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What keeps societies together by Richard Sennett and Richard David Precht

In anthropology, civilisation, community, philosophy, society on October 7, 2012 at 03:53

From: What keeps societies together by Richard Sennett and Richard David Precht, CafeBabel, cafebabel.com

Last night the anthropologist Richard Sennett talked to philosopher Richard David Precht on the main stage in the Haus der Berliner Festspiele about his new book Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation. The event took place as a part of the International Literature Festival and brought together many people curious to experience the scholars in person and to find out more about the nature of cooperation as a social process and about the exclusively human problems of living together on a daily basis.

The conversation was held in two languages and translated simultaneously. It clearly pointed out to the differences of academic discourses within these two cultural and linguistic environments. Sennett spoke slowly and always made his points very clear using examples from other disciplines and arts. Precht spoke fast, made use of monster compounds and long sentences typical for the German language and drew many references to the history of mankind and philosophical theories. Both of them showed their sense of humor and made it a highly interesting and very inspiring hour and a half.

“If I was to write the book a year later, I would have written about the European crisis” started Richard Sennett when introducing his newly published work. So it would have been about the crisis because it perfectly illustrates the theory that our societies are characterized with lack of social understanding of the Other and of what cooperation is about. One of his main points is that cooperation is founded in natural behavior and that it is not ethical – i.e. we need to cooperate in order to survive. We would not be able to learn anything if we did not cooperate with our teachers. Our skills of cooperation tend however to be very weak if we have to use them towards people who are different than ourselves. It is easy to be nice to people who are like us, claims Sennett but what is a real challenge is to develop a skill to cooperate in order to cross cultural borders. According to him, this very skill is a bridge, a mediator between the natural and the cultural. Cooperation does not equal ethical behavior, nor is it based on altruism (which does not involve an exchange and which is not dialogic) and insofar it is against the principles of protestant ethics.

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Reposted with permission from: CafeBabel

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