Against Levinas' messianic politics

a polemic

Jason Caro

pp. 1-21

Blamelessly, most commentators attempt to deduce the political theory of Levinas from his interhuman philosophy. In contrast to the perceived state of ethical life in contemporary politics, the attractiveness of the asymmetric obligations owed by the ego to the Other make the deductive project seem urgent. But an inductive analysis of Levinas' philosophy yields troubling prerequisites, including rigorous theocracy and a form of sociability in which no epistemological clarity is permitted that could determine in situ interpersonal duties. Such unfamiliar politics enable the celebrated ethical relation of self for the Other. Designed as a polemic with the presumption that politics not ethics is first philosophy, the insights of the inductive analysis of Levinas' thought will come as no surprise to observers who worry that power and sovereignty cannot be summarily excluded from social or even ethical relations.

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