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Emmanuel Levinas and the Politics of Non-Violence

Emmanuel Levinas and the Politics of Non-Violence

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Emmanuel Levinas and the Politics of Non-Violence
    Book Description:

    In this book, Victoria Tahmasebi-Birgani provides the first examination of the applicability of Emmanuel Levinas' work to social and political movements.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9498-9
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    Politics as it stands, separate from ethical and moral considerations, has exhausted itself in the twentieth century and now into the twenty-first. Atrocities committed in the name of Truth, Justice, Equality, Liberation, Freedom, or God – we have exploited and exhausted them all in an effort to justify a means to an end in an incessant flow of political struggles both local and global. For Emmanuel Levinas, the question of the political is primarily a question of one’s relationship with the absolute alterity of the other human being. As such, the question of politics is irreducibly bound with the question of...

  6. 1 Levinas’ Ethicopolitics: Beyond the Western Liberal Tradition
    (pp. 14-52)

    Although Levinas’ ethics and philosophy have been influential in Europe and in North and South America for decades, the political implications of his work have been largely neglected. Levinas’ reception in the English-speaking world has been primarily through religious philosophers, phenomenologists, and deconstructionists.¹ Only recently has the relation of Levinas’ ethics to politics gained attention.² Yet most of these works remain within the general tenets of Western liberal thought and its conception of politics, justice, and the state;³ only a few works, such as Howard Caygill’sLevinas and the Political, explore the intersection of Levinas’ thought with radical traditions in...

  7. 2 Radical Passivity, the Face, and the Social Demand for Justice
    (pp. 53-80)

    I start this chapter by repeating, albeit in different words, Levinas’ question inOtherwise Than Being: “What meaning can community take on in difference without reducing difference?” (OB 154). How can we account for the idea of the subjective in Levinas? In what ways does Levinas’ exposition of radical passivity signify subjectivity as a demand for the other’s justice? Who is this other in Levinas for whom I must be infinitely responsible? What are the contours of my responsibility for the other? Moreover, what is the subject’s relationship to the other, and what is it in the other for which...

  8. 3 Substituting Praxis and Political Liberation
    (pp. 81-114)

    Substitution is one of the central themes in Levinas’ conception of ethical relation. Indeed, his second major work –Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence– is marked by his discussion of substitution. In terms of its weight and its centrality, Levinas himself tells us that the chapter on substitution is the “centerpiece” of this work (OB xli). For Levinas, the modality of radical passivity leads to substitution – from “me for the other” to “me in suffering for the other.” It leads not in a chronological sense, but in a fundamental sense. Substitution is finding oneself sensing, and feeling for, the other’s...

  9. 4 Levinas and Gandhi: Liberatory Praxis as Fear for the Other
    (pp. 115-156)

    Levinas describes an ethical subject whose liberatory inspiration radically departs from that of the traditional Marxian or liberal agent of social change. His phenomenology of the face situates radical passivity at the heart of the sociopolitical subject and consequently posits substituting praxis as an ethical form of political action, one that cannot be reduced to characterizing the rebellious potential of the subject in terms of her virility. However, although he occasionally points to social movements such as Paris 1968, whose participants’ goals transcended a mere transfer of power, he avoids explicitly articulating how this ethicopolitical subject acts politically or how...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 157-162)

    Emmanuel Levinas, writing during and after the cruelest and bloodiest war of the twentieth century, developed a vision of ethical relation that places sensibility at the heart of an ethical subject. I suggest that an important aspect of this sensibility is the radical immediacy it establishes in the political, and its conception of justice.

    Levinas, in the span of almost fifty years of writing, may have occasionally lent his support to the liberal state, yet he quite clearly understood that a political approach to liberation, freedom, peace, and justice needs to be informed by a vision beyond the one offered...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 163-178)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-186)
  13. Index
    (pp. 187-201)