- In the Interest of FaithMurder, Consent, and the Other Other
… a faith that is unshakeable even when it sees the impossibility.—Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
Which Crépon, first of all? The Crépon who knows, with knowledge more pandemic than epistemic, that there's no nonviolence? Or the Crépon who cultivates hope and faith in nonviolence? Never entirely divided, one raises the stakes on the other at every turn and without ever yielding. If there's ultimately no choice between them, one can nevertheless formalize their exchange.
Rarely does a concept erupt with the force of what Marc Crépon calls "murderous consent." Not only because its explanatory force is shamefully evident; not only because it exempts no one; not only because it describes, with unparalleled acuity, a fundamental feature of our era in particular; not only because it operates in every outrage and injury in the history of humanity [End Page 21] and, hence, could retell the history of humanity as the history of outrage and injury. The relentless force of murderous consent is more terrible still because "consent" to "murder," in the novel sense that Crépon wrenches from these words, is a structural dimension of experience itself.
But one shouldn't rush to conclude, without further ado, that the project Crépon names "ethicosmopolitics" is impossible. Even if it is, indeed, impossible. Knowing that we'll never not consent to murder, somehow somewhere, Crépon opens the first chapter of the eponymous book, Le consentement meurtrier, with no illusions. If he's nevertheless not unjustified in demanding uncompromised paths of resistance, it's because—far from the Kantian world where possibility follows necessity—the impossibility of the ethicosmopolitical project redoubles its necessity. For the irreducibility of consent does nothing to exempt us from, in the words of Crépon's refrain, the attention, care, and help demanded by the vulnerability and mortality of the other. Of every other. To resign myself to violence and my consent to it would only redouble both the violence and the consent. To consent to consent—what Crépon calls "nihilism"—would empirically fan transcendental violence. Hence, the more one recognizes murderous consent in its originary and structural status, the more one recognizes the impossibility of the ethicosmopolitical project, the more urgent the project becomes. This unsettling logic, according to which aggravation and resistance share a porous border, will never be entirely absent as I offer a few reflections here on the strange status of the concept of murderous consent.
As Crépon himself notes, the concept of "murderous consent" culminates some 20 prolific years of work and reflection, writing and teaching on the origins and machinations of violence.1 But Vivre avec (translated into English by its subtitle: The Thought of Death and the Memory of War) lays its foundation. All living is living with, Crépon says, because all living beings have a common denominator: we die. Death relates everyone to every other and thus transcends all affiliations—political, religious, ethnic, national, geographic, and so forth. The totality constituted by the mortality and vulnerability to which no one is immune, Crépon calls the world. As if strained between the irreducible fields it must bring together in one word, between ethics and politics, Crépon stresses the cosmos of ethicosmopolitical relations throughout Le consentement meurtrier. [End Page 22]
This is why the problematic of murderous consent imposes upon the articulation of morality and politics the only point of view that makes the articulation tenable: the point of view of the world. Supposing that, from this perspective, one agrees on the necessity of taking as a guiding thread the responsibility induced by the care, help, and attention demanded by the vulnerability and mortality of the other, this responsibility will have to give place to what one will henceforth resolve to call, with a word that signals toward a tradition and its overcoming [dépassement], an "ethicosmopolitics" of relations. Such is the objective that this book pursues.(Crépon 2012, 20)2
Ethicosmopolitics: ethics, cosmos, politics. The project doesn't cram the words together. It's...