DS08 - Sociétés innovantes, intégrantes et adaptatives

Monotheistic religions and emacipatory social mouvements: continuities and transformations in the constitution of the critical subject – ReMouS

Monotheitics religions and modern emancipation

To think of modern emancipation often implies to exclude the contribution of religion to this same emancipation. She enters it either as the subject of criticism or as a conservative critic. The ANR Remous aims to investigate more closely the link between religion and emancipation : monotheistic religions, articulated around the concept of justice, have contributed and can stille contribute to shape critical subjectivities in relation to the modern project of emancipation. T

Rethink the modern project of emancipation

Reflections on modern emancipation often involve a disavowal of the contribution of religion. The latter is either criticized or portrayed as conservative criticism. This project wants to challenge this conception of the relation between emancipation and religion. Our main thesis is that monotheistic religions, structured by the concept of justice, have and still can contribute to the constitution of critical subjectivities engaged in the project of modern emancipation. This thesis implies that we consider religion as part of modernity, not as its opposite. <br /> <br />We start from the following principle: the specific contribution of religion to the emancipation of our modern societies must be situated in the individuals, their reflexive positions and their critical activities Modern societies are characterized by the fact that the idea of emancipation is inextricably linked to the critical activity of the social actors themselves. Criticism and emancipation are inextricably linked to the reflexive return by socially constituted individuals on society, its normativity and its promises of justice. Consequently, the link between religion and emancipation in modernity has to be situated precisely in the critical subjectivity: in what religion makes subjects do or allows them to do. <br /> <br /> <br />This role of the religious language in its relation to critique will be examined by studying: 1) the worker’s movement and its ambiguous practical relation to religion; 2) the feminist movement, which radically challenges our research hypothesis of a strong link between monotheisms and the search for practical and symbolic fulcrums for politics of emancipation.

Our approach to the link between religion and emancipation is the following one: it is the heart of the central thesis of our project: investigate on the relationship between religion and emancipation in modernity means to understand religion as a form of reflexivity that allows subjects to criticize the project of modernity in view of its incompletion. Therefore, we will study religion exclusively in terms of its contribution to the constitution of critical subjectivities. And we maintain that it is an important factor in this constitution, including in modernity.

In order to develop this thesis, we refer to the political anthropology of Freud, for whom religion is the model of a collective practice protecting individual criticism against madness. Indeed, Freud demonstrates that the individualization of the subject in its relation to the law produces a new constellation: henceforth the conflict of the desiring subject with the instituting law (society) comes to express itself in the form of neurosis, even madness, where previously the collective (oscillating between respect for the taboo and transgression of the taboo) assumed this conflict. As a result, modern societies open up a double possibility: first, precisely the possibility of neurosis, even of madness. But secondly, it opens the possibility for a process of civilization that realizes itself by the reflexive self-constitution of societies through the return of individuals to the normativity that makes them think and act.
By giving individuals a language of collective ideals - namely of justice - derived from common practices and conserved in texts, religion allows them to oppose the established law on the basis of these ideals. In this way, religion supports the critical movement of individuals by providing them with a language of shared justice, and which is shared although the normative scope of this language transcends justice achieved in concrete societies.

The seminar «Religion and Politics« under the microscope of psychoanalysis (EHESS, 2018-2019; 2019-2020), organized by J. Christ and B. Karsenti, was a meeting place for the project partners. It gave rise to an important theoretical advance, especially in the articulation of the notion of the ideal, between psychoanalysis and politics, and in the analysis of the relationship between the ideal of the self and the ideal of the us, through a resumption of N. Elias' work, aiming at a new understanding of the modern and European phenomenon of the nation.
The work-shop «Metamorphoses of the People« (EHESS, 4 April 2019), organized by F. Brahami and S. Hayat clarified our thesis on the relationship between monotheistic tradition and emancipation practices in the labour movement. It will be followed in December 2019 by a second work-shopon Saint-Simonisme, which will allow us to link up with the feminist theme.
The seminar (EHESS, 2018-2019) «Presses, critical practices«, aspirations for justice in the 19th century: editorializing a digital corpus, organized by S. Ferrando, S. Hayat and A. Smaniotto, made it possible to establish a project for the digital edition of the journal La femme libre and to create a network of theoretical and technical exchanges around the editorialization of this corpus with teams involved in similar projects.
The conference «Emancipations of Messianism«. The political ideal and the idea of salvation was a key moment in our journey in that it was here that we were able to measure the effects of collective work for the first time: the approach to the phenomenon studied was relatively homogeneous, there was discussion on a common basis of appreciation of the role of religion in modernity, and the debate with researchers outside the project was most fruitful.

We will continue the conceptual work begun during these first eighteen months with the main aim of producing an original concept of the modern nation-state in its articulation with the religious fact.

The project members published 20 articles in international journals in the first 18 months, 34 in French journals. We organized 4 international conferences and 5 work-shops.

Reflections on modern emancipation often involve a disavowal of the contribution of religion. The latter is either criticized or portrayed as conservative criticism. This project wants to challenge this conception of the relation between emancipation and religion. Our main thesis is that monotheistic religions, structured by the concept of justice, have and still can contribute to the constitution of critical subjectivities engaged in the project of modern emancipation. This thesis implies that we consider religion as part of modernity, not as its opposite.

We start from the following principle: the specific contribution of religion to the emancipation of our modern societies must be situated in the individuals, their reflexive positions and their critical activities Modern societies are characterized by the fact that the idea of emancipation is inextricably linked to the critical activity of the social actors themselves. Criticism and emancipation are inextricably linked to the reflexive return by socially constituted individuals on society, its normativity and its promises of justice. Consequently, the link between religion and emancipation in modernity has to be situated precisely in the critical subjectivity: in what religion makes subjects do or allows them to do.

This is indeed our approach to the link between religion and emancipation. It is the heart of the central thesis of our project: investigate on the relationship between religion and emancipation in modernity means to understand religion as a form of reflexivity that allows subjects to criticize the project of modernity in view of its incompletion. Therefore, we will study religion exclusively in terms of its contribution to the constitution of critical subjectivities. And we maintain that it is an important factor in this constitution, including in modernity.

In order to develop this thesis, we refer to the political anthropology of Freud, for whom religion is the model of a collective practice protecting individual criticism against madness. Indeed, Freud demonstrates that the individualization of the subject in its relation to the law produces a new constellation: henceforth the conflict of the desiring subject with the instituting law (society) comes to express itself in the form of neurosis, even madness, where previously the collective (oscillating between respect for the taboo and transgression of the taboo) assumed this conflict. As a result, modern societies open up a double possibility: first, precisely the possibility of neurosis, even of madness. But secondly, it opens the possibility for a process of civilization that realizes itself by the reflexive self-constitution of societies through the return of individuals to the normativity that makes them think and act.
By giving individuals a language of collective ideals - namely of justice - derived from common practices and conserved in texts, religion allows them to oppose the established law on the basis of these ideals. In this way, religion supports the critical movement of individuals by providing them with a language of shared justice, and which is shared although the normative scope of this language transcends justice achieved in concrete societies.

This role of the religious language in its relation to critique will be examined by studying: 1) the worker’s movement and its ambiguous practical relation to religion; 2) the feminist movement, which radically challenges our research hypothesis of a strong link between monotheisms and the search for practical and symbolic fulcrums for politics of emancipation.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Bruno Karsenti (Institut Marcel MAUSS)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

Paris7 Centre de Recherches Psychanalyse, Médecine et Société
CRH - UMR 8558 Centre de recherches historiques
IMM - UMR8178 Institut Marcel MAUSS

Help of the ANR 402,972 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: March 2018 - 42 Months

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