'The vicissitudes of recognition'; Axel Honneth's keynote lecture at Rousseau 300

9 July 2012

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2012 sees the tercentenary of the birth of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), one of the most influential, best known, but perhaps little understood European authors of all times. Champion of the Enlightenment and beacon of Romanticism, an ancestor of radical revolutionaries and totalitarian dictators alike, inventor of modern notions of the self and advocate of ancient republicanism: Rousseau has been cast in all these roles and many more.

Under the title Rousseau 300: Nature, Self, and State, the UCL History Department organised a set of events aimed at a comprehensive re-evaluation of Rousseau's enduring legacy after 300 years. It included an exhibition at the UCL Art Museum (9 January – 27 April 2012), an international conference (19-21 April 2012), and rare performances of an opera written and composed by Rousseau, Le Devin du Village (20 January and 20 April 2012).

Here you can listen to the opening keynote lecture of the conference, ‘The vicissitudes of recognition: the legacy of J-J Rousseau’. It was given by Professor Axel Honneth (Institute for Social Research, Frankfurt, and Columbia University), on 19 April 2012 at UCL (more details on the speaker are available here). Professor Honneth provided an overview of different interpretations of Rousseau’s legacy in the 20th century. He argued that it was the original insight of Rousseau, connecting the seemingly unrelated parts of his work, that human beings are characterized not only by a drive for self-preservation, but also by a need for social esteem and recognition which he called amour propre. Professor Honneth surveyed the different solutions Rousseau offered for the satisfaction of this need, and compared these remedies with those developed by other authors such as Kant and Hegel.

This set of events, under the auspices of the UCL Centre for Transnational History, is generously supported by UCL Grand Challenges, the UCL European Institute, the Berendel Foundation, the French Embassy in London, the Swiss Embassy in London, the Fidelio Charitable Trust, and the Voltaire Foundation.

Page last modified on 09 jul 12 12:25 by Emma J Patten