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Europe after DerridaCrisis and Potentiality$

Agnes Czajka and Bora Isyar

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748683369

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748683369.001.0001

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Mind the ‘Cap’

Mind the ‘Cap’

Chapter:
(p.9) Chapter 1 Mind the ‘Cap’
Source:
Europe after Derrida
Author(s):

Samuel Weber

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748683369.003.0002

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter first discusses what ‘Europe’ was for Derrida. To do so, the chapter unpacks the major essay he devoted to Europe, namely The Other Heading (L‘’Autre cap). Following the interpretation of this seemingly straightforward text that is actually extremely intricate, and also through an engagement with fundamental Derridean concepts such as singularity and universality, the chapter explores the implications of The Other Heading on the ongoing European crisis. Seeing the crisis as more than merely a financial one, the chapter engages in an interdisciplinary discussion of the intra-European forces and factors involved and implicated in it.

Keywords:   Derrida, Europe, capital, singularity, universality

Prefatory Note: This chapter started out as an interview, a discussion with the editors of this volume. But after receiving the editors’ initial questions and trying to respond to them, it soon became clear that to address them, as well as the more general question of ‘Europe after Derrida’, it would first be necessary to discuss just what ‘Europe’ was for Derrida. This in turn required unpacking, in some detail, the major essay he devoted to Europe, namely The Other Heading (L’Autre cap). Although on the surface relatively straightforward, that essay turns out to be extremely intricate in the tissue of its arguments. The result was the monological essay below, which itself is split between reading Derrida’s text and relating its implications to the ongoing European ‘crisis’. However one understands it, it seems clear that this current crisis involves far more than just a crisis of currency, the euro, and this in turn requires discussion both of intra- and extra-European forces and factors. However, to respect requirements of length, the latter aspect had to be severely reduced in this version of the essay. Given the complexity of the issues involved, interdisciplinary discussion is probably the only form in which an effective understanding of the crisis as well as alternatives to them can ever be articulated.

Derrida’s major text on Europe, known in English as The Other Heading, was written and originally published (in French) in October 1990, which is to say, at a critical juncture in the development both of Europe and of the World. The Berlin Wall had been torn down, and German reunification took place in the same month that the essay appeared. The following year the Soviet Union was formally dissolved. Thirteen years later, in January 2002, twelve of the then fifteen member states of the European Union adopted the euro as their common currency. I mention these dates to indicate just how different the situation of Europe was at the time (p.10) Derrida was writing this text from today. But this difference was already anticipated by Derrida, not of course in its positive details – despite extraordinary foresight he was no prophet nor did he ever pretend to be one – but in its general possibility and indeed inevitability. It was, and is, a difference inherent in the word and notion of ‘today’, which was one of the major motifs of Derrida’s essay. It recalls Hegel’s famous ‘diesda’, ‘this-there’, at the beginning of the Phenomenology of Spirit, which to the ‘natural consciousness’ seems the most immediate and self-evident of things and yet turns out to be the most abstract and most mediate. Except that Derrida’s ‘today’ is already ‘mediated’, since it is borrowed from another text, written some sixty years earlier, by Paul Valéry, ‘Greatness and Decadence of Europe’ (1927), which inscribes the word in a very different context from that of Hegel’s ‘this-there’: not as the putative object of a constative gesture pointing towards something held to be ‘there’, differentiated and situated as a ‘this’ prior to its encounter with anything or anyone else. Valéry’s ‘today’, written in capital letters, defines a moment that is anything but fixed and stable, for it situates a question that is also a call to action: ‘What are you going to do today?’ he enquires of his readers in a brief thought experiment, after asking them to accept the hypothesis that they have been granted full powers to do whatever they think best, in an optimal situation free of all doubt and hindrance. The question no doubt haunted Derrida while he was writing his essay, not formulated in the conditional (‘What would you do if …’ à la Nietzsche in ‘The Greatest Weight’ (Nietzsche 1974: 273–4) but in the present indicative (‘What are you going to do today?’) as though formulated within the scope of a single ‘today’, limited in its actuality, but no less urgent.

It is this sense of urgency, tied to an interpellation that singles out its addressee in a way not entirely unlike that which Martin Heidegger, in Being and Time, associates with the ‘call of conscience’ (Heidegger 1962: 317–25), that marks not only this essay of Derrida’s, but his writing as a whole. However, this particular essay is unusual for a number of reasons. First, because it allows Derrida to address an issue with which he had always been intimately involved, although he had rarely thematised it directly and as such: ‘Europe’. Derrida had of course written extensively on and about the unity and disunities of ‘Western’ thought, on French, German and Anglo-American literature and philosophy. But the specific question of ‘Europe’ had, I believe, never formed the major topic of investigation prior to his being invited to contribute to a 1990 conference on European cultural identity. Coming at a time when Europe was clearly at a turning point in its history, at least in (p.11) its post-Second World War history, this was an invitation that he could hardly refuse. For ‘Europe’ had always been a problem for him, whether acknowledged or not, through the more or less simple fact of being born and raised in French-ruled Algeria, which is to say outside Europe geographically, and yet still very much under its sway through the French administration, schooling, culture and language that defined and determined his early years. His expulsion from French public school during the years when the Vichy government controlled Algeria only emphasised his ambiguous situation in regard to a continental culture and politics that were always ready to remind him of the precariousness of his position. It is also no doubt one of the reasons why he could never simply be comfortable with a task defined as addressing ‘European cultural identity’, as though that identity could somehow be taken for a given and needed primarily only to be defined and discussed, never called into question as such. However, that is precisely one of the main points Derrida insisted on making early in this essay, and it is a reminder that will prove useful in any consideration of the European situation ‘today’. He offered this remark as the second of two so-called ‘axioms’, whose history we will recall in a moment. But here is the ‘axiom’ itself:

What is proper to a culture is never to be identical to itself. Not to not have any identity, but to be able to identify itself, to say ‘me’ or ‘we’ only in the non-identity to itself or, if you prefer, only in the difference with itself. There is no culture or cultural identity without this difference with itself … What differs and diverges from itself would also be a difference from and with itself, a difference both internal and irreducible to being at home (chez soi).

(Derrida 1991: 16; 1992: 9–10)1

And in these days of ‘homeland security’, the consequences Derrida elicits from this ‘axiom’ resonate powerfully: ‘[This difference] gathers and divides the hearth of the home irremediably. In truth it only gathers it, bringing it back to itself, to the extent that it opens it to this divergence.’ (Derrida 1991: 16; 1992: 10). Since, as a result, a culture can ‘never have a single origin’ and since it must always be to some extent and essentially a ‘culture of the other’, what remains to be discussed and determined is the specific set of heterogeneities that preside over the formation and transformation of a culture, if that notion can be applied to ‘Europe’. One of the major arguments this essay seeks to explore is just what this intricate interplay of heterogeneities, producing something like a coherent although constantly evolving identity, might consist of, with respect to that entity called ‘Europe’, if it is an entity at all. (But if not, what is it?)

(p.12) Before I continue to follow Derrida in this exploration, I want to backtrack a moment to look at the curious way in which what Derrida calls his ‘axioms’ emerge in this text. It is curious, because they result from a ‘feeling’, in French a ‘sentiment’, that is, from something rarely associated with axioms. Actually, the ‘axiom’ seems to respond not just to a feeling, but to a situation in which feelings seem inseparable from uncertain knowledge:

Something unique is on the move in Europe, in what is still called Europe, even if one no longer knows for certain what this word names. Indeed, to what concept … to what real individual, to what singular entity should this name be assigned today? Who will draw its borders?’

(Derrida 1991: 12; 1992: 5)

It is this singular situation that evokes the feelings that will lead to the ‘axiom’ quoted. The dominant feeling is that of anxiety: ‘an anguished experience of imminence’ (Derrida 1991: 12; 1992: 5) in which ‘hope, fear and trembling take the measure of the signs that arrive today from everywhere in Europe where precisely in the name of identity, cultural or not, the worst violences … are being unleashed’ while at the same time, ‘and there is nothing accidental in that’, there is also ‘the breath, the breathing, the “spirit” of the promise’ (Derrida 1991: 12–13; 1992: 6).

Having thus defined his apprehension of a situation where peril is mixed with promise, Derrida, still at the outset of his remarks, feels compelled to utter something like a confession:

I will confide in you a feeling … that of an old European feeling somewhat exhausted. More precisely of someone who without being entirely European by birth, since I come from the southern shore of the Mediterranean, considers himself, increasingly with the years, a kind of European mixed blood,

combining something of Europe’s age with the youth ‘of the other shore’. It is this ‘feeling’ that produces the first of the two ‘axioms’ of ‘this little talk’: ‘I will say “we” instead of “I”, another manner to pass surreptitiously from feeling to axiom’ (Derrida 1991: 14; 1992: 7).

Before commenting on this passage, allow me to recall a memory I have from ‘Old Berlin’, during or maybe even before the Wall. In the eastern sector, in the subway stations, one was often confronted with huge posters proclaiming ‘Von Ich zum Wir’: ‘From I to We’, the response of East Germany to the burgeoning individualism of the West. But this call to the collective was surely one of the reasons why Theodor Adorno, at about the same time, was demonstrably allergic to the use of ‘we’ in his writing and speaking.

(p.13) Derrida’s entire essay on Europe is framed by a passage from ‘I’ to ‘we’ that, precisely in being remarked and made explicit, prepares the way for a return of the ‘I’ as a marker of singularity: the ‘I’ will disappear for a while as feelings withdraw before ‘axioms’, but it will return at the end of the essay to emphasise that in fact it has never really been absent. For the perspective of singularity will remain throughout as one of the key markers and questions that accompany the discussion of ‘Europe’. What makes this strange inscription of the ‘I’ and of its ‘feelings’, or later, in respect to Valéry, of its ‘impressions’, is that it is never simply personal but rather marks an unresolved question: what is the place of the singular and the individual, which as I will argue are by no means identical, with respect to that collective thing we call ‘Europe’ without knowing exactly what this name means or implies?

Whatever the answer to this question, if there is one, it is clearly significant that the first person singular is explicitly inscribed, withdrawn, and then reinscribed in Derrida’s remarks on Europe. It is as if this move were to underscore a certain irreducible singularity of experience as the self-receding condition of the discourse on a Europe to come. This emphasis on the singularity of the writer, as well as on its singular occasion – a conference on European cultural identity – serve as traits that distinguish Derrida’s text and style from that of many others writing on political and cultural questions. The singular occasion and encounter remain an indelible condition of that discourse. With them a distinct perspective is introduced into the discussion. It is one that will be concerned not just with ‘objective’ traditions and issues, but with their relation to a certain singularity, that of the finite living being, one feeling his age, and indeed this produces a tone that characterises Derrida’s approach to this question.

All of this comes together in the problem of ‘exemplarity’, which has been well studied by both Michael Naas, in his introduction to the excellent English translation of this text, and Marc Redfield.2 Europe, Derrida argues, has always presented itself as ‘exemplary’ in the double, ambiguous and indeed ambivalent sense of this word. For what is exemplary claims not only to be representative of a larger category than itself (the singular representing the general or the universal as its example), but also to be a privileged exemplum of the genre. And where this genre defines itself in universal terms as ‘spirit’ or ‘mankind’, this claim of exemplarity becomes extremely problematic, indeed dangerous. For every determinate entity is, qua determinate, finite, limited, partial; never the whole. When therefore a determinate entity claims to be exemplary, it inevitably privileges the traits and characteristics that (p.14) it attributes to itself, thereby establishing a hierarchy that is inevitably exclusionary, and often if not always hegemonic.

In Derrida’s text, however, the passage from ‘I’ to ‘we’, from first person singular to first person plural, does not take place in a neutral setting. The admission of this ‘I’ that he is feeling ‘somewhat exhausted’ (accablé:also ‘overwhelmed’, ‘overburdened’, ‘weighed down’) acknowledges the singular perspective and experience to which the discourse that follows will bear witness, to be that of a finite, mortal, living being. Finitude and mortality are thus the traits that will recede temporarily, when the speaker-writer moves from first person singular to the plural, although they will never entirely disappear. For any treatment of the question of ‘Europe’ that does not take into account this singularity – not singularity in general, but that of the living being in particular, with all of its consequences – will never be able to do justice to the problems that word raises: the problem of its today, which is also and inextricably bound up with those that are past as well as those to come.

It is curious how ready most of us are, most of the time at least, to take for granted the word ‘today’: that it is one and the same, that what it designates is a unity. How ready we are to overlook its literality and its etymology. For the word, in English as in French (not, however, in German), consists not just of a noun but also of a preposition, even if we hardly notice it as such. The preposition ‘to’, in French au, introduces a certain distance into what we take to be a monolithic unity: it says literally: ‘to-the-day’ rather than just ‘the day’.3 Today is not just any old day; it is a particular, singular day, and as such one ‘towards’ which we are directed. This determination of ‘the day’ as a singular to-day curiously removes it from itself, depriving it of anything like a monolithic self-identity. The German poet Friedrich Hölderlin, in a poem commented on early in his life by Walter Benjamin, ‘Blödigkeit’ (‘Timidity’), wrote of ‘the thinking day’ (der denkende Tag) that is ‘granted to poor and rich alike’ and that is associated with the ‘turn of time’ (Hölderlin 1992: 444) as the medium of mortality. Derrida’s fascinated emphasis on the time of the ‘today’ as in itself both limited and riven sets the scene as it were for his effort to reflect upon the situation not just of European cultural identity, but of ‘Europe today’, ‘today’ being not just the today of the conference for which he first wrote the essay, in the year 1989, but also the today when Valéry called upon his readers to think about what they, you, were going to do. And it is also, mutatis mutandis, our today as well, a today that is changing constantly, from the time when I first began to write these words to the time you first read them, and beyond: a to-day that is never simply over and done with but also ever to-come (p.15) and that therefore prevents any ‘we’ or ‘I’, not to mention ‘Europe’, from coming full circle.

This consequences of this quasi-Heraclitean, Derridean sense of ‘today’, of time as a process of unremitting limitation, alteration and evanescence, go further than is usually perceived. For it is not so much Heraclitus that is the model here, but his pupil, Cratylus, who, in an anecdote recounted by Aristotle in his Metaphysics (Aristotle 1941: IV, 5, 1010a) outdid his teacher.4 Being confronted with the Master’s famous dictum that one cannot step into the same stream twice, Cratylus is said to have added, ‘Not even once.’ Or, as the German expression goes that Benjamin used as the title of a short essay: ‘Einmal ist Keinmal’ (‘Once is Nonce’) (Benjamin 1972, 1999).

This does not suggest that the ‘once’ is simply an illusion, but rather that it is the constitutively divided and never directly accessible after-math of a repetition that Derrida will reformulate as ‘iterability’. In this sense the singular is relational but never fully identifiable. This is not just a deficiency, since its non-definability keeps the singular open to the future. It is why ‘today’ in its uniqueness and singularity is both urgent and yet always to come. We can perhaps sense it, feel it, be affected by it, acknowledge it, but never simply recognise it as something self-identical. Feeling can perhaps best be understood as a response to an encounter with a singular alterity that cannot be reduced to the self-identical object of a concept or to a subset of the self. If this is so, the political implications of such feelings have yet to be explored, and this is in part what Derrida’s essay attempts to do and what it thereby challenges us, as readers, to continue doing.

But all of this is, to be sure, in no way exclusive to ‘Europe’. Wherein then does the distinctive singularity of ‘Europe today’ reside? Without addressing this question, which means without forgetting the more general law that divides every ‘today’ from itself, nothing pertinent can be said about what is called ‘Europe’ today. Could it be that ‘Europe today’ exemplifies a certain fracturing of the today – and that this is what defines its distinctive specificity? We will return to this question shortly.

But first let us see how Derrida approaches it; and in this essay he indeed mainly approaches it, challenging those who come afterwards, listeners, readers of another day, to pursue and develop his approach. One way of doing this is to consider the literality of his French text, which has been rendered into English superbly by Michael Naas and Pascale-Anne Brault. I entirely agree with their decision to try to bring Derrida’s French as close to idiomatic English as possible: in general I (p.16) am convinced that this is the best strategy to follow when translating, even if it means forsaking the literality of the original. Derrida’s writing in particular often plays on and with a variety of connotations of colloquial, non-technical French that would be entirely lost in English were one to attempt to retain what seems to be the primary semantic ‘content’ of the terms he uses. This is particularly so of the title, which in English reads ‘The Other Heading,’ and in French ‘L’Autre cap’. ‘Heading’ surely captures many of the connotations of cap, while in no way being a simple reproduction of the word. Derrida chose the word cap, as he puts it at the outset, in part at least because of its ‘navigational’ associations (Derrida 1991: 19; 1992: 13), and ‘heading’ picks up the sense of directed movement, as well as the bodily ‘head’, that every cap as the orientation point of a voyage implies.5 Thus, Valéry’s question, ‘What are you going to do today?’, can be read as implying ‘Where are you heading today?’ The Heraclitean-Cratylian metaphor of a river or stream, as a flux, is thus implicit in Derrida’s choice of the word cap. But the French word also connotes something that inevitably gets lost in the English translation: its topographical connotation. Cap in this sense is not unlike the English ‘cape’, not as an outer garment (although this is by no means entirely irrelevant), but as a promontory, where the land sticks out or advances into the ebb and flow of the ocean, providing a point that can be used to ‘orient’ or coordinate a movement; providing as it were something to hold onto. For the navigators of the seventeenth century, in which European countries began to explore and conquer the world beyond the oceans, capes exercised this function. Even today, in ordinary, colloquial French, the expression tenir le cap, ‘keep the course’, returns again and again in the speeches of the current French president, François Hollande, as he seeks to convince his countrymen and women that he will indeed fulfil his electoral promises, and that above all, he is holding fast (tenir le cap) to a defined political course despite the many obstacles with which France is confronted. This expression in turn recalls the age-old formula that re-emerged in China during the rule of Mao Zedong, who was designated as the ‘Great Helmsman’, a figure going back at least to Plato, for whom the captain of a ship served as model for a just constitution and polity (Plato 1999: 297a).

Holding true to one’s course, to a cap, can thus appear as a way of responding to an uncertain future, one that seeks to maintain the familiar and impose the same. To use this word to describe the situation and traditions of ‘Europe’, however, is to imply at least two further aspects. First, the acknowledgement of possible change, even if this is experienced through anxiety and apprehension as a menace or risk. And (p.17) second, the effort to dominate that change and place it in the service of the existing order. Change is not denied but recognised as that which must be harnessed, channelled, controlled.

The ‘cape’ then implies an encounter with alterity, with the possibility of alteration and transformation, but a response that seeks to absorb those changes – one could even say ‘cover’ them, as does a cape – by integrating them into its perceived identity. In this sense, Europe indeed can be described as a ‘continent’, even if geographically it by no means coincides with one, not only because it fails to occupy a clearly definable land mass, like Australia or North America, but because it is constantly tending to go beyond itself, which is to say, beyond its given borders. It is a continent always on the verge of becoming incontinent: of exceeding its limits, whether through colonial expeditions, interventions, annexations, external or internal wars, or through political, social and cultural changes that would leave it unrecognisable.

Derrida sums up this tendency in the following alternative, which also makes explicit the ambiguity contained in the title of his essay: it is the ambiguity of ‘the other cape’. This phrase can be read in at least two radically different ways. First, there is the sense of simply ‘another cape’, to be reached, rounded and left behind. A change, but only as more of the same. But second, there is an alternative to the one just described, one that also belongs to European history and its traditions, namely the tendency to move without the guidance of a cape, guided by something other than a cape, in French, l’autre du cap.

What would it mean for Europe to move towards something other than a cape? To answer this, we must clarify what it means to move towards a cape in the first place: towards this one or another one, always another. This takes us to two other words formed from this root word, cape: except that in English, these two words merge into the same word, with two quite distinct if not unrelated meanings. Those words, in French, are la capitale and le capital, which in English can be differ-entiated only by the use of the definite article: respectively ‘the capital’ (as in seat of government) and ‘capital’, designating a certain economic and financial entity, one which appears, magically or not, to have the quasi-theological, quasi-biological power of reproducing itself in ever greater amounts.

These two words, or word meanings, are, to be sure, historically not unrelated: the development of capital had much to do with the development of capital cities, although in very different senses: Venice and the Hanseatic cities were (and remain) very different from London and Paris. Nevertheless, a certain urban concentration seems inseparable (p.18) from the development of European capitalism; precisely because of the mobility of ‘capital’, involving the movement of goods and money, geographically fixed ‘capitals’ have been all the more necessary to coordinate trade and commerce. In the United States, the founders of the federal system of government deliberately separated the capital cities of individual states from their economic and cultural ‘capitals’, in sharp contrast with Europe. In general, one can argue, although Derrida does not do so explicitly, that European development was marked by an ever tighter link between capital and capitals, the most pronounced expression of which today is the designation of the heart of British finance in London as ‘the City’, the ‘Capital of Capital’.6 In this sense, Britain, which in many ways has always prided itself on being outside ‘the continent’ of Europe, is both on its periphery and at its centre and intends to remain there, as can be seen from its situation as member of the European Union but not of the eurozone, a willing member of its ‘common market’ while keeping its distance from any fiduciary union.

What of course makes this paradoxical relationship, peripheral and yet central, all the more significant is the special relationship the UK has not just to Europe, but to the United States. Derrida does not address this in his essay, but the limitations of his essay challenge its readers to do what it does not. In this case, this means extending the arguments to address the relationship between Europe and America. Unfortunately there is no space to do this topic justice here: I can only indicate a few elements of a discussion I hope to undertake elsewhere. First of all, the convergence of the two ‘capitals’, capital city and financial capital, does not take place in the same way in the United States as it has in Europe. New York, finance capital of the United States, is by no means the political capital of the country, nor is it its uncontested cultural capital. Second, the separation of the two capitals is politically sustainable because of the greater cultural unity of the country with respect to Europe. Indeed, for reasons of ideology, the convergence of economics and politics is kept as concealed and separate as possible in the United States. Europe on the other hand has always been a battleground on which opposing religions, cultures and countries wage internecine struggles. It is in part in response to the more recent of these, the First and Second World Wars, that the current effort at European unification has been undertaken. Such a response has never been quite as urgent for the United States, which ever since the Civil War has been able to take for granted a certain cultural and political homogeneity, one that has not depended wholly on institutional forces to be maintained. We see some of the more questionable results of that attitude in the recent willingness (p.19) of the Republican Party to block basic functions of government, such as the federal budget, something that is (still?) unthinkable today in Europe, in part precisely because of a historical awareness of the disastrous effects of such parliamentary inefficacy, an awareness that at least in France has produced a presidential system much stronger than any the United States (or Germany for that matter) would countenance.

And so, at least with respect to the United States, the European emphasis on the importance of ‘capitals’ does seem to be a distinctive feature of its tradition and culture. In this context, however, Derrida insists on a point that has become all the more urgent since he wrote, namely that ‘centralizing drives do not always pass via States (for it can even happen, and one can cautiously hope for this, that in certain cases old state structures help combat private and transnational empires)’ (Derrida 1991: 39–40; 1992: 37). Derrida refers here to the media as an example of a non-topographical ‘centralisation’ that ‘capital’ can impose above and beyond the authority of centralised nation states. Nothing could be more relevant to any political discussion today, and one of the distinctive aspects of ‘Europe’ with respect for example to the United States can be seen in the manner in which the state relates to the media, imposing a level of regulation in the public interest that is virtually absent from the United States. Unfortunately I cannot pursue this point here, but presumably its implications and enormous consequences will be fairly clear to anyone familiar with the situation of the media in Europe and in the United States.7

Derrida’s brief, indeed parenthetical, remark serves as a reminder that the two senses of the word ‘capital’ are closely allied but hardly identical. Financial capital can establish its hegemony at the expense of centralised state structures: the whole economic, social and political problem of glo-balisation and, more particularly, the ‘delocalisation’ it makes possible is thereby touched on, however briefly. But what can we, today, learn from Derrida’s very brief discussion of that other meaning of ‘capital’, this time not topographic but economic? Without going into a technical discussion of the various implications of this term, I will simply underscore one aspect that Derrida takes from Valéry’s portrayal of Europe as defined by, and in danger of losing, its ‘spiritual capital’. This is the notion of ‘maximisation’: spirit, like capital, involves what Derrida calls ‘the maxim of maximality’ (Derrida 1991: 68; 1992: 68–9). Spiritually, it is, says Valéry, through the maximisation of its finitude that Europe lays claim to a certain ‘universality’. Capital, like spirit, would be defined by a certain capacity to maximise, i.e. to reproduce ever greater amounts of what essentially remains identical to itself.8 Capital, like spirit, would (p.20) thus involve what in political economy is called ‘expanded reproduction’, namely more of the same. This would be the dynamic and temporal correlative of the ‘cape’ as the most advanced point of the mainland: the point at which it surpasses itself while remaining itself: its outermost but also its own-most frontier.9 Nevertheless, as a point, a cape also suggests not just a continuum of land but its separation. And this takes us to one of the key differences between spirit and capital. Let me quote here a passage from Valéry that Derrida also cites and comments:

‘Culture, civilization, these names are extremely vague and one can amuse oneself in trying to differentiate them, oppose or conjugate them. I won’t dwell on this. For me, as I’ve told you, what is involved is a capital that forms itself, puts itself to use, preserves itself, grows itself, which vacillates like all imaginable capitals, of which the best known is surely what we call our body …’

(quoted in Derrida 1991: 65; 1992: 65–6)

Commenting on this passage Derrida insists first on the linking of capital to imagination, and second on the connection Valéry establishes between capital and the body. This in turn suggests something that can take us back once again, if briefly, to the consummate interpreter of capital, Karl Marx. Since one of the things Derrida calls for, in this essay as elsewhere, is a rereading of Marx’s Capital that could militate against the dogmatism his work has often evoked (Derrida 1991: 56; 1992: 56), allow me to return to the very first page of that book, to a footnote, in which Marx, in the process of defining capitalism as commodity production, quotes one of his predecessors, the English economist Nicholas Barbon. Barbon says: ‘Desire implies want, it is the appetite of the mind, and is as natural as hunger to the body … The greatest number of things have their value from supplying the wants of the mind’ (quoted in Marx [1867] 1995: 1). In short, already for Marx, from a purely economic point of view, no distinction radically separates ‘the wants of the mind’ from those of the body. Commodity production, the basis of capital, takes place within a framework of ‘want’ in which mind and body are inseparably involved. Contrary to a tendency in Marxist or post- Marxist thinking, exchange-value is meaningless without use-value, which in turn addresses ‘wants’ involving the body no less than the mind, but also desire and the imagination no less than purely material needs. Capital, in short, involves ‘spirit’ but also ‘body’, as Valéry points out and Derrida repeats. And in so far as it involves bodies, it is linked not simply to material existence, but to the existence of singular living beings, beings who, qua singular, are also finite and mortal. For the body does not merely ‘materialise’ existence, it singularises it.

(p.21) If the tendency of capital therefore is to maximise itself, to proliferate and multiply, this takes place against a background of the finitude of singular forms of life. But as is well known, if capital can be defined as the effort to maximise a certain selfhood, that self, while related to life, is by no means identical to it. Surplus value, at least in the Marxian– Ricardian perspective, is generated by the difference in the reproductive cost of living labour with respect to the value of the commodities it produces. In order to increase surplus value, labour costs must be reduced. The tendency then is to find the cheapest possible living labour (today often through delocalisation and its effects) and/or to replace living labour by ‘dead’ labour in the form of machines and other inanimate devices (automated production facilities, for instance).

What is decisive, in the passage from Valéry quoted, is his use of the reflexive form, which I have endeavoured to retain in English: capital is a movement of self-reproduction, of reproduction of a self which, however, is not necessarily a living self, much less a living individual. And yet, it remains bound up with what Valéry calls ‘our body’. And this body is not simply one and the same: it is, as Derrida adds, ‘sexualised’ and as such divided and different from itself. Bodily existence is not simply singular: it is also and at the same time singularly divided, and in this sense it is ‘singularly plural’, to use a term of Jean-Luc Nancy’s: irreducibly heterogeneous and conflictual.

From this perspective, Derrida argues that ‘Europe’ must be understood as the palaeonymic designation of a paradox in progress: the paradox of a certain exemplarity that inscribes the universal in the singular, but without simply absorbing and subsuming its singularity. If a major part of European history over the past six or seven centuries has to be seen in the context of the development and ultimate globalisation of capital as the dominant mode of social reproduction, its continuance ‘today’ cannot but involve the prolongation of this structural conflict between singularity and its claim to universality.

But there are at least two ways this conflict can be negotiated. The one that has been and remains historically dominant is marked by the history of European colonialism and expansionism, in which the mainland seeks to dominate its colonies, a history continued and often radicalised through the development of those colonies themselves. Symptoms of this include the hegemony of the United States following the Second World War, or, on a more local scale, the development of ‘postcolonial’ autocracies, imposed by the former colonial powers, often exploiting ethnic and religious differences in accordance with the logic of private appropriation of wealth. This globalises the notion (p.22) of progress as the substitution of one cape for another, obscuring the ways in which the very notion of ‘cape’ itself implies the maintenance or expansion of the same.

But there is an alternative movement also at work in this process of capitalist maximisation, since in seeking to perpetuate the same, it inevitably also maintains in various forms the heterogeneity that is at its core, albeit in submerged and concealed forms. If exemplarity involves the effort to inscribe ‘the universal in the body proper of a singularity’ (Derrida 1991: 71; 1992: 72), then this bodily singularity will never simply be transformable into a spiritual infinitude of endless surplus value by virtue of the finitude that is the ‘proper’ of the ‘body proper’. Mortality is surely capitalisable, as wars demonstrate, but not easily transcendable, except where a certain religious perspective is fused with capitalism as ‘guilt’, a process Walter Benjamin retraces in his fragment ‘Capitalism as Religion’. And the sanctification of capitalism goes together with what he designated as the ‘aestheticizing of politics’, for which the celebratory representation of the destruction of living beings in war or other forms of organised killing provides the paradigm (Benjamin 1996, 2003).

Such sacralising of capital and aestheticising of politics, which allow one cape to replace the other indefinitely, go hand in hand with a discourse that relies upon the first person plural to constitute a perspective that speciously pretends to transcend the limitations of singularity. The alternative to this is a style of writing that practices a certain form of ‘responsibility’, one that always involves responsiveness to, and in, the singular. This is why, towards the end of his essay, Derrida reintroduces the first person singular into a discourse from which it has never really been absent:

I have, the unique ‘I’ has the responsibility of bearing witness for universality. Each time the exemplarity of the example is unique. This is why it can place itself in series and allow itself to be formalised in a law.

(Derrida 1991: 72; 1992: 73)

This is why a certain discourse in the first person singular frames Derrida’s essay on ‘the other cape’. For this use of a never entirely personal, but never entirely impersonal first person singular is there to remind us that even, and perhaps especially, regarding ‘Europe’, a collective entity can never be separated from the history of the singularities of which it is composed. If this is a general rule, it seems to have a particular, ‘exemplary’, value in regard to Europe, its history and its traditions. Aspiring to universalise what cannot be positively universalised, (p.23) Europe’s effort to advance and unify itself has always encountered the resistance of that which will not disappear into unity. In seeking to reproduce itself, it inevitably encounters its others, not simply as external forces and factors but as its most intimate and internal constitution.

This is also why towards the end of this essay ‘feelings’ and ‘impressions’ re-emerge to take a prominent place in a discussion that would seemingly transcend both. In the final passage quoted from Valéry, the poet-critic ‘concludes’ by giving his ‘personal impression’ not just of Europe but of France: ‘Our particularity (and sometimes our ridiculous but most beautiful title) is to believe ourselves, to feel ourselves to be universal … men of the universe. Note this paradox: to have as specialization the sense of the universal’ (Derrida 1991: 73; 1992: 74). Derrida notes that this ‘belief’ and this ‘feeling’ are surely not exclusive to Europeans, although he does not deny that they may have a distinctive relation to European history and culture. What should be emphasised, at the end of his essay, is the way this ‘feeling’ bears witness to the splitting of the ‘cape’ and its possible replacement by something other than a cape, something other than a ‘heading’. And Derrida concludes by asserting that responding to this paradox, to this cleavage, to this other opportunity, means not just apprehending or recognising it, but ‘affirming’ it. Instead of heading towards a cape, and towards another one after it – in short, instead of what today is called ‘moving forward’ – the history of Europe enjoins one to endure an experience of the antinomy, of what Derrida later will call ‘aporia’, affirming one’s openness to what is never entirely predictable, to the ‘event’, in its irreducible heterogeneity and singularity.

But what Derrida does not emphasise, here at least, and what I would therefore want to insist on, is that such singularity in turn always presupposes that from which it diverges, namely the expectation of another cape. The event is never self-contained in its singularity but always relational: it presupposes a certain teleology and intentionality, precisely in order then to dislocate the particular form in which they are expected. The singular therefore is not simply a logical category: it is always a historical one: it is that which doesn’t ‘fit in’, but which as such presupposes as framework something ‘fitting’. In this sense, Derrida is quite right to write of it as something ‘other than a cape’, retaining thereby the reference to a cape, a goal or orientation point, as that from which the singular diverges.

However, all of this, being so generally true and applicable, still does not suffice to distinguish what might be truly singular, truly distinctive, to Europe. I want therefore in conclusion to introduce one further (p.24) element that is not explicit in Derrida’s essay, although he does touch on it in various other writings. I want to suggest that the particular way in which Europe becomes an exemplary site for the antinomies or aporias of exemplarity, of the inscription of the universal in a singular body, can be retraced to a particular period (I hesitate to say ‘event’) in European history. I believe this is something that Benjamin was profoundly aware of, when he wrote The Origins of the German Mourning Play.10 For what captivated Benjamin’s interest was not the Reformation as such but the responses it evoked, which he grouped together under the title ‘Counter-Reformation’, a notion that he insisted should not be restricted to any one religious group (i.e. Catholicism). If the Reformation in his view was concentrated in Martin Luther’s attack on ‘good works’ in the name of ‘faith alone’ as the sole path towards salvation, then the challenge this posed required all institutions to review and revive their attitude towards the radical singularity of the mortal living being. For Luther’s subordination of ‘good works’ to ‘faith’ as something situated in the singular living being called into question the redemptive value of all human endeavours, whether individual or collective. This uncertainty, in sharp contradiction with the violent assertiveness of Luther’s own writings, comes to haunt all of European modernity, whether in the devastating wars of religion that began a series of self-destructive conflicts that reached well into the twentieth century or in the attempt at retrieving a measure of certainty and stability through philosophical or scientific endeavours.

What plays itself out in this struggle between Reformation and Counter-Reformation could be described as the struggle, uniquely European perhaps, between a sense of human existence as irreducibly singular, and therefore cut off not simply from others but from itself as well, and a sense of human existence as individual, in which the singular, bodily existence of mortal human beings is seen as part of a continuum that is rooted in the self-identity of a unique and divine creator. If the Christian Good News is that there is a path back to this original unity and eternal life, the history of Europe is marked by the divisions and uncertainties concerning just how that path is to be travelled and negotiated. The notion of resurrection seeks to bridge the gap between the singular and the individual, in so far as it marks the rise of the mortal, singular body, purged of its sinful fleshly existence, and thus spiritualised in communion with a divine and universal creator. The singular resurrected spiritualised body thus attempts to fulfil the promise of the ‘individual’ as that living being that is supposed to be originally and ultimately indivisible, inseparable from its self, secular avatar of the immortal ‘soul’.

(p.25) This struggle between two inextricable notions of the living, qua singular and qua individual, may indeed constitute the form in which Europe has developed its identity historically: a form that in its conflict-ual character may be distinctly European. What would then turn out to be a specifically European legacy and resource would be the capacity to sustain this conflict in what Derrida calls the ‘test of the antinomy’, the ‘ordeal’ of the aporia. The inability to sustain that ‘ordeal’ would then take the historically decisive form of a yearning to transcend the tension and resolve the conflict. What is today called ‘neo-liberalism’ appeals to this yearning, while threatening to upset the fragile balance that has been established over years of European history between the singular and the individual, between the public and the private.11

It is symptomatic of this delicate balance that immediately following the Second World War an economic ideology was developed in Germany that continues to dominate European political life today. It was the ideology of the ‘social market economy’. The term was introduced in 1946 by the German economist Alfred Müller-Arnack and it became the dominant economic and political ideology of postwar Germany, from Adenauer and Erhard to Gerhard Schroeder.

Müller-Arnack displayed a significant historical awareness when he designated ‘the social market economy’ as an ‘irenic formula’, designed to reconcile the private interests of the ‘market’ with the public interest of society, capital with labour. The word ‘irenic’, from the Greek eirene, meaning ‘peace’, goes back to a text published in 1593 by the Protestant theologian Franz Junius the Elder under the title Eirenicum, which sought to promote a reconciliation of Catholic and Protestant warring factions after the devastating wars of religion, a devastation that halved the civilian population in the German-speaking areas where most of the conflicts took place. The fact that the leitmotif of postwar German socio-economic ideology presented itself as a compromise between the two major factions of western Christianity seems particularly significant given that the idea of a ‘social market economy’ has not only become the shibboleth of a reunified Germany but has also found its way into the Lisbon Treaty, which became effective on 1 December 2009.12

The Christian notion of redemption thus permeates the economic thinking of the social market economy, which, in order to be ‘highly competitive’ as the Lisbon Treaty explicitly demands, must be able to remain creditworthy. To be creditworthy, debts must be redeemable in full, which in the given system means repaying debts incurred together with the specified interest in the specified time frame. The contemporary German insistence on austerity as a path to economic, political (p.26) and national salvation reflects a mode of thinking that is ultimately theological: man is indebted to his creator; his debts, like his sins, are self-incurred and must be redeemed with interest. The debt ‘matures’, but unlike the life cycle of singular beings, it does not diminish and disappear but rather augments in ‘value’.

Thus, the heterogeneity of the singular is interpreted as the debt that the individual, whether private citizen or sovereign state, must under all circumstances pay back, with interest, to other individuals. The singularity of the self is thus ‘economised’, rendered measurable, quantifiable, maximisable (through interest) and in this sense ‘redeemable’. The notion of an irreducible heterogeneity, in which the relation of self to other cannot be quantified because it is never measurable, is thereby excluded from the sphere of social, political and economic reality.

This economic-theological – and above all ‘redemptive’ – ‘logic’ thus subordinates the ‘other of the cape’ to the injunction to ‘move forward’, from one cape to the next. And thereby a very old story seems to repeat itself. Europe today subordinates what is to come to what has been. And if the United States is understood to name the system that is seeking most powerfully to perpetuate this theological and redemptive economy by imposing it on a globalised world, it can be considered to be the eminent practitioner of the logic of the ‘other cape’. It seems as if the observation made by Valéry almost a century ago still holds true, at least in part: Europe, he wrote, ‘aspires to be governed by an American Commission’ (Valéry 1960: 930).

If this aspiration is true of only a part of Europe (transcending national borders), it may be helpful to recall that the most celebrated of all capes, the Cape of Good Hope, is not known by the name initially given to it by its Portuguese discoverer, Bartolomeu Dias. Originally he called it the Cabo das Tormentas. Europe seems destined today to make the perilous journey towards this cape. How it will navigate that journey is the question posed today (and surely tomorrow) for ‘Europe after Derrida’.

Notes

(1) . On occasion I have slightly modified the English translation.

(2) . See Naas (1992) and Redfield (2007).

(3) . I thank Jonathan Wadman for the following observation: ‘According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the “to” element in “today” actually means “on” or “at”, a throwback to a meaning which is largely obsolete in other contexts. This of course is also another meaning of the French word au as in aujourd’hui. Incidentally, the German word for “today”, heute, comes from the Latin hodie, which in turn is a concatenation of ho+die “on this day”.’ The need to which this (p.27) etymological note bears witness – the need of emphasising this particular, singular day – can perhaps be seen as a response to the tension between the generality implied by the word – ‘today’ is always and ever the same, ‘everyday’ – and the singularity of each and every day, irrevocably different from every other one. It is a tension articulated and exploited by the French writer Pascal Quignard and the French filmmaker Alain Corneau, in the book and the film Tous les matins du monde (‘All Mornings in the World’) – followed by the phrase ‘never return’.

(4) . Given that Derrida acknowledges at the outset ‘hope, fear and trembling’, it can be noted that this anecdote is relayed at the very end of Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling ([1843] 1983: 123). To be sure, Kierkegaard’s narrator, Johannes de Silentio, misses an excellent chance to keep silent, something attributed by Aristotle to Cratylus, when he interprets the remark as a denial of movement altogether and as a return to Eleatism. In our context, however, it can also be read as heralding the introduction of a movement different from what we usually take to be such, namely what Heidegger would call ‘locomotion’ (Bewegung) in contrast to ‘being-moved’ (Bewegtheit) (see Heidegger [1927] 1962: 439–44, where Bewegtheit is translated as ‘movement’ to distinguish it from Bewegung, ‘motion’; for reasons I take to be obvious, I prefer ‘being-moved’ to ‘movement’ as an English rendition of Bewegtheit).

(5) . ‘Heading’ also retains the textual allusion of cap to the top of a page or the title of a chapter.

(6) . Exactly one year to the day before I wrote this, the 7 January 2012 issue of The Economist ran a leading article with the headline ‘Save the City’. The leader explained: ‘Britain is the home of the world’s capital of capital but no longer prizes it. That is a mistake.’

(7) . Obviously there are enormous differences in the situation of the media in different European countries: the history of Berlusconi in Italy for instance, or the predominance of private commercial interests in the German media, contrasts somewhat with the situation in France and the UK. But I would still argue that the tradition of regarding the media as belonging at least in part to the public domain has long been one of the decisive differences between Europe and America.

(8) . Compare here Karl Marx’s famous characterisation of the capitalist as amasser of wealth (Schatzbildner) in Capital: ‘His experience is that of the world-conqueror: each new country is only a new frontier’ (Marx [1887] 1995: 71). A page earlier Marx indicates the context in which this frenzy develops: ‘Modern society, which, soon after its birth, pulled Plutus by the hair of his head from the bowels of the earth, greets gold as its Holy Grail, as the glittering incarnation of the very principle of its own life’ (Marx [1887] 1995: 70). This connection between religion and economics, between gold as the ‘glittering incarnation of the very principle of its own life’, can hardly be taken too seriously and too literally today, when the leaders of finance and speculation, Bernard Madoff, Lloyd Blankfein and others, all claim for themselves a quasi-divine status: ‘doing God’s work’ in Blankfein’s immortal words (quoted in Phillips 2009).

(9) . This is also what lies behind the new buzzword in academic management and policy: ‘excellence’. To ‘excel’ is to be better than the others, but not fundamentally different.

(10) . It is significant that this title omits the historical reference to the ‘baroque’, which occurs throughout the book itself. I would see in that a sign of the larger implications of Benjamin’s study, which although focused on a particular historical period presents what can be seen as a paradigm of European modernity itself.

(11) . Paradoxically perhaps I associate here the singular with the public, the individual with the private. The German word for ‘public’, Öffentlichkeit, stresses (p.28) the openness of the public sphere, which is also a defining trait of the singular as I have been discussing it here.

(12) . Article 2 of the Treaty of Lisbon states:

  1. ((i)) The Union’s aim is to promote peace, its values and the wellbeing of its peoples.

  2. ((ii)) The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime.

  3. ((iii)) The Union shall establish an internal market. It shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress … (Treaty of Lisbon 2007).

References

Bibliography references:

Aristotle (1941), Metaphysics, in The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. Richard McKeon, New York: Random House.

Benjamin, Walter (1972), ‘Kurze Schatten’, in Gesammelte Schriften, Band IV: Kleine Prosa/Baudelaire Übertragungen, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, p. 369.

Benjamin, Walter (1996), ‘Capitalism as Religion’, in Selected Writings, Vol. I: 1913–1926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, pp. 288–91.

Benjamin, Walter (1999), ‘Short Shadows’, in Selected Writings, Vol. II: 1927– 1934, Cambridge, ed. Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland and Gary Smith, MA: Belknap Press, pp. 739–40.

Benjamin, Walter (2003), ‘The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility’, in Selected Writings, Vol. IV: 1938–1940, ed.Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, pp. 269–70.

Derrida, Jacques (1991), L’Autre cap, Paris: Minuit.

Derrida, Jacques (1992), The Other Heading: Reflections on Today’s Europe, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Heidegger, Martin [1927] (1962), Being and Time, New York: Harper.

Hölderlin, Friedrich (1992), ‘Blödigkeit’, in Sämtliche Werke und Briefe, Band I, ed. Michael Knaupp, Munich: Carl Hanser.

Kierkegaard, Søren (1983), Fear and Trembling/Repetition, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Marx, Karl [1867] (1995), Capital, Vol. I, Moscow: Progress.

Naas, Michael (1992), ‘Introduction: For Example’, in Jacques Derrida, The Other Heading: Reflections on Today’s Europe, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. vii–lix.

Nietzsche, Friedrich [1887] (1974), The Gay Science: With a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs, New York: Vintage.

Phillips, Matt (2009), ‘Goldman Sachs’ Blankfein on Banking: “Doing God’s Work”’, Wall Street Journal, 9 November, http://blogs.wsj.com/marketbeat/2009/11/09/goldman-sachs-blankfein-on-banking-doing-gods-work (last accessed 19 June 2013).

Plato (1999), The Statesman, Indianapolis: Hackett.

Redfield, Mark (2007), ‘Derrida, Europe, Today’, South Atlantic Quarterly106(2), 373–92.

(p.29) Treaty of Lisbon (2007), http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cmsUpload/cg00014.en07.pdf (last accessed 19 June 2013).

Valéry, Paul (1960), Oeuvres, vol. II, Paris: Pléiade.

Notes:

(1) . On occasion I have slightly modified the English translation.

(3) . I thank Jonathan Wadman for the following observation: ‘According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the “to” element in “today” actually means “on” or “at”, a throwback to a meaning which is largely obsolete in other contexts. This of course is also another meaning of the French word au as in aujourd’hui. Incidentally, the German word for “today”, heute, comes from the Latin hodie, which in turn is a concatenation of ho+die “on this day”.’ The need to which this (p.27) etymological note bears witness – the need of emphasising this particular, singular day – can perhaps be seen as a response to the tension between the generality implied by the word – ‘today’ is always and ever the same, ‘everyday’ – and the singularity of each and every day, irrevocably different from every other one. It is a tension articulated and exploited by the French writer Pascal Quignard and the French filmmaker Alain Corneau, in the book and the film Tous les matins du monde (‘All Mornings in the World’) – followed by the phrase ‘never return’.

(4) . Given that Derrida acknowledges at the outset ‘hope, fear and trembling’, it can be noted that this anecdote is relayed at the very end of Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling ([1843] 1983: 123). To be sure, Kierkegaard’s narrator, Johannes de Silentio, misses an excellent chance to keep silent, something attributed by Aristotle to Cratylus, when he interprets the remark as a denial of movement altogether and as a return to Eleatism. In our context, however, it can also be read as heralding the introduction of a movement different from what we usually take to be such, namely what Heidegger would call ‘locomotion’ (Bewegung) in contrast to ‘being-moved’ (Bewegtheit) (see Heidegger [1927] 1962: 439–44, where Bewegtheit is translated as ‘movement’ to distinguish it from Bewegung, ‘motion’; for reasons I take to be obvious, I prefer ‘being-moved’ to ‘movement’ as an English rendition of Bewegtheit).

(5) . ‘Heading’ also retains the textual allusion of cap to the top of a page or the title of a chapter.

(6) . Exactly one year to the day before I wrote this, the 7 January 2012 issue of The Economist ran a leading article with the headline ‘Save the City’. The leader explained: ‘Britain is the home of the world’s capital of capital but no longer prizes it. That is a mistake.’

(7) . Obviously there are enormous differences in the situation of the media in different European countries: the history of Berlusconi in Italy for instance, or the predominance of private commercial interests in the German media, contrasts somewhat with the situation in France and the UK. But I would still argue that the tradition of regarding the media as belonging at least in part to the public domain has long been one of the decisive differences between Europe and America.

(8) . Compare here Karl Marx’s famous characterisation of the capitalist as amasser of wealth (Schatzbildner) in Capital: ‘His experience is that of the world-conqueror: each new country is only a new frontier’ (Marx [1887] 1995: 71). A page earlier Marx indicates the context in which this frenzy develops: ‘Modern society, which, soon after its birth, pulled Plutus by the hair of his head from the bowels of the earth, greets gold as its Holy Grail, as the glittering incarnation of the very principle of its own life’ (Marx [1887] 1995: 70). This connection between religion and economics, between gold as the ‘glittering incarnation of the very principle of its own life’, can hardly be taken too seriously and too literally today, when the leaders of finance and speculation, Bernard Madoff, Lloyd Blankfein and others, all claim for themselves a quasi-divine status: ‘doing God’s work’ in Blankfein’s immortal words (quoted in Phillips 2009).

(9) . This is also what lies behind the new buzzword in academic management and policy: ‘excellence’. To ‘excel’ is to be better than the others, but not fundamentally different.

(10) . It is significant that this title omits the historical reference to the ‘baroque’, which occurs throughout the book itself. I would see in that a sign of the larger implications of Benjamin’s study, which although focused on a particular historical period presents what can be seen as a paradigm of European modernity itself.

(11) . Paradoxically perhaps I associate here the singular with the public, the individual with the private. The German word for ‘public’, Öffentlichkeit, stresses (p.28) the openness of the public sphere, which is also a defining trait of the singular as I have been discussing it here.

(12) . Article 2 of the Treaty of Lisbon states:

  1. ((i)) The Union’s aim is to promote peace, its values and the wellbeing of its peoples.

  2. ((ii)) The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime.

  3. ((iii)) The Union shall establish an internal market. It shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress … (Treaty of Lisbon 2007).