Category Archives: Transcriptions

The Dark Side of Progress

Passagen Streams#1: The Dark Side of Progress
Critical Voices on The Corona Crisis
A Conversation with Peter Engelmann and Jean-Luc Nancy on June 10, 2020

Engelmann: Dear Guests, I welcome you to the Passagen Streams, our new online format, by which we try to give our authors a voice during the corona crisis. I would like to thank our collaborating partners, the Volksbühne Berlin, the Gessnerallee in Zurich and the Kunsthalle Vienna for the realization of this project. For our first Passagen Stream I would like to warmly welcome Jean-Luc Nancy, our long-time author and friend. He has joined us from Strasbourg.

Dear Jean-Luc, was the lockdown, which imprisons all humanity, another step towards the formation of an authoritarian state, or was it justified to contain the pandemic?

Nancy: The lockdown, as you call it, was justified. If you look at what we knew about the different things, about the possibilities, at least I believe that the core of the question is aimed at the alleged authoritarian state and I see no signs of authoritarianism of the state, no signs at all. Furthermore, these are states that had no interest in taking authoritarian measures. In fact, they have difficulties in doing so, particularly France. I believe that there is a discussion that is completely pointless.

Engelmann: Giorgio Agamben speaks of the fact that with the measures to contain the Corona crisis the threshold from humanity to barbarism has been crossed.

Nancy: The interpretation of our friend Agamben is an interpretation that is based on a prejudice that has nothing to do with the situation and that is based on the assumption that the state, the modern state, wants only one thing: to create states of exception and to transform the entire territory of the country into an extermination camp, or at least into a penal camp. I have no idea where such an interpretation comes from. I think that Agamben confuses two things here, namely the state and the technical-economic machinery that indeed controls the whole world. But when you talk about this machinery, it is not as if it wants to set up a penal camp for everyone. This machine does not want anything. It does not know what it wants even though it constantly moves forward (progresses). In any case, it is the case that the states naturally have many connections, interests, necessities tied to this machinery, but there is no conspiracy and no intentional calculation. And what is stupid is that the interpretation of Agamben names a culprit even though there is no culprit. We are all guilty. You could say with Dostoyevsky, we are all guilty and I more than anyone else. We are all part of that machinery. Continue reading


Lecture by Catherine Malabou on “TeleologiⒶ”
Transcribed from the Backdoor Broadcasting Company recording from June 9, 2017

The topic of the conference is extremely interesting, and I want to congratulate you for that. And it gave me a lot to think about. So, in the beginning I thought, I just use and old talk from my drawers on Hegel, but in fact, I decided to write something completely new, which I hope will be the basis of future work.

Why not call things by their names? Why not state it radically? The absolute other of teleology is anarchy. There cannot be any sustainable intermediary position. As it seems, it is either teleology or anarchy. If we are to take seriously the lessons of postmodernity, which is all about the ends of the ends, if we are to take seriously the conclusions of the different deconstructions of metaphysics, if we acknowledge the collapse of socialism, if we refuse to define living beings as finalized organisms, if we accept to take for granted that there cannot exist something like a historical, moral, political or natural telos, we then need to identify the space opened by such a non-existence as that of anarchy. As French philosopher of anarchy, Vivian Garcia affirms in his book “For anarchists all teleology is vain.”
The three principle domains where teleology is supposed to or has been supposed to operate are ontology, politics, and biology. How is anarchy at work in these three domains secretly or overtly dismantling their orientations? This is what I intend to explore here. The immediate problem that such an exploration finds itself confronted with, is that first, after Nietzsche and even more with Heidegger who are the first philosophers to challenge the authority of ontological or metaphysical teleology, second, after the transition accomplished by libertarian radical political movements from traditional anarchism to what is now called post-anarchism, third, after the clear Darwinian affirmation of the biological real that natural selection is devoided of any goal or direction, that never was a coherent, consistent elaboration of the concept of anarchy able to hold these three dimensions together.
We are still currently in need of a rigorous determination first of the kind of ontology, second the kind of practical orientation, and third the kind of significant approach to life that would really allow us to genuinely to inhabit a world, to inhabit a non-teleological world. In other terms, anarchy however explicitly conceptually at work in the three domains, again, of philosophy, politics, and science, or biology is still in the shadow and this even in anarchism itself.
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