML (thanks to Javier Pavez Muñoz) or PDF.
Here’s the official English translation:
This work of thinking is imposed on us by a terrible motif that the history of our (because it is ours) century holds out to us incessantly, to the point that the memory of it is as tiring as it is inevitable. Humanity—but first of all in Europe—has shown an unsuspected talent for self-destruction, in the name of community. (“Conloquium” by Jean-Luc Nancy, tr. by Janell Watson, The Minessota Review, Volume 2010, Number 75, Fall 2010, pp. 101-108. PDF.)
“Conloquium” is more than a simple foreword: it’s an essay in itself and, although it runs for only 8 pages, it’s remarkably rich. It offers an genealogical overview of the origin and development of the problematic ways by which we’re trying to live together in relative harmony. It also serves as an excellent introduction to the philological stakes associated with such an inquiry. Living together is not a solution, it is –always have been– a serious and urgent problem. It’s even more so when, as Nancy observes, the life in common has become an operator of death (see for example Belonging and Genocide: Hitler’s Community, 1918–1945 By Thomas Kühne, Yale University Press, 2010; a good review of this book was published recently in the German History journal: “Mass Murder and Community Building” by Frank Bajohr, vol. 30, issue 1, pp. 120-126).