Sovereign Nothingness: Pyotr Chaadaev's Political Theology

Theory and Event 22 (2):243-266 (2019)
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This paper speculatively reconstructs the unique intervention that Pyotr Chaadaev, the early nineteenth-century Russian thinker, made into the political-theological debate. Instead of positioning sovereignty and exception against each other, Chaadaev seeks to think the (Russian) exception immanently, affirming its nonrelation to, and even nullity or nothingness vis-à-vis, the (European, Christian-modern) world-historical regime—and to theorize the logic of sovereignty that could arise from within this nullity. As a result, we argue, nothingness itself becomes, in Chaadaev, operative through and as the sovereign act and the figure of the sovereign, exemplified for him by the Russian emperor Peter the Great (1672–1725).
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