a few prescriptions for transcending the present misery:  non-exhaustive, non-programmatic mentions…

“Oh, my brothers, my children, my comrades; I loved you for all my anger but didn’t know how to tell you, I didn’t know how to live with you, I couldn’t manage to reach you, to touch your cold souls, your deserted hearts!  I found no words of good cheer, no living words to force your chests full of air with laughter!  I had lost the vicious rage to see you stand up, the rage to gaze upon you with open eyes, I had lost the language to express to you my refusal to see you growing old before having really lived at all, letting down your arms without having lifted them first, going down without having wanted to go up.  I wasn’t strong enough to fight off sleep, to keep it from throwing you out of the world and out of time, to drive it far away from you, because myself in turn, season by season, I too was weakening; I felt my limbs softening, my thoughts coming apart, my anger disappearing, and your non-existence winning me over…

J. Lefebvre, The Consolation Society


Whatever it may be, the terrible community is like everything else, because it is in everything else.


Biopolitical democracy and terrible community – the one insofar as it is a self-evident part of the distribution of force relations, and the other insofar as it is the effective substrate beneath immediate relations – constitute the two poles of the present domination.  To where the power relations that rule over biopolitical democracies cannot, properly speaking, realize themselves without terrible communities, which form the ethical groundwork for that realization.  More precisely, the terrible community is the passionate form of this self-evidence, which alone allows it to be deployed in concrete territories.  

In the final analysis it is only by means of the terrible community that the Empire manages to parse the most heterogeneous social relations semiotically in the form of biopolitical democracy: in the absence of terrible communities, the social self-evidence of political democracy would have no body upon which to exert itself.  None of the phenomena where the archaic and the hypersophisticated are entangled within the Empire (neo-slavery, globalized prostitution, corporate neo-feudalism, human trafficking of all kinds) can be explained without reference to that mediation.  

This in no way means that there’s any kind of subversive value to the gestures of destruction aimed at the terrible community.  As a regime of effectuation of that self-evidence, the terrible community has no vitality of its own.  There’s nothing about it that puts it into any kind of condition to morph into anything else, to put beings in a dramatically changed relationship to the state of things; nothing to be saved.  And it’s a fact that the present is now so completely saturated with terrible communities that the emptiness that any partial, voluntary rupture with them comes to be filled in again with a terrifying quickness.

If it is therefore absurd to ask what to do with the terrible communities, since they’re always already made and always already in a process of dissolution, and reduce to silence all internal non-submission (parrhesia and everything else along with it), it is on the other hand of vital importance that one understand in what concrete conditions of solidarity the biopolitical democracies and terrible communities might be destroyed.  A certain kind of perspective on them has to be taken up, a “thief’s gaze,” which from the interior of the apparatus materializes the possibility of escaping it.   Sharing this gaze, the most lively bodies will bring about that which the terrible community, even in spite of itself, blindly exudes: its own dissolution.

Because the terrible communities are never really duped by their own lie, they are just attached to their blindness, which allows them to subsist.    

2 bis

We have given the name of terrible community to all milieus that are constituted on the basis of the sharing of the same ignorances – and also the ignorance, it so happens, of the evil that produced them.  Vitalist criteria, which would consider the malaise felt inside a human formation as the touchstone for seeing a terrible community in it, are quite often inoperable.  The most “successful” of terrible communities teach their members to love their own failings and to make them likeable.  In this sense, the terrible community is not the place where one suffers the most, but just the place where one is the least free.


The terrible community is a presence within absence, because it is incapable of existing in and of itself, but only relative to something else, something outside of it.  It is thus by unmasking not just the compromises or failures, but the surreptitious family relations of the terrible community that we can abandon them as false alternatives to the dominant socialization.  It is by turning its slanderous schizophrenia – “you’re not only with us; you’re not pure enough” – back into a infectious schizophrenia – “everyone is with us too, and that is what will undermine the present order” – that the members of the terrible community can escape the double bind that they’re walled up in.


It’s not by getting rid of some particular leader that one can get free of the terrible community; the vacant place will soon be taken up by another, because the Leader is merely the personification of everybody else’s desire to be led.  Whatever anyone may say, the Leader participates in the terrible community much more than he leads it.  He is its secretion and its tragedy, its model and its nightmare.  It only takes the emotional education of each person to subjectivize and desubjectivize the Leader differently than he himself does.  Desire and power are never chained to any particular unique configuration; it’s enough just to make them waltz together to throw their whole dance out of whack.

Often, a certain skeptical look is enough to demolish the Leader as such in a lasting way, and in so doing, to destroy his place.


All the weakness of the terrible community has to do with its closure, its incapacity to get out of itself.  Since it’s not a living whole, just a wobbly construction, it is as incapable of acquiring an interior life as it is of feeding it with joy.  And thus the mistake of having confused happiness with transgression is paid for, because it is by starting from the latter that the system of unwritten, and thus all the more implacable, rules of the terrible community continually re-form themselves.


The fear of “recuperation” so typical of the terrible community can be explained as follows: it is the best justification for its closure and moralism.  On the pretext that “we won’t sell out,” we prohibit ourselves from understanding that we’ve been bought off already so that we’ll stay where we are.  Resistance, here, thus becomes retention: the old temptation to chain beauty to her sister, death, which made the Orientals fill their birdcages with magnificent birds who would never again see the open skies, which made jealous fathers keep their prettiest daughters locked away at home, and the greedy to fill up their cupboards with gold bullion, finally ends up invading the terrible community.  So much imprisoned beauty withers away.

And even the princesses shut away in their towers know that the arrival of prince charming is but the prelude to spousal segregation, that what must be done is to abolish both the prisons and the liberators at the same time, that what we need isn’t programs for liberation but practices of freedom.  

No escape is possible from the terrible community without the creation of an insurrectionary situation, and vice-versa.  Now, far from preparing insurrectionary conditions, the definition of the self as an illusory difference, as a substantially other being, is but a conscience-related remnant determined by the absence of such conditions.  The demand for a coherent identity for each person is equivalent to the demand for a generalized castration, a diffuse self-policing. 

6 bis

The end of the terrible community coincides with its opening to events: and it is around events that singularities aggregate, and learn to cooperate and touch one another.  The terrible community, as an entity animated by an inexhaustible desire for self-preservation, filters all possibilities through the sieve of compatibility with its existence instead of organizing itself around their outpouring.  

This is why all terrible communities have a defensive conspiracy relationship with events and conceive of their relationship with the possibilities in terms of production or exclusion, always tempted as it is by the optional possibility that it might master them, always secretly drawn by their totalitarian latency.


“A man’s worth is not determined according to the useful labor he supplies, but according to the contagious force that he has to draw others into the free expenditure of their energy, their joy, and their lives: a human being is not merely a stomach to be filled but an excess of energy to be lavished.” (Bataille)  

We know from experience that in passionate life – and thus in life itself – nothing’s paid for, the one that wins out is always the one that gives the most, the one who knows how best to enjoy it.  Organizing the circulation of other forms of pleasure means feeding a power that is the enemy of all the logic of oppression.  It is true, then, that in order to not lose power one must have a lot of it.

Counterposing to the combinations of power another register, one of play, is not equivalent to condemning oneself to not being taken seriously, but to making oneself the bearer of another economy of expenditure and recognition.  The margin of enjoyment that exists within the games of power feeds off reciprocally exchanged sacrifices and humiliations, the pleasure of commanding is a pleasure one pays for, and in that sense the model of biopolitical domination is completely compatible with all the religions that flayed the flesh, with the work ethic, with the prison system, just as much as commodity and hedonist logic are compatible with the absence of desire that such logic mitigates.

In reality the terrible community never manages to contain the potential becoming inherent in each and every form-of-life, and that’s what permits it to damage their internal force relations, and question even power’s post-authoritarian forms.


All human aggregations that set themselves up in an exclusively offensive or siege-related perspective is a terrible community.

To finish with the terrible community, we must first renounce defining ourselves as the substantial ‘outside’ of what, in so doing, we create as an ‘outside’ – “society,” “competition,” “the Blooms,” or whatever else.  The true ‘elsewhere’ left to us to create cannot be sedentary; it is a new coherence between beings and things, a violent dance that gives its rhythm to life, cadenced at present by the macabre rhythms of industrial civilization, a reinvention of play between singularities – a new art of distances.


Evasion is like opening a sealed-off door: first you get the impression that your eyes have to adjust to a shorter distance; then you take your eyes off the horizon and start arranging the details in order to get out.  

But evasion is simply escape: It leaves the prison intact.  What we need is total desertion, an escape that simultaneously annihilates the whole prison.

There is no individual desertion, properly speaking.  Each deserter takes away with him a bit of the troops’ morale.  By his simple existence, he is the refusal in acts of the official order, and all the relationships that he enters into are contaminated by the radical nature of his situation.

For the deserter it’s a matter of life or death, and the relationships he enters do not fail to know his solitude, his finiteness, nor his exposedness.  


The fundamental presupposition of a human aggregation freed of the grip of the terrible community is a new conjugation of these three fundamental coordinates of physical existence: solitude, finiteness, and exposedness.  In the terrible community, these coordinates come together on the plane of fear along the axis of the imperatives of survival.  Because it is fear that supplies the necessary consistency to all the phantoms which accompany an existence folded under those imperatives – in the first rank of which fall the phantom of penury which is so often introjected as the a priori, supra-historical horizon of the “human condition.”

In his Presentation of Sacher-Masoch, Deleuze demonstrates that beyond the psychiatric fixation of masochism on perversion and the caricature of the masochist in the sadist counter-type, Masoch’s novels stage a systematic game of the disparagement of the symbolic order of the Father, a game which implies – that is, which presupposes it at the same time as it puts it into acts – a community of affections transcending the sharing of bodies between men and women; all the elements that comprise the masochist scene converge in the sought-after effect: the practical ridicule of the symbolic order of the Father and the deactivation of its essential attributes – the indefinite suspension of grief and the systematic rarefaction of the object of desire.

All devices which aim to produce among us a personal identification with practices characterized by domination are equally intended – even if it is not their exclusive intent – to produce in us a feeling of shame, the shame of being ourselves as much as just of being a human being, a resentment that aims to make us identify with domination.  And it’s this shame and resentment that supply the vital space for the continual replication of the order and action of the Leader.

Here we find confirmation of the existence of the inextricable nexus between fear and superstition which is seen at the dawn of all revolutions; between the crisis of presence and the indefinite suspension of grief, between the economy of need and the absence of desire.  We say that in passing, and only to remind the reader of how deep the stratification runs within the process of subjugation that upholds the existence of the terrible community at the present time.

In what way can we generalize “Masoch’s game,” and, dismissing the choice between domination and submission, evolve towards a human strike?

In what way can the act of playing with the nexus of domination produce a transcendence of the theatrical staging phase, and leave an open range for the free expression of practicable forms-of-life?

And, to return to our original question, in what way can such forms-of-life once again bring together solitude, finiteness, and exposedness?

This question is a question for a new kind of emotional education to address, one that will inculcate a sovereign contempt for all positions of power, undermine the injunction to desire it, and liberate us from the feeling that we are responsible for our whatever-being, and thus solitary, finite, and exposed.

No one is responsible for the place they occupy, only for their identification with their own role.

The potential of every terrible community is thus a potential to exist inside of its subjects in its absence.

To free ourselves from it, we’ll have to start by learning to inhabit the gap between us and ourselves, which, left open, becomes the space filled by the terrible community.

Then, to free ourselves from our identifications, to become unfaithful to ourselves, to desert ourselves.

Training ourselves to become the space for such a desertion for one another,

Finding in each encounter a chance to decisively subtract ourselves from our own existential space,

Measuring to find that only an infinitesimal fraction of our vitality has been removed from us by the terrible community, and been installed within the enormous machinery of devices,

Feeling in ourselves the foreign being that has always already deserted us, who gives us the basis for all possibility of living out solitude as the precondition for encounters, finiteness as the precondition for unprecedented pleasures, exposedness as the precondition for a new geometry of passions,

Offering ourselves as a space of infinite flight,

The masters of a new art of distances.

Aber das Irrsal hilft.

(But it helps to wander.)


changed May 23, 2010