Pierre Rosanvallon (et moi)

I am just beginning a collection of Pierre Rosanvallon’s work on democracy, edited by Samuel Moyn. The first piece is Rosanvallon’s inaugural address given at his induction to the College de France, and it is surprisingly underwhelming, offering arguments (e.g. we should pay attention to historical context when we study democracy) that are commonsensical and cause one to wonder why they didn’t give the job to Ranciere (or Abensour) instead. Moyn’s introduction laments the fact that Rosanvallon is little known in the U.S., because, in Moyn’s view, almost all contemporary left political thought is “defective” and a “catastrophe” (though he only really mentions, buried in an endnote, Hardt & Negri). Moyn does not, however, offer much of a compelling argument for what is so wrong with everyone else, or so different about Rosanvallon.

So…we’ll see. Clearly the College de France address is a particular context, and the other work might deliver something more interesting. But given the richness of work on democracy in French thought (Ranciere, Abensour, Lefort, Lefebvre, Castoriadis, Nancy, Derrida…), I am wondering what value Rosanvallon is going to add…

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