The Transnational Genealogy of Esprit de Corps
The theoretical message of the word ensemblance is quite simple: the book shows that discourses of ultra-unity in human ensembles are often ideological fabulations connected to nationalism, manipulation, groupthink, power coalitions, social control, political neo-romanticism, etc. These can be effective historically and socially because modern individuals often have this understandable longing for belonging to a group of peers, like-minded fellows that become as one for the sake of a cause. Today, with the upcoming crisis of individualism, the confused revival of nationalisms, and with the capitalist ubiquity of ultra-competitive team-spirit, the exclusivist ideal of cohesive ensembles and esprit de corps seems more and more attractive for some (not to speak of the fantasy of esprit de corps between humans and robots or AI, although I do speak about it in the conclusion).
Hence the cautionary need to remind us, with this book and its rich evidence, of the critical views on esprit de corps since Montesquieu, d’Alembert and Diderot. I sympathise with the critique of the excesses of individualism that has been made in the name of esprit de corps, but the myth of close-knit togetherness, I’m afraid (and I regret it), seems equally illusionary. The idea of ensemblance is not completely negative, though. It’s fine to search for ensemblances that combine solidarity and a critical openness (cf. the pages on Deleuze and Guattari in chapter 6), provided we know pure unity is a dangerous fiction. Moreover, ensemblance – as also explained in the conclusion – is a critical modulation of popular concepts that are I believe too optimistic, such as Judith Butler’s assembly and the Deleuzian assemblage.