Theories of Community in Habermas, Nancy and Agamben: A Critical Evaluation



Continental philosophy over the past two decades has increasingly turned its attention to social and political matters. Two key figures involved in this move, Jean-Luc Nancy and Giorgio Agamben, have advanced a position centering on the idea of singular community. This article sets out the basic features of this idea and contrasts it with Habermas’ theory of communicative or dialogical community. Habermas is open to the criticism that his theory of community is constructed according to an unduly narrow construal of legitimate argumentation and democratic participation. The idea of community advanced by Nancy and Agamben, in contrast, appears to lack any credible criteria of community inclusion or identity. In conclusion, it is suggested that both theories of community fall short by neglecting the task of constructing and preserving actual sites of collective democratic action and resistance.