In Europe today, the question of politics as faced with human phenomena is effaced in favour of a discourse of necessity. The decision makers think that they are managers. The logic of numbers buries the political question. This cold discourse creates a climate of exclusion and widespread disquiet in a silent world faced with the rise of segregations.

While eliminating matters of debate and of choice this “politics” is presented as courageous when it lends itself to the sacrifice of humanitarian ideals, in favour of the common good. The sacrifice of virtue becomes a courageous act. “The extent to which clichés have crept into our everyday language and everyday discussions may well indicate the degree to which we not only have deprived ourselves of our faculty of speech but are ready to use more effective means of violence […]”[1] . However, in her deployment of the concept of the banality of evil, Hannah Arendt taught us that anyone who renounces his responsibility, in for example simply complying with legislation, sinks into evil and it that case it is no longer exceptional. This does not prevent this evil from being radical.

After his only visit to an extermination camp, Eichmann describes a scene which for him was unbearable. He continues: “so I was off – I jumped into my car and did not open my mouth anymore […] That day, I had enough. I was finished”[2]. What about this body which jumps and this speech which is suspended? What of this man who witnesses this radical experience and returns to his village office to ensure the smooth running of the next part of the operation? What is signified by “That day, I had enough. I was finished.”? He didn’t lose his voice, he didn’t dismantle his death machine, He didn’t put a bullet in his head. On the contrary, he returned to his work with the very same zeal. He merely regrets that he has not been recognised for the carrying out his duty of so painful a nature, without fainting.

A civil servant, an ordinary man, Eichmann was ambitious. Moreover, as a civil servant he was a nobody within the hierarchy of the Third Reich. He was “responsible” for the final solution, for the identification of victims for racial cleansing, for their deportation and their extermination. During his interrogation in Jerusalem, “he will explain for months, to the police officer who interrogates him (a German Jew!) the cruel injustice he has suffered in never exceeding the rank of lieutenant-colonel, with the certainty of awakening a sympathetic legitimacy and without ever a word of regret for the man, facing him, who saw his family disappear in the camps”[3]. Having obeyed his orders with a most devoted servitude he cannot understand the lack of recognition of which he is the object, and which nevertheless motivated him.

Advancing as a subject without enunciation, Eichmann enjoyed [jouissait] from the position of model employee. Arendt also notes: “The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think […]”[4]. But the responsibility of a parlêtre is not only thought. Moreover, there where the subject thinks, he is not. He is in his act. This allows us to orient ourselves.

Jacques-Alain Miller invites us to make an additional effort, and to address the banality of jouissance, which is undoubtedly another scandal, as is the banality of evil as advanced by Hannah Arendt. The effacement of the subject of the enunciation does not mean the disappearance of his singularity; because his jouissance remains. Eichmann, having chosen obedience, was silent. He continued to occupy the place of the object for the master, enjoying [jouissant] from the place he thus occupied in his wake. This logically will condemn him to death at the end of his trial.

To adopt this ambient speech, to efface oneself as a responsible subject, to recoil and not speak even if one is mistaken, signifies a choice made against desire. From this point of view, speaking beings are all the excluded, the undocumented, because no paper solves the question of lack and desire. Political responsibility is also that of assuming a language that does not pretend to say the whole thing. Precisely that which the management logic of numbers cannot admit.

Heretofore, hateful nationalist ideology produced slick speeches of officials, de-responsabilised of the orders they executed; today, these slick speeches authorise the rise of a new hate speech, while at the same time absolving it. The link of cause and effect has reversed. The European reluctance to build a truly political project could not fail to open the ground for hatred. “The unconscious, it’s politics” is this invariable identified by Lacan in 1967. Hitler produced the Eichmanns. Francken[5], who declares “Racism, it’s for idiots”, while embodying a discourse of pure management, without evil intentions, and absolving himself of the hate speech of some members of Schield en Vrienden. Does he bear no responsibility for their driftings?

Amor Mundi was more than a slogan for Hannah Arendt. With Lacan, we can no longer ignore that only love can allow the possibility to condescend to desire. Conversely, the jouissance – of the owner of his land, his property and the destiny of the other – opens onto hatred and death.


Translation by Raphael Montague


[1] Arendt, Hannah (1953) “On the nature of totalitarianism […]” Essays In Understanding 1930-1934, Formation, Exile and Totalitarianism, Ed. Jerome Kohn, New York: Shocken Books, 1994, p. 307.

[2] Arendt, Hannah, Eichmann in Jerusalem, a report on the banality of evil, New York: Viking Books, 1963, p. 44.

[3] Op. cit. p. 134. [Modified Translation]

[4] Ibid. p. 27.

[5] Theo J.E. Francken is a member of the Flemish Nationalist Party, N-VA, Secretary of State for Asylum, Migration and Administrative Simplification in the Charles Michel Government (Reform Movement).