A Personal Itinerary
I might as well say it straightaway: this book forms part
of an inquiry that will not end with its final period. Proceed-
ing, by way of Marx’s suspended revolution, from the Platonic
philosopher-king to what reigns today as the sociological concep-
tion of the world, I will try to indicate here some of the milestones
and retrace some of the paths I pursued in asking two or three
questions that are, at once, very simple and very complicated.
How are we to conceive of the relation between the order of
thought and the social order—as harmony or as rupture? How do
individuals get some idea in their heads that makes them either
satisfied with their position or indignant about it? How are repre-
sentations of self and other—which sustain hierarchy, consensus,
or conflict—formed and transformed? For twenty years I have had
occasion to pursue these questions in various sites and circum-
stances: a seminar on Capital called to an unexpected notoriety; a
thesis on Feuerbach interrupted by the din of the street; some time
spent circulating between university halls and factory doors; ten
years of research in worker archives.
That certainly makes for a number of detours. And several
times word got back to me that intentions so pure in principle and
labors so laudable in their execution should be, nevertheless, in a
bit more of a hurry to display the straight lines of their method
and the terra firma of their results.
I must acknowledge that with respect to the questions I posed, I
have been fortunate to encounter teachers of the highest repute,
some rightly so. Unfortunately, a certain irresoluteness of charac-
ter, fed by an excessive attention to minute discrepancies in detail,
always kept me from finding the most promising theories con-
firmed in the examples that life or study o√ered me. To which
undoubtedly was added a certain Christian sentimentality that
made me judge as a bit simplistic and rather disdainful the way in
which learned discourses assumed that the common run of mor-
tals forged their vision of the world. To say nothing of the naïveté
with which the defenders and historiographers of the people
praise the sober simplicity of the ideas they ascribe to them.
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