Life in Common by Tzvetan Todorov
An Essay in General Anthropology (European Horizons)

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Synopsis

In Life in Common Tzvetan Todorov explores the construction of the self and offers new perspectives on current debates about otherness. Through the seventeenth century, solitude was considered the human condition in the Western philosophical tradition. The self was not dependent on others to perceive itself as complete. Todorov sees a reversal of this thinking beginning with the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the eighteenth century. For the first time the self was defined as incomplete without the other, and the gaze no longer served only to satisfy personal vanity but constituted the fundamental requisite for human identity. Todorov traces the far-reaching implications of Rousseau's new vision of the self and society through the political, philosophical, and psychoanalytical theories of Adam Smith, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Georges Bataille, Melanie Klein, and others, and the relevant literary works of Karl Philipp Moritz, the Marquis de Sade, and Marcel Proust. In an original study of the bond between parent and child, Todorov develops a compelling vision of the self as social.
 

About Tzvetan Todorov

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Tzvetan Todorov is the author of numerous works, including Facing the Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps. Katherine Golsan is an associate professor of French at the University of the Pacific and translator of Fascism and Communism by François Furet and Ernst Nolte. Lucy Golsan is a retired professor of French. Her translations include Memory, the Holocaust, and French Justice: The Bousquet and Touvier Affairs.
 
Published March 1, 2001 by University of Nebraska Press. 175 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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The concentration camp-including the Nazi death camps and the Soviet gulag-marks a defining attribute of our century, declares Todorov (The Conquest of America), and the extreme experiences there make questions of virtue and vice more stark.

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This is an essay in what he calls "general anthropology," which has, he says, nothing to do with the jargon-ridden sort of particularistic study that goes under the name today, but is rather a reflection, "half-way between the human sciences and philosophy," on what it amounts to, anywhere and ev...

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