A Genealogy of “The Social”. Or, The Social Must Be Defended

“The social” is not society understood as the set of material and moral conditions that characterize a form of consolidation. It would appear to be rather the set of means which allow social life to escape material pressures and politico-moral uncertainties; the entire range of methods which make the members of a society relatively safe from the effects of economic fluctuations by providing a certain security – which give their existence possibilities of relations that are flexible enough, and internal stakes that are convincing enough, to avert the dislocation that divergences of interests and beliefs would entail. And perhaps the most surprising thing is the status that “the social” has thus won in our heads, as something we take for granted. A strange aquarium that has become, in a very brief period of time, the reality principle of our societies, the raison d’etre of development, the proof that it has engendered, notwithstanding wars and pollution, a greater humanization. Thus it is the yardstick by which political discourses will measure or oppose one another, but also the basis on which they will try to start afresh when its realization has effaced the charm of old promises….

[tentative explanation of findings Donzelot expects to establishing in his subsequent volume, which becomes “The Invention of the Social”] [pg xxvii]…

To attempt to answer this question:

–How did we pass from a usage of “the social” understood as the problem of poverty, the problem others, to its current definition in terms of a general solidarity and the production of a life-style; what enabled it to be made into a showcase of development, whose defense comes before all else, something to be offered to the world at whatever cost?

Jacques Donzelot, The Policing of Families, xxvi-xxvii

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One thought on “A Genealogy of “The Social”. Or, The Social Must Be Defended

  1. C’est une lecture très persicace de ces deux mines “livres de jeunesses” avant que je passe à des c jhoses plus sérieuses!

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