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Main page » Non-Fiction » Life in Common: An Essay in General Anthropology

Life in Common: An Essay in General Anthropology


    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 the Author

   Tzvetan Todorov is a Bulgarian philosopher. He has lived in France since 1963 writing books and essays about literary theory, thought history and culture theory.

   He has been a visiting professor at several universities, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia and the University of California, Berkeley.

   Todorov's honors include the Bronze Medal of the CNRS, the Charles Lévêque Prize of the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques and the first Maugean Prize of the Académie Française and the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences; he also is an Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.


"Tzvetan Todorov's essay on anthropology reveals the same mixture of moral urgency and intellectual acuity manifest in his recent explorations of history, philosophy, and political theory. . . . Todorov sounds his clear, eloquent, essential message. Here the danger Todorov identifies is not totalitarianism, which he has explored in other works, but instead those schools of thought that insist on individualist conceptions of man."-Robert Zaretsky


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Tags: contemporary, Todorov, Rousseau, being, needs, Common, contemporary, General