In this contribution, Balibar follows his seminal 1993 work applying the notion of the transindividual to Spinoza’s work, to produce a broader history of thinking the transindividual that brings both Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud into relation with Spinoza, devoting a section to each of these thinkers. Balibar positions the notion of the transindividual, here, as a solution to the opposing ontological errors of philosophical individualism that fails to attend to the social constitution of the individual, and the (...) social organicism that reduces the individual to the effect of larger forces. For Balibar, following Gilbert Simondon, the individual is to be understood as always already extending beyond themselves. (shrink)
At the beginning of his essay ‘Philosophies of the Transindividual: Spinoza, Marx, Freud’, Balibar  hints at some reasons why he will not be dealing with Simondon, despite agreeing with the latter’s program of going beyond ‘the metaphysics of the subject and of substance’ and towards an ‘ontology of relations’. In what follows I would like to outline Simondon’s concept of transindividuality and spell out more clearly why Balibar cannot follow Simondon’s trajectory. At the same time, I suggest (...) a number of socio-political approaches that a specifically Simondonian concept of transindividuality opens up. (shrink)
Peirce nurtured a lifelong interest in the mathematics, metaphysics, and logic of time. For him, time was the primal form of continuum, and he studied it as such. That study is fundamentally connected to Peirce’s semiotic and metaphysical exploration of the continuum of consciousness. In this paper I will use two successive approaches to answer the question “To what extent does the flow of time regulate the flow of signs and the flow of signs influence or determine the flow of (...) time?” I will first examine Peirce’s views concerning the connection between time, the flow of perception, and the emergence of perceptual judgments. I will then apply several resulting distinctions to show how they illuminate the mutual determination of time and semiosis in Peirce’s mature semiotic theory. I will finish with considerations about how Peirce ended up viewing the genealogy of both time and logic in relation to the birth of a semiotic universe. (shrink)
The article considers some explicit or implicit and yet fundamental references to Althusser in Balibar’s text about transindividuality. Of particular significance is the attempt to think of an articulation of ideology and the unconscious which brings into play the three authors Balibar evokes—Spinoza, Marx, and Freud—so as to reactivate them beyond Simondon’s own theory of transindividuality.
The Spinoza party -- The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus: a democratic manifesto -- The Tractatus Politicus: a science of the state -- The Ethics: a political anthropology -- Politics and communication.
This response focuses on Balibar’s method of thinking transindividuality through multiple figures, in their similarities as well as their productive differences. His essay ‘Philosophies of the Transindividual: Spinoza, Marx, Freud’ combines the three titular figures in order to better think the multifaceted idea of ‘classical’ transindividuality. Balibar’s method combines the three but nonetheless maintains their dissimilarities as real differences. This response attempts to test or apply that method in two ways. The first application links Balibar’s analysis of (...) Freud’s hypnotic leader with a theme Balibar does not here discuss: wonder’s connection to superstition in Spinoza. At the level of their effects, superstitious wonder and hypnosis are nearly identical transindividual processes which lead to affective mass formation. However, their causes are quite distinct. This response details the similar effects and different causes, then asks the question: does their difference render them irreconcilable or complementary? Given the prominent role Spinoza plays in Balibar’s work, and the strong overall equivalence of wonder and hypnosis, this first application of Balibar’s method of multiple combination likely presents a complementarity rather than a conflict. This response’s second application, attempting to integrate another figure into the transindividual multiple, presents greater difficulties: what role, if any, could Foucault play in Balibar’s transindividuality? With Foucault, the tensions or differences perhaps amount to fundamental and thoroughgoing incompatibilities. However, combining Foucault with ‘classical’ transindividuality potentially extends and deepens each. This response concludes with examples of these problematic tensions as well as possibly fruitful combinations. (shrink)
This article is a critique of Étienne Balibar's philosophical orientation towards Europe, construed as both an ideal and an institutional reality, in light of recent European crises. I argue that Balibar's commitment to Europe follows from his longstanding political-philosophical preference for a compromise position between political utopianism and political realism, but that this compromise is ultimately incoherent, combining the ungroundedness of utopianism with the undue self-limitation of realism.
Arendt famously pointed out that only citizenship actually confers rights in the modern world. To be a citizen is to be one who has the ‘right to have rights’. Arendt’s analysis emerges out of her recognition that there is a contradiction between this way of conferring rights as tied to the nation-state system and the more philosophical and ethical conceptions of the ‘rights of man’ and notions of ‘human rights’ like those championed by thinkers such as Immanuel Kant who understands (...) rights belonging universally to all humans as a result of facts having to do with what it means to be human. Étienne Balibar, in his recent work, adds to this by pointing out that there is a contradictory movement between this universalizing tendency in philosophical thought and the production of the citizen-subject out of the exclusionary acts of law and force. In this article, I put Balibar’s work in dialogue with the contemporary moment where we are witnessing the re-emergence of a nativist right populism. I use Balibar to help distinguish between three modes of political existence that we find today. Two of these three are more or less well understood. They are the non-citizen, who has no – or almost no – rights in a given nation-state and the citizen who enjoys the full benefit of the rights a given nation-state has to give. The third category is what I term the ‘nominal citizen’. This last category is somewhere in between full citizenship and non-citizenship. Individuals in this last category have rights in name but are largely unable to exercise them. Understanding this last category can, among other things, help us at least partially make sense of the return of right populism and also help us see the ways in which the modern category of citizenship, with its contradictions as elaborated by Balibar, can provide a means for resistance. (shrink)
Most readers of Louis Althusser first enter his work through his writings on ideology. In an important new essay Étienne Balibar, friend and colleague of Althusser, offers an original reading of Althusser’s idea of ideology, drawing on both recently published posthumous writing and Althusser's work on the Piccolo Teatro di Milano. Balibar’s essay uncovers the intricate workings of interpellation through Althusser’s essays on the theater. If debates on dialectical materialism belong to a distant history, Balibar suggests, the (...) question of ideology remains crucial for thinking the present. The issue includes commentaries on Balibar’s essay from five influential scholars who engage critically with Althusser’s philosophy: Judith Butler, Banu Bargu, Adi Ophir, Warren Montag, and Bruce Robbins. This issue reanimates Althusser’s concept of ideology as an analytic tool for contemporary cultural and political critique. (shrink)
This essay examines Étienne Balibar's readings of Jacques Derrida and deconstruction. The text is framed as a review of two books by Balibar: 'Equaliberty' and 'Violence and Civility'. After describing the context of those readings, I propose a broader reflection on the ambiguous relationship between 'post-Marxism' and 'deconstruction', focusing on concepts such as 'violence', 'cruelty', 'sovereignty' and 'property'. I also raise methodological questions related to the 'use' of deconstructive notions in political theory debates.
A collection of Essays over the last 20 years, exploring different dimensions of the philosophical debate on "subjecthood" and "subjectivity" in Modernity, as it was framed by the "Controversy on the subject" from the 1960's, and showing how it is now continued in a "controversy on the Universal.".
Major difficulties for readers of Foucault’s The Order of Things concern the historical function and the logical construction of the episteme. Our proposal is to link it with another notion, the ‘point of heresy’, less frequently addressed. This leads to asserting that irreconcilable dilemmas are in fact determined by the type of rationality governing the emergence of common objects of knowledge. It also introduces a possibility of ‘walking on two roads’: a dialogical adventure within rationality. Foucault is not content with (...) either accepting or rejecting the ‘transcendental’ question ‘What is Man?’: with the help of quasi-transcendental categories performing a ‘transdisciplinary’ function, he wants to reach the ‘heretical’ point where anthropology becomes historicity within the horizon of finitude. (shrink)
In this response, while agreeing with Balibar’s substantive positive position, I take issue with the way he situates it. Specifically, he casts it as a via negativa in relation to all previously existing thought. I suggest that it would be more accurate to say he is positioning the notion of the transindividual as a via media between two alleged extremes, individualism and organicism. I argue that the idea that there is an opposite and equal error to individualism is mistaken, (...) and that in actuality Balibar’s concept of the transindividual is not a radical departure from a long history of anti-individualism. (shrink)
The paper argues that a specific "concept of the political" can be reconstructed in Arendt by bringing together elements coming from Origins of Totalitarianism, Part II , from The Human Condition and On Revolution , and from On Disobedience . These propositions produce a singular variety of "institutionalism", which involves a "groundless" politics of Human Rights , and also helps clarifying the thesis on the "banality of evil" in Eichmann in Jerusalem: the sovereign tautology "law is law" is the root (...) of voluntary servitude. To say that we have a choice between becoming Eichmanns or taking the risk of civil disobedience is too quick; and to suppose that a state where civil disobedience becomes recognized would be immune of the danger of totalitarian transformation is an illusion, but as an ideal type, these formulations may encapsulate what Arendt's "concept of the political" hints at. (shrink)