How can we think of life in its dual expression, matter and experience, the living and the lived? Philosophers and, more recently, social scientists have offered multiple answers to this question, often privileging one expression or the other – the biological or the biographical. But is it possible to conceive of them together and thus reconcile naturalist and humanist approaches? Using research conducted on three continents and engaging in critical dialogue with Wittgenstein, Benjamin, and Foucault, Didier Fassin attempts to do so by developing three concepts: forms of life, ethics of life, and politics of life.
In the conditions of refugees and asylum seekers, in the light of mortality statistics and death benefits and via a genealogical and ethnographical inquiry, the moral economy of life reveals troubling tensions in the way contemporary societies treat human beings. Once the pieces of this anthropological composition are assembled, like in Georges Perec’s jigsaw puzzle, an image appears: that of unequal lives.
Emerging from the prestigious Adorno Lectures delivered by Fassin in 2016, this profound investigation of life in contemporary societies, enriched by ethnographic fieldwork and written by one of the most distinguished anthropologists today, will be of great interest to readers across the humanities and social sciences.