The European Exception

The European tendency to make the constitutive exception a key philosophical concept gives voice to the semi-conscious awareness that Europe itself is an anomaly in world history. It may be Freud’s unconscious, Lacan’s Real or objet petit a, Žižek’s dialectical inversions, Badiou’s event, Benjamin’s or Jameson’s rupture, Agamben’s exception or Negri’s kairos, or … (fill in the blank), but they all trade on the constitutive exception. I would suggest that this is an ideological trace of history itself. For, as Diakonov argued in his little read The Paths of History, European economic history is an anomaly in terms of world history, a crucial anomaly, but an anomaly nonetheless. However, this constitutive exception has also produced a fundamental problem, if not a gross error, for the European path has been taken as the norm of world history. Only now, with Europe and its satellites trying to hang onto a mythical golden age now suddenly in the past, is Diakonov’s insight being realised.