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Kant in Algeria: Lyotard's Philosophy of Affect and La Guerre des Algériens Suzanne Gearhart Il y eut beaucoup de signes que ce que les Algériens cherchaient à détruire, c'était moins les Français eux-mêmes, que les bicots que les Français avaient fait d'eux. —Jean-François Lyotard, La Guerre des Algériens THOUGH IN JEAN-FRANÇOIS LYOTARD'S LATER WORK the problem of affect emerges as an explicit and central philosophical concern , in one form or another it could be considered an important component of his entire corpus. For, even in his earliest and most militant political essays, Lyotard's focus was never simply political in the strictest sense. From the start he not only confronted problems of social and economic inequality and political injustice in terms of the liberal and Marxist narratives of emancipation but also made "the obscure passions, the arrogance of leaders , the sadness of workers, the humiliation of peasants and of the colonized, the anger and bewilderment of revolt" an important part of his analyses and the bases for particular forms of political praxis.1 By treating affect as a political problem, he at the same time transformed and opened up the political realm—giving not just individual passions and frustrations, but also in his later work aesthetic and sublime feelings, a crucial role in its definition. It seems legitimate to ask what caused Lyotard to focus on passions, arrogance , sadness, humiliation, anger, and bewilderment, as well as on enthusiasm and desire, in developing his political philosophy. One obvious answer would be the importance of Kant's work for Lyotard, and it might be tempting to conclude that it was primarily Kant who led him to the philosophicalpolitical problem of affect. But this answer would be misleading, since his concem with the political role and consequences of affect predates his work on Kant. Freud was certainly another powerful influence on Lyotard's thinking , but here too it does not suffice to evoke Freud as the predominant source of Lyotard's interest in affect given his harsh critique of many key Freudian terms and concepts. In order to respond fully to the question "why affect?," it is necessary to tum to Lyotard's early political essays, which were first published in the radical political journal Socialisme ou barbarie in the 1950s and 1960s and then collected and republished in 1989 as La Guerre des Algériens. In reading Vol. XXXIX, No. 4 101 L'Esprit Créateur these essays and the new introductory "Note" which Lyotard wrote when they were republished, it is difficult not to conclude that "Algeria" led Lyotard to the problem of affect as much as Kant (or Freud) did, and that Lyotard's texts on the philosophy of Kant and his political essays on the Algerian War—or rather, the Algerians' War—both take on their full critical impact only when read in relation to each other. This is the case not only because the Algerian War was the occasion of Lyotard's own affective political "awakening,"2 as he confesses in the Note prefacing La Guerre des Algériens, but also because in his analysis of the Algerian struggle for independence, feelings of shame and anger, along with solidarity and enthusiasm, play a central "political" role. The question of how these early essays relate to later texts such as Le Diff érend and L'Enthousiasme is undoubtedly complicated, given the apparent heterogeneity of the two groups of texts. But at bottom the larger question is whether or not Lyotard's "affective" approach to cultural and political problems provides the means of gaining a clearer sense of the limitations of the various political, historical, and ethnographic theories that were found wanting when they were used to explain the situation in Algeria during the 1950s and 60s. In 1989, Mohammed Ramdani argued in his introduction to the republication of Lyotard's essays on Algeria that they were still the only ones that could be excepted from what he claims is the otherwise total failure to tell the true story of the Algerian War.3 And, as I will argue, the emphasis Lyotard places on affect...


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