Democracy against the state

Has anyone read this? Looks really interesting…



3 thoughts on “Democracy against the state

  1. there’s a translation to portuguese published by my university, some people here like it a lot. when i was in my master’s i tried to go through it, was a bit too advanced for me back then though.

  2. Hey Mark,

    Based on my experience, I can confirm your simultaneously excited and hopeful exclamation that Abensour’s book is indeed interesting. In Lots of curious crossings, disconnects and converges here with Abensour. The volume you’ve highlighted is an amalgam of sorts, including: two forwards, from an Italian edition + the second French, an article lending the name “savage democracy” (and anarchism), first published in 1993 and in 2003 for the English translation. Plus, an engaging translator’s introduction by half the effort, Max Blechman, which contextualizes in short order Abensour in a complex mess of geo-historical and conceptual currents. Great footnotes too.

    The other translator, Martin Breaugh is the author of the fantastic “L’expérience plébéienne : Une histoire discontinue de la liberté politique”. Breaugh published that book under the imprint of Payot’s collection « Critique de la Politique » not coincidently directed by Abensour (and responsible for publishing much of the Adorno, Horkheimer, Habermas as well as Martin Jay, Simmel and Leo Strauss).

    Oh, before I forget. The ‘against’/’contre’ in the title does indicate some “direct and unmediated opposition between the masses and the state”. Or a ‘pure leftism’ with “an external opposition that is as radical as it is political inoperative.” As Bosteels characterizes Hardt and Negri, finds “emblematized” in Pierre Clastres and “repeated” in Abensour. (Not Bosteels as this best).

    Abensour knew Clastres and his work (as indicated through explicit text on this issue…). Abensour writes in the preface, “Democracy against (italics) the State: this title is deliberately paradoxical in the literal sense of the term.” And as the subtitle of the book indicates, Marx has his long (ongoing) moment. But not precisely any of the various Marx’s of Abensour’s intellectual contexts (whether Althusser’s readings or the dead beaten horse by the late 1990s when the book was first published)…

    This has become really rather long, so I’ll more or less stop here. Abensour reads the almost not young Marx’s 1843 Critique of Hegel’s Rechtsphilosophie with all sorts of drmocracy. And where ‘der politische Staat untergehe’ has alternatively become a disappearing act, a state smash or its withering away. I guess the next line helps too, “This is coorect inasmuch as qua political state, qua constitution, it is not longer equivalent to the whole”.

    The book is good fun. Small positive doses of Rancière show up, the neglected aspects of Claude Lefort’s extended work on Machiavelli and interpretation. Absent Blanqui and William Morris (oddly one point of sustained contact between Abensour and English language scholarship via E.P. Thompson’s revised edition of his Morris books and the NLR pages), most of Abensour’s work shows up: Saint-Just, Arendt, utopianism, Etienne de La Boétie, and just a little Levinas (to have attracted Critchley’s attention). Thinking now of Michael Löwy, I guess Benjamin is absent. Alas.

    Its quite a romp and characteristic of Abensour’s work that he seems to keep coming back to / or continue working with ideas. Unlike some of his general cohort running around the world looking for places to bomb in the name of humanity and what not.

    An amusing yet conceptually precise “interview” (written) among J-L Nancy, Rancière and Abensour:

    Okay. That’s all for now. Oh, enjoyed a first pass through the Deep Down Delight of Democracy. Hope all is well and thanks for providing the odd opportunity for me to dump some stuff out of my head. I have the english and first french printing if you feel the urge while in Los Angeles next month..



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