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Figuring being-in-common: Jean-Luc Nancy and the ‘retrait du politique’

Ellison, Matthew Samuel; (2018) Figuring being-in-common: Jean-Luc Nancy and the ‘retrait du politique’. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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This thesis offers a study of the question of the figure in the political writings of Jean-Luc Nancy. For Nancy the figure is the aesthetic means by which philosophy – and in the modern age, the totalising impulse of the subject – has sought to realise itself in and as politics. At the same time, Nancy argues that the contemporary polarities of attachment to and suspicion of figural instances of the common – identities, images, symbols, representations – operate within one and the same way of conceiving figuration. The task of philosophy is instead to articulate the ontological demand of being-in-common that Nancy claims is brought to light by the retrait du politique. Many critics have charged Nancy with privileging the fact of co-existence, which exposes politics to a radical indeterminacy, to such an extent that in his work politics ultimately disappears altogether. While certain commentators have more recently taken issue with this reading and insisted on the necessity of political figuration in Nancy’s thought, what remains unclear in these accounts is how such a figuration is to be thought. This question remains obscure and underdeveloped in Nancy’s own work too, perhaps for good reason, since he is wary of lapsing into the philosophical gesture of proposing figures that represent the common as a whole. Nevertheless, as I show, Nancy’s broader work contains resources to develop a minimal conception of the figuration of being-in-common, such that what is figured is the existential retrait by which politics is possible in the first place and which resists the production of a common being. If, as Nancy believes, the era of the effectuation of philosophy as the political (figure) is decisively over, for reasons both practical and theoretical, then such a thinking of figuration might constitute a way of reconceiving the relation between philosophy and politics.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Figuring being-in-common: Jean-Luc Nancy and the ‘retrait du politique’
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10048510
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