Prophetic Politics and Metasociology / Politique prophétique et métasociologie - article ; n°1 ; vol.60, pg 67-82
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Archives des sciences sociales des religions - Année 1985 - Volume 60 - Numéro 1 - Pages 67-82
16 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



Publié par
Publié le 01 janvier 1985
Nombre de lectures 38
Langue Français
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo


Paul Mendès-Flohr
Prophetic Politics and Metasociology / Politique prophétique et
In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 60/1, 1985. pp. 67-82.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Mendès-Flohr Paul. Prophetic Politics and Metasociology / Politique prophétique et métasociologie. In: Archives des sciences
sociales des religions. N. 60/1, 1985. pp. 67-82.
doi : 10.3406/assr.1985.2365 Sc soc des Rel. 1985 60 juillet-septembre) 67 82
Martin Buber and German Social Thought
Cet article examine les relations entre Buber et la théorie sociolo-
gique allemande notamment celle de Tönnies Dilthey et Simmel
influence de ce dernier exerce tout particulièrement dans sa
monumentale série de monographies socio-psychologiques intitu
lée die Gesellschaft dont Buber assuré la publication entre 1906
et 1912 Au cours de la même période est sur le mysticisme aso
cial que porte pourtant essentiel de attention de Buber Ces deux
pôles intérêt concurrents sont la source une tension voire
une contradiction dans sa pensée il résout en développant sa
philosophie du dialogue Ce dialogue principe ayant la fois un
axe interpersonnel et social et pari pässu une dimension transcen
dentale réconcilie les préoccupations religieuses et sociales de
auteur examine les efforts que Buber déploie compte tenu de ses
rapports avec anarchiste-socialiste Landauer et par la suite
avec le mouvement du Socialisme Religieux afin de développer un
dialogue qui serait une éthique politique en même temps qu une
grammaire dans la reconstruction de la Gemeinschaft Mais son est ancré dans le royaume de la spontanéité au-delà des
déterminations spatio-temporelles et il attache avant tout la re
lation entre homme et Dieu ce titre il est essentiellement un
principe méta-politique et méta-sociologique
Thomas Jefferson once observed that every genuine democrat has two ho
melands the country of his residence and the cradle of modern democracy
France Similarly it may be said that the modern Jewish intellectual certainly
one of metaphysical inclination has two homelands the one of his residence
and Germany The intellectual intensity and earnestness the moral and spiritual
passion of poets and philosophers found and despite the tragedy
and abiding pain of the Holocaust that must perforce separate Jew and Ger
man continues to find deep resonance in the mind and soul of the modern
The affinity of the Jewish intellectual if one may hazard to speculate to
the German intellectual tradition which of course was also shaped to no small
measure by German Jews is the unique German insistence that reflective kno
wledge is question of truth and not simply device to serve some practical or
eudaemonistic goal Despite the imperious dictates of modern secular civiliza
tion German thought with some grevious exceptions resisted the allure of
programatic and utilitarian images of knowledge This commitment to truth
philosophic and moral dare say is the ultimate ground that binds the Je
wish and German sensibility Clearly conception of prophetic poli
tics which we shall explore in this paper is grounded in such commitment
Politics Buber averred cannot simply be matter of self-interest and power
but must be emphatically question oftruth of unambiguous morality and jus
tice Political power Buber noted in critical comparison of Plato and Isaiah is
not as the Athenian philosopher assumed inalienable possession but ra
ther as the Hebrew prophet taught Power is vouchsafed to man to enable him
to discharge his duties as lieutenant In varied writings on
the relationship of faith to politics and social reconstruction we shall discern
delicate blend of distinctly German philosophic inflections and what Paul Til-
lich once called the Jewish or prophetic principle of intellect This blend is not
an artificial but an organic existential Synthesis testimony to what Buber
himselft called the stiking collaboration of the German and Jewish spirit
In 1939 shortly after having left Germany to settle in Jerusalem Buber offered
mournful eulogy to this which had come to an abrupt tragic
end In the brief encounter it lasted no more than hundred and fifty years
between the German and Jewish spirit Buber observed an area of common
concern came to light in which fruitful contact between them resulted cul
tural creation sprang up without this encounter would have remained
uncreated. Out of the depths common ground was unexpectedly ploughed up
and became shared words and symbols Any discussion of Buber and his
intellectual legacy must inevitably be an extention of this eulogy But as in any
genuine eulogy there is an edifying message of hope and inspiration to the li
ving to the survivors As an Israeli Jew implicit in my exegesis of con
ception of prophetic politics and social reconstruction will be an existential af
firmation of his challenge and vision
thought is marked by delicate tension between profound reli
gious concern and concrete social engagement Already as university stu
dent this tension was manifest While writing doctoral dissertation on Médie-
val mysticism which he submitted in 1904 to the University of Vienna 4) he
studied with two of the central figures of German social philosophy Wilhelm
Dilthey 1833-1911 and Georg Simmel 1858-1918) at the time both of the
University of Berlin conception of the Geisteswissenschaften par
ticularly his twin-notions of Erlebnis and Nacherleben was to inspire Bu-
distinctive hermeneutic method and philosophical enterprise through all
the various stages of his thought Towards the end of his life in retrospec
tive evaluation of his philosophical indebtedness he would proudly refer to Dil
they as my teacher Simmel also had decisive impact on concep
tion of social life This iconoclastic sociologist directed attention of
the inter-personal forms of social life Simmel was clearly the spiritus rector of
the monumental series of psychological monographs imposingly enti
tled Die Gesellschaft which Buber edited from 1906 to 1912 Totalling forty
volumes in all this series included mongraphs ranging from 75 printed pages to
over 200 by such illuminaries of German social thought as Werner Sombart
Das Proletariat) Eduard Bernstein Der Streik) Ferdinand Tönnies Die Sitte)
Lou Andreas-Salome Die Erotik) Franz Oppenheimer Der Staat) and of
course Simmel Die Religion In the introduction to the series Buber
coined the term that was mutatis mutandis to play seminal role in his later
philosophy of dialogue das Zwischenmenschliche In its inception the term
bears the indubitable imprint of Simme Formensoziologie IO)
This collection of monographs addresses itself to the problem of the inter
human das Zwischenmenschliche). Das Zwischenmenschliche is that which oc
curs between zwischen men some ways it is not unlike an impersonal objec
tive process The individual may very well experience das Zwischenmenschliche as
his action and passion but somehow it cannot be fully ascribed or reduced to
personal experiences For das Zwischenmenschliche can only be properly appre
hended and analyzed as the synthesis of the action and passion of two or more
individuals the action and passion of one are intertwined with those of an
other each finding in this abiding tension opposition and complementarity. Das
Zwischenmenschliche occurs in specific forms and produces specific objectified
structures. Sociology is the science of the forms of das Zwischenmenschliche
Like realm of forms das Zwischenmenschliche points to an ontic
reality realized in sociation men in interaction Indeed term may be
viewed as an original lexical conceptualization of the realm of forms realm
Simmel was only able to articulate by inductive examples of particular forms
by analogy or by the paradox of an objective form of subjective minds l)
Concurrent to his sociological writings Buber continued to pursue his inter
est in mysticism and the cognate subject of myth publishing proliflcally on
these themes To name but few of his many translations and editions of mysti
cal and mythical texts Die Geschichten des Rabbi Nachman 1906) Ekstatis
che Konfessionen 1909) Reden und Gleichnisse des Tschuang-Tse 1910) Ka-
lewala Das Nationalepos der Finnen 1914) and Die vier Zweige des Mabi-
nogi Ein keltisches Sagenbuch 1914 12 In that mysticism points to an ex
traordinary a-social experience and sociology assumes at least heuristically
the lawfulness of social life these two foci of early thought would See
mingly be conflict Indeed in debate with Ernst Troeltsch 1865-1923) at the
occasion of the First German Conference of Sociologists October 1910
Buber sought to defend the uniqueness of the experience Buber passio
nately protested his reference to mysticism as sociological pheno
menon insisti

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