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Master Classes  
4 October 2016

The Political Bond is not the Social Bond

Alliance, Violence, and Recognition

International Master Class by Prof. Marcel HÉNAFF, Ph.D.

  • Wednesday, 26th of October 2016, 4-6 PM
  • Centre Jean XXIII, 52, rue Jules Wilhelm, Luxembourg

Marcel Hénaff, is a philosopher and anthropologist, professor at the University of California, San Diego. He has taught at the Universities of Copenhagen, Johns Hopkins, Kyoto and at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. He studied anthropology at the University of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

His publications include Sade, the Invention of the Libertine Body (1999); Claude Lévi-Strauss and the Making of Structural Anthropology (1998; 1991); Public Space and Democracy (coed. Tracy Strong, 2001); The Price of Truth. Gift, Money, Philosophy (2010; 2002); Le Don des philosophes. Repenser la réciprocité (2012); Violence dans la raison? Conflit et cruauté (2014); The City in the making (2015; 2008).

His main field of research is political philosophy and anthropology of political institutions, economic relationships, forms of social bond, reciprocity and symbolic practices. His books have been translated from French into English, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Korean. His most important book The price of Truth has received the 2002 Grand Prize of Philosophy of the French Academy.

The Political Bond is not the Social Bond

If we take seriously Aristotle’s statement that man is a political animal, then we must admit that he/she is more than just a social animal. Aristotle proposes an explicit genealogy from the family (reproduction) through the village (solidarity) to the city-polis (the good life). But in the same text, and as a counterpoint, he suggests a more dramatic genealogy: man, capable of discourse [logos], is the most evil among animals, but he is also capable of judgment; through justice he corrects the evil he does or can do; such is the purpose of the city.

We probably need to reexamine this genealogy and ask: What about stateless societies? Do they have no justice? Are they locked in violence? Anthropology teaches us something different: traditional societies establish and preserve peace through ceremonial gifts exchanges, which are primarily pacts, i.e. public procedures of reciprocal recognition. The exogamic alliance is their foundational form; it turns biological facts into institutions. What this alliance defines is not the private space of the family, but the public system of kinship; it ensures the universe of rules, and it is the seminal form of the public space.

The following question remains: where does violence itself come from? What do theories of evolution teach us about it? Our next task will then be to understand the shift from the order of the alliance, with its mutual resolution of conflicts, to the order arbitrated by a third party, the State. This order guarantees to everyone recognition by law as a citizen, but it does not guarantee or even create the social bond, which remains based on mutual recognition among individuals and the various groups within a society.

See also:
An Economy in Crisis – A Crisis of Civilization
Anthropology of Money, Debt, and Time
International Lecture by Prof. Marcel HÉNAFF, Ph.D.
Tuesday, 25th of October 2016, 6:30-8 PM

Master Class Hénaff – Flyer
PDF 1 Mb, 4 October 2016
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University of Luxembourg
Faculty of Law, Economics, and Finance
The Research Unit in Law
Prof. Johan van der Walt, Ph.D.

L S R S
Department of Public Responsibility
Research Program Financial Responsibility Studies
Chris Doude van Troostwijk, Ph.D.

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