Born in Eastern Europe, educated in the West under the guidance of Martin Heidegger and the phenomenological tradition, and forced to flee during the Holocaust because of their Jewish identity, it should come as no surprise that Emmanuel Levinas and Hannah Arendt’s ideas intersect in an important way. This book demonstrates for the first time the significance of a dialogue between Levinas’ ethics of alterity and Arendt’s politics of plurality.
Anya Topolski brings their respective projects into dialogue by means of the notion of relationality, a concept inspired by the Judaic tradition that is prominent in both thinker’s work. The book explores questions relating to the relationship between ethics and politics, the Judaic contribution to rethinking the meaning of the political after the Shoah, and the role of relationality and responsibility for politics. The result is an alternative conception of the political based on the ideas of plurality and alterity that aims to be relational, inclusive, and empowering.
Acknowledgments / Abbreviations / Introduction: In Search of a Politics of Relationality / Part I: Bridges and Breaks / 1. Biographical and Philosophical Intersections / 2. Divided by Disciplinary Confines / Part II: On Hannah Arendt / 3. The Political: From Ashes to Hope / 4. An Ethics from Within the Political / Part III: On Emmanuel Levinas / 5. Levinas’ Ethics of Alterity / 6. A Politics from Within Ethics / Part IV: From Plurality and Alterity to Relationality / 7. From Arendt and Levinas To Relationality / 8. The Promise and Pitfalls of Relationality / A.Works Cited / B. Related Works / Index
This persuasive and passionate book stages a long overdue encounter between Arendt’s notion of plurality and Levinas’s ethics of alterity, in order to construct an affirmative politics of relationality that is richly informed by the Judaic. Working beyond categorical differences between politics and ethics, Topolski presents this ‘post-foundationalist’ relationality as a moving commitment to hope in divisive and dangerous times.
This lucid and probing book offers a new way to understand the political and ethical philosophies of Hannah Arendt and Emmanuel Levinas in relation to one another and to the broader questions raised by ethical and political philosophy. Bold, clear, and provocative, this book initiates a set of critical conversations that we have yet to see.
Anya Topolski is a FWO postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium.