The society of enmity

Achille Mbembe

The contemporary era is undoubtedly characterized by forms of exclusion, hostility, hate movements, and, above all, by the struggle against an enemy. As a result, liberal democracies – already considerably ground down by the forces of capital, technology and militarism – are now being drawn into a colossal process of inversion.

Perhaps it has always been this way. Perhaps democracies have always constituted communities of kindred folk, societies of separation based on identity and on an exclusion of difference. It could be that they have always had slaves, a set of people who, for whatever reason, are regarded as foreigners, members of a surplus population, undesirables whom one hopes to be rid of, and who, as such, must be left ‘completely or partially without rights’. This is possible.

It’s equally possible that nowhere on earth has a ‘universal democracy of humanity’ ever existed; that, with the earth divided into states, it is within such states that one seeks to realize democracy, that is, in the last instance, a politics of the state which, by clearly distinguishing between its own citizens – those who are seen to belong – and the rest, keeps at a firm distance all those who are not seen to belong. At any rate, the contemporary era is undoubtedly characterized by forms of exclusion, hostility, hate movements, and, above all, by the struggle against an enemy. As a result, liberal democracies – already considerably ground down by the forces of capital, technology and militarism – are now being drawn into a colossal process of inversion.

Radical Philosophy 200 (Nov/Dec 2016)

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red jack
Apr 30 2020 11:22

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