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A Study in Transborder Ethics

Justice, Citizenship, Civility- Foreword by Daniel Innerarity


Geneviève Souillac

A renewed approach to democratic ethics is needed, one that takes into consideration the management of complexity and memory in a global world. The expansion of democratic ethics for the stewardship of a postnational, postmetaphysical, and postsecular world is the object of this book. It takes as its point of departure current proposals for global democratic justice, but extends these by incorporating contemporary European ideas on border and existential ethics. The privilege of democratic citizenship includes our conscious involvement with our historical destinies, and with others whom we inevitably encounter on our journey of contemporary politics. A post-heroic approach to democratic ethics, one which takes violence and injustice seriously, yet understands the constraints posed on us as historical beings, is necessary. The practices of civility, such as they arise from a normative democratic universe and the ever-increasing role of civil society, can be harnessed for a transborder ethics. The examination of a contemporary democratic anthropology that includes a phenomenology of violence further clarifies the importance of intersubjective processes of encounter, dialogue, and recognition.


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History has catapulted democracy to the front scene. However, the disenchantment with democracy shows that the secular faith in popular sovereignty and human rights is accompanied by aporias, ambiguities, and contradictions. The democratic experience is historically extensive. Democracy, historically, was instituted on behalf of the ideals of human rights, popular sovereignty and self-determination, and against both despotism and totalitarianism. However, universalist, foundationalist and idealist hubris also find their origins in a modern history troubled with violence and conflict. The theoretical and philosophical debates underlying appeals for the expansion of democracy unveil the classical dilemmas of the unfinished project of modernity with regard to ethical pluralism and normative universalism. As this book has argued, the tools provided by political anthropology can help address the complexity of the democratic experience as it is tied to an evolving history. Facing the negative side of idealist politics, such as violence, conflict, and opacity, provides an opening to the complexity of modernity, but also to the dynamic forces of civility. Indeed addressing the democratic legitimacy deficit today leads to broader appeals to justice against the forces of dehumanization, and towards the “right to rights”. Drawing attention to the broader patterns of violence and injustice which implicate states and peoples within an international system, and to the potential of increased cooperation, is a first step. However, an added shift is required: democracy is an experience rather than a place. This experience includes disenchantment and sometimes powerlessness, and even the encounter with violence and intractable conflict. But...

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