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Wild Materialism

The Ethic of Terror and the Modern Republic

Jacques Lezra

Publication Year: 2010

Wild Materialism speaks to three related questions in contemporary political philosophy. How, if different social interests and demands are constitutively antagonistic, can social unity emerge out of heterogeneity? Does such unity require corresponding universals, and, if so, what are they, where are they found, or how are they built? Finally, how must the concept of democracy be revised in response to economic globalization, state and nonstate terrorism, and religious, ethnic, or national fundamentalism?Polemically rehabilitating the term terror, Lezra argues that it can and should operate as a social universal. Perched perilously somewhere between the private and the public domains, terror is an experience of unboundable, objectless anxiety. It is something other than an interest held by different classes of people; it is not properly a concept (like equality or security) of the sort universal claims traditionally rest on.Yet terror's conceptual deficiency, Lezra argues, paradoxically provides the only adequate, secular way to articulate ethical with political judgments. Social terror, he dramatically proposes, is the foundation on which critiques of terrorist fundamentalisms must be constructed. Opening a groundbreaking methodological dialoguebetween Freud's work and Althusser's late understanding of aleatory materialism, Lezra shows how an ethic of terror, and in the political sphere a radically democratic republic, can be built on what he calls wild materialism.Wild Materialism combines the close reading of cultural texts with detailed treatment of works in the radical-democratic and radical-republican traditions. The originality of its closely argued theses is matched and complemented by the breadth of its focus-encompassing the debates over the ticking bombscenario; the circumstances surrounding ETA's assassination of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco in Madrid in 1973; the films of Gillo Pontecorvo; Sade's republican writing; Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right; and the roots of contemporary radical republicanism in early modern political theology (Bodin, Shakespeare, Parsons, Siliceo).

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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p. v


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p. vii


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p. ix

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Introduction: Terrible Ethics

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pp. 1-33

There is an old kinship between terror, judgment, and the city. That relation and the promises it may hold for the almost equally old concept republicanism, are the subject of this book. This is how the story starts...

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1. The Ethic of Terror

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pp. 34-62

Here’s a joke with a trick to it. Francisco Franco spoke with a magisterial ‘‘we’’ that some found pleasantly archaic, others rather sinister. Taken with the syncopating hand movements that punctuated his...

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2. Phares; or, Divisible Sovereignty

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pp. 63-87

Grant me, for now, the distinction between the terrorist and the foundational terror that radical democratic republicanism guards—the condition of its ethical form, the weak concept or the weak norm at its breast. Converting ungovernable semantic...

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3. The Logic of Sovereignty

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pp. 88-109

A group of men enter a famous, forbidden cave located in the cellar of a tower—or is it a church? a house?—in a city on a hill. The date— sometime in the year 1546. The new ruler has sent the adventurers to look for something—treasure, perhaps...

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4. Materia in the Critique of Autonomy

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pp. 110-149

To distinguish between the terror of sovereign power and weak or defective concepts that shelter the terror of association and provide grounds for a critique of terrorism. To imagine and provide, as it were, the concept of these weak or defective...

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5. A Sadean Community

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pp. 150-172

Now consider the ‘‘moment of the boomerang.’’ The context: what Hardt and Negri’s Empire calls, borrowing from Sartre’s Preface to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, the ‘‘reciprocal destruction of the European Self— precisely because European society and its values...

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6. Three Women, Three Bombs

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pp. 173-201

In an interview published in 1972, the director Gillo Pontecorvo was asked by Joan Mellen, a film historian, to reflect on The Battle of Algiers.1 ‘‘It is clear,’’ she asked, leadingly, ‘‘that you have made a film on the side of Algerian independence...

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Conclusion: Distracted Republic

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pp. 202-222

The thrill, the joy are palpable: women and men squeezed onto the balconies and leaning out the windows of the Casino Republicano; a packed crowd lifting or tossing their hats; two figures—youngish, in coat and necktie—raise the tricolored flag...


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pp. 223-283


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pp. 285-308


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pp. 309-320

E-ISBN-13: 9780823249053
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823232352
Print-ISBN-10: 0823232352

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 680628930
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Wild Materialism

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Subject Headings

  • Political science -- Philosophy
  • Terrorism.
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