Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought
December 15-16, 2006, Bremen
Hannah Arendt or Refoundation as Survival
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First I would like to give my warmest thanks to the Hannah-Arendt jury and the government of Bremen who have paid me the honor of awarding me the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought this year, upon the centennial anniversary of the philosopher’s birth.
I like to think that it is the enigmatic force of Arendt’s work that is being hailed through me: the force of being able to reach what we call a “wide” public and which I will call “opinion” in the sense that Hannah Arendt herself gave this word. Could we act today as intermediaries between, on the one hand, the experience of this woman who felt so “exposed” that she likened herself to “the junction points and concrete objectifications of life,” and on the other, this “opinion” more concerned than ever at the beginning of the third millennium, with shaking up the lines of the political contract governing men and women, in order to reconcile the authority of the bond with the unpredictability of each of us, and the plurality of the world with the life of thought attuned to judgement? My preoccupation with these concerns enlivens the gratitude I wish to express today.
Would this be because I am, in my own way, « eine Mädchen aus der Fremde », a girl from abroad (as Arendt used to refer to herself quoting Schiller)? Because my Balkan origins gave me a mixture of Judaism and Christianity that emerges at the horizon of Arendt’s thought? Because “I travel through myself” as the heroine of my last novel, Murder in Byzantium would say? Because I experience in my own way, foreignness and melancholy but also the joy required by the globalized world? Wnuld this be because, as a theoretician of language and literature and at the same time a psychoanalyst – psychoanalysis remained opaque for Hannah Arendt although her life and her work call out to it in many unexpected ways -, I try to probe the ecceitas of the quid, this singularity of thought without which we would be left with the “banality of evil” and “terror” according to the philosopher, but also “promise” and “forgiveness” whose modern version is none other than analytical interpretation when it allows us to be reborn? Would this be because my childhood and my adolescence took place in a totalitarian country and that very early on I felt a great mistrust of the hidden totalitarian tendencies of certain liberation movements of our own democracies – even feminism – and that I cannot help fearing a new version of totalitarianism emerging under the mask of fundamentalist monotheistic religions? Hannah Arendt’s name immediately came to mind for my trilogy Feminine Genius, as my ambition here was to dissociate myself from mass feminism and pay tribute to feminine creativity.
This is not the time to go into detail about my encounter with Arendt and the pathways of reflection she opened for me. I’ve already done this in the volume devoted to her : Hannah Arendt or action as birth and estrangement. These pathways continue to grow, but if I had to pick out one trait to sum up the impact of her work on me, to share with those who are discovering or rediscovering her work today, on the occasion of this award ceremony, I would call it survival: the French word survie suggests a capacity to be alive above and beyond death, but also to be above and beyond the biological life process (zöe) itself: this “survival” is for Arendt rooted in the felicity of thinking. Indeed, this seems to me to be the thread that wove through the life and work of this woman, who lived during the Shoah, one of the most tragic eras of human history. She held back from declaring a doctrine or even a system of knowledge (for which she was duly reproached!) but instead invented a thought in movement, based in experience. Drawing from the sensitive imaginary, with its likeness to narrative, she did not hesitate to judge, but mostly aimed at and succeeded in surprising. Is this not the best if not only way to rehabilitate the philosophical gesture itself – which since the time of the Greeks, has been a « thaumazein » ? To rehabilitate this gesture in the very core of the desolation which has beleaguered our modern world since it “severed ties with tradition”? But also to spark political interest and immediate action by revitalizing tension, attention and debate?
As has been often said, a permanent tension runs through Arendt’s discoveries as she dismantles, in her own manner, the metaphysics inherited from Heidegger. At first, these discoveries surprise us with their ambiguities, and later, with the openness of this experience of surprise I already pointed out: the surprise felt by the author herself, who doesn’t hide the pleasure thinking procures her, becomes the reader’s surprise as well. It succeeds in literally loosening up the impasses of subjectivity and politics – even more efficiently than the theoretical-political metalanguage of philosophers and political scientists. I am convinced that there is no other way to confront the forces of death, which are making headway today in the guise of religious extremism and the automatization of the species, than this capacity of survival (of being alive, as in sur-vie) rooted in the bliss of thinking and judging. To convince you of this, I shall look at four themes, which, through the lens of Hannah Arendt’s work, shed light on our current preoccupations:
1. Because appearing to the world structures both thought and judgment, opinion alone will conquer violence.
2. However politics of opinion could only be a possible antidote to political calculation if it rallies the practical wisdom (phronêsis) of spectators recounting and sharing “what happens”: by “risking my revelation”, I turn the political arena into a space for self-analysis, of continuous re-birth; I spur on true stories with invented ones and together we create political time at the crossroads of the past and the future.
3. If the nobility of politics resides in its capacity to reveal innovating strangeness, it would not be able to exist without the reference points and foundations, provided in the past by the triad authority-religion-tradition, and since weakened by secularization. And yet, being neither nostalgic for tradition, nor censors terrified of the risks of secularization « irreparable from this time onwards », are we capable of a refoundation? It will happen not by the revival of the very same authority, religion and traditions of the past, but by their “eternal return” in judging thought, which has the duty to unveil what is left unthought and, while offering us shelter in the old foundation, modifies it by augmenting it through new discoveries, which can give meaning to our plural lives again.
4. Lastly, Arendt raises in a manner just as unusual, the question of the Enlightenment’s responsibility in new forms of anti-Semitism. And this audacity leads her to an added tension: by carrying out the horrific analysis of the European genealogy of the Shoah, thanks to the continually reinterpreted heritage of European thought itself, the philosopher invites us to admit that “for the first time”, the struggles for freedom in Europe and Israel are « identical ». Perhaps more than ever today when facing the new forms of totalitarianism.
Therefore, in light of the history of nihilism, and while drawing inspiration from Heidegger, Arendt, this affirmative survivor, as I’ve called her, attempts a reconstruction that would transform the defeat of reason, without taking refuge in « thought which reflects on the truth of Being », nor satisfying herself with the knowledge of the senses. Rather it is a question of suggesting another thought: a thought of the world – coming from the world, applying itself to the world, constituting the world.
« It seems to me », dokei moi, I say appearing – being born – in the plurality of the world. Could we say that in the beginning there was the imagination? We would be wrong to take this “semblance” this “imaginary” for an inconsistent and easily manipulated impressionism. When I say « It seems to me » while presenting myself to the world, I’m not saying that I only exist to the gaze of the other: the other’s gaze is only the phenomenal condition, the stage where I may be seen. This birth-appearance that I am is a spectator in the reciprocity of different others that people the world. «Nothing and nobody exists in this world whose very being does not presuppose a spectator” ».
We are all spectators, and a spectator is someone who doesn’t think in the philosophical sense, but who judges. Opinion is formed by these judgements, which are not considered as truth, as well as by the feeling body that harbors them (but Arendt doesn’t dwell on the conscious and unconscious logic of the flesh). « Opinion, not truth, is the necessary basis of power. » « All government is built on opinion », declares Madison, one of the writers of the Convention of Philadelphia. By philosophically clarifying opinion, by insisting on its plurality and by anchoring it in her combat against the dominating violence of philosophy and of the political class, Arendt clarifies the meaning that the modern phenomenon of politics of opinion takes on. Let us follow her reasoning a step further.
Constituted in and by presence which is a semblance, and by binding thought to judgement, Arendt’s ²²world of plural appearance can only be an intrinsically and immediately political world, in the sense of a connection-disconnection of differences. Therefore, Arendt envisages political space and time where, as soon as it appears, “someone” opens up, introduces himself, shares of himself; this is the space and time of Öffentlichkeit, publicity and opening ( as the German language says) of the unthought, the forgotten, the repressed, the most interior, the intimate; the space and time of the public’s Becoming, of “publicity” where the unspeakable and the invisible seem straightaway signifiable. The world offers itself to those who people it so as to render them active-and-signifiable, and opinion, as Arendt sees it, is the very moment of appearance of this worldliness, of this publicity, the dawn of politics.
Concretely speaking, this plurality constitutive of the world and each of us in it allows Hannah Arendt to foresee the main problems of contemporary politics, among which figure climatic and ecological interdependence and the diversified globalization of the economy and information. But my own work leads me to insist on the consequences of her reflection on the politics of opinion as it is imposed on us today. It is not that Arendt doesn’t take great care to denounce simulation, semblances, inauthenticity, and particularly the impostures of authenticity: The original appearance, which constitutes the political, has often gone astray and the history of men has not refrained from mutilating it. Yet, Arendt likes to oppose believers of the supposedly authentic virtue beneath and above false appearances (yet again this dual world of metaphysics!), such as Robespierre whose moral austerity led to suspicion, hostility and revolutionary terrorizing, to the virtuosity of worldly existence, citing Machiavelli in passing. She does not fail to warn that political virtuosity integrates the ability to play with appearances, provided, however, there are rules to the game!
Consequently, in this demystification of political tradition and of supposedly “true” politics that Arendt proposes, there is being only in that which gives itself in the epiphany of inter homines esse : and this assertion of a reality which would only be of a phenomenal nature is neither cynical nor demagogical. She appeals to rid the political field of its guardians of “truth” and other “values” which pre-exist the interaction of different spectators/actors. I think we can read in this an invitation to denounce the pretensions of a certain political class, even the political tradition itself, made up of professionals of ideological virtue, wherever they may be situated on the political spectrum. It is a call to oppose them with nothing but elementary political courage, which consists in braving the fear to speak and act with those who “people” the public space and constitute “publicity” – the renewal, opening – of an inherently political world: the citizen is a hero par excellence: « one who has decided that fear is not what he wants to show. ».
Concerning the excessive actualizing of this ambitious dismantling of political tradition that Arendt suggests, I cannot help but raise a pragmatic question: can we take hold of the technical means offered by mediatized politics to stop demonizing the spectacle? While remaining aware of its traps which we have to continually dismantle, can we give back to this unprecedented inflation of “opinion” which is the new power of advanced democracies, this nobility proper to the politics of opinion that Arendt imbues with an unusual, unheard of meaning? Can we think when the reality and concept of people, obviously becomes an “opinion” with the drifts this mutation causes but also with the the surprising opportunities it opens up?
« Who are we ? » as opposed to « what are we ? » : such is the concern that operates as a hyphen between Arendt’s political and philosophical work, between her confrontation with metaphysics and her wager to think against the political tradition ; moreover, it is this concern which calls out to contemporary psychoanalysis. To put it differently, the « politics of opinion » - in the innovative sense with which Arendt invests this term – could only be an antidote to spectacle politics marketed today as politics of opinion, as well as to the nostalgic calls of an “awakening of peoples” –, if it is an inter-esse of creative singularities, of the « who . »
While bringing to mind the Augustinian, Scotist or Franciscan lineage of Arendt’s « who », I would like to insist above all on the amorous principle that governs it and to tie it into this other transvaluation which Freud undertakes of the founding logic of the subject of desire. For it is precisely here, with the political subject as amorous singularity, with the « who », that Arendt brushes with psychoanalysis. She does not, however, get past the threshold, but invites us nevertheless to meditate on the possible role that psychoanalysis could play in the reconstruction of the political bond.
Because the « who » is inherently political in the Arendtian sense, it is hidden more to the person than to the human multitude, or more precisely to the temporality of others’ memory. It is only revealed to the multitude of memories. This has nothing to do with an « intimate knowledge » separate from Mitsein : the foreignness of « who » only appears in the mutual « reliance » that strangely hints at … Freudian transference ! And which implicitly asks the question: « Who are you ? » To the loneliness of the Heideggerian appropriation of self, « who » responds by the narrative of his stories which « transcend simple productive activity » with extraordinary excess, certainly: but even more by the very fact that “I” talk, by the very structure of narrative and verbal transmission, that manifests my singularity: «human essence … can come into being only when life departs, leaving behind nothing but a story ».
Arendt’s passion for the singularity of « who » does not only betray the horror she feels about totalitarian massification. By rediscovering the destiny of innovative singularity in the work of Duns Scot, the woman who wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism deepens her re-evaluation of ontotheology, and brings out the Christian archeology of modern subjective liberty: its graces and its risks. The emphasis which the « Subtle Doctor» placed on «this-person-here » (haecceitas); his rejection of the primacy of the intellect over the will; the unheard of liberty that he confers on each unique person, contrary to all causality which condemns human affairs a priori to a discredited contingency. Because the roots of the intellect dig deep into intuition, will ultimately changes into love ; and lastly the Scotist beatitude creating the coalescence between thought and sensitive action that Arendt was already seeking in Greek heroism : these are only a few of the elements of Christian subjectivity which open up the way to political liberty according to Arendt. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that quite contrary to this, a cautiously guarded theology has quickly risen to condemn once again the Subtle Doctor.
A student of Jaspers, the young Arendt makes it known in her thesis on Love and Saint Augustine, defended November 28, 1928 that the subject of the political is an amorous subject. Psychoanalysis will point out that by commenting on the true « constellation of love » according to Augustine – love, desire (with its two variants, appetitus and libido) charity and lust –, Arendt advances that the carrying wave of this variety is desire. It is here that it becomes possible for the being-man to question his own being: between « not yet » and « already no longer », I became a question to myself (Quaestio mihi factus sum).
The Augustinian formulation that Arendt enjoys exploring in The Life of the Mind is dependant on this experience of life as love, which is born at the same time as the will and interiority of the human subject. She returns to this Augustinian idea, which professional thinkers and commentators of Arendt have a tendency to forget, throughout her life and up until her trilogy Thinking-Willing-Judging. I cannot but mention at this point Arendt’s famous « miracle of birth » theme : « The miracle that saves the world, the realm of human affairs, from its normal, ‘natural’ ruin is ultimately the fact of natality, in which the faculty of action is ontologically rooted. It is, in other words, the birth of new men and the new beginning, the action they are capable of by virtue of being born. Only the full experience of this capacity can bestow upon human affairs faith and hope … which Greek antiquity ignored altogether … It is this faith in and hope for the world that found perhaps its most glorious and most succinct expression in the few words with which the Gospels announced their ‘glad tidings’: ‘A child has been born unto us ». (The Human Condition, p. 247). In addition to this theme, however, Arendt likes to insist on life as conflict, as it follows from the biblical view of a Creator God, and from Augustine’s rupture with Hellenic autarky when he reflects on the Judaic sequence of birth/death.
By bringing together Aristotle, Augustine and her own experience of the disastrous episodes of Nazism and Stalinism, Arendt, in the period of her maturity, thus formulates the bond of the « who » inhabited by the amorous conflict of the plural world through the historical narration consubstantial with it: «The chief characteristic of this specifically human life, whose appearance and disappearance constitute worldly events, is that it is itself always full of events which ultimately can be told as a story, establish a biography; it is of this life, bios as distinguished from mere Zoë, that Aristotle said that it ‘somehow is a kind of praxis ”
There is no hidden truth of the unconscious that is not accessible – ad infinitum – to « free association », make psychoanalysis another kind of remoulding of transcendence, one that inscribes the being of the desiring subject in the events related, and puts action and memory into narrative in the inter-esse of amorous transference and counter-transference? In revealing itself to the analyst through transference, doesn’t the « who » of psychoanalysis aim, through the dissolution of transference and the end of the cure, for the reopening of new ties, this new beginning of plural worlds being the very criteria for a successful analytical experience?
Psychoanalysis being the intimate experience par excellence, there can’t be a politics of psychoanalysis that is not also a reduction of the “who” in a “that which.” On the other hand, the listening of the speaking being (Lacan’s “parlêtre”) is the Copernican revolution of values and norms which opens new possibilities for bonds in the plurality of the world, bonds which constitute the very essence of the political. Thus understood, the analytical experience is eminently political in the Arendtian sense of a revelation of the speaking being which coincides with the appearance of his discourse. Next to and beyond the resistance and sexual defenses sparked by psychoanalysis, would the deep reason for the hostility it mobilizes spring from this reappropriation and refoundation of ontotheology which are implicit in her theory and her practice?
Though Arendt notoriously dismissed the import of Freud’s psychoanalysis, the « common points » between Freud and Arendt are apparent in the perspective I’ve just outlined. Hence illusions and fantasies are heard as “truths” by the analyst’s ear; these truths don’t necessarily reveal the analysand’s authenticity, but rather the psychic reality his narrative risks allowing to appear in this political world that is the inter-est of transference/counter-transference. Thus, are not transference, counter-transference, and Arendt’s inter-esse original worlds of appearance, which do not preexist narration itself, but are progressively constructed as the ego puts itself in question or “in anamnesis» so that a subject emerges with new, open and endless bonds? Is it not, therefore, a psychoanalytical conception of the speaking subject constituted as an “event” in time (past, memory) rather than a psychological diagnosis of dispositions, gifts and temperament that Hannah Arendt formulates when she claims certain advances regarding Aufklärung, for example, with Herder : « The difference does not reside in dispositions, talents or temperaments, it is found on the contrary in the irreversible aspect of every human event, in the fact that it has a past that we can do nothing about » Or when she tries to define the identity of a people, the Jewish people, as a sedimentation of memories: « the ruins of Jerusalem have their foundations in the heart of time», whereas she sees religion as neither a source of prejudice, nor as a system of reason, but as an «inalienable heritage ». Because the identity of a person or a people would be an “irreversible”, “inalienable” past, narrative and memory, it could be interpretable and analyzable. Alas, the world is full of guardians of identity who have not forgiven Freud or Arendt for such audacity, clarity and salutary shifts.
Decidedly the most resurrectional of all, she ceaselessly turns melancholy and the blind-alleys of modernity into openings, rebirths, a continual Augustinian natality modified by her readings of Nietzsche and Heidegger. She advocates neither the nostalgic conservatism of the past, nor a destructive dismantling. There is no instructions manual for this new world and its new politics, but rather breathing bonds created by surprising “whos”, which is enormous. For this new beginning is only possible if it re-founds authority itself, which could not happen otherwise than as a re-interpretation, a re-invention. Hence she advocates a return and remake of authority-religion-tradition, not to re-do them (Machiavelli and Robespierre confused “to do” with “to found” and ended up with tyranny), but to re-initiate meaning in their very nucleus which is authority, and this in the present space of new “publicity”, of “opinion” This is how I read Hannah Arendt’s The Life of the Mind : «Historically speaking, what actually has broken down is the Roman trinity that for thousands of years united religion, authority, and tradition. The loss of this trinity does not destroy the past, and the dismantling process itself is not destructive; it only draws conclusions from a loss which is a fact and as such no longer a part of the ‘history of ideas’ but of our political history; the history of our world. » In psychoanalysis, for example, “to draw the conclusion” of the loss of authority would be the same as rethinking the prepolitical and precultural meaning of the need to believe, which is indispensable to the construction of psychic identity by the primary identification with the “loving father of individual prehistory”, the ideal other who supports my ideality (cf. J.Kristeva, Tales of Love, 1985.)
It is in light of this paradoxical convergence between Freud and Arendt, both inscribing, although in different ways, the hidden in the apparent, the repressed in the forbidden, that I shall, in conclusion, broach a last Arendtian tension: her critique of secularization on the one hand, and on the other, her refusal of transcendentalism.
By stigmatizing secularization, Arendt attacks the reduction of human differences into the generality of « zoon politikon », becoming the generic “Man” in the reductive understanding of the “rights of man”, and she “forgets” more or less intentionally the wealth of bodies, desires and languages that flourished notably during France’s Enlightenment. Gratefully this “forgetting” allows her to denounce relentlessly the amazing feat of the assimilation of Jews that transformed Judaism into Jewishness and reduced the Jewish human being to a pariah, thus making way for a unprecedented denial of the meaning of life, and for the systematic extermination of the “superfluity of human life” proclaimed and programmed by the Nazis which culminated in the extermination of six million European Jews.
However, when Waldemar Gurian and Eric Voegelin from the prestigious School of Political Science at the University of Notre-Dame, tried to use Arendt’s ideas to back up their thesis according to which totalitarianism is more a product of modern atheism than of a socio-historical process, Arendt did not reject the fact that a certain atheism could have played a role in ending ethics. But she maintains that the totalitarian phenomenon is unique and that no other prior event, be it from the Middle Ages or the 18th century, could be properly called “totalitarian”. She is equally careful to differentiate her philosophical questioning from any religious position, by relating the political use of the “divine” back to the pernicious nihilism she fought against: «Those who conclude from the frightening events of our times that we have got to go back to religion and faith for political reasons seem to me to show just as much lack of faith in God as their opponents” ».
We understand then, that while being outraged with Bernard Lazare about the fate of the “pariah” that the Europe of the Enlightenment reserved for the Jews, and by clarifying the tragic destiny but also the figure of the “exceptional Jew” such as Kafka, Chaplin or Stefan Zweig. She ends with this provocative reflection, still remarkably pertinent today : «All European nations have become peopled with pariahs, they are compelled to accept at new cost the struggle for freedom and equal rights. For the first time, our destiny, the destiny of the Jewish people is not an exceptional destiny, for the first time our struggle is identical to the struggle for liberty led by Europe. As Jews we want to fight for the freedom of the Jewish people for: “If I don’t take care of myself, who will?”; as Europeans we want to fight for the freedom of Europe for “if I don’t take care of myself, who am I ?’ »
This defense and illustration of what must be called the “Jewish European community” clearly reflects the time when it was pronounced, that of the struggle of a certain Europe against Nazi Europe. Yet, whatever may have been the personal and collective tragedies Arendt survived, throughout her work she remains concerned with mooring the destiny of Israel both in the affirmation of its difference and in the liberating political action of all men, such that it seems to her possible/impossible through and in the dismantling/refoundation of the European tradition at its foundation, in other words, at the point where ontotheology becomes political thought. When she tries to refound political authority, with the incredible vitality of her judgement and her irresistible capacity to survive, the fate of the Jewish people remains nevertheless the constant horizon of her ambition: whether it be explicitly named or hinted at in the Arendtian denouncement of an atomic third world war; or even when she condemns the violence of automatization, presaging the earth’s devastation (Verwüstung) : « The politico-public space essentially lies in the field of violence, » « Ever since the invention of the atomic bomb, our mistrust has been based on the eminently justifiable fear that politics and the means of force available to it may well destroy humanity. » ; or again when she describes the « advancing desert» which extends the totalitarian empire by depriving us of the capacity to think, to suffer, to judge and to condemn together.
Thirty years after her death, added to the dangers she tries to confront through a refoundation of political authority and which, as they get worse, make this refoundation increasingly improbable, is the new threat that weighs on Israel and the world. Arendt had a premonition about it as she warned against underestimating the Arab world and, while giving the State of Israel her unconditional support as the only remedy to the acosmism of the Jewish people, and as a way to return to the “world” and “politics” of which history had deprived it, she also voiced her criticism: « They fled to Palestine like someone trying to rocket himself to the moon, to escape the cruelty of the world ». Although many of her analyses and advances seem to us more prophetic than ever, Arendt could not foresee the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, nor the havoc it is wreaking in a world faced with the powerlessness of politics to respond, and the apolitia, the indifference created by the omnipresent society of the spectacle.
Nevertheless, this new form of fundamentalist totalitarianism – by the desertification of thought that characterizes it and that it imposes, and by its contempt for human life that it reduces to a superfluity to eliminate with cold premeditation – leads us back to our essential anxiety and invites us to return to Arendt’s lucid diagnosis. In this context and more dramatically than ever, the actual state of the world brings us face to face with this black sun of skepticism, whose shadow never spared our philosopher of political natality and which led her to ask at several different occasions if politics “in the end still has meaning ».
Earlier, I hailed Arendt’s “vitality of judgment” by calling it a “survival.» I in no way intend this term to be a humanist bandage against isolation, grief and personal and political destruction. I understand that Arendt is not only a thinker of dismantling. I’m thinking of her bliss in believing that the re-foundation is possible: re-foundation of the self, of a people, of a political time-and-space. This requires a love of the past and future, an extraordinary capacity for rebirth which another feminine genius, Colette, said was never beyond her power: « Being reborn has never been beyond my strength ». It’s precisely this attitude that Arendt adopts when she embraces Tocqueville’s words: « Politics deals with the community and reciprocity of different men.” … “The downfall of politics in both directions has its origin in the way political bodies are developed out of the family.” … “Politics arises between men, and so quite outside of man. There is therefore no real political substance.” … “Freedom exists only in the unique intermediary space of politics. »
Is this to say that, for our political philosopher, politics takes the place of the divine? Or, as I’ve tried to show, that the divine and being curve toward the disquieting opinion of “who am I”? The divine and being participate, immanent, in the publicity of singular subjects – or better they are incarnated in a fundamentally amorous narration that different men and women weave about the plural meaning of their actions. Would Arendt’s politics be the first politics of incarnation ? In light of the new threats surfacing with the mechanization of the species coupled with religious fundamentalism, two possibilities seem to open up from our rereading of Arendt; either:
1. The rampant depoliticization will quicken the return of the religious and thus reduce the political space to powerlessness, perhaps for a long time to come.
2. Or the on-going programming of the superfluity of human life and the instrumentalization of the death instinct by fundamentalists will provoke a vital burst of inter-esse and re-initiation of innovative subjectivity.
Logically speaking, this second option would necessitate not a return to but a refoundation of Greco-judeo-christian authority which gave to the world a desire for a “common world”, made up of a plurality of “whos” and which Arendt calls “the center of politics”. It is up to us to reinterpret this gift.
Only a « new politics » which is enlightened in this sense can avoid the ruin of the world.
Seeing that the superfluity of human life continues to be a radical evil that is practiced and tolerated;
That the right of each person to appear in the plurality of political bonds is today, still under threat in many parts of the globe;
That most often, it is women who become the victims of this destruction of the political space and the negation of the human being, including their right to life ;
And remembering that, reticent to embrace feminism, having only devoted a short text to the condition of women (« On Emancipation of Women » which rises up against economic discrimination and refuses to see women as simple proletariats, Hannah Arendt recommended an analysis of the family rather than the isolated individual, -
I consider that the refoundation of the political world, such as Hannah Arendt’s work suggests, invites us to bring the concern for the singular destiny of each man and woman, without distinction, into the heart of the democracy of opinion.
Consequently, I shall donate the 2006 Hannah Arendt 2006 prize money to the NGO Humani-Terra ( www.humani-terra.org), based in Marseilles, to help them with their exemplary work at the Herat Hospital in Afghanistan, notably with Afghan women who find no other way to protest against the injustices and violence they are subjected to than to set themselves on fire. May this prize contribute to their medical and psychological welfare as well as to the care of those disabled or disfigured by their suicide attempt. May it contribute to educating these victims and their families in socio-political awareness. In the hope of continuing our collaboration in the future, I would like the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought to bring the fate of these women to our attention, to garner international political support for their cause as well as for that of other victims of political, ideological, or belief-inspired agendas that program or tolerate « the superfluity of human life. »