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dedicated here to the unfinished work

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  • jaime.denada
    Now, the third question has to do with democracy: why the word democracy in democracy to come , which I repeat again and again - because democracy is a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 3, 2007
      Now, the third question has to do with democracy: why the
      word 'democracy' in 'democracy to come', which I repeat again and
      again - because democracy is a strange name for a regime; from the
      beginning it was difficult to locate democracy among the spectrum of
      regimes, and everyone has always had difficulty with assigning a
      place to democracy. Democracy means, minimally, equality - and here
      you see why friendship is an important key, because in friendship,
      even in classical friendship, what is involved is reciprocity,
      equality, symmetry, and so on and so forth. There is no democracy
      except as equality among everyone - I'll try to make this everyone
      more specific in a moment - but an equality which can be calculated,
      countable: you count the number of units, of voters, of voices, of
      citizens. On the other hand, you have to reconcile this demand for
      equality with the demand for singularity, with respect for the Other
      as singular, and that is an aporia. How can we, at the same time,
      take into account the equality of everyone, justice and equity, and
      nevertheless take into account and respect the heterogeneous
      singularity of everyone?

      From the beginning, democracy has been associated with values, with
      axioms, which belong to this canonical concept of friendship: that is
      brotherhood, family, roots in a territory (autochthony), the nation-
      state depending on a territory, soil and place, and so on. Now it is
      possible to think of a democracy which could be, if not adjusted,
      then at least articulated with another concept of friendship, another
      experience of friendship which wouldn't simply be dependent on or
      subordinate to what I call the prevalent canonical concept of
      friendship (phallogocentric, male, and so on and so forth), and this
      is what I'm trying to elaborate in the Politics of Friendship. A
      democracy which is so strange that it is no longer simply reducible
      to citizenship, to the organisation of a regime for a given society
      as nation-state. I've nothing simply against the nation-state, I've
      tried to understand what today goes beyond the borders of the nation-
      state, and I'm now slowly approaching the last question of
      hospitality. What have been, what are and what will be the limits of
      the problematic of the nation-state? Is it possible that beyond the
      nation-state the concept of democracy keep not only a meaning but a
      force of injunction? Can we think of a democracy beyond the limits of
      the classical political model, of the nation-state and its borders?
      Is it possible to think differently this double injunction of
      equality for everyone and respect for singularity beyond the limits
      of classical politics and classical friendship?

      It is in the name of this that we could try to question the canonical
      concept of friendship. Why would we do that in the first place, why
      are we interested in questioning, deconstructing if you want, the
      canonical concept of friendship? It is in the name of democracy. I
      think that there is inequality and repression in the traditional
      concept of friendship such as we inherit it. It is in the name of
      more democracy that I think we have to unlock, to open, to displace
      this prevalent concept, and this is not my initiative, not the
      initiative of someone operating in a deconstructive manner; it is
      what is happening today. Today this model of brotherhood, man,
      friendship is being deconstructed in the world. What I say about the
      nation-state is what is happening today in the world. This so-called
      deconstruction is simply what is happening in a more or less visible
      way, in an unequal way with what is called the 'inequality of
      development'; because today if you're interested in this you can see
      how powerful the concept of fraternity still is: in the rhetoric of
      politicians, fraternity comes back again and again, and sometimes it
      is very respectable, but if you look for the implications of this
      concept of fraternity you may have questions.

      So when I speak of a 'democracy to come', I don't mean a future
      democracy, a new regime, a new organisation of nation-states
      (although this may be hoped for) but I mean this 'to come': the
      promise of an authentic democracy which is never embodied in what we
      call democracy. This is a way of going on criticising what is
      everywhere given today under the name of democracy in our societies.
      This doesn't mean that 'democracy to come' will be simply a future
      democracy correcting or improving the actual conditions of the so-
      called democracies, it means first of all that this democracy we
      dream of is linked in its concept to a promise. The idea of a promise
      is inscribed in the idea of a democracy: equality, freedom, freedom
      of speech, freedom of the press - all these things are inscribed as
      promises within democracy. Democracy is a promise. That is why it is
      a more historical concept of the political - it's the only concept of
      a regime or a political organisation in which history, that is the
      endless process of improvement and perfectibility, is inscribed in
      the concept. So, it's a historical concept through and through, and
      that's why I call it 'to come': it is a promise and will remain a
      promise, but 'to come' means also not a future but that it has 'to
      come' as a promise, as a duty, that is 'to come' immediately. We
      don't have to wait for future democracy to happen, to appear, we have
      to do right here and now what has to be done for it. That's an
      injunction, an immediate injunction, no delay. Which doesn't mean
      that it will take the form of a regime; but if we dissociate
      democracy from the name of a regime we can then give this
      name 'democracy' to any kind of experience in which there is
      equality, justice, equity, respect for the singularity of the Other
      at work, so to speak - then it's democracy here and now; but of
      course this implies that we do not confine democracy to the political
      in the classical sense, or to the nation-state, or to citizenship.

      We have today, for many reasons that we all know, to think of a
      democratic relationship not only with other citizens but also with
      non-citizens. That's a modern experience; you know that between the
      wars, after the first World War, already there were in Europe -
      Hannah Arendt paid special attention to this - huge crowds of people
      not even in exile, not even deported but displaced persons who were
      not considered citizens, and, according to Hannah Arendt, that is one
      of the origins of what happened in the second World War. This non-
      citizenship of people we have to care for, to welcome, urges us,
      compels us, to think of a democratic relationship beyond the borders
      of the nation-state. That is the invention of new practices, new
      international law, the transformation of the sovereignty of the
      state. We all have examples of this situation today with what are
      called non-governmental interventions, everything which calls for
      interventions, for political initiatives, which should not depend on
      the sovereignty of the state, that is, finally, citizenship. In fact
      we know - that's why the task is so enormous and endless - we know
      today that even within international organisations and institutions,
      the sovereignty of the state is a rule, and that in the name of
      international law some nation-states more powerful than others make
      the law. Not only because this international law is basically a
      European law in the tradition of Europe and law, but because these
      more powerful nation-states make the law, that is they in fact rule
      the international order. So, there are a number of urgent problems
      which require precisely this transformation of the concept of the
      political, of the concept of democracy, and of the concept of
      friendship. Now, this accounts to some extent for the reasons I
      choose the theme of hospitality as a privileged theme in my recent
      seminars and publications.

      I have to - and that's an unconditional injunction - I have to
      welcome the Other whoever he or she is unconditionally, without
      asking for a document, a name, a context, or a passport. That is the
      very first opening of my relation to the Other: to open my space, my
      home - my house, my language, my culture, my nation, my state, and
      myself. I don't have to open it, because it is open, it is open
      before I make a decision about it: then I have to keep it open or try
      to keep it open unconditionally. But of course this unconditionality
      is a frightening thing, it's scary. If we decide everyone will be
      able to enter my space, my house, my home, my city, my state, my
      language, and if we think what I think, namely that this is entering
      my space unconditionally may well be able to displace everything in
      my space, to upset, to undermine, to even destroy, then the worst may
      happen and I am open to this, the best and the worst. But of course
      since this unconditional hospitality may lead to a perversion of this
      ethics of friendship, we have to condition this unconditionality, to
      negotiate the relation between this unconditional injunction and the
      necessary condition, to organise this hospitality, which means laws,
      rights, conventions, borders of course, laws on immigration and so on
      and so forth. We all have, especially in Europe, on both sides of the
      channel, this problem of immigration, to what extent we should
      welcome the Other. So, in order to think of a new politics of
      hospitality, a new relationship to citizenship, to have to re-think
      all these problems that I have mentioned in the last few minutes.

      Let me say just one more thing before I stop on this tradition of the
      concept of hospitality, given what I have said about citizenship and
      non-citizenship. We could simply dream of a democracy which would be
      cosmopolitical, a cosmopolitan form. There is a tradition of
      cosmopolitanism, and if we had time we could study this tradition,
      which comes to us from, on the one hand, Greek thought with the
      Stoics, who have a concept of the 'citizen of the world'. You also
      have St. Paul in the Christian tradition, also a certain call for a
      citizen of the world as, precisely, a brother. St. Paul says that we
      are all brothers, that is sons of God, so we are not foreigners, we
      belong to the world as citizens of the world; and it is this
      tradition that we could follow up until Kant for instance, in whose
      concept of cosmopolitanism we find the conditions for hospitality.
      But in the concept of the cosmopolitical in Kant there are a number
      of conditions: first of all you should of course welcome the
      stranger, the foreigner, to the extent that he is a citizen of
      another country, that you grant him the right to visit and not to
      stay, and there are a number of other conditions that I can't
      summarise here quickly, but this concept of the cosmopolitical which
      is very novel, very worthy of respect (and I think cosmopolitanism is
      a very good thing), is a very limited concept. Limited precisely by
      the reference to the political, to the state, to the authority of the
      state, to citizenship, and to strict control of residency and period
      of stay.

      So, I think that what I try to call a 'New International' in Spectres
      of Marx should go beyond this concept of the cosmopolitical strictly
      speaking. We have to do a lot of things, and to work of course within
      the space of the cosmopolitical, and an international law that keeps
      alive the sovereignty of the State. There is a lot to be done within
      the State and in international organisations that respect the
      sovereignty of the State, that's what we call politics today, but
      beyond this task, which is enormous, we must think and be oriented by
      something which is more than cosmopolitical, more than citizenship.
      So you see, just a few sentences before I stop, how strange is this
      itinerary calling for a new concept of democracy grounded - assuming
      this is a ground, and I'm not sure it is - grounded on this
      groundless experience of friendship, which shouldn't be limited in
      the way it has been, and a concept of democracy which would re-define
      the political not only beyond the nation-state but beyond the
      cosmopolitical itself. That of course looks like a utopian or
      very distant perspective. I don't think so. Of course there is an
      enormous distance if we think that these things have to be reached
      and concretely embodied, but we know today as soon as we open a
      newspaper that these problems are urgent and prevalent in everyday
      life. In everyday life we see that the classical concept of
      democracy, the way it inhabits all the rhetoric of politicians and
      parliament, is shaken, that we need something else. We see that the
      concept of citizenship, the concept of the border, immigration, are
      today under a terrible seismic displacement. We not only feel this:
      we can analyse this every day, so what seems to be, and is, very far
      ahead of us, is also very close to us every day, and it is an urgent
      task to re-elaborate, to re-think, to re-engage and to be committed
      differently with these issues.

      Jacques Derrida
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