Philippe Desan

Montaigne Thinking about the Social Publication date : August 29, 2018

Philippe Desan is a specialist in the history of ideas and the Renaissance. He holds a Chair in the History of Culture at the University of Chicago, and has published many books on the Renaissance and on Montaigne. He is also director of the journal Montaigne Studies. He is the author of Montaigne. Une biographie politique (Odile Jacob, 2014) [Montaigne: A Life], which has become a work of reference.
In this work, Montaigne becomes an ethnologist; he sets off to discover the Other – Others: other societies, other people, other continents, other customs, other civilizations.
And so we find in the Essais passages that could be described as sociological and anthropological. This aspect of Montaigne’s work has been unexplored until now. We are invited to discover it now by Philippe Desan, the author of the masterful Montaigne: A Life.
What is society, in Montaigne’s opinion? What does it mean, and what are the implications for an individual to live in society? Is it a constraint, a form of limitations imposed on individual freedom, a “voluntary servitude”?
This very original book shows how Montaigne thought about the social, how he, well before Bourdieu or Durkheim, asked the question of the place of the individual in society, of his freedom, or, on the contrary, of the social determinism that weighs on him.