Kantorowicz Lecture

Kantorowicz Lecture in Political Language 2017

The anthropological imaginary of the western Left has inherited, from its Christian archeological base, the idea of an exceptional status of humanity. This privileged position of the human confines and subjects the entire rest of what exists to a unified domain, the world of “things” (which includes other living beings). Our dreams of the revolution, our notions of politics, economics, our idea of man as a “free” and “unrestrained” being, whose destiny is to de-naturalize itself, even our usage of that most insidious of pronouns, that “we” – all of this presupposes that the “revolutionary subject” must be found amongst “us”, whether it be close or far away, Kurd or May, French or Persian. To modify the extension and the meaning of that pronoun turns out to be crucial if the Left is ever to leave behind its angelic “materialism” (or its materialist angelology) and turn towards an absolute terrestrial immanence. There certainly are angels and ghosts everywhere, but we need to relate to them because they belong to the world just like mountains, rivers, plants, bacteria, bees and us. And they belong to us as little as we own all these other earthlings. The revolutionary subject, should such a conceptual character ever become an actuality, will not be Human.