Why does anti-Semitism seem to be so deeply engrained in our societies, our institutions and our attitudes? To answer this question we need to look beyond our current practices and see that anti-Semitism has much deeper roots - that it is woven into the very structures of Western thought.
Jean-Luc Nancy argues that anti-Semitism emerged from the conflictual conjunction of two responses to the eclipse of archaic cultures. The Greek and the Jewish responses both affirmed a humanity freed from myth but put forward two very different conceptions of autonomy: on the one hand, the infinite autonomy of knowledge, of logos, and on the other, the paradoxical autonomy of a heteronomy guided by a hidden god. The first excluded the second while simultaneously absorbing and dominating it; the second withdrew into itself and its condition of exclusion and domination. How could the long and terrible history of the hatred of the Jew, masking a self-loathing, be generated by these intrinsically contradictory beginnings? That is the question to which this short book gives a compelling answer.
The concept of community is tainted by the events of the twentieth century, frequently appropriated by totalitarian regimes for the purposes of exclusion and oppression. In this dialogue with Peter Engelmann, philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy attempts to reframe community as central to a reconceptualization of politics and democracy. Observing that all our interactions are in some way shared experiences, Nancy demonstrates that a common sense of life precedes our existence as individuals: we can only truly make sense of life in a plurality. Democracy is typically concerned with establishing political unity, yet its greater task lies in community: creating a space in which sense can realize itself and circulate. This conversation with one of France's foremost thinkers will be of great interest to all readers of contemporary philosophy and political theory.