The Politics of Survival

The Politics of Survival

Public Planet Books

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Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: Published: January 2010

Author: Marc Abélès

Translator: Julie Kleinman

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Globalization and Neoliberalism, Sociology > Social Theory

In this provocative analysis of global politics, the anthropologist Marc Abélès argues that the meaning and aims of political action have radically changed in the era of globalization. As dangers such as terrorism and global warming have moved to the fore of global consciousness, foreboding has replaced the belief that tomorrow will be better than today. Survival, outlasting the uncertainties and threats of a precarious future, has supplanted harmonious coexistence as the primary goal of politics. Abélès contends that this political reorientation has changed our priorities and modes of political action, and generated new debates and initiatives. The proliferation of supranational and transnational organizations—from the European Union to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to Oxfam—is the visible effect of this radical transformation in our relationship to the political realm. Areas of governance as diverse as the economy, the environment, and human rights have been partially taken over by such agencies. Non-governmental organizations in particular have become linked with the mindset of risk and uncertainty; they both reflect and help produce the politics of survival.

Abélès examines the new global politics, which assumes many forms and is enacted by diverse figures with varied sympathies: the officials at meetings of the WTO and the demonstrators outside them, celebrity activists, and online contributors to international charities. He makes an impassioned case that our accounts of globalization need to reckon with the preoccupations and affiliations now driving global politics. The Politics of Survival was first published in France in 2006. This English-language edition has been revised and includes a new preface.


“The contribution of this book lies primarily in the opening up of an important new field of enquiry: what happens to politics, to democracy, to the relationship between the individual and the state, when survival is reframed as a political agenda? This book goes well beyond the dichotomous trade-off between liberty and security to show, instead, how politics itself is changed through discourses of fear and survival, a change that we are likely to be analysing for years to come.” — Marianne Maeckelbergh, Anthropological Forum

“Marc Abélès is one of the foremost anthropological specialists on the study of contemporary politics, and The Politics of Survival is a brilliant book. Abélès’s distinctly European take on issues of globalization will be extraordinarily valuable for a U.S. readership.” — George Marcus, coauthor of Designs for an Anthropology of the Future

“This thoughtful essay on The Politics of Survival offers a new perspective on the relationship between survival, security, governmentality and what Marc Abélès calls the accelerating ‘dearth of the future’. By boldly comparing the central debates about welfare and solidarity in the European Union with a close reading of divine kingship in Africa, Abélès is able to suggest new perspectives on the future of sovereignty, the new sacrality of non-governmental organizations, the function of the discourse of human rights and the general climate of precaution that characterize global politics. This book will be of equal interest to anthropologists, political theorists and all scholars concerned with the nature and future of utopian thinking.” — Arjun Appadurai, author of Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Marc Abélès is a professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, and he holds a research professorship at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. He is the author of numerous books, including Anthropologie de la globalisation, Le Spectacle du pouvoir, and Quiet Days in Burgundy: A Study of Local Politics.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Translator's Note ix

Preface to the English Edition xi

Acknowledgments xvii

Introduction 1

1. The End of Brilliance That the Future Will Bring 21

2. Globalization and the State: A False Debate? 41

3. Virtual Europe, a Space of Uncertainty 57

4. Understanding the Displacement of Politics: From Convivance to Survival 87

5. A Necessary Detour 125

6. From Power to Humanity 143

7. The Economy of Survival 161

8. Toward a Global Politics 189

Conclusion 207

Bibliography 211

Index 219

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4607-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4589-3
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