Sovereign indifference: Junger's Anarch and the appeal of the small

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Author: James Farrugia
Date: Autumn-Winter 2016
From: Anarchist Studies(Vol. 24, Issue 2)
Publisher: Lawrence & Wishart Ltd.
Document Type: Report
Length: 9,973 words

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When I mount the scaffold at last these will be my farewell words to the sheriff: Say what you will against me when I am gone, but don't forget to add, in common justice, that I was never converted to anything. --H.L. MENCKEN


Pericles' boast that 'the man who takes no part in politics [is] not unmeddlesome but useless' underscores a fundamental principle in any anthropocentric system: that any individual human being is a composite of an indefinite totality, to wit, historical humanity. Carl Schmitt's and Giorgio Agamben's formulations of sovereign power, the state of exception and bare life are relevant here; yet both thinkers are compromised by the supremacy of the political and human totality. The same, it will be claimed, also ultimately holds true for a great number of classical and contemporary anarchist thinkers. What makes Ernst Junger's 'anarch' different is precisely his indifference to the sovereign claims of any human totality, and the assertion of his own sovereignty: 'the monarch wants to rule many, nay, all people; the anarch, only himself. One of the key differences between more communal conceptions of the anarchist and Junger's anarch is that the latter does not believe that 'human nature is intrinsically good'. More crucially, the anarch recognises that he lives in a world which he cannot 'take seriously'. Underlying all this there is an implicit appeal for the small, the limited and the concrete. In a time of increasingly global compacts and formulations, this is worth investigating.

Keywords: anarchy, indifference, sovereignty state

In his 1977 novel Eumeswil, Ernst Junger came to the final formulation of a figure he had been tinkering with since after the First World War: the anarch. Suffice it to say, this paper will revolve around what Junger called the 'possibility', rather than the 'position', of the anarch. (2) Before we explore the anarch's relation to sovereignty, state, anarchy and indifference, it would be useful here to provide one of the many concise summations offered by the protagonist of Eumeswil, the historian and night steward Manuel Venator, of some of the anarch's major inclinations in these regards:

The anarch is no individualist [...] He wishes to present himself neither as a Great Man nor as a Free Spirit. His own measure is enough for him; freedom is not his goal; it is his property. He does not come on as a foe or reformer: one can get along with him nicely in shacks or in palaces. Life is too short and too beautiful to sacrifice it for ideas. (3)

The ubiquitous space which the anarch--with great consequence--'does not take seriously' is that populated by humanity in its various supra-individual and historically-bound trajectories. Indeed, the choice of the word 'space' arises from the difficulty in imagining a properly concrete or unabstracted humanity. For Alexander Herzen, a collectivist, the 'word "humanity" is most repugnant; it expresses nothing definite and only adds to the confusion of all the remaining concepts a sort of piebald demi-god'. (4) There is, to...

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Source Citation
Farrugia, James. "Sovereign indifference: Junger's Anarch and the appeal of the small." Anarchist Studies, vol. 24, no. 2, autumn-winter 2016, pp. 33+. Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A503295866