The Micropolitics of CYE: 4

As Herr Schmitt would then have it, you, as a political animal, distinguish friend from enemy.  That’s the most basic thing that you do.  It’s the transcendental act (of perception) that, however indirectly, grounds all your empirical deeds.  Of course, it must be added that you can only distinguish your friend after you’ve distinguished your enemy.  The concepts of friend and enemy do not spring into existence together.  “Friendship” is derived from “enemy-ship.” We hear this sentiment humorously echoed in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian by the Levianthan-like character of Judge Holden, in part a satiric representation of a Schmittian type of conservative douchebaggery, when he ponderously proclaims that “what joins men together … is not the sharing of bread but the sharing of enemies.”

So the enemy is primitive, the friend derived.  One of the Big Schmitt’s more famous disciples, Leo Strauss (a.k.a. the Little Schmitt or Schmitten Little), explained why his master was right to declare the precedence of the enemy over the friend.  The enemy is primitive, the argument goes, because human nature is essentially evil, i.e. rapacious, murderous, bloodthirsty, always longing for a bit of ultraviolence.  The foundation of human awareness is thus fear: the fear of dying in a violent way (that is, of being killed) at the hand of this dangerous animal, man.  Presumably this fear arises from the knowledge of human evil, which, I guess, is supposed somehow to be a priori?  Anyway, in light of these conclusions, the Little Schmitt determined that humanity was simply in need of being ruled, top-down, by a kind of benevolent dictatorship that would constantly remind its subjects, through a crafty use of myth or religion, of the dark and scary substance of human nature, and thereby keep them in line.

There are, of course, models of human nature that invert the primacy of “the enemy” and of “evil.”  Models as divergent as those of Nietzsche and Alain Badiou.  Nietzsche, ironically, provides the most obvious critique.  It’s a critique that was laid out half a century in advance of the drizzling Schmitts.  It’s funny thinking about their arguments in light of Nietzsche’s conception of “slave morality,” which indeed formulates the primacy of “the enemy” and “evil.”  Of course, slave morality is itself a parodic derivation of master morality, which does not make the distinction between a primary “evil” and a derivative “good” but between a primary “good” and a derivative “bad.”  Nietzsche’s own philosophical and political goal is to parody the parody, to invent a form of sensibility that is closer to the grandfather than to the father, that holds a new kind of “good” primary and a new kind of “bad” derivative.  This is the form of sensibility of the “comedians of the ascetic ideal.”

Badiou also holds “good” primary and “evil” derivative.  But these are not primary and derivative features of human nature, but rather primary and derivative features of the Event that interpellates the human animal as an “Immortal.”

This is a totally perfunctory account of Badiou, and I will have to flesh it out in time, but I’m in view of a point I want to make. Actually I would like to perform a ritual of unnatural nuptials.  I want to marry Nietzsche’s idea of a “comic” transvaluation of values to Badiou’s idea of “immortality.”  Because I basically think that the idea of immortality is somehow inherent to comic sensibility.  As inversions of the slavish conservative model, the accounts of Nietzsche and Badiou (however divergent they are from one another) would seem both to refuse the primacy of the fear of being killed in a violent way by another human being.  They downgrade or replace that fear with something else: a primal joy perhaps, the joy of creation, the joy of solidarity with the friend, the joy of the intimations of immortality…?

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3 responses to “The Micropolitics of CYE: 4

  • mikedelic

    i want to learn more about strauss. currently rereading my favorite nietzche. la gaya scienza and the genealogy. need to get another copy of bg&e. any recommended reading on strauss?

    • jauntown

      Strauss is one of those guys that provokes strong for and against feelings. I lean toward the against, but still think he is a great writer. If you want to read Strauss, Persecution and the art of writing and Natural Right and History are good books with which to start. Before he immigrated to the States, he wrote a lengthy positive response to Schmitt’s Concept of the Political that’s included in the English translations. If you want to read books about him that are “against” him, there’s Shadia Drury’s book The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss or Nicolas Xenos’s book Cloaked in Virtue. If you want to read books defending him, there’s Zuckert’s The Truth about Leo Strauss or Heinrich Meier’s Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: the hidden dialogue.

      I’d have to say Geneaology is the book I always come back to, followed by Zarathustra and The Birth of Tragedy. Haven’t read the Gay Science in ages. I did pick up Human all-too Human a couple months back and read through the first few sections. It’s a great one too.

  • mikedelic

    section 3 of the gay science is the one that really gets me going. i really like birth of tragedy too. genealogy gets better and better and now that i am back to where i have a copy i might read that soon. i should go back to zarathustra as it’s been such a long time…. thanks for the recommendations. i like to check around at the different angles and read the stuff by the guy himself. now i want to read more about schmitt too. i think i have a good angle to read it from. i am going to buy a few new books soon and will probably get one or three of these.

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