Philosophy, Community and Democracy

With communism losing currency, philosophers like Jean-Luc Nancy and Maurice Blanchot thought it fit to examine the very basis of community. The notion of community is operative in everyday life but has several layers of meanings. It has religious, linguistic, national , ethnic, economic, regional, gender , racial, caste tinges of meanings. Hence, we might say that the way be understand community lies at the basis of many of our present conflicts. Much like democracy , is community not able to live its promise? May be true. Both community and democracy are imperfect. The seem to have failed us. But their legacy still persists and we are unable to reject both democracy and community. They still survive as a promise and we hope there is always more democracy and more community to come. Blanchot says that this hope for more democracy and community to come in the future is arising from the recognition of the impossibility of the its radical and fuller presence on this side of the grave. This means we cannot have fullness of democracy as well as community in this life and hence there is always more room for its arrival in a improved mode. It is this very impossibility of its fuller presence that makes its promise acceptable.

Nancy thinks that to address community is to think the very possibility of philosophy. This is so because he says that community precedes all thematics of philosophy. Maybe community in its dynamism of becoming touches its limit but does not cross it. We may say the same thing about democracy. This thinking philosophy, community and democracy may open several vistas to us. Philosophy, community and democracy implies being for others. In fact, both philosophy and democracy implies being a community. This is why thinking of the community brings us to the limit of philosophy, to the very possibility of philosophy. With out community, therefore, there cannot be philosophy. Philosophy, community and democracy are marked by infinite finitude. This is why ,there is more philosophy to come , more community to come and more democracy to come in the coming future. Therefore, the word come which neither designate a call, command, order, desire, prayer etc. becomes indicative of the dynamism of philosophy, community and democracy. There is nothing outside the dynamism of the come. Everything therefore is in the mode of coming. This means there is no transcendental image of philosophy, community and democracy that we have to mimic or copy. Philosophy, community and democracy are immanent and are marked by a dynamism of infinite finitude. There is no transcendental blue prints. Community, philosophy and democracy evolves and grows without being predetermined by any model.

Philosophy has the task to describe, project and contest and not prescribe ways of being-in-the-world. When philosophy prescribes the way our being-in-the-world , it presents a model that stands beyond us to be emulated and mimicked. When philosophy becomes, thus, prescriptive, it destroys community. It takes community into the transcendental zone and allows only an immanence that mimics that totalized model of being a community. We can notice such closed communities being projected as nationalisms across the globe destroying our democracies and converting them into functioning totalitarian regimes. This is why we have the challenge to uphold the undecidabilty of the model of community. A closed community model is dangerous. A closed community model closes our society and transforms our democracy into a autocracy. What we call populist turn of politics that is centered around strong leaders is a politics of a closed community. Hence, we have to put the transcendental understanding of philosophy, community and democracy under erasure.

The question of community does bring us to everydayness of doing philosophy and living with others. Indeed, this thinking of community is significant. It links philosophy and our being with seriously. Some thinkers say that atheism is too christian (belonging to Christian community) and hence, they prefer the term absentheism instead. Like them, Feminists may also have similar issues with how layers of community flow into their thinking. Community does come to us in several guises. It can come also in the guise of caste or race All this tells us that we have to reject onto-theological thinking of community. Community, therefore, will remain in the mode of becoming. Community, thus, being imperfect will always fail to reach it fullness at least on this side of the grave. All communities in this sense are failed communities. Being failed communities, they can always improve and grow.

If we think community with Plato , we then will cover a imperfect community and project it as imaging a perfect community in the world of idea. Therefore , instead of singularizing the model of community, we have the challenge to pluralize the way of being communities. All communities have the ethical imperative to recognize these other ways of being communities. When we become ethically open to these other ways of being communities, we will philosophize emancipatively and lead to emancipative communities and emancipative democracies. We have the challenge to explore the shared space that belongs to philosophy, community and democracy. We cannot think them simply separately. They somehow cross our thinking. Therefore, thinking community has double benefit. It makes us think democracy as well as philosophy. Perhaps , at a time of global climate crises, we have the challenge to think community and our being-in-common with the earth and all living beings. Our thinking of community in this broader way has to continue and we can think communion with the cosmic community. But we have to accept that all these communities are always in the mode of becoming and there will always more community to come. This will give us more philosophy and more democracy .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao