inoperative community

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Jean-Luc Nancy (b. 1940)

Martin Heidegger (1889—1976) German philosopher


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A theory of community put forward by French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy which rejects the idea that community can be produced through work. By inoperative (‘désoeuvrée’) Nancy does not mean dysfunctional or failing, but rather a spontaneous or ‘unworked’ inclination to come together that has no object or purpose other than itself. Community does not confer a higher purpose upon its constituents, Nancy claims. It does not, as religious, quasi-religious, and metaphysical philosophers argue (he has in mind Martin Heidegger, but one could also name Alain Badiou), transform humans from animals into men and women. The coming together is not motivated by individual desire or collective insecurity, but inheres in the human situation as a passion for sharing. This model of community is resolutely set in the present and Nancy explicitly rejects those models of community (particularly Marx-inspired models) that situate community as either a lost idyll or future ideal that can never be realized.

Further Reading:

J-L. Nancy La communauté désoeuvrée (1986) translated as The Inoperative Community (1991).B. C. Hutchens Jean-Luc Nancy and the Future of Philosophy (2005).I. James The Fragmentary Demand (2006).

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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