Political Theory 32 (2):172-185 (2004)

Simon Critchley
The New School
This essay attempts to sharpen significantly the critical debate around Levinas’s work by focussing on the question of politics, which is, it is argued, Levinas’s Achilles’heel. Five problems in Levinas’s treatment of politics are identified and discussed: fraternity, monotheism, and rocentrism, the family, and Israel. It is argued that Levinas’s ethics is terribly compromised by his conception of politics. In order to save Levinasian ethics from this compromise, two possibilities are explored: first, to follow Derrida’s separation of ethical form from political content in his recent reading of Levinas, which allows for a notion of political invention linked to ethical responsibility, and second, to link Levinas’s conception of ethics to what is called in the essay the anarchistic disturbanceof politics. In conclusion, this anarchistic experience of ethics in linked to a quite different understanding of politics as the dissensual space of democracy.
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DOI 10.1177/0090591703261771
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