Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?
Und an diesem Mittag wird es still sein am Hafen
Wenn man fragt, wer wohl sterben muß.
Und dann werden Sie mich sagen hören: Alle!
Und wenn dann der Kopf fällt, sage ich: Hoppla.
Bertolt Brecht, Die Dreigroschenoper
Lady Brute: He is the first aggressor, not I.
Belinda: Ah! but, you know, we must return good for evil.
Lady Brute: That may be a mistake in the translation.
Sir John Vanbrugh, The Provoked Wife
avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
In telling his “sad tale” of Dogville – a tragedy filled with ironic twists and turns– it seems only fitting that Lars von Trier would begin his film with a most ambiguous irony: Tom Edison’s statement that his lectures “can be spiritual without [him] reading [from] the Bible” (von Trier). Indeed, despite their thin secular veneer, the persistent talks that he delivers before the skeptical “citizens of Dogville” (von Trier) are derivative variations on a predicatory mode that runs deep in the American tradition: The Jeremiad, with its condemnatory emphasis on the loss of the utopian promise enshrined in the commonwealth, the “movement from promise to experience –from the ideal of community to the shortcomings of community life” (Bercovitch 16). As we gradually discover Tom’s character, we come to realize that behind his vague appeals for ethical awareness and social reform lies a deeply religious/biblical agenda: forging a renewed moral covenant and a communal compact within the town upon the “mountain shelf” (von Trier), a twofold contract much like the founding project at the basis of the originary city upon a hill.
Through a brief reading of the legal and economic subtexts in von Trier’s film, I propose to analyze the fictional community that he has created in relation to the question of marginalization, otherness and victimhood –a three-faceted problematic that revolves around Grace’s material and symbolic function in Dogville. Grace appears in the community just as the town’s doubting Thomas is ruminating over ways to “purge” the human “soul” through “an illustration,” a tangible proof that modern society is in need of reform through “moral rearmament,” “tolerance,” and “acceptance” of its marginalized underdogs (von Trier). As he mulls over this problem on his evening walk through town, Tom conceives of his proof in the form of a living parable that would perdure as a “gift” to Dogville, to Depression-plagued America and, indeed, to all of humankind (von Trier).
In Grace Tom finds the premise of his proof –a concrete foundation for the credo around which he intends to develop his multi-volume doctrine. As a sort of preamble to his yet unwritten theory, the informal lecture that he delivers before the townspeople is based on one central assumption: the highest ethical expression of a group’s communal bond (its sense of commitment to each member of the community) lies in its capacity to “receive” and “accept” the marginal other freely and unconditionally, with nothing expected in return (von Trier). As a radical outsider within the town, Tom further argues, the fugitive young woman presents a crucial test to one of Dogville’s founding precepts: the belief in a collective life ruled by the standards of community ethic with its logic of inclusion, sharing, and unconditional donation.
As we discover from the outset, it is this logic that defines Tom’s opening gesture of donation and inclusion toward Grace, during their first encounter. After he decides to misdirect her father about her whereabouts, rescuing her from the underworld boss and his henchmen, he reflects that Grace’s visit is indeed a providential gift and a symbol –a sign that the rule of giving and acceptance always prevails (von Trier). In this sense, his initial gift of bread acquires deeper significance: more than an act aimed at satisfying a need, it is primarily a gratuitous gesture of “symbolic exchange” (Baudrillard, Échange193-282). Later, Tom will express the implications of this exchange before Grace tersely and clearly: “Dogville offered you [a trial period of] two weeks, now you offer them” (von Trier).
As it turns out, Grace’s gift to the town (“you have given [Dogville] so much,” Tom will admit later) is another proof, one which starts out as a challenge to her father’s phallocentric conception of law and its translation into the most effective form of social oppression: Justice administered by “the lash” (von Trier). In contrast to the father’s crude legalism and the anti-humanist stance underlying it, the significance of the daughter’s errand in the wilderness should be understood in relation to her utopian longing for a community grounded in innocence; in short, a community governed by a freely internalized covenant of grace (charity, commitment to the other vs. the imperatives of paternalistic Law). 
The ethical significance of the daughter’s nomadic status (her flight from the world of the father) becomes dramatically evident toward the end of the film. Shortly before Dogville’s apocalyptic finale, Grace is escorted into her father’s car, where he presents her with a Faustian deal: a “share” of his “power” in exchange for her return to the city with him (von Trier). Before she rebuffs his proposition, Grace lets him know that his visit to her cannot veil the immorality and violence of his real intentions: “You need to justify your actions before you shoot us?” she taunts him (von Trier). Interestingly, the boss’s response to Grace’s attitude comes in the form of an accusation: “You’re arrogant,” he tells his daughter –to which she responds by saying that he is the arrogant one, since he “pass[es] judgment” on the townsfolk instead of “forgiv[ing]” them unconditionally– without any consideration for their motives (von Trier). Despite its impassioned tone, the lecture that ensues comes down to little more than a literalist, eye-for-an-eye advocacy of the Law. In trying to “exonerate” the townspeople from their crimes, Grace is adopting a stance which is at once “extremely arrogant” and morally dubious: “You do not pass judgment [on the poor and marginal] because you sympathize with them. A deprived childhood, and a homicide really isn’t necessarily a homicide. The only thing you can blame is circumstances. Rapists and murderers maybe the victims according to you, but I –I call them dogs. And if they’re lapping up their own vomit, the only way to stop them is with the lash” (von Trier).
As both the opening and the ending of the film indicate, Dogville’s diagnostic vision of marginality, social belonging, and citizenly responsibility revolves around the opposition and overlap between three problematic fields of investigation on which I will now focus briefly: symbolic economy (the logic of donation as a model for governing the polis); political economy (the strategies of the marketplace as a tool of subjection and exploitation); and Law (the imperatives of crime and punishment vs. the rule of grace).
As far as symbolic economy is concerned, this field of inquiry points to the promissory “ideal” around which von Trier spins his “sad tale”: the ethic of communal values and the ways in which it translates into an economic mode that remains marginal to the logic of the marketplace —the economy of unconditional donation (von Trier). Indeed, the promise that Tom perceives with great conviction in Grace is the cornerstone on which the philosopher-ethicist builds his hopes for the moral future of Dogville as a community representing a new conception of universal citizenship(von Trier): the res publica as a space bound by communal contract (moral values interiorized by and shared within a collectivity) rather than societal contract (institutionally imposed legal imperatives). Recalling the Pauline dialectic of the two covenants (the covenant of “law” and the covenant of “grace”), Tom substitutes the “promise” of communion for the dead letter of the Law (Galatians 4:22).
Here it is worth adding that if at first we are led to perceive in Dogville the promise of a new covenant of grace, it is to a great extent because of the town’s nomadic status as a space projected into a legal noman’s land, a marginal topos “poised” on a symbolic “mountain shelf,” literally lost and forgotten in a geographical and legal desert. (Significantly, it is only through the machinations of the “obscene father” that the long arm of “law enforcement” reaches the town “for the first time in memory” [von Trier]). It is also important to note that Grace’s initial position as an atopian subject-in-flight further reinforces this vision of an ideal communal covenant –this messianic promesse de bonheur that runs throughout the first chapters of the film. Being a nomad herself, a Hagar-like exile fleeing the city for the wilderness, Grace is a person effectively on the margin of the Law; and as such a drifting non-citizen, she becomes both the embodiment of Tom’s proof and its ultimate test: will this “frail” gift of a woman (landed by providence divine in a legally unmarked space) be cast away, or will she be accepted under Dogville’s contract?
Considered from this perspective, the economic overtones of Tom’s discourse on the virtues of giving and accepting are particularly relevant to the communal covenant and the political promise it offers. For the ethical conundrum at stake in the young man’s lecture (are “we” ready to help, “accept,” and give to the other without any prejudice or precondition?) may also be apprehended in light of a twofold problem: the relevance of a symbolic economy based on donation in a Darwinian world, a world driven by the liberal marketplace; and the political future of an ethic of inclusion/acceptance in a class-centered, discriminatory public sphere (von Trier). It is in the context of this questioning that we encounter the dialectical conflict animating von Trier’s tragedy –the brutal contrast between the ethical commitment of symbolic economy, and the inhuman imperatives that govern the two other domains articulated in the film beginning from chapter four: Political economy (the community’s savage exploitation of Grace; the gangsters’ corruptive agency); and Law (Grace’s final endorsement of her father’s conception of law and justice).
In what follows, I shall briefly map out these two domains.
Over against symbolic economy and its non-utilitarian logic of donation, political economy in Dogville figures as the field of a splitting: An embattled terrain in which we witness the division of the economic between instrumental reason –the economy of cold, calculating “rationalization” (Weber 181 ff.)– and its obscene inverse –the economy of banditry (violence, and sadistic subjection of the exploited other).
Briefly described, the economy of rationalization may be said to be governed by austerity, scarcity of resources, retentive calculus, and postponement of pleasure. The most striking exemplars of this obsessional economy are Chuck, with his grim outlook on life, and the Hensons, with their endless cycles of grinding, polishing, and packing glasses.
By contrast, while the economy of banditry is based on a similar process of exploitation and maximization of means, the logic that governs it is Machiavellian in a tactical sense: it is the logic of duplicity, with its corruptive interferences, wily manipulations, and disregard for ethical means (the truck driver’s scheme to cheat Grace out of the ten dollars; the gangsters’ abusive influence over the agents of law enforcement). What is most characteristic of this economic mode, however, is its systematic reliance on sadistic enjoyment of the other’s subjection –a form of enjoyment which figures as a fantasmic byproduct originating in the instrumental use of the tools of exploitation. In this respect, the “quid pro quo” proposed to the fugitive by the town inhabitants and Chuck’s savage exploitation of her body through blackmail are perhaps the most striking instances of the conflation between the calculating ab-use of the young woman and the sadistic fantasies underlying such ab-use (von Trier). (More than instrumental, rationalized “Entzauberung” [Weber 181 ff.], therefore, there is something far from impersonal at work in the new economy that now governs Grace’s subject position: the “counterbalance” set up by the community “from a business perspective,” the truck driver’s “surcharge tax,” (Jim’s expression for his inhuman rape of Grace) and Grace’s chaining in fact represent a monstrous Sadean variation on economic rationale; they are effectively a substitute form of perverse enjoyment [von Trier]).
In mapping out the domain of Law, I propose to follow an analytical movement similar to the one articulated in the section above. I shall deal with the two dimensions of the legal domain: official Law and its obscene inverse, the law of the excluded other.
- First, the field of official Law. In Dogville, this field is governed by the reductive dialectic of crime and punishment and its literalist imperatives (an eye for an eye). Within this domain, Grace’s nuanced vision of criminal motivation (as well as her spirit of understanding and forgiveness) has no place and must be evacuated. As the ending of the film sadly confirms it, her father (the ultimate embodiment of the collusion between Law and patriarchy’s Symbolic Order) reappears in an ostensible attempt to restore law and order, precisely; by the same token, he expresses genuine outrage at his daughter’s wish to “exonerate” the community from their crimes, “arrogant[ly]” depriving them of the “free[dom]” to assume full responsibility for their acts (von Trier). The rule of official Law, contrary to the rule of grace, implies a logic of formular retribution, bracketing the subjective specificities of the other altogether –nullifying such elements as socioeconomic determinants, biography, and psychological motives. However, as the complicity between the criminal boss and the police all too evidently proves it, formular retribution and its apparent ethical rigor and class-blindness is in reality an illusion behind which hides the far more ambiguous reality of privilege and class exploitation –the socioeconomic and political reality that generates the obscene split between the gangsters and the Dogvilles of this world.
- Concerning the obscene inverse of official Law, the law of the excluded other, it differs from the former in that it is rooted not in the Symbolic Order (written laws), but in the domain of the imaginary –the realm where (sadistic) fantasies are projected and acted upon. Through its grounding in the sphere of the imaginary, and more particularly the shadowy dimension of power relations and the enjoyment of such relations, the law of the excluded other, as it is articulated in Dogville, serves a twofold purpose: release from private ressentiment (in the Nietzschean sense); and communal consolidation achieved through the violent exclusion of an other (scapegoat and sacrificial victim). Here, the economic concept of “surcharge” used by Jim the truck driver is both symbolically pertinent and socially paradigmatic: Grace as excluded other must relieve the community from its inner demons by assuming that extra fee, that residual accumulation of negativity hovering over the town’s inhabitants (from dormant violence to self-loathing to familial and collective tensions to the grimness and uncertainty of living conditions). In Dogville, obscene law as it is inscribed on the sacrificial body of the excluded other is an effective manifestation of the rule of sadistic enjoyment; and as such, it is both a field of private/subjective power entanglements and an instrument of structural cohesiveness within the collectivity.
Tom’s proof (the gift to Dogville and the world) is evidently to be apprehended in a conceptual field altogether marginal to the above considerations: it is a proof rooted in the principles of understanding for and inclusion of the marginal other. Very much in Pauline fashion, he presents the following thesis before the audience assembled in the mission house: a human formation ethically bound by the values of community must obey and uphold only one rule, and that is the rule of grace, which is marginal to the letter of the Law. Through his arguments, it becomes apparent that the imperatives of grace are paradoxical insofar as they are self-interiorized and self-dictated –emanating from the free, unconditional gift of the self to the other, the free, unconditional responsibility of the self for the other.  As the sad tale of Dogville unfolds, the symbolic, non-utilitarian foundation of unconditional donation and responsibility is made manifest through a negative instance and an affirmative instance. It is manifested negatively in the townspeople’s decision to impose the “counterbalance” on Grace –the arbitrary, unjust quid pro quo which effectively enslaves her by decreasing her wages and increasing her workload in proportion to the risks involved in her position as fugitive from the Law (von Trier). The symbolic specificities of donation and responsibility are also confirmed positively in Grace’s stance, when she tells Tom, for instance, that it is “not right” for them to have sex while she is in bondage –making it clear that the consummation of their relationship would have no symbolic meaning if it was not done “in freedom” (von Trier). As the ultimate gift, the commitment of the self to the other, in order to have any significance beyond material experience, must be a free, unqualified act of symbolic exchange –a gesture of pure gratuity.
Based on the splitting of the economic into political economy and its obscene, sadistic inverse, the economy of banditry, we may now come to the first conclusion concerning the three-faceted problematic set forth by Tom in his opening ruminations on moral rearmament and communal values. From our preliminary analysis of political economy we may at this point assume that the latter is far from being a “rational” instrument of organization –a neutral, impersonal, and transparent tool of societal (or, for that matter, communal) “management”. By insisting on the sadistic, dark side of political economy, von Trier’s film presents it instead as a shadowy, unmapped domain of misrule –a field of power relations and of subject positions defined in terms of dominant agencies and subjection to such agencies. As we learn through the tragic price that Grace ends up paying in exchange for her physical integration into the community, the economic concept of surcharge is at the core of her existential experience: on a purely economic level, the extra price exacted from the excluded other is expressed and reckoned in the seemingly instrumental, rational terms of surplus value (maximum exploitation of Grace’s time and resources); yet on an intersubjective level, it is painfully clear that Grace’s residual tax is none other than the price of (sadistic) “surplus enjoyment,” to use a Lacanian concept (“Radiophonie” 86-87).
In Dogville, the tacit rule of sadistic enjoyment as a field of private power entanglements and as an instrument of collective cohesiveness may now be defined in terms of two mechanisms: First, imaginary conversion of a concrete crisis into a derealized fantasy (the inner predicaments of Dogville projected on an alien other supposedly threatening to sap the community from within); second, displacement of the original crisis (again by means of imaginary projection) from its source to the space of a fantasized other –the latter being envisioned as the origin of the threat to the collectivity.
The effective outcome of these two mechanisms in terms of Dogville’s treatment of Grace is most shockingly expressed in the conscious and unconscious strategies of “bad faith” (Sartre): By dint of denial and méconnaissance, the community finds itself caught in the process of exorcising its collective violence by projecting it into Grace’s private space. This is how we may interpret the biting irony behind the meeting of truth and “conciliation” that takes place in the mission house at Tom’s request (von Trier). Orchestrated by the intellectual in hope of creating genuine collective peace and healing, Grace’s testimony before the townspeople ends with their invalidation of her word: “copious lies” is Vera’s and the community’s verdict (von Trier). It is Grace who is at the heart of the problem; through a collective scenario of persecution, all the tangible evil of the community is thus exorcised by being projected into the sphere of the excluded other.
Ultimately, Dogville’s pronouncement on the failure of symbolic economy and on the inherent irrationality of Law and political economy leaves us still struggling with the film’s symptomatic vision of sociality –the problem of its unflinchingly diagnostic outlook on the most basic elements of organization that govern the social body. Here it is important to note that von Trier’s ruthless critique of the res publica is centered upon a deeply antinomic conception of Law and justice. Briefly outlined, this antinomic vision revolves around two aporias.
1. Aporia One—Law. Dogville’s exploration of Law and its obscene inverse carries an unsettling diagnosis: In the film, it is a palpable fact that the field of Law is exhaustive, both in its spatial reach and in its claim to account for all forms of injustice (after all, marginal as it is, even Dogville cannot hide from the probing eye of the Law); yet it remains none the less true that the most barbaric forms of injustice are committed within this very field (the collusion between police and criminals costs Grace a great deal, putting her in a position of vulnerability and blackmail). Through Dogville’s interstitial, hybrid legal status (both within the panoptical gaze of the Law and on the margin of it), we come to realize that the obscene law of exclusion and violent subjection –while marking the limits, dead ends, and blind spots of the Law– is not alien to it. With its secret discriminations and its unwritten yet binding codes of abuse, the law of the excluded other is at once intrinsic to official Law and unobservable by it. Even while emanating from the domain of official Law, the rule of sadistic enjoyment is acted out right below its horizon of observation, so to speak.
2. Aporia Two—Justice. Given these foundational limits, is it possible to resolve the aporetic condition of a Law riddled with the immanent symptoms of its obscene inverse? Clearly, the ending of the film does not offer any affirmative resolution to the antinomy outlined above. What it does suggest, however, is a negative opening toward a resolution. Through its hyperbolic conclusion, Dogville presents us with a second aporia: the ethical vanity of what we may term purgative justice. By ordering the entire population of the town killed off, Grace ensures that the citizens of Dogville are neutralized. During her last walk through town, she concludes that in order to preserve the principle of right and the ethic of justice, there shall be no attempt to justify the unjustifiable: the very ground of injustice must be purged of its agents without regard for how overdetermined their agencies may have been. By bringing her ethical “yardstick” to bear on the moral backbone of Dogville, Grace concludes that if the vessel of universal justice is to be cleansed, both the water and the baby must go (von Trier). Despite the appearance of deliberation and ethical contemplation, however, Grace’s final solution is hardly to be interpreted as von trier’s solution. In fact, I would argue that her mad sacrificial zeal represents a negative statement on the aporetic character of (purgative) justice. The violence and vanity of blind retribution –the folly and excess of its purgative zeal are not monstrous aberrations marginal to the domain of justice and redeemable by it; instead, they are inherent in the very enactment of justice, in its actualization from principle to practice.
Thus, despite the ambivalent catharsis brought about by Grace’s ruling, at film’s end we are nevertheless left with two negative illustrations that ultimately symbolize two antinomic verdicts on the internal blind spots, limitations, and contradictions of Law and justice.
For all its negative lessons, however, Dogville’s conclusion with a terminal illustration would be indeed most mysterious (if not ethically dubious) were it not for the redeeming power of one last symbol: Moses. After all, it is he who gets the final word, so to speak. Actualized at last from a flat chalk drawing on the ground to full physical presence, he only is left alone to tell us to announce the need for a new covenant: the rule of watchdog vigilance. Over against any form of social contract dictated by the Law and enforced by the effective interpellation of police apparatuses (or gangsters for that matter), the pact inaugurated by Moses is a virtual bond, an ethical contract marginal to the Law, internalized in the space of consciousness by each individual as a personal code, and emerging within the concrete space of militant civil action: “Dictum ac Factum,” as the motto inscribed on the mine tells us (von Trier).
Conceived in Lévinas’s terms, the virtual compact symbolized by Moses and resurrected from the ashes of Law and justice, implies two main obligations: unconditional commitment to and communal (as opposed to social) “responsibility” for the “absolutely other” –beyond any consideration for legal obligation or social contract. The overall framework of this new compact (both in its logical-ethical basis and in its actualization) is perhaps best envisioned in terms of what we may define as a testimonial impulse –an ethical urge to shoulder the responsibility of relentlessly bearing witness to all forms of injustice.
1. See ns. 2, 8.
2. On the indivisible connection between the (spiritual/moral/religious) “covenant” and the (political) “compact” in the Puritan conception of the social bond, see Miller, 91 ff. Concerning the utopian character of the biblical covenant, see Goux, Iconoclastes 31-51.
3. Tom later reveals his universalist humanism to Grace when he tells her about one of his long-cherished projects: A novel about a town like Dogville in which the events and the characters represent “universal” rather than local-color significance (von Trier).
4. In Emmanuel Lévinas’s terms, this non-utilitarian will to gratuity is rooted in “metaphysical desire,” a form of motivation that aspires after the “free[dom]” of experiencing the realm of the “absolutely other, as opposed to the realm of “need,” where “desire as it is commonly understood” manifests itself (Totalité 5). See also Lévinas, Autrement 13-14. Note the film’s emphasis on the cancellation of the utilitarian principle of need during Grace’s idyllic days in the town—a period resonant with utopian echoes: “As Ben had no home, Grace’s domestic experiments were … things he didn’t need, but he put up with them anyhow…. If Jack McKay had needed a partner for conversation, he would surely have gone out and gotten one for himself in the town. So it was not out of need that he allowed Grace to sit with him in his dark parlor…. And God knows that Mr. and Mrs. Henson’s son did not need any help with his books and that the family had taken Grace in for her own sake” (von Trier).
5. See also Baudrillard on the “symbolic economy” of the “gift” and the “countergift” (critique 256-68). Partly because of its reliance on Marcel Mauss’s theory of donation and partly because of its limitation to the dynamic of extra-economic exchange, Baudrillard’s approach fails to integrate the principle of the gratuitous gift from the self to the other –a reduction that results in the exclusion of the subjective and ethical dimensions involved in the process of donation. See Jacques Derrida for a more comprehensive approach to the principle of gratuity, which, in the Derridean theory of donation, is not only marginal to any form of exchange, but also “disrupts exchange, symmetry, or reciprocity” (Donner 96 ff.; 96). See also Marion on “the gift without object” (147-52).
6. In this respect, the underworld boss, despite his short appearance, casts a long shadow over the totality of Grace’s experience, incarnating what Zizek defines as the oppressive father “in his obscene dimension” (Enjoy 124 ff.).
7. See Miller, 91-92. See also Frye, 78-101, 105-38. On the relation between Law and the phallocentric order, see Goux, Économie 256-79.
8. See Benhabib.
9. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, /To redeem them that were under the law…. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? / For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. / But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. / Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants…. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace…. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. / For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Galatians 4:4-5, 21-24, 5:4, 13-14).
10. See n. 6. See also Moncef 139-53.
11. On the promissory character of the social contract, see Derrida, “Declarations”; De Man, 246-77. Concerning the relationship between the (divine) promise and the utopian nature of messianic vision, see Bensaïd, 201-14; and Goux, Iconoclastes 31-51. See Frye, 78-101, 105-38.
12. See Lefort, formes 215-37.
13. The loss of enchantment is captured in the brief but resonant moment during which the bitterly cynical Chuck recalls Grace to reality, reminding her that her “fall[ing]” for the “foolin’ act” (Dogville’s community spirit and its idyllic wilderness setting) is a tragic illusion (von Trier). Lurking behind the communal idyll (“the trees, the mountain, the simple folk”), are the cruel verities of unlimited and savage exploitation: “People are the same all over: greedy as animals. In a small town, they’re just a bit less successful. Feed’m enough, they’ll eat till their bellies burst” (von Trier). See Lefort, formes 78-112. On the management of Grace’s body and the repressive network of control points set up by the townspeople toward such management, see Foucault’s analysis of the “technology of the body” in panoptical systems (27 ff.). When police, spurred by Grace’s father, intensify the search for her in and around Dogville (on the basis of trumped-up charges), the townspeople demand that the young woman work longer hours and accept lower wages in exchange for their silence –even while everyone knows that Grace is innocent. As Tom announces to his friend that the townsfolk have asked for this “counterbalance,” Grace’s ironic reply (“Sounds like words the gangsters would use”) is deeply significant, foreshadowing the terrible days of exploitation in store for her (von Trier).
14. See in particular the powerful sequence where, in a wryly ironic reference to Chaplin’s Modern Times, a frantic Grace is shown literally running against a gigantic fade-in clock, while the narrator intones: “Busy minutes became busy hours and busy hours became busy days. And irrespective of whether [the community] thought the idea of increasing Grace’s services had any fairness and justification to it or not, it didn’t seem to make anyone any happier –more to the contrary” (von Trier). See Lacan, Écrits 2 119-48; and Zizek, Metastases 57-62.
15. See Girard, Bouc; Zizek, Metastases 54-55.
16. See n. 8.
17. See Moncef, 89-91, 93-98.
18. Genealogy of Morals I, 10.
19. See Girard, Violence 9-61.
20. Here I am thinking in particular of René Girard’s argument on the “structuring use of the scapegoat” (Bouc 177 ff.; 177). See also Girard, Violence 105-134.
21. See Derrida, Donner. Lévinas posits this form of “infinite responsibility,” which originates in the fusion of the self with the other, in contrast to “hostage responsibility,” which is based on a “debt limited by the extent of a [temporary] commitment” to the other (Au-delà 177).
22. See Foucault, 27 ff., and n 13.
23. See Goux’s insightful reading of the economy of Sadean enjoyment and his analysis of “the substance of economic value” as “pain” exacted from the exploited other (Iconoclastes 171-90; 187). See also Blanchot; and Zizek, Metastases 54-55.
24. See also Zizek, They Know Not.
25. The historical echoes of my argument are self-evident here, and the references to the Holocaust as a barbaric form of modern sacrifice are too many to list in this essay. See in particular Lacan, Séminaire XI 247; and Derrida, Schibboleth 83-85. See also Connolly, 1-15
26. See Althusser, 127-86; and Zizek, Sublime 36-47, 105-29, and Metastases 57-62.
27. This virtual bond is perhaps best conceived in terms of a “natural contract,” in Michel Serres’s sense –not a contract based on essentialist master-signifiers (“commonsense,” “the laws of nature,” etc.), but one founded on constant awareness of the need to integrate the marginalized others of the public sphere, including the many failing countries left behind in the process of globalization.
28. Lévinas, Totalité 11-12, 18-23 and passim, and Éthique 91-98. See Seyla Benhabib’s concepts of the “generalized” and “concrete” other. On the “disappearance of the figure of the other-as-fellow” through the modern form of the social contract, see Lefort, Democracy 177 ff.; 177. See also Young.
29. See also Lévinas, Éthique 101-07.