Sovereignty Crises
George Edmondson and Klaus Mladek
We are fortunate to find ourselves living in interesting times: times not sim-
ply of change or transition but of universal crisis.1 History is full of crises, of
course. Yet compared to its predecessors, today’s crisis feels more permanent
and enveloping because it lacks the one certainty they shared: that it will, for
better or worse, have an end. When the term crisis acquired its contemporary
meaning (as a time of social upheaval and epochal transformation) in the late
eighteenth century, “the only unknown quantity” was “when and how” the
crisis in question would be resolved, and by what means.2 Today, our ubiqui-
tous crisis consciousness appears to have cast such assurance in doubt. Alain
Badiou can usually be counted on to defend robust revolutionary solutions,
yet even he contends that the promise of a remedy— an alternative political
vision, a new praxis, or a compelling symbolic fiction— “is in a state of total
crisis.”3 (Which is exactly why the search for such a fiction remains an urgent
political project, as we argue here.) Meanwhile, as if confirming Arendt’s
observation that there is “no longer any ‘uncivilized’ spot on earth” and that
“we have really started to live in One World,” the symptoms of crisis have
spread boundlessly to become, in a manner very different from what Carl
Schmitt envisioned, the new nomos of the earth.4 How far does crisis extend?
Far enough that even the traditional concept of krísis, with its spatiotemporal
limits and inherent faith in resolution, has itself been thrown into a crisis
powerful enough to affect the category of the political as such: its ordering
function, its concept of historical and organizing space, even, as the surging
critical interest in bio- and zoopolitics attests, Aristotle’s definition of the
human as the only political animal. More than two millennia on, the very
origins of the political are so thoroughly in crisis that the margins of the
apolis, stalked by the beast and the god, have once again come into view.
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