"Does the Body Politic Need a New Body?"

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"Does the Body Politic Need a New Body?" Yusko Ward-Phillips lecture, University of Notre Dame, 3rd of November 2016


This paradox of insisting on sovereignty just at the time when it is becoming even more ill adapted than before, can be sharpened. A legitimate desire for protection and identity is being transformed into a denial that what allows this protection and identity actually comes from resources that exist beyond the apparent limits defining any given body. Nowhere is this requirement clearer than in the question of global climate mutation: to withdraw inside the narrow limits of nation-states is the surest way to threaten the safety and livelihood of those same nation-states, and even, for some low lying countries, to risk their existence altogether. If we accept to define Real-Politick as a selfish defense of one’s own national interest, then it should be realistic to take into account all those external factors on which the self depends. In some ways, this is what brought the 189 nation-states to some sort of agreement in Paris in December 2015: even if they reacted much too late, it is in the name of Real Politick that they were forced to take into account the legitimate power of the climate that ignores all national boundaries but that weighs on all of them. Nations did not stop to pursue their interests, but they were forced to accept that those interests were entangled in such a way that drawing the precise limits of those interests had become impossible. Even if you suppose that hard-nose geo-politics obliges States to remain selfish, you will have to recognize how terribly difficult it is for any one of them to draw the exact boundary around the self at the time of ecological crisis.