Enough : Jacques Lezra

Andrea Geyer / Three Chants Modern
Andrea Geyer / Three Chants Modern

Enough : Jacques Lezra

Somos producto de 500 años de luchas . . . Pero nosotros HOY DECIMOS ¡BASTA!, somos los herederos de los verdaderos forjadores de nuestra nacionalidad, los desposeídos somos millones y llamamos a todos nuestros hermanos a que se sumen a este llamado como el único camino para no morir de hambre ante la ambición insaciable de una dictadura.

We are a product of 500 years of struggle . . . But today, we say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. We are the inheritors of the true builders of our nation. The dispossessed, we are millions and we thereby call upon our brothers and sisters to join this struggle as the only path, so that we will not die of hunger due to the insatiable ambition of a . . . dictatorship.

—“Declaración de la Selva Lacandona”
Comandancia General del EZLN, 1993

Politics is concerned with what is or is not enough; it takes shape when I judge something to be insufficient for something to obtain; and when I make a claim based on this judgment. The rules for obtaining whatever it is that I desire (a state of affairs or a matter of fact; something abstract, like the “truth,” “freedom,” or “security”; or being-with someone; or something tangible, like a meal; or something I cannot yet express) may or may not be given, but I make a claim or a demand, and in doing so I place myself in relation to the person or the institution from which I demand something or before which I make a claim. I take “enough” to have two peculiar features whose odd combination makes the word, and the concept (if it is one) not just a political concept, but the concept on which politics stands.

The first peculiarity is this: “Enough” is a word like “adequate,” or “sufficient,” or “satisfactory,” with a corresponding noun, but usable in a way that leaves it unclear whether the expression is nominal or adjectival: “This is enough” usually means “enough of this or that thing, experience, situation,” and in such cases, in the “enough of” cases, we have in mind the modifying aspect of the word, even when we leave out the word “of” for purposes of compression, as in “That’s enough coffee.” But we may also be saying, “This is enough,” and mean by “enough” a limit: not “enough of” something that I can point to, but a substantive limit I have come to. In this situation, the phrase “This is not enough” or “This is enough,” means something like “This that I am designating, this concept, is or is not plenty, it is or is not a fullness,” or even “I have reached a limit; I am marking the limit of my disposition by saying ‘enough.’” Something like “enoughness,” which we will take to be the substantive for “enough,” haunts the modifier “enough,” or the expression “enough of”—which is why we can use phrases like “I’ve had enough” or “That’s enough!” without offering an accompanying specification of just what it was that tipped us over into raising our voices or storming out of the room.

This grammatical oddity works in hand with a second peculiarity. When I say, “That’s enough coffee,” you understand me well enough: coffee is the sort of thing about which we can judge that there is or is not enough, for this purpose and at this time, as an engineer might say that there must be enough sand in the mix to make the cement strong—but not too much, and perhaps to different degrees depending on the uses we envision for the cement, on the temperature at which it sets, the altitude, and so on. We might also say that there’s “enough truth” in a statement for a certain end to be achieved by making that statement.

These are recognizable, practical assertions—or to put it more definitively, these are statements that underscore the synthetic connection between “enough” or “enoughness” and the domain of technique, practice, materiality, and measure. They are expressions of judgments that concern contingent states of affairs, regarding the sorts of things that appear to us in different forms, and satisfy us differently at different moments. On this side of things, “enough”-judgments step forth wreathed in a cloud of ghostly, modifying, even technical deictics: “enough” (of this, for now, in these circumstances, here). But there would appear to be concepts that do not admit of a technical or a practical modification.

Here again we can give trivial examples. It is either true or false that “The graph of the equation x=y is a straight line forming a 45 degree angle with the X and Y axes.” We would not say that either of these statements is “true enough” or that there is “enough truth” or an “adequate amount of truth” in such assertions. It is either true or false that “Karl Marx is the author of Capital.” There are things, like coffee or cement, about which it is true that we can say that they are or are not “enough,” in a given situation or to particular ends. But there are others—my graph example; a statement like “Karl Marx is the author of Capital”—about whose truth it seems obviously wrong to use the term “enough,” though we would want to say that making such statements, here and now, in these circumstances, might have one or another effect, which would then make “true enough-ness for that effect to be achieved” independent of the statement’s truth or falsehood in this second sense.

It is not given, however, that what we are talking about when we say, “That is enough” or “That is not enough” is a thing of one or the other sort. No rules are given, or universally-enough agreed, allowing us to decide, or even to reason out from first principles, that one thing is the object of practical measure and not the sort of thing that is not. About rules, too, we can say, “That is enough; enough of applying the rule; that rule is or is not universally enough agreed to allow us to decide whether rules can be given or derived to allow us to decide what sort of ‘enough’ we are using or supposed to use.”

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