Emmanuel Levinas and the Politics of Non-Violence:

Emmanuel Levinas and the Politics of Non-Violence:

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By Victoria Tahmasebi-Birgani
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2014
World Rights
216 Pages
ISBN 9781442642843
Published Jan 2014
Online discount: 25%
 $50.00    $37.50
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ISBN 9781442694996
Published Feb 2014
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French philosopher and Talmudic commentator Emmanuel Levinas (1906–1995) has received considerable attention for his influence on philosophical and religious thought. In this book, Victoria Tahmasebi-Birgani provides the first examination of the applicability of Emmanuel Levinas’ work to social and political movements. Investigating his ethics of responsibility and his critique of the Western liberal imagination, Tahmasebi-Birgani advances the moral, political, and philosophical debates on the radical implications of Levinas’ work.

Emmanuel Levinas and the Politics of Non-Violence is the first book to closely consider the affinity between Levinas’ ethical vision and Mohandas Gandhi’s radical yet non-violent political struggle. Situating Levinas’ insights within a transnational, transcontinental, and global framework, Tahmasebi-Birgani highlights Levinas’ continued relevance in an age in which violence is so often resorted to in the name of “justice” and “freedom.”

Victoria Tahmasebi-Birgani is a Women and Gender Studies Assistant Professor in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto, Mississauga.

List of Abbreviations

Introduction. Ethical Subject and Political Praxis: A Theoretical Background

Chapter I. Levinas’ Ethicopolitics: Beyond the Western Liberal Tradition

i. Levinas and the Political: General Discussion

ii. An Alternative Reading of Ethics and Politics in Levinas

iii. The Problem of the Third and Justice in Levinas: The Third and Justice: Two Conceptions of Justice in Levinas; Me, the Other, the Third and (In)Justice: Ethical Justice and Liberatory Political Praxis

iv. Levinas and Liberalism: Levinas and the Liberal Conception of the Individual; Levinas and the Liberal Peace; Levinas and the Liberal Economic Arrangement

v. Conclusion

Chapter II. Radical Passivity, the Face, and the Social Demand of Justice

i. Oneself: Subject as Radical Passivity of the Sensible: Maternity as a Praxis Grounded in Radical Passivity

ii. The Irreducible Other: The Face As A Social Demand for Justice

iii. Self and the Other: Peace With the Other As Being Responsible for the Other’s Suffering and Death

iv. Conclusion

Chapter III. Substituting Praxis and Political Liberation

i. Substitution in Radical Passivity

ii. Substituting Praxis as a Liberatory Struggle

iii. The Contours of Substituting Praxis: Substituting Praxis: Liberation in Pre-Intentional Proximity; Substituting Praxis: Liberation and Freedom; Substituting Praxis: Liberation and the Spirit of Sincerity and Youth; Substituting Praxis: Liberation and (Non)Violence — The Third as Persecutor

iv. Conclusion

Chapter IV. Levinas and Gandhi: Liberatory Praxis as Fear for the Other

i. Levinas and Gandhi: Can There Be A Dialogue?

ii. Parallels between Levinas and Gandhi: The Subject in Levinas and Gandhi; Gandhian Selfless Service and Levinasian Irreplaceable Responsibility

iii. Entry Into Non-Violence Through Eschatology

iv. Gandhi: Non-Violent Revolt and Eschatological Peace

v. Levinas: The Event of Speech and Eschatological Peace: Ethical Love as the Principle of the Social and the Political; Political Opponent as Interlocutor

vi. Gandhi: Political Enemy as Interlocutor: Peaceful Struggle as Speech

vii. Liberation as Substitution: Fearing for the Other Instead of Fearing from the Other

vii. Conclusion



Emmanuel Levinas and the Politics of Non-Violence is valuable in that it adds to a still limited amount of published work that tackles head on one of the greatest problems in Levinasian studies: the relation of face-to-face ethics to politics. The author develops an original argument that links Levinas’ concept of man’s ‘substitution’ and gratuitously infinite responsibility for his neighbour’s suffering to a politics of ‘justice’ via the idea of ‘non-violent ethico-political praxis.’”

Marinos Diamantides, School of Law, Birkbeck, University of London