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The Two Faces of Contingency

La Politique and Le Politique in the Work of Pierre Rosanvallon

Kari Palonen

Keywords: conceptual history; French political thought; Pierre Rosanvallon; politics; the political

Abstract

The work of Pierre Rosanvallon is discussed here from the perspective of the conceptual history of “politics” (La Politique) and of “the political” (La Politique). In Rosanvallon's early work in the second half of the 1970s, there is a marked defence of the autonomy of politics, as a manifestation of contingency, against the language of “society,” then dominant in the social sciences and philosophy. Since the 1980s, Le Politique become a fashionable concept in French political thought, a phenomenon brought about by the reception of both Schmitt and Heidegger, in opposition to mere la politique. Although Rosanvallon can partly be linked to this fashion, he differs from his more philosophical colleagues in two respects: his concept of the political is more historically informed and he refrains from showing contempt for the activity of politics.

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