Abstract of paper I will be presenting at the 2105 Joint Annual Conference of the Society for European philosophy and the Forum for European Philosophy, ‘New Frontiers’ at the Scottish Centre for Continental Philosophy, University of Dundee. September 3rd to 5th, 2015.

It is a fairly ambitious abstract for a 20 minute paper, so I may end up more sketching out a project rather than getting into detailed argument, the ideal would probably be to sketch the project and then get into some detail on one aspect of it. I’ll certainly be doing some re-reading of Clausewitz, On War, over the summer along with a first reading of Girard on Clausewitz and maybe Aron on Clausewitx and I will then have more idea of how to develop what is in the abstract.


The issue of European frontiers is apparent at present in the following ways: the frontiers of the European Union in relation to European nations outside itself; the frontiers of Europe as a continent; the frontiers between transnational and national sovereignty; the frontiers of citizenship and residence rights in relation to migrants. The current situation poses both challenges and positive possibilities for a tradition of philosophical thinking about Europe that goes back to the German Idealists, with roots in Enlightenment and earlier thought. Recent discussion of Europe within philosophy have included extensive reference to Arendt on refugees, Derrida on hospitality, and Habermas’ version of a normative foundation for the European Union, largely understood as a constitutional enterprise.The discussion of refugees and hospitality is a way of framing the migration issue, while the discussion of normative foundations is a way of framing sovereignty issues. The paper will build on, and attempt to go beyond, these investigations by considering the persistence of violence at the frontiers of the European Union. The appearance of René Girard’s work on the military theorist Clausewitz, suggests a way of framing the resistance to transnational sovereignty and migrant rights with regard to  the persistence of mimetic violence, in its concentrated military forms, as well as its more dispersed general social, cultural and anthropological forms, which were considered by Girard in earlier work that should be reassessed with regard to his latest work. The militarisation of the response to non-European immigration, the growth of tension with Russia, a European nation, in pushing European countries towards security based co-operation even while trans-national sovereignty becomes more questioned, the persistence of violent frontier disputes in the post-Soviet parts of Europe, and tendencies towards political violence in Greece resulting from a European based debt crisis, all suggest that the more ethical and constitutional hopes for Europe cannot make progress without more attention to the mimetic logic, which becomes political violence, and even war, when it is not adequately recognised whether in philosophical texts or everyday discourse. The paper will investigate Girard’s relevance to these questions, and the limits of his emphasis on mimesis, and reflect on how other philosophical approaches to violence should be considered in the light of Girard’s contributions and its limits. Foucault and Schmitt will be the major points of reference here with regard to their thoughts about violence and about Europe. In both their references to Europe and to violence, sovereignty is at issue. In Foucault, sovereignty is understood in a dispersed way in the totality of power relations, while in Schmitt sovereignty is given a more legalistic context, but nevertheless with an understanding of the mobility and dispersal of issues of political sovereignty. On the basis of Girard’s most recent work and how we might understand it in relation to Schmitt and Foucault, the paper will build up a framework for understanding the frontier issues of Europe, along with the violence intertwined with them, and will attempt to suggest ways forward.

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