AS THE LOOMING SHADOW OF DEMOCRACY
A critique of the xenophobic reason
(Published in: Philosophy and Democracy
in Intercultural Perspective/Philosophie et démocratie
en perspective interculturelle. Heinz Kimmerle/Franz M. Wimmer
(eds.), Rodopi, Amsterdam/Atlanta 1997, pp. 235-252)
After the tumbling of the Berlin Wall, with which, if we are to believe Francis Fukuyama, the end of ideologies
has become definite and the universal validity of liberal democracy has been historically proved[i], the former
West suddenly finds itself confronted with vehement outbursts of extreme Right violence on home ground. German
politicians who campaigned for the unification of both Germanies react shocked. Notwithstanding their political
wisdom and vision they have not been aware of the fact that in the former, only ideologically antifascist, but
in reality totalitarian East Germany after the unification nazi sympathies would flare up in all their
virulence: after a short period of euforia the arsonary packs lounged their assaults on houses of Turkish
families, cheered by the locals. Meanwhile in former West Germany the neofascist Schönhuber surpassed the
election threshhold, in Austria Haider presented himself as the saviour of a frustrated middle class and
somewhat further across the border Alessandra Mussolini elevates a morally chastened version of her
grandfather's literary legacy to an election programme. In Croatia the phoenix of the Ustase swarms up from the
smoking rubble, while on the other side of the firing line the Serbs build concentration camps. And recently
young criminals in black blouses and trousers, proudly wearing swastica on their sleeves, marched through the
streets of Moscow to assist the conservative forces that barricaded the building of the Russian Parliament. The
concern for extreme Right and neofascist activities has been growing exponentially over the last 15 years.
Extreme Right, neofascist youth groups, parties and leaders meet each other regularly at international
gatherings where, their gaze directed towards a unified Europe, even those antidemocrats try to reach
consensus. Gradually an expanding network of contacts came into existence at different levels. A network that
anchors itself more and more firmly in democratic structures Academics have not stayed behind. The Frenchman
Faurisson has tried time and again to "prove" that the Holocaust was a cunning Allied lie. His views have met
with the approval of many, including the Brit Irving, who recently has been digging through the released nazi
handwritings in Moscow archives to find support for this "truth". Decent academics are starting to feel ill at
ease, despite the fact that they know this is all devilish nonsense. Democracy shudders as if it attacked by a
horrifying monster that dooms up at the horizon. But in reality this monster is produced by the dream of
reason, as Goya's visionary etching puts it. Images from a recent past loom before our postmodern mind's eye
that is, on the TV screen. In violence directed against "foreigners", asylum seekers and Jews, national
chauvinism, xenophobia, antisemitism and racism flare up. It seems evident that the intriguing of demagogues
and the violent outbursts of the mobs should be seen in connection with each other, interpreted from
historically proved theoretical models, and labelled as a revival of fascism. Usually, fascism is understood to
be an ideological system fundamentally foreign to our democratic disposition. Or, to make a caricature:
depending upon the theoretical framework as a "derailed", "alienated" or "perverse" mentality of power freaks
or political opportunists. In addition to this traditional perspective I would like to illuminate a number of
less selfevident factors that might determine this historically recent phenomenon within western culture in a
less evident way. Structural elements which can clarify the fascination for violence and totalitarianism within
the democratic society. Of course my aim is not political, but primarely philosophical. My concern is not to
propose solutions or possible strategies to counter this violence, because it goes without saying that at every
level, the appropriate resources for that purpose should be activated. Fascist violence must be checked by the
legitimate counter violence of policeforces, penal and political efforts must be made to curb the violence by
means of a sharper investigation policy, heavier sanctions and stricter legislation. Perhaps we should even
wager the possibility to suspend the civil rights of individuals that explicitely adhere to a fascist ideology.
The intellectual violence also demands an adequate answer, analoguesly to that of Jean Francois Lyotards
critique to Faurrison in his book Le Différend.[ii] And, in the long run, social economic compensation
programmes, cultural pedagogical education and information projects might offer solutions in the preventive
sense. But, as I said, I'm not a political activist. My perspective is primarely a cultural philosophical and
epistemological one. I am not so much concerned with discovering the correlation between all the above
mentioned phenomena, as with choosing a viewpoint from which extreme Right violence and fascist attitudes can
be analysed in such a manner that the relation between totalitarian violence and democratic rationality, which
usually remain invisible, come to the fore. My guideline will be the writings of the French thinker Georges
Bataille, a radical critic of western rationalism, who in 1933 wrote the text La structure psychologique du
fascisme.[iii] In this text, he answers the thorny question, "Did the masses want fascism?", with a resolute
"Yes!". Through his research, that stretches over a period of 40 years and contains a diversity of analyses,
varying from art to economics, from eroticism to antropology, a fascinating insight is evoked: every coherent
community presupposes an act of violence, a sacrifice, that needs to be reproduced time and again. This
peculiar line of thought, in which for the modern rational autonomous individual it looks like the the
unthinkable is thought, is also one of sources of inspiration in the works of Jacques Derrida.[iv] From an
unexpected angle he has formulated new insights in some 'fundamental' characteristics of the democratic
attitude. That is why after the presentation of Bataille's views I will direct your attention to this Derridean
perspective in order to specify the concept of violence and to indicate another relation between rationality
and violence than that between democracy and fascism.
1. Modern rationality: controlling violence
But first Batailles analysi of prewar fascism and national socialism. Although he is led by Marxist ideas and
thus ignores neither social economic nor political power aspects, he believes that those factors alone cannot
adequately explain the masses' fascination for Hitler or Mussolini. According to him, all kinds of irrational
factors, deeply rooted in collective consciousness, play a decisive role. These urges can no longer be
expressed collectively by modern individuals because they would imply a denial of their rational identity.
Since our western culture has renounced every transcendent reality and the authority that earthly rulers
derived from this souvereign power, modern individuals have taken fate in their own hands. This resulted in a
democratic political system based on representation and on the principle of one (wo)man one vote. In this
political system critical rationality, that is to say: a scientific attitude gradually became the touchstone
and highest authority of reality. Led by natural and human sciences modern man has focused on the severe
regulation of respectively his external and internal nature. Or in a Kantian terminology: man as an autonomous
subject strives to be liberated from violent drives or heteronomous determinations. Since the beginning of
modern times, around 1800, after the French Revolution, so called rational political action of an autonomous
subject appears on the historical scene. The king is beheaded, the aristocracy displaced. The bourgeoisie
became the fundament for collective action that revolves around a public debate where representatives, chosen
by them, determine the direction in which the historical subject the bourgeoisie, later the labourclass can
achieve freedom through diligent labour. The ideas, underlying this urge for freedom are rooted in the social
political utopia of Kant and Marx, and in the political philosophy of Hegel. The contemporary expressions of
these utopia are the liberalist constitutional, the welfare and the socialist state. The degree to which
freedom, equality and brotherhood are realized has always been the parameter to determine the democratic
content of the nation states that emerge in the 19th century. With respect to social economic policy, optimal
utility and efficiency is aspired. Even the production is rationalized and "waste" as much as possible avoided
or reinvested. The luxurous dissapation of the former aristocracy has come to an end. Once limits of economic
rationality are transgressed, this waste in a way is experienced as a form of violence, as a heteronomous
force. Thus utilitarianism and productive rationality, so characteristic for the industrialising western nation
state of the 19th century does not only apply to goods, but also are applicable to individual behaviour: from
the beginning of the 19e century offenders of the law are no longer tortured or beheaded, but locked away in
prisons and asylums in order to be resocialized and subjected to therapies so that they may function again
after serving their sentences. As resources of labour power they must not be wasted. Violence and dissipation
or wast are slowly reduced at all levels. The ideological discours of bourgeois society for a long time
understood this reduction of violence as the result of a humanisation of society. Where violence persist, its
ecstatic excesses are checked by marginalisation or sanctions.[v] The laws as the institutional outcome of a
democratic debate are eventually enforced. I will return to this formula, so self evident and natural that
normally we do not recognize the paradox that underlies it.
2. Ecstatic violence as a collective experience
Thus, on the surface modern individuals derive their identities and those of their communities, finally the
modern state, from this productive rationality. Bataille criticizes this all encompassing rationality. He
points out that pre modern communities derived their identity from a force transcending the social structure. A
sacred or souvereign force, beyond reach of human influence and intrinsically uncontrollable, and as such
taboo. Man did not possess absolute control over this force and was at times even possessed by it. That is why
the incidental contacts with the sacrosanct or its earthly representatives demanded strict rituals and
regulations. Only sacrifices, that is, the violent destruction of human beings, animals or useful objects,
constituted momentary an admission to the sacred. These rituals, which evoked a chain of regulated violence,
enabled people to come into contact with their ancestors, totemic animals or gods. The violence that was
involved in the sacrifices spread to those present. They were inflamed by the violence of the excesses, of the
dissipation and destruction, that in modern eyes meant nothing but the waste of goods and labour power.
Important from a modern point of view is the fact that in these rituals the laws that intended to ban violence
from daily life moral laws such as: "thou shalt not kill" and "thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife": that
is the prohibition of killing and of free sexuality these laws and prohibitions were transgressed.
Paradoxically an intens communal experience, embodied in ancestry, totem or gods was the aim. Ecstasy, orgies,
alcohol, even drugs, in any case waste and violence constituted the scenery for these necessary, periodically
recurring rituals. Just like the saturnalia in the Roman Empire and the carnival in the Catholic world, the
established order was turned upside down for a short period of time. For Bataille this leads to the conclusion
that the law is established by its periodical transgressions. Collective identity is experienced the moment
laws are transgressed and the limits of individual existence dissolve. In this horrifying violent experience
the community is reborn. As such transgressive violence has played an eminent role in the history of western
culture. The existence of carnival already indicates that in our modern, bourgeois society that can no longer
recognize dissipation, regulated excess still has a outlet and is tolerated. As improbable as it may seem,
Christian culture is even rooted in a violent sacrifice: the crucifixion of Christ. Every Sunday this sacrifice
is symbolically reproduced in the Eucharist ("this is my body, this is my blood"). The rightful heirs to this
sacrifice are found in the heretics that are publicly burned and in the public executions of criminals before
1800. In those rituals the wounded body of society, and by implication that of the sovereign, is healed by the
destruction of the transgressor. The outlaw is experienced as the Other or the Stranger, as the Xenos within
the community. The re established purity of the social body incarnated in the King, that was stained by the
negating act of the heretic or the criminal, is experienced in the punishing violence. The sacrifices purges.
It is a catharsis. But politically this purifying violence has an ambivalent quality: sometimes, rather than
resulting in support for the authorities, it results in revolt. Every festivity contains the seeds of a revolt.
Therefor Bataille concludes that this ecstasy encompasses a subversiveness that can, in spite of the
manifestation of power, turn against the souvereign. The question that is immediately raised is whether modern
humanist society, after the death of God and the expulsion of the absolute power, after the abolition of public
executions, can still be analysed from this perspective of transgression. It is for certain that a fragmented
field of transgressions has survived. But they are made productive. All kinds of regulated transgressions,
performed in casino's, in drugs dealing coffeeshops, footbalstadiums and brothels emerge as post ritualistic
practices in which people are enabled to experience the limits of their rationalized daily life. According to
Bataille, these practices offer individuals an opportunity to a communication that exceeds the limits of an
autonomous subject. The fascination to let oneself go and to experience a heteronomous force has obviously
survived in the margins of modern society. The present day policy to locate the consumption of drugs, gambling,
footbalriots and prostitution in well delineated zones coffeshop, casino, stadium and the so called:
streetwalkers district seems to be a compromise towards this existential need for transgressive excesses. But
in a world without gods, reigned by an efficient production, distribution and consumption of goods it seems as
if these excesses no longer strengthen the collective bond between individuals, but because of the immorality
that still colours these experiences finally atomizes them more than before. The legal fiscal control of these
"excesses" only seems to intensify the rational production of goods. And perhaps this circulation of goods and
the identification of the participants with these goods is the only binding force within our post capitalist
3. The expulsion of the stranger/xenos
What Bataille is describing is a peculiar entanglement of the fear for a desintegrating force that threaten
the identity of a community and at the same time a fascination with it. The popular expression of this affect
is horror. This fascination with purifying violence by the masses is in a sense exploited by fascism and
national socialism. When Bataille wonders, around 1933, why the masses fall for the leaders and crypto
"rituals" of Italian fascism and German national socialism, he reshapes the regular social economic and
political explanations from his so called "mythological anthropological" of "heterological" perspective.[vi]
According to him, Hitler and Mussolini embody the pre modern sacrosanct, from which they derive their charisma.
Feared and adored they are positioned above the law, which they, like their pre modern predecessors, ultimately
embody entirely. They can even by their own decision enforce it. Because of their questionable courtship with
democratic politics and their connection to the military apparatus, Bataille believes that both autocrats are a
"ghostly return of imperial sovereignty". Hitler and Mussolini appeal to a pre modern subversive sensitivity
and a religious susceptibility. In addition, the charisma of the Führer and the Duce is magnified by the
ritual character of party meetings, that achieved a hypnotic effect by making cunning use of the mass media. In
this sense the modern society with its humanist legitimation we must realize that the racism the nazi's adhered
to is bread by 19th century antropological and filological theories is still determined by this ambivalent
affect of fascination and repulsion. Both nations, Italy and Germany, were desintegrating and only by a
purifying violent sacrifice this desintegrating could be stopped. As the heretics and criminals, what is
punished and ostracized is the Stranger, the Xenos. From the Bataillean perspective, the expulsion of gypsies,
communists, homosexuals and Jews can be understood as the necessary sacrifice for the establishment of a new,
national socialist or fascist identity and a new collective experience in distraught Germany and Italy of after
World War I. However, this appeal to racial purity appears to be a function of the democratic aspirations to
freedom, the pivotal idea of modern life. This aspiration, on which political parties survive, concerns the
establishment of a non violent situation free of heteronomous influences in which everyone who meets the
requirements of rationality can enjoy their freedom. The purified situation is represented by the various
utopias which offer a humanist variation of the Christian idea of deliverance. In this sense socialist or
liberalist utopia are but theoretical extrapolations of ecstatic experiences. Since their is no longer a
transcendent power, only in the violent transgressions purity can be experienced, as a liberating ecstasy. Yet
this freedom can be realized only through the disciplined struggle against and the emancipation from the
violent.[vii] The "purity", Bataille seems to implicate, only exists in a total, all encompassing experience
that coincides with the short lasting destruction of the order, that is in the revolt. When this revolt becomes
a revolution, terror lies in wait to secure the purity of the community from within. Only terror seems to be
the alternative in a world without transcendency. But this unchained violence must finally become catastrophic,
because it will intensify itself by lack of aim and restraints. Purity doesn't exist either before or after the
violent transgression. Therefor purity as an idea is theatrical and as an experience is cruel and even deadly.
Something which fascism knows unconsciously, and on which it depends, but which finally also implicates her
decline and ruin.
4. The identity complex of western culture
With his analysis of rising fascism, Bataille indirectly criticizes one of the main characteristics of western
culture: its aspirations for purity and the tendency to reduce the Xenos to the Same, to identity. The
transgressive violence within society seems to be merely the spectacular counterpart of the hidden and
legitimated violence towards outsiders that emerges from a compulsive need for identity. This compulsion can be
translated historically as colonialism and imperialism and reveals itself socially as fundamental xenophobia.
At an ideological level, xenophobia is inherent in both fascism and democracy, although in the latter case the
totalitarian drives are less explicit. This fundamental characteristic of western culture has a long tradition,
which most strongly reveals itself in philosophical and scientific thinking, that is in its critical
rationality. This tradition manifested itself in metaphysical ideas from Plato to Hegel. In Hegel's idealistic
all encompassing theory, in which the Enlightenment excels, it achieves its ultimate expression. In Hegel's
dialectically structured system, every negation or denial, in which Bataille's notion of transgression is
rooted but which is also criticized by him[viii] , is seen as a moment of the system itself, that is, as an
indirect self affirmation. Every criticism is ultimately resolved in an all encompassing order, resulting
finally in what Hegel terms the absolute Spirit. It is not my intention to explain that obscure concept here.
Suffice it to say that Hegel considers History to be the necessary realization of the World Spirit in time.
This realization is progressive, cumulative and emancipatory. So Hegel contends that the civil society which
starts to take shape at the end of the 18th century, is the necessary result of a historical process of
emancipation. The last phase in this development takes places in his time, and consists of the establishment of
the state, with a political structure of constitutional monarchy based on the example of England's
constitutional monarchy. This social political philosophy leans on a logical analysis of self
consciousness.[ix] Thinking, according to Hegel, has an universal structure that is valid for everyone and
everything, including the reality outside of selfconsciousness. Although contradiction motorizes the Spirit and
its historical expressions, finally it aspires to solve every contradiction. With Marx, this contradiction
acquires a materialist connotation in the form of class struggle. This contradiction or paradox, too, seen in
terms of material conflicts of interests, will be resolved in the socialist, "harmonious and pure" society.
Relevant for this exposition is the perceived necessity of all conflicts, all paradoxes being resolved. The
Hegelian human being finally can live neither with conflict, nor with the perceived contradiction. Given this
identity logic complex within western culture one can says that the heir of this tradition, modern man, is by
definition xenophobic: while his ancestors before him colonized Afrika, Asia and America, he tries to colonize
the inner worlds of the Xenos completely in order to establih a wel limited normality.[x] The Alien or Xenos in
man is reduced to the Identical. Seen from a point of view of the autonomous subject everything that
transgresses the laws of identity was experienced als threatening, as violence that by force or pedagogical
coercion had to be incorporated into the system. It had to be reformed, encapsulated, disciplined and
normalized. In modern times, as Michel Foucault extensively has analysed, this did no longer took place by
exclusion, as in the past, but by coercing the Xenos to speak, by legal confessions. Precisely in this form of
a disciplining discourse human sciences are, to speak with Roland Barthes, fascist: not because it prevents
people from speaking, but because it forces people to speak in identifying terms.[xi] From this perspective
Hegels philosophy is the ultimate expression of the proto bourgoise society that gradually came into existence
the century before he articulated his state philosophy. In his own time in which the masses in modern sense
started to articulate themselves this identity logic still had a strong impact on the collective consciousness.
For 19th century man the Xenos is only tolerable as an unthreatening, exotic curiosity or as a cheap tool. As
soon as the latter influences the existence of the former directly, he is isolated and forced to integrate.
Does this fail, then expulsion ensues by "enforcing the laws". This violence of the law becomes explicit the
moment a democracy has become implausible and starts to desintegrate.
5. Democracy: paradox and nihilism
Thus, Bataille's point is that in a modern democracy, the suppressed heterogenous, through the total
experience which it offers and the purity which is aspires, acquires a stifling grip on daily life when
democracy finds itself in a crisis. This crisis reveals itself once the transcendency is lost, that is when
modern politics comes in conflict with its utopian pretence.[xii] Democracy nowadays, in the form of a
declining welfare state, seems to be completely caught up in juridical, economic, political and ecological
paradoxes evoked by its own logic.[xiii] After the end of the ideologies or as Lyotard puts it: the end of the
Great Narratives the restrainted violence of its critical rationality creates inevitably paradox after paradox.
The result is crisis, a critical situation, that is not solved but intensified by critical rationality. The
democratic community begins to dissolve: the endless debate paralyses collective actions. Although aspired
equality provides cohesion, critical rationality implicates at the same time fragmentation. Democracy formally
aspires to recognize the unicity of groups and individuals with their varying norms. But the more effective
democracy works, that is the more groups see their interests served and are enabled to realize their norms and
values as a specific lifestyle, the more identification with the formal totality becomes problematic. The
democratic community desintegrates by virtue of the endless critique from within or the paradoxical outcome of
the debate. In this time of the death of God and the end of ideologies it seems that no all encompassing truth
can guide this splitting proces of critical rationality. The peculiar entanglement of this splitting violence
and rationality finds it raison d'être perhaps in a second characteristic of modern world, that was
merciless analysed by Nietzsche: nihilism sprouting from a severe wil to truth. In the end there is a complete
devaluation of our culture, rendering it meaningless and without direction, that is: senseless. Although
critical rationality motivates the infinity of the democratic debate, the will to truth implicates in a
negative sense that no value or meaning can count on an universal acceptance. Perhaps this is one of the
reasons why nowadays the debate gradually dissolves into a aimless casuistry. In our hectic times this
political casuistry seems to be held together mainly by the iron and ironical logic of the global circulation
of goods. Until recently, only an all encompassing sense of purpose of a political nature could cover up
nihilism. But conflicts of interest, at a political level, have become intolerable because of the exhaustion of
the utopian potential, as Habermas calls it[xiv], and cannot even be understood any longer as a promise of
reconciliation. When paradoxes are perceived as intolerable the search for clarity and security becomes more
insistent. Due to the disappearance of ideologies, which has shut the door to the future, the only possibility
seems to look for answers in the past. By definition such a search is nostalgic and conservative. Here, the
opportunistic politics of neo fascism join with the fate of young people who have no future and can only break
out of their apathy by consuming their collective identity in an absolute present, in the transgression of
norms guaranteed by laws and in the expulsion of traditionally vulnerable groups who are also treated as scum
by democracy. They are not after a revolution. They just want the thrilling experience of the violence in order
to communicate with each other. In the sacrificial violence as the outcome of the crisis within rationality
they perhaps experience stronger bonds than society gives them.
6. Derrida: The force of law
But is this the only possibility to outlive the intrinsic relation between rationality and violence? Is this
destructive reaction the only and necessary outcome or can we, once we are conscious of the fact violence is a
necessary trait of critical rationality and therefor of democracy, articulate this hidden violence in a
different way? If we presuppose that fascism in western democratic culture is potentially a part of each one of
us[xv], under what circumstances this fascist trait is triggered in us? It has perhaps something to do with the
violent experience of the paradox or to put it in a different way: with the threatening awareness of an
aporetical existence, with a irreconcilable differend or an unerasable difference. Although stated in different
terminology this was the outcome of a research executed shortly after the war by Theodor Adorno, one of the
most notorious critics of Hegels identity logic. From a philosophical point of view orientated towards the
empirical sciences, he analyzed the structure of the fascist personality. The role of intolerable nihilism and
the paradoxes emerging from it are translated into social psychological terms. Adorno concluded, among other
things, that the fascistoid personality cannot endure contradiction. The resulting impotence drove him to
dissolve the paradox, violently if need be. This inability to endure the tension of an existential aporia would
make him more receptive to fascism. By means of a idea of a harmonious purity he could give meaning, a purpose
and a direction, that is: sense to his disordered life. It is illustrative for the entanglement of democracy
and fascism that, when Adorno after emigrating with his Institut für Sozialforschung to America to extend
his research, he came to the conclusion that most Americans fitted the profile of this fascist personality. As
a result he changed the title of his book and instead of referring to the fascist personality, he called it
Studies in the Authoritarian Personality (1950). Adorno's research raises the following questions. As the
violence of rationality, this aporia, triggers the actual violence than the question raised is: can we put this
fundamental aporia, in which we seem to be stuck because of a lack of transcendency, to work in a positive
sense? Can postmodern man, lacking transcendency, live a contradictory existence? Can he, to put it more
nietzschean than hegelian, endure the violence of rationality? Can he accept the loss of the dialectical
quality of life and live its tragic quality? Let me conclude this lecture by indicating a direction in which
possible, but always provisional 'answers' might be found. To Lyotard the crisis in which we live is the
postmodern condition humaine. He shares this proposition with a lot of other so called thinkers of difference,
who were inspired by the works of Bataille. This difference articulates itself as a violent cleavage in
rationality itself, as a differing force that prevents rationality to be all encompassing and to breach the
abyss between thought and being.[xvi] Jacques Derrida is one of the most radical thinkers who extended this
line of thought. He determined this principal differentiating and deferring force als 'differance'.[xvii]
Recently he articulated this set of epistemological and methodological remarks and insights in an ethico
political field. In his text on the force of the law[xviii] he qualifies this différance as follows: "Il
s'agit toujours pour moi de la force différentielle, de la différence comme différence de
force, de la force comme différance ou force de différance (la différance est une force
différée différante)..."(928). By locating violence in this way it has lost its
totalitarian impact. Instead of identifying and unifying and as a result: instead of excluding and destroying
the conception of violence as Derrida brings to the fore is differentiating and withdrawing from an all
encompassing conclusion. By deconstructing Hegel, adapting Nietzsche and actualizing Bataille Derrida analyses
democracy from a radical, aporetical point of view. The methodological aspect of the aporia of democracy comes
to the fore once we try to answer the question how to legitimate the democratic proces democratically? Derrida
tackles this problem by determining the conditions of the possibility of the Law in a non kantian, but
bataillean way. In the expression 'enforcer la loi' or the English expression 'the enforceability of the law or
of the contract' the constitutive aporia Bataille tracked down in western thought, is once more given. This
violence from which the law derives its power to intervene, Derrida states, "n'est pas une possibilité
extérieure ou secondaire qui viendrait s'ajouter ou non, supplémentairement, au droit."[xix] It
is an essential characteristic. To Derrida in a final analyses it is impossible to make a difference between
legitimate violence or power and an 'originate' act of violence. However, the problems involved in tracing the
possibility of justice and the same goes for the possibility of democracy that is: executing a quasi
transcendental analytique are, to speak with Derrida, "infinis si on peut dire en eux même, parce qu'ils
exigent l'expérience de l'aporie qui n'est pas sans rapport avec ce que j'appelais tout à l'heure
le mystique"[xx]. Suddenly transcendency, even the name of God is introduced in the Derridean vocabulary, when
he tries to evoke the originating force that in a non discursive way legitimates the law and democracy. He
starts speaking in terms of the negative theology, even makes a comparison with this mystical tradition when he
speaks about his own project. This mystical foundation of the law and of democracy vaguely has connotations
with the Bataillean sacred, by which modern individuals are fascinated and that fills them with disgust. But of
course for Derrida 'le mystique' concernes the limits of language, the impossibility to discursively express
the last origin. As I already mentioned, it therefore is not surprising that he makes a comparison with the
negative theology, when speaking about the quasi transcendental foundation of democracy. Speaking about God
again has as its implication the selfsplitting effects I mentioned before. It means that "this voice multiplies
itself, dividing within itself: it says one thing and its contrary"[xxi]. It is "the end of monologism". To
Derrida one of the essential traits of all negative theology is "passing to the limit, then crossing a
frontier, including that of a community..."[xxii]. Transgression, transcendency and speaking about God, i.e. of
an all encompassing totality in this mystical sense is culminating in the experience of an aporia. This
impossible discours is fed by the paradoxical knowledge that the conditions of possibility or the
transcendentale of this discours never can enter into it, but nevertheless is always present as an experience
that goes without saying: "What if the exoteric aporia therefore remained in a certain way irreducible, calling
for an endurance, or shall we rather say an expérience other than consisting in opposing, from both
sides of an indivisible line, an other concept, a nonvulgar concept, to the so called vulgar concept?"[xxiii].
But of course this philosophical attitude cannot easily be translated to a political praxis. On the question
whether "today there is a 'politics' and a 'law' of negative theology? A juridico political lesson to be drawn
from the possibility of this theology?" Derrida answers: "No, not to be drawn, not to be deduced as from a
program, from premises or axioms. But there would no more be any 'politics', 'law' or 'morals' without this
possibility"[xxiv]. Although Derridean 'mystique' seems to be so self absorbed that critizing it seems
impossible, critical rationality is still at the basis of the democratic process he envisages. It only affirms
in a radical sense its source: violence. This 'quasi transcendental' project Derrida philosophically qualifies
as 'la démocratie à venir'[xxv] or 'la démocratie ajournée'[xxvi]. The result is a
never ending process motorized by the question: "Mais un démocrate n'a t il pas la responsabilité
de penser les axiomes ou les fondements de la démocratie?"[xxvii]. In a sense the postmodern democrat
has to interiorize the splitting violence, by being aware of totalizing urges that are part of him as well.
Precisely this literal re flexion constitutes the difference between fascistic and democractic violence, the
difference between as Deleuze and Guattari stated totalitarian fascistoid and schizophrenic anarchistic
violence.[xxviii] Derrida's analyses of the 'originating' force of the democratic process is not based on
harmony or consensus, but on a structural dissensus, characterized by a obstructing, splitting violence. Once
we interpret this from a psychological point of view, we can not avoid the observation that the democratic
spirit is per definition and literary ex tatic: the radical democrate transformnes himself during the
democratic in an impossible 'object' of xenophobia. Or to formulate it in a positive sense: he speaks in the
painful awareness that a political statement and a practical guideline generates effects that inescapably will
force him to change his position, to become Other. And being a good democrate he has to affirm this change.
This becoming an Other, this 'Be fremdung'[xxix] is in final analyses not choosing for a substantial item
whatsoever, but attaining an open and structural attitude wherein the Other is respected and xenophobia, so
explicitly manifested in fascism and implicitly present in democracy, has its catastrophic effects.
[i]. See: Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man. Toronto 1992.
[ii]. See: Jean François Lyotard, Le Différend. Parijs 1983, p. 16/31.
[iii]. Georges Bataille, in: Oeuvres Complètes I. Parijs 1970, p. 339 371. See also: "Essais de
sociologie", in: Oeuvres Complètes II. Parijs 1970, p. 205 249.
[iv]. See: jacques Derrida, "De l'économie réstreint à l'économie
générale. Un hegelianisme sans réserve" in: L'écriture et la différence.
Parijs 1967, p. 369 408.
[v]. See for a critique on this thesis of humanisation: Michel Foucault, Surveiller et punir. La naissance de
la prison. Parijs 1975; Histoire de la sexualité 1. La volonté de savoir. Introduction, Parijs
1976. Foucault has been influenced to a high degree by Bataille's writings.
[vi]. See: Georges Bataille, Oeuvres Complètes II. Parijs 1970, p. 167 203.
[vii]. I have attempted to analyse the resistance and the demise of the counter movements of the sixties and
seventies from both Bataille's and Foucault's perspective in De opstand van het lichaam. Over verzet en
zelfervaring bij Foucault en Bataille, SUA, Amsterdam 1989, p. 123 168.
[viii]. See: "La critique des fondements de la dialectique hégélienne" in: Oeuvres
Complètes I, o.c., p. 277 290.
[ix]. See: G.W.F. Hegel, Phänomenologie des Geistes en Wissenschaft der Logik, in: Werke Bd. 3,5 en 6,
Frankfurt a/M 1970.
[x]. Foucaault is describing this process from a perspective of the discours in Les mots et les choses (1966)
and later from a perspective of powerrelations in the above mentioned texts published in the seventies.
[xi]. See: Roland Barthes, Leçon. Parijs 1978, p. 14.
[xii]. I cannot go into this here, but one might ask whether precisely the post capitalist situation in which
our worldwide culture now finds itself a situation determined by the consumption of lifestyles and images
instead of traditional role patterns can prevent a revival of pre war fascism. This makes the situation no less
dangerous, and perhaps even more so, since fascist tendencies and democratic structures have become so closely
[xiii]. The welfare state, with its encapsulating, therapeutic mechanisms, in which for each problem an
institutional solution is sought and which absorbs everything in it as in a wollen blanket, has hidden crypto
fascist tendencies, according to Vittorio Hösle, precisely because of its tendency to control all internal
and external violence, making individuals dependent. See: Philosophie der ökologischen Krise. Moskauer
Vorträge, München 1991.
[xiv]. See: Jürgen Habermas, Die neue Unübersichtlichkeit. Frankfurt a/M 1985, p. 152.
[xv]. See: Gilles Deleuze en Félix Guattari, Capitalisme et schizophrénie. L'Anti Oedipe (Parijs
1972). See also the introduction to the American translation written by Foucault: "How does one keep from being
fiscist, even (especially) when one believes oneself to be a revolutionary militant? How do we rid our speech
and our acts, our hearts and our pleasures, of fascism? How do we ferret out the fascism that is ingrained in
[xvi].In fact this is an essential question implicated in the works of Nietzsche. It is his line of thought
actualized by Bataille, from which thinkers of difference have inherited the paradoxical quality that is so
typical for their writings. See: Henk Oosterling, "Philosophie als Kunst? Kunst als Poros, Aporie als
Kunstgriff" in: Nietzsche: Die Kunst der Sprache und die Sprache der Kunst. R. Duhamel & E. Oger (eds.),
Würzburg 1994, p. 50 77.
[xvii]. See: 'La Différance' in: Marges de la philosophie, Parijs 1972.
[xviii]. See: 'Force de loi: le "fondement mystique de l'autorité"/Force of Law: the "Mystical
Foundation of Authority".' in: Cardozo Law Review, vol. 11, july/aug. 1990, nrs. 5 6. One of his last texts is
translated under the titel: Aporias, Stanford California 1993.
[xix]. La force de loi, o.c., p. 924.
[xx]. Idem, p. 946.
[xxi]. Derrida and Negative Theology. Harold Coward and Toby Foshay (eds.), New York 1992, p. 283.
[xxii]. Idem, p. 284.
[xxiii]. Aporias, o.c., p. 14.
[xxiv]. Derrida and Negative Theology, o.c., p. 319.
[xxv]. See: Dudroit à la philosophie, Parijs 1990, p. 41.
[xxvi]. See: L'Autre cap, o.c. p. 103.
[xxvii]. Jacques Derrida, L'Autre cap. Parijs 1991, p. 112.
[xxviii]. See: L'Anti Oedipe, o.c., p. 439.
[xxix]. The english language does not allow me to express the specific difference between 'becoming a
stranger' in a positive/affirmative and a negative or dialectical sense. The german words 'befremden' and
'entfremden'/'verfremden' are more suited to express this transformation.