Citizen SubjectFoundations for Philosophical Anthropology

Citizen SubjectFoundations for Philosophical Anthropology

Étienne Balibar

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780823273607

Publisher: Fordham University Press


What can the universals of political philosophy offer to those who experience “the living paradox of an inegalitarian construction of egalitarian citizenship”? This title considers the necessary and necessarily antagonistic relation between the categories of citizen and subject. In this book, the question of modernity is framed anew with special attention to the self-enunciation of the subject (in Descartes, Locke, Rousseau, and Derrida), the constitution of the community as “we” (in Hegel, Marx, and Tolstoy), and the aporia of the judgment of self and others (in Foucault, Freud, Kelsen, and Blanchot). After the “humanist controversy” that preoccupied twentieth-century philosophy, the book proposes foundations for philosophical anthropology today, in terms of two contrary movements: the becoming-citizen of the subject and the becoming-subject of the citizen. The citizen-subject who is constituted in the claim to a “right to have rights” (Arendt) cannot exist without an underside that contests and defies it. He—or she, because the text is concerned throughout this volume with questions of sexual difference—figures not only the social relation but also the discontent or the uneasiness at the heart of this relation. The human can be instituted only if it betrays itself by upholding “anthropological differences” that impose normality and identity as conditions of belonging to the community. The violence of “civil” bourgeois universality, the text argues, is greater (and less legitimate, therefore less stable) than that of theological or cosmological universality. Right is thus founded on insubordination, and emancipation derives its force from otherness.