By Jean-François Bert

Père de l’anthropologie française, auteur de réflexions pionnières sur l. a. faith, los angeles magie, l’imaginaire,les sociétés tribales, le don et le contre-don, Marcel Mauss a marqué de son empreinte l’ensemble dessciences sociales, et influencé des penseurs aussi différents que Claude Lévi-Strauss, Pierre Bourdieu,Michel Foucault ou Michel Maffesoli. Mais Mauss n’a pas écrit d’ouvrage de synthèse où seraientexposées les grandes lignes de sa pensée : son oeuvre se compose d’articles, d’essais, de comptesrendus, de cours croisant sociologie, anthropologie et philologie. C’est cette activité multiplequ’interroge François Bert à partir des files personnelles de l’auteur, éclairant los angeles genèse d’uneoeuvre riche, plurielle, ambitieuse, attentive à los angeles diversité des représentations collectives.L’ouvrage incontournable pour comprendre une oeuvre majeure.

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Even the most relativist of anthropologists, those most committed to describing local realities without reference to a universal human condition or human capacities, tend to have ambitions to speak in a more generalizing way—to at least create theories or interpretive schemes that could be applied elsewhere, to other peoples in other places. Thus the vast majority of anthropologists are not content merely to describe 26 Cheryl Mattingly and Uffe Juul Jensen or catalogue a local scene (however remote and exotic) and view this as an end in itself.

The lived subjective life can never be an object of knowledge. Our inwardness in its infinite depth, a subjectivity discovered beyond language, is the kernel of Kierkegaard’s existentialism (Sartre 1963: 10–11). How is Kierkegaard’s account of the human condition to be understood, and how could it inform anthropologists studying contemporary human practices? Sartre stresses that Kierkegaard is inseparable from Hegel. For Hegel, our inward paradoxes, ambiguities, and dilemmas are manifestations of an unhappy consciousness that can be surpassed or transcended in knowledge.

Why Philosophers Ignored Aristotle’s Division of Labor Jean-Paul Sartre offers a suggestive answer to our questions, drawing upon his own experience of learning (Sartre 1963). Like any other philosophy student, Sartre had studied all the major Western philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant. But at a crucial point in his education he discovered something important about learning and understanding philosophy: something he did, in fact, get from his teachers at the university. What he realized was that at any time, depending upon social and political conditions, there was a selection even among the “great” or “canonized” philosophers about who ought to be read, and how they ought to be received.

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