Philosophy Today

Volume 67, Issue 2, Spring 2023

Bernard Flynn
Pages 239-258

Claude Lefort and Eric Santner on the Use and Abuse of the King’s Body
A Phenomenological Critique of a Post-Secular Position

This article contests in detail the use that Eric Santner makes of the writings of Claude Lefort, Merleau-Ponty and Ernest Kantorowicz. Santner conceives of modernity as being haunted by, or one might almost say, poisoned by the Royal Remnants, the body of the king circulating in society as “too muchness.” He uses Merleau-Ponty’s concept of the flesh in order to orchestrate his profoundly anti-modern position. I contend that he has grossly misinterpreted the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, as well as the work of Claude Lefort, in order to elaborate a post-secular position which ends up being a form of an apology for the Trump administration. This is effected through his denegation of the categories of political philosophy and his substitution for them with concepts taken from marketing. My article ends by contesting the notion of messianism, with or without a messiah, which has become current in certain forms of contemporary philosophy and reflecting on the role of messianism in American political culture.