Bastard Politics

Sovereignty and Violence

By Nick Mansfield

Subjects: Political Philosophy, Violence, French Studies, Comparative Literature, Political Theory
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary French Thought
Paperback : 9781438481647, 204 pages, July 2021
Hardcover : 9781438481654, 204 pages, February 2021

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Table of contents



1. Sovereignty: The Law of Misrule

2. Bataille and Sovereignty: The Apotheosis of Violence

3. Divine Violence and Justice

4. Derrida on Sovereignty

5. Sovereignty and Hospitality

6. Bastard Politics: Sovereignty and Violence



Argues that we need to reinvent sovereignty as a motive for democratic political action while remaining alert to its dangers, specifically its relationship to violence.


Sovereignty is usually seen as either the assertion of national rights in the face of external challenge or the cruel license of unaccountable power. In philosophy, sovereignty has been presented as the earthly manifestation of a potentially limitless, preexisting power, usually belonging to God. This divine sovereignty provides a model and the authority for worldly sovereignty. Yet, divine sovereignty also threatens the human by imagining power as transcendent, unquestionable, and potentially infinite. This infinity makes sovereignty endlessly disruptive and thus potentially infinitely violent. Engaging the complexities of sovereignty through the canon of political philosophy from Hobbes to Foucault and Agamben, Bastard Politics argues that there is no escaping this ambiguity. Nick Mansfield draws on Bataille and Derrida to argue that politics is sovereignty in action. In order to deal with the political challenges of the climate change era—including the enactment of global justice, the future of democracy, and unpredictable surges in population movement—we must embrace the possibilities of human sovereignty while remaining mindful of its dangers.

Nick Mansfield is Honorary Professor of Critical and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University in Sydney. He is the author of several books, including The God Who Deconstructs Himself: Subjectivity and Sovereignty between Freud, Bataille and Derrida and Theorizing War: From Hobbes to Badiou.