|Index de l'article|
|For a World Without a Moral Order|
|2009 editor's note:|
|Toutes les pages|
2009 editor's note:
This text first appeared in 1983 as "Pour un monde sans morale", in the 1st issue of La Banquise (1983-86). It was translated by Michel William for the U.S. magazine Anarchy, and republished a couple of times in various languages.
Some aspects of this text have been developed in Alice in Monsterland (available on paper in A. Leskov, An Anthology of Essays, Communicating Vessels Books, 2006), and in The Continuing Appeal of Religion, both available on this site.
Some references may be a bit obscure outside France:
P. F. Lacenaire (1800-36) was a poet, swindler, murderer and self-destructive dandy. After he was tried and guillotined, he became a popular public figure, partly thanks to his Memoirs.
Georges Bataille (1897-1962) was both close to and opposed to surrealism. His Story of the Eye (L'Oeil, 1928) could be called transgressive pornography. His mysticism of sin, his fascination-repulsion for religion, his far-reaching interest for Hegel, de Sade, Freud and Nietzsche, Marxism and anthropology, as well as his shunning intellectual celebrity, enabled him to inspire both modernist philosophy and radical thought. The Accursed Share (1949) develops a materialistic view of society that differs from Marx's (and complements it): it argues that society is as much determined by what it destroys as by what it produces. Bataille was one of the first to develop a theory of the potlatch by describing it as a widespread phenomenon that goes far beyond the limit of so-called primitive societies.
Jacques Rigaut (1898-1929) was part of Dada and surrealism without ever becoming a member of either. When he killed himself, he left few published (and unpublished) works.
Rumanian born, E. M. Cioran (1911-95) was a dedicated anti-Semite and supporter of the Rumanian Far Right - and more specifically of the Iron Guard - in the 1930s (on him and that period, see the 1933-45 Journal of Mihail Sebastian, a very different character !). After the war, Cioran lived in France and wrote A short History of Decay (1949). In spite of (or some would say because of) its elitist and negative irony, it is possible for radical critique to find some (not much) food for thought in this book.
Michel de Montaigne (1533-92) is best known for his Essais, one of the first and most lively attempts at honest self-analysis, mixed with a wide-ranging curiosity for the world at large (he travelled a lot), as shown for instance in the passage On Cannibals. Montaigne was a squire and a courtier who became mayor of Bordeaux. His scepticism made him an acute social observer but also a social observant, a forerunner of the 17th-18th century honnête homme and gentleman. He was, however, a very close friend of E. de la Boétie, the author of the famous Discourse on Volontary Servitude (1548), often regarded as an eminent anti-State seminal text.
La Grande Bouffe (Marco Ferreri, 1973) was released in Britain and the U.S. as The Big Feast, The Great Feed, and Blow Out. This last title is more adequate for a film where four men eat themselves to death.
Now for a comment on the sentences "The feminist who shouts that her body belongs to her wants to keep her desire for herself. But when she desires, she becomes part of a community in which appropriation dissolves.", and on the two paragraphs that follow.
This passage has been sometimes read as a glib attack on the free abortion movements. In fact, our critique does not deal with these movements which of course we fully support. We merely address the slogan "My body belongs to me". We're fully aware that this phrase does not mean "I am the property owner of my body". It's more of an easy way to say : My body (the right to give birth or to have an abortion) is my business and not that of politicians, doctors, or priests. Still, as it stresses the individual right of a woman to decide what to do with her body, with herself, such a slogan has the same limit (and political shortcoming) as any individual claim. Asserting my right as a separate person may seem to offer a protection against all those who infringe on my life. All of us, and women in particular, have been oppressed and repressed in the name of a "we" that only covers the domination of those in power (a boss, a teacher, a husband, a father, etc). So putting forward a "me" often appears to be the best way to fight back. However, any real solution (and even protection) has to be collective. The answer to oppression is not an addition of "I's", but collective "we's" that this time won't be fallacies.
In his 1843-44 article On the Jewish Question, Marx made a critique of the Rights of Man. Nearly two hundred years later, extending these rights to women, children, handicapped persons, gays, ethnic minorities, etc. only generalizes the limitation without going beyond it, and therefore broadens the problem without solving it. That's the whole issue of democracy, which we've dealt with in A Contribution to the critique of Political Autonomy, also to be found on this site.