The Royal Remains: The People's Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty
Eric L. Santner
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"The king is dead. Long live the king!" In early modern Europe, the king's body was literally sovereign—and the right to rule was immediately transferrable to the next monarch in line upon the king's death. In The Royal Remains, Eric L. Santner argues that the "carnal" dimension of the structures and dynamics of sovereignty hasn't disappeared from politics. Instead, it migrated to a new location—the life of the people—where something royal continues to linger in the way we obsessively track and measure the vicissitudes of our flesh.
Santner demonstrates the ways in which democratic societies have continued many of the rituals and practices associated with kingship in displaced, distorted, and usually, unrecognizable forms. He proposes that those strange mental activities Freud first lumped under the category of the unconscious—which often manifest themselves in peculiar physical ways—are really the uncanny second life of these "royal remains," now animated in the body politic of modern neurotic subjects. Pairing Freud with Kafka, Carl Schmitt with Hugo von Hofmannsthal,and Ernst Kantorowicz with Rainer Maria Rilke, Santner generates brilliant readings of multiple texts and traditions of thought en route to reconsidering the sovereign imaginary. Ultimately, The Royal Remains locates much of modernity—from biopolitical controversies to modernist literary experiments—in this transition from subjecthood to secular citizenship.
This major new work will make a bold and original contribution to discussions of politics, psychoanalysis, and modern art and literature.
a sovereign who preserves the natural right deposited by all the other moments of the entrance into the civil state. What occurs from this, as a result, is the necessary linking of the preservation of life with the possibilityalways present even if rarely utilizedof the taking away of life by the one who is charged with ¡nsuring it" (62). V have indicated, what is still missing from Esposito's story is a focused engagement with what I earlier characterized as a "missing piece" of the world,
appears in our collective political life is that remarkable convergence of political theology and science fiction that Hobbes called the "Leviathan." To return to Esposito's terms, the bit of transcendence that immanence cannot reabsorb is not simply the figure of the sovereign qua bearer of political authority, but one, precisely, whose presencewhose fleshhas been amplified by way of a psychotic dynamic at the heart of sovereign immunization: the re- Lacan, The Psychoses, 150; my emphasis.
Defects and Imbecihties" (436). ... 42 OF KINGS AND OTHER CREATURES what is missed in such claims and, I would suggest, in all efforts to deflate the force of political metaphors by "deconstructing" their metaphoricity, their status as fictions or rhetorical figures, is the difference between symbolic fiction and fantasy. What is missed is precisely the fact that such fictions get a grip on the imagination of individuals and collectives because they are ultimately sustained by the "real
sickly, puffy skin more generally), the second in the pieces of paper filled with writing that stand in a kind of visual symmetry with respect to Marat's martyred, Christ-like body. Clark, for his part, places considerable emphasis on these bits of writing, seeing them as more than a means for the idealization of Marat as exemplary friend of the people.4 For Clark, these bits of writing are the place where, to use a Lacanian locution, the signifier falls into the pictorial space whose meanings it
body its organism"; and finally those of dissipation, "when the Figure fades away and returns to the field" 53. The forces of cosmic dissipation are at work above all in Bacon's last works, where Deleuze appears to see the telos of the painter's development: "The scrambled or wiped-off zone, which used to make the Figure emerge, will now stand on its own, independent of every detìnite form, appearing as pure Force without an object: the wind of the tempest, the jet of water or vapor, the eye of