Permanent revolution across Arab states: Mohamed Bouazizi’s incendiary ethics of revolt

Permanent Revolution: Mohamed Bouazizi’s Incendiary Ethics of Revolt

From Law, Culture and the Humanities

This essay stages a reflection on the complex relation that Emmanuel Levinas’ philosophy has to violence and revolution. The author proposes to illuminate the ethical dimensions of revolt, rebellion and revolution in the context of state violence. It is suggested that Levinas must be seen as an advocate of revolution unconditionally oriented by ethics. He must be seen, moreover, as an advocate of nothing less than, in his own words, “permanent revolution.” Rather than offer a purely abstracted commentary on Levinas’ concept of permanent revolution, the author stages a posthumous face-to-face of Levinas with Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who is seen as the catalyst who proceeded, after his death, to inspire both the Tunisian revolution and the revolutions of the Arab Spring that swept across North Africa and the Middle East. Regardless of geopolitical location – whether in the Middle East or the West – the project of radically transforming the state through revolution or rebellion remains unfinished. The unfinished revolutions that continue to simmer across the Arab states bring into sharp focus Levinas’ call for “permanent revolution” in the face of the non-adequation of an unjust present in relation to an ideality of justice.

Abstract

This essay stages a reflection on the complex relation that Levinas’ philosophy has to violence and revolution. Confining my commentary largely to one pivotal essay, “Ideology and Idealism,” I contend that Levinas must be seen as an advocate of revolution unconditionally oriented by ethics. He must be seen, moreover, as an advocate of nothing less than, in his own words, “permanent revolution.” Rather than offer a purely abstracted commentary on Levinas’ concept of permanent revolution, I stage a posthumous face-to-face of Levinas with Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who is seen as the catalyst who proceeded, after his self-immolation, to inspire both the Tunisian revolution and the revolutions of the Arab Spring that swept across North Africa and the Middle East. By interlacing Levinas’ profound meditations on violence, revolution and the ideality of justice with Mohamed Bouazizi’s suicide and the revolutions he catalyzed, I propose to illuminate the ethical dimensions of revolt, rebellion and revolution in the context of state violence.

Read this research for free

Article details
Joseph Pugliese
Permanent Revolution: Mohamed Bouazizi’s Incendiary Ethics of Revolt Law, Culture and the Humanities 1743872112448339, first published on June 12, 2012 doi:10.1177/1743872112448339

 

     
This entry was posted in Criminology & Criminal Justice, Culture, SAGE Insight and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.