Towards a New Frontier of the Self: A Genealogy of Esprit de Corps

The Society for European Philosophy and Forum for European Philosophy Joint Conference 2015
(Dundee, 4 September 2015, 10 am) presents:

Luis de Miranda
The University of Edinburgh
Towards a New Frontier of the Self? A Genealogy of Esprit de Corps


In a planet that might count ten billion humans in 2100, modern individualism and its form of consciousness might not be viable anymore. Evolution or History might demand that society be organised in cohesive groups of intermediate size. Identities would be managed by communities of interest and/or of passion, with a strong esprit de corps.

Before the advent of the individual citizen facilitated by the economic liberalism of French and American revolutions, social groups seem to have constituted the conscious and visible frontier of the self, both its envelope and its limit, both its possibility of shape and its prison. The individual was an affect, an effect of esprit de corps (cf. Lacan and the effect of subjectivity created by the play of language structures). Two centuries of individualism have until now propagated the habit of belief that a supposedly free-willed economic agent, defined by the possession of a bank account even more than by citizenship, is not the effect but the cause of collective agency or collective consciousness. In societies defined by Durkheim as functioning under the regime of mechanical solidarity, the individual self was/is a reaction to the abuses of the group. In societies defined by organic solidarity and interdependence, individual self is believed to be causa sui, authentic, positive—but how a subject be both free and interdependent?.

The question is: are we moving back to a social form of mechanical solidarity, since it seems that organic solidarity has failed in our contemporary democracies (apparent failure of republicanism, of concrete universalism, of national civism)? A subsidiary question is: what form of solidarity favours the interests of capitalism? I will confront the question with a dialectical pair of concepts (immediacy and intermediacy), and by referring to the genealogy of esprit de corps since the Eighteenth Century.

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