In the spiral of humanisms
Revue européenne du droit
The instability of our societies multiplies the crises (socio-economic, migratory, climatic, sanitary...) which are intertwined in a single poly-crisis, piling up states of emergency, from the terrorist attacks of 2001 to the pandemic of 2020, while a kind of normative madness takes hold of our societies. We must abandon the usual metaphors of legal systems (foundations, pillars, pyramids of norms evoking hierarchy, verticality and stability). Even networks (“réseaux”), which suggest interaction and horizontality, do not reflect this instability. Hence the appearance of more dynamic metaphors, such as clouds and then winds. But how can we orient ourselves among the various visions of the humanities in their relationship to the living, human and non-human? At first glance, humanisms follow one another, rub shoulders with one another, overlap and fight one another, in great disorder. Unless we hypothesize a kind of spiral winding, this form which symbolizes the permanence of Being in its evolution. Drawing a plural universal, the spiral of humanisms could balance and rebalance the inevitable tensions. In an attempt to grasp the dynamics at work, we engage in a conversation at the crossroads of philosophy and law.
Olivier Abel: In a short and dense contribution published in Le Monde last spring, Mireille, you called for “taking advantage of the pandemic to make peace with the earth.” I also hear it, coming from you, as a call for a new humanism, on the scale of a fragile globality, and of what Jan Patočka superbly called “the solidarity of the shaken.” We must certainly not be too quick to make sense of this crisis, but it sounds like a warning, a lesson: it teaches us to relearn how to face at the same time, in the words of Hannah Arendt, the unpredictable and the irreparable, which our “systems” do everything to eliminate, but which come back to us through our point of vulnerability, our simple physical condition. And then with this crisis we are, with difficulty, integrating into our cognitive and ethical schemas the reaction time of the system, which means that we don’t see things as they are but as they were a certain period of time before, which is counted in days, if not weeks; and this is a lesson that can be transposed to other fields, such as the climate crisis: what we see, for the climate, corresponds to a reality that dates back several years, if not several decades. We do not see, we do not yet feel the current reality. And this epidemic has shown us the derisory nature of borders and protection, it teaches us the inseparable nature of taking care of oneself and taking care of others, that is to say the impossibility of saving oneself, the necessary solidarity, in short what you keep declaring: our condition of interdependence.
I would like, beyond what this crisis leads us to think, to go through with you in this interview some of the questions that motivate us both: sensitivity to the ecological emergency and the need to institute it, in the quasi-political sense of the term, the conflict of humanisms and the way to convert this conflict into dialogue, into a productive spiral, the relationship between the imaginative forces of ethics and those of law, and finally the extreme fragility of our democracies in the face of emergencies that overflow it from all sides. In all of this, it is the conversation of humanisms, both their plurality and their capacity to enter into a work of reciprocal humanisation, that will serve as a compass for us.
An “unusual” compass, you might say, because everything is going on as if, by becoming globalized, societies have lost their bearings. “For a long time, each community had made its own compass. Each one had a symbolic pole of attraction imposed by legal systems, written or customary law, rites and even religious commandments. According to the way in which memory and oblivion had structured its history, each community had organised itself around this pole of attraction. But globalisation is spreading in all directions. Literally disoriented, we are wandering in nostalgia for a memory that hardly exists on a global scale, or even on the scale of Europe. Instead of a pole, we would need a centre of gravity, or attraction where principles of governance inspired by the various legal humanisms meet”.
But to stay for a while longer on the coronavirus crisis and what it tells us, what it is the occasion for, I think of Bruno Latour’s proposal that “we are switches”: it is up to each one of us to see what he stops, what he starts, what he continues. In this sense it is a critical moment, in the Greek sense of the term, that is to say the moment of “sorting”. It was high time to take, in spite of ourselves, this time to stop, and not to resume everything as before, because we were being carried away by the mad train of a “will of a power that now has no subject and that makes us what it wants”. We were unable to slow down our perpetual movements, to get out of our deadly addictions, our frightening communicational confinement. What we are rediscovering is that we are not just trendy brains, but vulnerable bodies. Today it’s an epidemic, tomorrow it could be famine, water. We are talking subjects but also physical subjects, inhabitants and co-inhabitants of the world. We must learn to live with others, with other forms of humanity but also with other forms of life, in order to form a sustainable world. Greta Thumberg, whom you beautifully call “the little breath”, warns us vigorously, and rightly so; but I remember when we were young in 1968, I was 15, we were saying the same thing and we thought we were going to change everything. We must no longer be naïve: the forces of productivism-consumerism are extremely powerful, and all the more so as it is we ourselves who have this fold, through all our lifestyles. That’s what I fear, with the current crisis and its catastrophic consequences in terms of bankruptcies, unemployment, and the impossibility making it possible to respond to the diversity of clamour: it’s to start again as before, worse than before, in the impossibility of agreeing on priorities, and to reorient the economy, not in order to respond to the most urgent needs, but by setting long-term goals.
It also seems to me that what characterises this crisis is that it is being carried and amplified in an unprecedented way by communicational globalisation. We are fortunate that we are living this epidemic by staying connected, but without this digital immediacy, we would never have reacted so much. In some ways, it is good that we have this unique opportunity to reorient our society, but this connectivity poses problems of governance, and therefore of democracy, of legal procedures that hinder rumours and panic. It is as if we are too informed, over-informed, in relation to our capacity to act, and we have to measure all the devastating effects of this situation... And you, Mireille, what do you think, how do you see this crisis?
Mireille Delmas-Marty: I see it first of all as an unexpected opportunity for a break in a galloping globalisation. Over the past twenty years or so, we have experienced almost permanent global crises: a security crisis with terrorist attacks, then the humanitarian disaster of the wrecking of migrants, and still more financial, social (taking the unexpected form of “yellow vests movement” in France), climatic crises with the disruption of the ecosystem, and finally health crises with the current crisis. Confronted with such an avalanche, human collectives have imperturbably pursued the same path. Now that they have immobilised themselves in the face of a pandemic which is not the first but which, for the first time, is immediately perceived as a total social fact on a planetary scale, are humans ready to change course to avoid collapse?
Indeed, everything happens as if we had entered the “doldrums”, that cursed place in the middle of the oceans where contrary winds neutralise each other and paralyse ships, or fight each other and cause shipwreck. Security vs. Freedom, Competition vs. Cooperation, Exclusion vs. Integration, Innovation vs. Conservation, our societies seem to go round in circles like weathervanes at the mercy of the winds that blow like so many spirits of the law. Hence the incoherence of certain political choices, for example concerning health services: recently dismantled in the name of competitiveness, then praised, like heroes, for their cooperation in the “war” against terrorism and the pandemic in the name of security. In turn, security, which has been established as an almost absolute right, suspends all rights and freedoms, starting with the freedom to come and go, or the freedom of expression. Even the right to human dignity, which is legally “non-derogable”, is openly flouted in times of pandemic when the dead are deprived of burial, while the living are discriminated against as a “population at risk”, or even followed by “tracing” as dangerous products.
It is impossible to remain silent in the face of practices which, in order to preserve the survival of the species, would end up destroying what is characteristic of humanity. But what can be said and, above all, what can be done to slow down this race that is leading our societies into the doldrums?
The ecological emergency and the refounding of a legal humanism
Olivier Abel: In Une boussole des possibles, Gouvernance mondiale et humanismes juridiques, you wrote: “Ecocide [...] is not the ultimate crime, in addition to all the others, but the first crime, the transcendental crime, the one that would ruin the very conditions of habitability of the Earth”. I would like to start again from this consideration, which calls for a rethinking of a profoundly enlarged humanism, such that the human being is no longer the subject king of a world that is an object or an instrument, pliable to all the ends and whims of human desires - nor the subject that is void, superfluous, empty and pliable at will by the established Knowledge-Powers. To put it in a nutshell, the entire human species is co-inhabitant of the world, of which it cannot become too powerful a parasite without killing what it feeds on. It is a sadly banal paradox that each population tends to increase, expand and densify as long as the environment allows, to the point where it destroys that environment. The worst is not certain, moreover, and this is what complicates the matter: there are also symbioses that are more or less balanced and lasting. When one is too strong for one’s environment, rather than protecting oneself as much as possible and climbing to global catastrophe, all that remains is to deprotect ourselves. This is the appeal that should be made to each human being, to each society, to the whole of humanity: “Let’s deprotect ourselves!”.
We need a humanism of deprotection, a humanism of quiet and resolute vulnerability. This is the opposite of the subjects who are engrossed in their so-called rights, who are burdened with protection and refuse to disarm their form of life, in short, who would prefer to survive their world, because nothing is above their survival! But what is a subject that survives its world?
You speak of the habitability of the Earth, and I understand it as resistance to the lamination of habitats and forms of human life, in all their diversity, but also to the lamination of the ecosystems of thousands of living species, this globalisation accelerating new viruses and epidemics, amplifying the climate crisis, the resource crisis, the general exacerbation of the struggle for survival. In short, this crisis is an opportunity to return in a different way to a world that was first given to us to live in, to coexist, to interpret in different ways, without claiming to make it our work or our property. How can we relate the fallacious growth of our exchanges to its condition of possibility in the fact that there are inhabitants, and think of the economy within the limits of a sustainable ecology, in the sense that the earth is our unique and ultimate habitat? The task is immense. To give a small example, shouldn’t there be, alongside the IPCC for the climate, an international observatory, independent of state and economic powers, capable of listing the real state of the mineral resources on which development has relied? I’m not thinking only of oil, on which opacity is organised, but of all metals, rare earths, etc. I’m not thinking only of oil, on which opacity is organised, but of all metals, rare earths, etc.
You also wrote: “We would like to escape the alternative between the dream of the superman of the post-humanist currents and the haunting of the catastrophe of the ecological currents”. To escape from this alternative is to think of a humanity that is both vulnerable and responsible, that is to say, capable of taking its destiny into its own hands, not only assuming the past, but measuring the future consequences of its present actions. It is here that we have a great need of the weak and resilient powers of law. You describe “the overpowering power of technical means”, which poses this question in an acute manner: “with unprecedented power, unprecedented responsibility”, Ricœur summed up. In The Human Condition, Arendt extended Rousseau’s terrible remark in his Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, about the disproportion between moral and technical progress: we no longer understand what we are nevertheless capable of doing. To feel what we are doing, we need institutions that make us feel it. We need legal extensions of our ethics, commensurate with the power of the technical prostheses with which we are endowed. Should we not, for example, think of a legal form of international ecological responsibility that would balance the patentability of inventions, and balance the expected gains from these patents with a kind of responsibility for the effects on the environment and on humans? How, in your opinion, can the law help us in this difficult situation? How would you pose the problem?
One last question on this topic: the ecological issue is complex, there is no ecological policy that would be the application without possible discussion of a scientific vision of what should be done. It opens up diverse and uncertain scenarios, and we cannot have everything at the same time. This is why it is also an economic and social issue that opens up a new area of conflict: it is not “us” against “them”, but ourselves in certain aspects and on this scale of time and space, against ourselves in other aspects and on other scales of space and time. How can we legally and politically institute this space of conflictuality? How can we stage a conflictuality that crosses each of us, but also where some, in the global space, or in the succession of generations, are more exposed than others?
Mireille Delmas-Marty: We should take advantage of this unprecedented moment when dogmas as resistant as the absolute sovereignty of States, economic growth and its self-regulation by the market, the security dogma of zero risk, or the anthropocentrism that places man at the centre of the World, seem to be shaken.
But we must not take the wrong road. It is not a question of replacing a dogma with its opposite. The world after Covid is not the opposite of the world that was. It is a hyper-connected world, weakened by the power of the unpredictable. This is why the change of course must be a change of thought: we must renounce the certainties of dogmatic thinking for the uncertainties of a dynamic thinking, which evokes the “thought of trembling” because it oscillates from one wind to another, from one dogma to another. In fact, it is a thought in motion. Continuing the nautical metaphor, we could say that it “fades” at every turn, like the sails on a boat that “pulls out of the water” to go up against the wind. In order to adapt to the unpredictable, dynamic thinking must accept to “fade” and remain modest. Recognising its mistakes instead of hiding them, it learns to correct them, through a kind of tinkering, adjustment and readjustment. This is the condition for trying to take up the bet launched by Edouard Glissant “that it is possible to last and grow in the unpredictable.
We already have legal instruments to “last in the unpredictable”, and we must be aware of them in order to learn how to use them.
The first instrument is called interdependence. It entered international law at the first Earth Summit (Rio 1992): “The Earth, the home of humanity, constitutes a whole marked by interdependence”. But hardly anyone, or almost no one, has seen it. It then inspired a “Declaration of Interdependence” (which we had drafted within the Collegium International around Michel Rocard, Milan Kučan, Ruth Dreifuss and Mary Robinson, with notably Stéphane Hessel, Fernando H. Cardoso, Edgar Morin or Peter Sloterdijk, and the faithful Sacha Goldman). We had presented it in 2005 at the UN, but hardly anyone read it. We presented it again in 2018, shortly before the disappearance of Michel Rocard, at the UN General Secretariat, but nothing moved and when the virus arrived, we were destitute.
It is true, progress has been made in some areas, such as the preamble to the Paris Agreement, which emphasises “the global nature of the threats to the community of life on earth”, but the resulting duty of cooperation for States is insufficient. The pandemic will be a cruel demonstration of how interdependent States, like human beings, have become, whether it be for the provision of screening tests, medicines and vaccines or even simple health protection masks. Yes, human interdependence is now an indisputable fact that should become a “watchword” and “guide our transition to tomorrow’s world.” However, legal consequences must be drawn from this to avoid the denial of reality practised by many political leaders in the name of national sovereignty.
A great deal of energy will be needed to transform interdependencies, finally recognised, into genuine solidarity, the second instrument for lasting in the unpredictable. As Europe’s current difficulties demonstrate, it is not enough to enshrine the principle of solidarity in the treaties to guarantee its effectiveness. And yet, spelling out the “common objectives” underlying solidarity is already an important step towards mutual fulfilment. This notion has, moreover, appeared on a global scale: firstly, the eight ‘Millennium Development Goals’, mainly focused on the fight against poverty, but still very vague (MDGs, UN General Secretariat, 2000); then the seventeen sustainable development goals (SDOs, 2015). The method is becoming more precise, with more specific qualitative and quantitative objectives for the climate (Paris Agreement, 2015), and perhaps with a view to a future model treaty on migration... or on pandemics.
However, to be effective, solidarity presupposes the legal responsibility of the most powerful actors, in other words, the rule of law enforceable against States. Although the creation of a global state is neither feasible nor desirable, it is on the other hand feasible – and urgent – to transform the solitary sovereignty of states into sovereignty in solidarity and their irresponsibility into “common but differentiated” responsibilities. What remains to be done is to provide for the responsibility of non-state actors when they exercise global power, such as transnational corporations (TNCs). Admittedly, their “social and environmental responsibility” comes under Soft Law (a law that is vague because it is imprecise, soft because it is optional and soft because it is not sanctioned); but the hardening of Hard Law is already in the offing. Without waiting for draft European regulations and UN conventions, it may come from national law when it extends the notion of social interest to certain forms of general interest (cf. The French statute on the duty of vigilance in France, Law 2017 on the duty of vigilance, ordering companies with regard to their subsidiaries and subcontractors or the new PACTE statute of 2019 establishing the status of société à mission).
The fact remains that, unlike national communities, the emerging global community has neither a collective memory nor a common history born of a shared past. This is why anticipation is the third instrument for lasting in the unpredictable, as humanity becomes aware of its common destiny. Yet there are several tales of anticipation, and several possible fates, depending on the dominant narrative.
The most widespread anticipation, especially among the younger generations, is the disaster narrative of the Great Collapse. Having become a current of thought, collapsology develops “not as a one-off apocalyptic moment, but as a process that is inscribed in time.” Thus climate change, the depletion of planetary resources, or more broadly the transgression of planetary boundaries, and to crown it all (dare we say it) the coronavirus, are accompanied by a progressive disorganisation of society.
The only apparent alternative comes to us from China, which has launched the “New Silk Roads” programme, activating at the same time the Market Whole of the growth societies, the Digital Whole of the innovation societies and the Control Whole of the fear societies. It prescribes the conditions for the survival of a human species that is sufficiently submissive, even infantilized, to guarantee, without even the need for legal norms, the Great Harmony or the Great Peace. More than two thousand years ago, the Chinese Classics already identified this narrative with the Middle Kingdom reigning over “everything that lives under the sky” (tianxia). Today, fuelled by security obsession and normalising madness, this tale of the Great Enslavement, legitimised by the health crisis, threatens to spread to the whole planet.
Unless a third narrative emerges, inspired by Michel Serres’ “natural contract” and Philippe Descola’s models in his Anthropologie de la nature, both of which associate the destiny of humanity with that of the living world. In contrast to dehumanising globalisation, this “ecosystemic” understanding of human existence is in line with the narrative of “globalism” which the poet Edouard Glissant describes as “the unprecedented adventure we are given to live in a space-time that, for the first time, truly and lightning-fast, is conceived as both unique and multiple, and inextricable”. Hence the need for everyone to change their ways of conceiving, existing and reacting in this new world. The difficulty is immense for humans who for millennia had been trained to do just the opposite, but there is no other way: “no solution to the world’s problems without this enormous insurrection of the imagination.”
Open to the world to come, this adventure story is the only story of anticipation that accepts the unpredictable. It remains to be seen whether the adventure will be able to last, i.e. resist the collapse of the living world, without giving in to the enslaving power of the major players in globalisation. Above all, it remains to be seen whether it will lead us to grow through mutual humanisation.
The spiral of the humanities and reciprocal humanization
Olivier Abel: Let’s come to what is at the heart of our conversation here, what we would both like to call the spiral of humanisms. You have defined several humanist paradigms, that of traditional belonging and that of individual emancipation, but also that of today where interdependence is emerging, which speaks of the necessary planetary solidarity, and that of human indetermination, which speaks of the impossibility of getting hold of what defines human beings. These different humanisms point to different and sometimes even opposing orientations, and we are going to develop this, but I would like to come back beforehand to the contemporary risk of a conflict of humanisms, in the sense here of a conflict of “humanities”. For great civilisations, like small traditions, have developed diverse humanisms, and it is not always easy to make people converse, as this requires translation and mutual linguistic hospitality. Fifty years ago, Ricoeur wrote that humanity has “caught” in diverse humanities. This phenomenon of the plurality of cultures is linked to the related phenomenon of their mortality, their finitude. Only a mad culture, mortally proud, would claim to be both lonely and immortal. The “humanities” must accept themselves among others...
In a world where the rivalry of the large blocs is not only exercised in the geopolitical or economic field, but geo-civilisational, so to speak, how can we turn the rivalry between the West, China, the Indian world and the Muslim world, for example, into not a vicious and mutually destructive circle but the virtuous circle of a conversation of humanisms, a productive spiral of reciprocal humanisation? And I have just spoken about the West, but for our European societies alone, they do not come from a single source, but from all the “humanities”, traditions, languages and literatures that have come to mingle with them, from Greek thought and biblical writings, to Roman institutions and monastic life, the Renaissance and the Reformation, the Baroque, the Enlightenment and Romanticism, the republican and socialist tradition, but of course also the traditions resulting from the waves of immigration that followed the colonial period, and the magnificently mixed traditions of the Overseas Territories, traditions that are all unfinished! But here too there is a vicious circle that tends to break all living links with these “humanities” that have carried us.
This is all the more serious because the ethical driving force of European civilisation seems to me to have been precisely the gap and confrontation between traditions, none of which has ever succeeded in silencing the others. It is the conflict of humanisms that has been the foundation and constitution of Europe, in the sense that the great traditions mentioned here have never ceased to correct each other, preventing European subjectivity from ever being completely unified and reconciled with itself. This could be shown with the constant tension between Socrates and Jesus. It has often been remarked, already by Machiavelli, that Europe is worked by the contradiction between an ancient morality of courage and a Christian morality of forgiveness, the one exalting confrontation and self-testing, ways of showing oneself, and the other devotion and carelessness of self, ways of self-effacement. A second fruitful tension could be pointed out in the opposition between Aristotle’s ethics and Kant’s morality. They represent, more than philosophical systems, different ethical styles, one that aims at happiness, the good, the common good, and the other that seeks the universal minimal rule that forbids us to do harm. There would be many more of these fertile “disputes”. To use Paul Ricœur’s expression, Europe’s “ethico-mythical core” has been set in motion by such disputes, and its good fortune is undoubtedly that none of these disputes has been able to absorb or eliminate all the others.
Who are the people who work today in our society? Could we reformulate them as closely as possible to what is happening to us? I can see three or four that are particularly significant, and which seem to me to be very close to yours.
The first of these founding differences would be the tension between tradition and innovation: the most creative innovations are based on all the sedimentary achievements, that sometimes they only reopen archaic strata in a different way; and that in turn they will deposit themselves and make tradition, traditions that were all once novations, irruptions, ruptures. Far from opposing them flatly, the lively correlation between tradition and innovation must be brought into play in all its amplitude: tradition must not stifle nascent creations, and the old must have enough to resist the new, if the new is to be supported by it. This would be a first virtuous circle, a dynamic element of the spiral we are looking for, and capable of taking the opposite side of this vicious circle that you call the “doldrums”. Let us beware today of our presentism, the ease with which we judge the past, its malleability under the power of our bulldozers, and our numerical capacity to rewrite it, to reshape and refigure it without it being able to resist. Instead of what I call tradition, you talk about conservation, and this term also says some very strong things: it is the principle of politics according to Hobbes, the instinct to preserve life and achievements, it is also the idea of accumulation that joins the idea of sedimented traditions; it is also the great idea of the dissident Czech philosopher Jan Patočka that the wars of the twentieth century were wars between the forces of conservation of the status quo and the forces of transformation of the world.
The second one points to the tension between emancipation and attachment. The ethics of emancipation, which throughout modern history has had the monopoly of being both our moral and political motor, our lever of social criticism, our great collective narrative, is no longer sufficient. It is necessary that the faculty of detachment, which breaks the chains, should be inseparable from the faculty of rebuilding alliances, of rebuilding links. Our ideal of emancipation must be complicated by a logic or an ethic of attachment, fidelity and solidarity. And indeed, for a long time we have had to, and still have to, fight against servitude, and in particular “voluntary servitude”. But today, it is also necessary to fight against exclusion and voluntary solitude. I think that there is currently a profound inability to hold on to ties. But there are bonds that liberate. The sense of free attachment, of the plurality of attachments and loyalties, but also of the faithful alliance that does not give up for a yes or a no, can be a real lever of social criticism. From now on, we must intersperse, between the chapters of the successive declarations of emancipation and independence, and this is not finished, the all too new chapters of the declarations of interdependence and solidarity. I enthusiastically endorse your idea of a charter of interdependence! This is how I see the lively tension between what you call emancipated humanity and interdependent humanity.
On the other hand, I would like to understand why, in the couples that you propose, which oppose contradictory values, but which are all true values, you place exclusion in front of integration. From a descriptive point of view, this is perfectly correct, and I think it is important to think about the “right” and the possibility of a body, however welcoming it may be to reject a foreign body, there is no community without immunity, it is sometimes and simply a vital need, and it is also the “right” to terminate, to secede. But can exclusion be a value? Shouldn’t we talk about the value of exile, the right to leave, to leave one’s society? This is why the third of these founding dialectics seems to me to be that between the closed and the open.
If it is certain that humanity needs exchanges and openness, it also needs closures, borders, things that are not exchanged. To remain alive, a culture sometimes needs to be a little “deaf” to others, Lévi-Strauss said. Alongside openness and exchange, we also need protection, a minimum of immunisation. We therefore need a good dialectic between opening and closing, and to establish this fine dialectic in all registers: otherwise, total opening will determine total closing. Especially since, often, we call openness anything that allows us to break down the protectionism of others, after having reinforced all the possible protective barriers for ourselves! Seen from here, the world is indeed open. But seen from the South, the walls are higher and higher, and inaccessible, and the more markets are “open”, the more societies are “closed”.
To name a fourth, I would like to join you in saying how important it is to find a dynamic equation between a principle of responsibility and a principle of hope. I will certainly come back to this, not from Hans Jonas nor from Marc Bloch, both of which are fascinating to read, but rather from what Hannah Arendt says about the unpredictable and the promise. It seems to me that this is exactly the maximum tension to which you subject the forces, forms and principles of law. In any case, for me, these different tensions are both examples and points of support for the spiral of humanisms and mutual humanisation that we are seeking.
Mireille Delmas-Marty: Considering that Europe’s good fortune is that none of the disputes that have crossed it has been able to absorb or eliminate all the others, you ask me what disputes are at work in our society today, indicating yourself some “particularly significant” examples, which seem to you to be very close to mine. I do indeed find the tensions I observe, but in order for us to build bridges, I must explain my approach and the tensions I have been working on for forty years.
Having begun to embark on the paths of repression and then completed the study of models of criminal policy with that of movements, I have always preferred dynamic metaphors, but I didn’t know it would be such a long walk. Opposing ordered clouds to the pyramid of norms has enabled me to show not only the horizontal interactions of increasingly networked systems of law, but also their instability. The clouds suggested to me the metaphor of the winds as the blows symbolising the spirit of rights, and then the quest for a compass to find one’s way among the headwinds. I then (finally!) became aware of the limits of writing and set out, with a plastic artist-builder friend, to explore the paths between thought and matter by making a mobile object representing a compass without a North Pole, known as the “compass of possibilities”. Conceived as an object/manifesto, this compass symbolises tensions according to several planes of differentiation.
In the first place, it is a question of differentiating between the main winds of globalisation (freedom, cooperation, security and competition) and the “winds between the winds” (integration, conservation, exclusion and innovation). A massive, mineral Wind Rose, anchored to the ground, represents the winds of globalisation: “main winds” (security, freedom, competition, cooperation) and “winds from between the winds” (exclusion, innovation, integration, conservation). Then a minimalist cone-shaped structure supports the exact graphic projection of the rose towards the sky. Arranged in pairs at the end of each branch, emblematic figures animated by the movements of the air evoke, on a second plane, the apparently opposing winds of globalisation (Freedom vs. Security, Competition vs. Cooperation, Exclusion vs. Integration, Innovation vs. Conservation). Thus the Earth Rose, which has become an aerial Round suggesting the disorder of the world, illustrates the feeling of being “disoriented” that we perceived at the beginning of our interview. This prompts us to look for an unusual compass, since without the North Pole, no one direction can predominate. On the other hand, it includes a centre of rebalancing where, immersed in the water necessary for the living world, the regulatory principles that, like the plumb bob of cathedral builders, would stabilise the governance of the world meet. Provided they are inspired by visions of humanity that are different in space and variable in time.
We have “lost our way” because the choice of a pole of attraction is now impossible. You show, for example, the impossibility of choosing between innovation and tradition or conservation; also between the closed (which leads to exclusion) and the open (which allows exchanges and conditions integration). Similarly, the choice seems impossible between security and freedom: security without freedom becomes totalitarian, but freedom without security leads to chaos. Finally, competition without cooperation reinforces inequalities and fuels conflict, but cooperation without competition can lead to immobility.
To overcome these oppositions, we need values inspired by a common vision of humanism. Yet each community has developed “its” vision of humanity throughout its history, disqualifying other visions through the interplay of these anathemas of which human societies have the secret: the only truth is mine, the only acceptable identity is mine. On a planetary scale, as we have pointed out, the world community has little appreciation of its common history.
This is why it was necessary to add a third plane, precisely the one that brings us together for this interview: a spiral of humanisms flies over the circle of the winds, carried by a rotating and oscillating axis on a joint located at the tip of the cone. We must not be mistaken about its meaning. Symbol of the permanence of Being in evolution, the spiral is not the new habit of an imperialism that does not say its name. Testifying to the plurality of societies, it unfolds, between individuals and communities, but also between humans and non-humans, suggesting the endless winding of the forms of “Relationship”.
The most familiar humanism in the West, our “great collective narrative” as you call it, remains that of the Emancipation of individuals, which asserted itself in Europe in the 18th century, during the Age of Enlightenment. On a global scale, it enshrined human rights and citizens’ freedoms (civil, political, economic, social and cultural) in a “universal” Declaration which enshrined the equal dignity of every human being (1948) and prohibited inhuman or degrading practices, including slavery and torture.
Now that we have to live together in ever-increasing numbers, we are rediscovering, but on a global scale, the most ancient humanism, the one that linked each human being to the communities to which he or she belongs, whether more or less close (family, tribe, neighbourhood, village or city, nation...). Not only is it still alive in the traditions of many peoples, but you very rightly say that it should encourage us to “complicate our ideal of emancipation by a logic or an ethic of attachment, fidelity, solidarity”. It will be complicated indeed, because we have had to, and still have to, fight against servitude, and in particular “voluntary servitude”, which makes “communitarianism” so suspicious, as if it heralded this enslavement that we reject.
Faced with the multiplication of humanitarian, ecological and sanitary disasters, a new communitarianism is beginning to be reinvented which does not separate communities by opposing them to each other, but links them by opening them up to each other: “change by exchanging with the Other without losing myself or distorting myself” said Edouard Glissant. Beyond solidarity and conviviality, communitarianism is reinventing itself as an aid to all forms of distress (ATD). First of all, for people living in extreme poverty (ATD Quart monde), it extends to all the world’s distresses (ATD “Tout monde” can we say), whether it is helping migrants, environmental exiles or sick people deprived of care. NGOs are joined by many writers and artists and, more surprisingly, by institutional actors as different as the Pope (Laudato Si encyclicals in 2015 and Fratelli Tutti in 2020) and the Constitutional Council, which rediscovered fraternity as a value opposable to the so-called crime of solidarity as early as 2018. Even if the practical consequences remain limited, this decision, which decriminalises assistance for migrants’ stays, now associates hospitality with fraternity.
This new “communitarianism” reactivates traditional values without advocating withdrawal or confinement. All the more so as it opens up to a new humanism, that of interdependence within the “common house”, a humanism that refuses to place humans in an overhanging position, linking them horizontally to other humans (social solidarity) and to non-human living beings (ecological solidarity). This is the one that will perhaps answer your question about how to transform the rivalry between the West, China, the Indian world and the Muslim world, for example, “not into a vicious and mutually destructive circle but into a virtuous circle of a conversation of humanisms, or rather into a spiral producing reciprocal humanisation?”
Provided that we also choose freedom and responsibility, that is to say, a humanism of Indeterminacy, which conditions our creativity and our responsibility. It is a difficult choice because it implies renouncing what you call “overprotection”, that which a small part of humanity benefits from, physically improved by biotechnology and increased in its cognitive capacities by artificial intelligence. If it responds to the catastrophic story of the collapse, through the adventure of globalisation rather than through the Chinese programme narrative of the “New Silk Roads”, this choice “deprotects” us, to use your neologism, each of us having to renounce the excesses to which “productivism-consumerism” has accustomed us. By crossing the millions of individual data accumulated by social networks and the billions of conversations recorded by intelligence agencies, democracies are already transforming themselves into a soft totalitarianism, all the more formidable because it exploits our unlimited desire to have access to everything, all the time, without waiting : “obeying narcissistic impulses even more powerful than sex or food, we move from one platform and digital device to another, like a rat in Skinner’s box who, by pressing levers, desperately seeks to be ever more stimulated and satisfied”.
Thus a fourth level is formed where the values that would be necessary to rebalance a world in motion form a virtuous octagon. Provided that the values you call “true”, I would also say “universalisable”, insofar as they are linked to the different visions of humanism: fraternity and hospitality linked to communitarian humanism; equality and dignity, or equal dignity, to the humanism of emancipation; social and ecological solidarity to the humanism of interdependence; finally responsibility and creativity condition a humanism of indeterminacy. This octagon of values is destined to become the centre of attraction where the opposing winds meet. Starting with the “security vs. freedom” couple rebalanced, for example in the face of terrorism or pandemics, by the equality that limits discrimination and the dignity that prohibits dehumanisation, regardless of the seriousness of the threat. In the same way, in the face of climate change, ecological solidarity should limit the effects of competition, while in the face of social crisis, human solidarity would limit the risks of cooperation (the tragedy of the common good). And so on for other opposing couples.
Linked to the “spiral of humanisms”, these common values would contribute to stabilising the governance of the world in the face of the unpredictable. But where can we find the plumb line of a democratic governance that would not immobilise humans by enslaving them and would know how to liberate them while recognising their responsibility?
At the crossroads of the imaginative powers of ethics and law
Olivier Abel: You are right, it is indeed towards the question of the forms and also the orientations that a democratic governance of the world could take that everything converges, it is the keystone of our questions, but before coming to it I would like to dwell for a moment on these different “humanities”, and what links in the deepest sense the ethical core of societies and the imaginative forces of law. It is precisely because there is a plurality of ethical-mythical nuclei, of civilising nuclei, and because universalism is contested as Western imperialism, that we have to start again from another, more modest humanism, the one that Levinas called “the humanism of the other man”, but also that of the plurality of humanities, and of the plurality of the “minds” of laws, if we can call them the “legal humanities.”
This is what allows us and even obliges us to deconstruct the concept of colony, to distinguish the “legitimate right” of persons and sometimes peoples to leave, to go elsewhere, to migrate to seek asylum and refuge, on the one hand, and on the other hand the “abuse” that there is to be invaded willingly or by force, using organised and powerful means, whether political and military, economic and financial, cultural or religious. We can clearly see the asymmetry that exists between these two situations, of which history could provide many examples. Human geography through the millennia and the whole ecology are only a succession of colonisations, but more or less brutal and overwhelming or gentle and fertile. The worst thing is to invade, but at the same time to separate from those who are invaded, by means of ghettos or separate “territories” – but today the networks largely act as such, allowing each community in an archipelago, deterritorialized, to lock itself up in its imaginary bubbles, protecting itself from any contact with anyone other than itself. The other worst thing is undoubtedly to pretend to assimilate them in the name of a saving universalism that is imposed by all means and on all registers of social life.
But this is obviously a contradiction in terms! For there is only true universality that can be resisted, that one can neither accept nor refuse, to which one can freely adhere, as can be seen in The Critique of Judgement. For Ricœur reading Arendt, Kant’s aesthetic judgement “constitutes an extremely audacious advance in the question of universality, since communicability does not result from a prior universality. It is this paradox of communicability that establishes universality”. Ricœur contrasts a kind of universality from one step to the next, linked to this resistible communicability, with an overhanging universality. A universality that is not so much due to the pretension of the purpose to say the only true one, nor to the authority of the speaker, as to the free receptivity of the receivers.
This resistible universality that we are looking for, I would add that it is also reiterative, in the sense that universality, as Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, said, is a task to be constantly taken up, repeated, reinterpreted, reinvented. The American philosopher Michaël Walzer wrote a very beautiful text on this subject some thirty years ago, in the French journal Esprit, to show how true universals are reiterative. Ricœur also insisted on the difference between the great technical inventions, which are irreversible and cumulative, and the great ethical inventions, which are to be reinvented in each generation, by a law of creative fidelity.
This universality is resistible and reiterative, even metaphorical, in the sense that we only have access to universals through figures that are those of languages and cultures. For Ricœur, our “universals” are still attached to and anchored in linguistic and cultural contexts, and are not susceptible to a pure concept that would be entirely free from the historical gangue and the linguistic thickness of the aim. This is what sometimes makes them difficult to translate into other languages and contexts. They are inseparable from the languages and cultural configurations which they and the cultural configurations they convey. To believe that we can settle down to the universality of human rights, for example, would be to miss the necessary confrontation of our universals, which can only improve them by meeting other languages and cultures and putting them in a state of mutual emergence. It is absurd to want to separate concepts from the metaphors that have carried them and that give them their meaning, their unfinished purpose.
In order to think about the interweaving of the various legal traditions in the imagination that is at work today, they must be put to the test of universalization in such a way that the common universals thus obtained are neither imposed nor overhanging. In this sense, human rights, the rights of men and women, the rights of citizens and stateless persons, seem to me in many ways to be a metaphorical, and reiterative, and resistible concept. The term ‘law’ is used here only ‘at the limit’, in a metaphorical way, and they are more regulatory ideas than rules: human rights come to border the law both at the infra-legal level of the basic conditions of human life and at the supra-legal level of the various ideals that animate our societies.
What interests me, however, are the powerful imaginary effects generated by the rapprochement and tension between the major ethical orientations that run through our societies. I have spoken of this “imaginary core” for Europe.
Between roman law and common law there are profoundly different ethical conceptions of man and society, which have constantly grafted onto each other. The Justinian Code and medieval sources have constantly incorporated the crazy idea of anonymous charity, the ideal of humility into the framework of Roman law and the code of warlike chivalry. The critical probity that is at the heart of the modern scientific ethos was counterbalanced by the enthusiasm of the socialist and solidarity utopias, etc. Each time, it was necessary to make this conflict between “imaginary” people who could have destroyed each other and constantly corrected each other sustainable. It is therefore not by sterilising or neutralising traditions that Europe was formed, but by fuelling their differences.
This point, which I have constantly stressed in Le vertige de l’Europe, seems to me to be vital in the face of the new quasi-imperial model that China would like to open up in order to impose “its” mondalisation. The alliance that it is in the process of being forged on all levels with an ambitious Turkey that is still seeking its place clearly shows the unprecedented stability of the proposed model, which combines political authoritarianism, a capitalism without social rules but not without steering, and a resolute return to a religious or cultural tradition that has been reshaped and unified in the form of an ideological state apparatus. On the other hand, the division of powers and the political weakness of democratic governance, the economic weakness of a capitalism that we would always like to see better regulated, controlled and restrained, and the ideological weakness of societies that have not only continued to undermine the bases of their legitimacy, but to neutralise them, is apparently not up to the task in the face of this rising empire!
I don’t deny the importance of not allowing ourselves to be naively intimidated, and of rebuilding a balance of power by which the powers can hold each other in respect; nor do I deny the importance of finding, in the face of the ecological emergency, an economic and therefore also a technological model capable of winning the support of the populations for sustainable modes of production and consumption. But the crux of the matter also lies in our forms of culture and imagination, and you are right: faced with the great neo-imperial narrative proposed by China, which is imposing itself willingly or unwillingly in the rubble of decolonisation, Europe must propose another form of globality, another narrative, precisely constituted by what Ricœur called “linguistic and narrative hospitality.” On this condition, European multi-lingualism, and the multiplicity of intertwined memories at this end of the continent, would not be a weakness, on the contrary. I would like to support this eccentric, peripheral and archipelagic character of Europe, of a Europe that has profoundly renounced the imperial narrative to modestly rely on the incredible diversity of its sources, and to turn quietly towards the adventure of methodical pluralism that we are defending here, and of what I called above a deprotection of the self, a condition for regaining the ability to act as a group and to feel what we are doing.
Faced with the scale of the unprecedented challenges facing humanity, we must therefore launch no less unprecedented promises, and we have full need of all these imaginative, innovative, forward-looking forces, needing this instituted imaginary: but I insist again, are these imaginative forces possible without taking up multiple supports in past traditions, experiences and promises, in the instituted imaginary? It seems to me that this is one of our great contemporary weaknesses, this refusal to take up again a large part of the sedimented traditions, that is to say precisely the plurality of the humanities.
This allows me to point out a final tension, which perhaps seeks its place in your magnificent rose of the imaginary humanities or compass of possibilities: that between individual rights and freedoms and the freedoms and rights of communities. When I say communities, I don’t necessarily mean exclusive communities, there is most often a poly-attachment, a pluri-attachment. The question is very inaudible in France, which panics in the face of all that seems to it to be communitarianism – even though French society is in fact very communitarian, and all the worse for denying it. But this is an important question, on which American authors such as Michaël Walzer and others have given much thought, and which is all the more dear to my heart because cultural traditions are transmitted in different environments, and because the reduction of transmission to cultural consumption in a market system, and to communication in a system of individual freedoms, systematically privileges what separates the individual from his environment. If the channels of cultural transmission have been broken, if cultural traditions (the conditions for innovation and creativity, as has been said) are so weak, it is because they have been rolled back twice, by a kind of double razor. The republican form of the nation-state, first of all, by giving the same rights and freedoms to all citizens, has ceased to recognise any validity to their regional, linguistic, ethnic, religious, etc. affiliations. This is a good thing, but a significant part of the traditional forms of culture, which were also a treasure, have thus gradually been marginalised and eliminated. The ultra-liberal form of the market society, then, by reducing traditions or confessions to opinions, which one is free to change like a shirt, has brought these various forms of life and language back to the market of ideas, a market largely dominated by the GAFAM, which also determine imaginary contents that are anything but innocent. We know that for Hannah Arendt, the resistance of traditions, i.e. of community membership, to the totalitarian remodelling of the “new man” was at the heart of her humanism.
What do you think about it? What place should be given to Community rights and freedoms in French society and in Europe? And what place should be given, in the humanities rose, to the tension between individual rights and freedoms and the freedoms and rights of communities? Would it be enough to think methodically about multiple membership, which recognises membership but refuses to imprison individuals?
Mireille Delmas-Marty: There is perhaps the beginnings of an answer in this sense in the notion of “cultural diversity” enshrined in 2001 in the UNESCO Declaration, then in a convention in 2005. It was undoubtedly the fear of a clash of civilisations that led the General Assembly of Unesco, meeting in November 2001, less than three months after the attacks in New York, to state in a Preamble that “respect for the diversity of cultures, tolerance, dialogue and cooperation in a climate of mutual trust and understanding” is “one of the best guarantees of international peace and security.” The diversity of cultures, “a source of exchange, innovation and creativity;” is therefore, for humankind, “as necessary as biodiversity is in the order of life.” “Article 1 describes cultural diversity, recognised and affirmed for the benefit of present and future generations, as “the common heritage of humanity”. And Article 2 affirms that cultural pluralism is the “political response to the fact of cultural diversity”. The question remains as to how to reconcile the pluralism of cultural (or intercultural) rights with the universalism of other human rights.
The drafters do not entirely avoid the question, as they recognise a tension between the diversity of cultures and the “awareness of the unity of the human race.” But their response is limited to encouraging the development of intercultural exchanges and making use of new information and communication technologies: although they constitute a challenge for cultural diversity (because they reduce differences?), the new technologies “create the conditions for a renewed dialogue between cultures and civilisations”. On the other hand, the drafters do not say how to overcome the apparent contradiction between the two poles. On the one hand, the pluralism of cultural rights could lead to relativism, if it merely juxtaposes differences, in defiance of any universalism. According to the report presented in 2019 to the 40th session of the Human Rights Council: “One of the main problems remains cultural relativism. In the future we must continue to distinguish between cultural rights that amplify human rights and relativism that diminishes them in the name of culture and is rejected by international law”. Certainly Article 1 of the Convention states: “No one may invoke this Convention to infringe human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the UDHR or guaranteed by international law, nor to limit its scope”. But it does not give instructions for avoiding relativism. Neither to avoid the opposite risk that the universalism inherent in the notion of humanism (IHRD and IDDEN) is taken literally to the point of denying pluralism and imposing the fusion of all cultures and the disappearance of all differences in favour of the dominant model, which would only be the new habit of an imperialism that does not say its name. In order to attempt a kind of rebalancing, it would be necessary on the one hand to “internationalise” the different cultures, and on the other hand to “pluralise” the universal.
Internationalizing different cultures means facilitating interactions. Edouard Glissant defined difference as “the elementary particle of any relationship”: it is “through it that the Relationship with an R functions.” And he recommended “opening our particular poetics to each other.” However, this opening has been facilitated as the increase in interdependencies born of globalisation (internet, migrations) multiplies the interactions making cultural rights true “intercultural” rights, the metaphor of language making it possible to distinguish, from the most modest to the most ambitious, three degrees of internationalisation.
At the first level, dialogue improves understanding, knowledge about and through the other. It facilitates rapprochement and, according to Glissant, allows “change by exchanging without getting lost or distorting oneself.” This method is sometimes fruitful, as I have shown with regard to the “dialogue of judges on the death penalty.” However, it gives rise to a very pertinent criticism by Sophie Guérard de Latour: the liberal vision “draws more a model of cultural cohabitation than it takes seriously the possibility of intercultural dialogue”. It does not make it possible to go beyond an ‘essentialist’ vision which suggests clear boundaries between liberal and traditionalist cultures (more attached to religion and communities), whereas each culture is crossed by various currents of interpretation and evaluation of beliefs”. And it is true that sometimes the dialogue is short lived.
On the other hand, translation (which implies the search for equivalences) goes further in the interaction. It brings cultures closer together by harmonising the differences which it sometimes helps to make compatible. A true “miracle”, according to Ricoeur, translation “creates resemblance where there seemed to be only plurality.” Indeed, it “respects differences, while seeking equivalences”. It is true that we sometimes stumble on the untranslatable and the misunderstandings they provoke, but it is still possible to find equivalents, even if they are more approximate and require a return to dialogue for deciphering. An example of this is found in Article 1 of the UDHR, which begins as follows: “Men are endowed with reason and conscience”. Initially the text referred only to reason, but the Chinese delegate added the Confucian-inspired term Liangxin. However, this term was translated very loosely as Consciousness, whereas it is rather a kind of otherness. Even if it is weak, and close to misunderstanding (the freedom of “conscience”, which appears in art. 18 UDHR is translated into Chinese by a different word Yishi), the equivalence had the merit of opening a dialogue.
Finally, “creolisation”, the ultimate form of interaction, merges differences, but it is not a simple mechanism of crossbreeding. It is a cross-fertilisation, said Glissant, “which produces the unexpected.” Producing the unexpected means finding, beyond dialogue and translation, a truly common meaning, joining the idea that, even if all values are not equal, all cultures have something to say about humanity. Provided that it is made clear that creolisation, understood in this way, presupposes reciprocity: like other human rights, cultural rights are the result of a process of reciprocal hybridisation. And the same is true of the notion of crime “against humanity” which is “creolised” by gradually incorporating several visions of humanity.
We then come to “pluralise the universal”. Here we find the spiral of humanisms: legal humanism is intended to be universal, but refers essentially to Western modernity. Pluralising it invites us to “uncover the cultural biases that reinforce the processes of oppression.” It therefore means “deconstructing the claim of any dominant culture to embody the universal, in order to rehabilitate the culturally diverse forms of humanism in their own dignity.” In short, it means accepting the unfinished, incomplete and evolving character of cultures and exercising critical reasoning, taking into account the evolution of science, technology, knowledge and beliefs. The example of some of the major errors of the supposedly most advanced cultures is edifying: yesterday the Earth was placed at the centre of the solar system; today many still place Humanity at the centre of the Earth’s ecosystem.
Hence the idea that the different visions of humanity are not determined once and for all because they are characterised both in relation to other humans (individuals or communities) and in relation to other living non-human beings. They are therefore evolutionary. To extend the image of the spiral, I would say that the various humanisms succeed one another, rub shoulders with one another, overlap and combine to draw a plural universal, the inevitable tensions of which will have to be balanced.
Balancing: the plumb line of democratic governance
Olivier Abel: Finally, let us return to the crisis of democracy. We feel a slow erosion which both demoralizes us individually and depoliticizes us collectively, and therefore in every respect discourages us. We need to go into the details of this democracy fatigue and moral exhaustion, and I would like to share my perplexities with you in a few lines.
All over the world, elections, more or less manipulated by rumours, bring dangerous majorities to power. In this respect, it is not the “neo-fascist extreme right” that is the root of the problem, it is much more generally, in all our countries simultaneously, the identity and security temptation of the most centrist forces of opinion and of the “deep state”. These majorities, I say, are dangerous for all minorities, because times are dark, everywhere, for “minorities”, whoever they may be, and we are reaching the limits of electoral democracy, when it favours majorities too much against minorities and flouts their basic rights. But this is ultimately dangerous for the “majorities” themselves, as history has shown time and again.
What is striking today is a massive rise in resentment. Where are our assertions, our approvals, our waiting horizons? We see evil everywhere: where and how can we share the good? We are only reactive, reacting to everything that worries us, to everything we don’t understand. How high will this deluge of resentment go? I would like to dwell on what I believe is one of the main drivers of this democratic collapse. Let us take up the panorama again: what is the connection between the abject crimes of the jihadists, the danger that “social networks” represent in some respects for democracy and civility, the question of freedom of expression and blasphemy, the almost warlike hardening of secularism, the yellow waistcoats, the dangerous majorities that brought Trump or Erdogan to power, and that are pushing at our doorstep? In fact we don’t understand what is happening to us, these angers that rise up in a mirror without trying to understand anything more, we no longer know and feel what we are doing.
And I would like to propose a hypothesis here. We have generally taken the wrong path. The drama of the cartoons is only the visible part of a huge problem, which affects not only the social divide, but also the world of business and unemployment, our administrations and our french Grandes Ecoles, social networks, ordinary life. We have sunk into the denial of humiliation, of its importance, its seriousness, its very existence. We are sensitive to violence, as we are to inequality, but insensitive to the humiliation that poisons them. As the Israeli philosopher Avishaï Margalit observed, we do not even imagine what a society whose institutions (police, prefectures, administrations, prisons, hospitals, schools, etc.) would be non-humiliating would be like. In the current state of shrinking planetary resources, it will be very difficult to make a fairer society, and in the current state of hardening power relations it is unlikely that we can make a society without violence; but why not already try a less humiliating society?
It must be said that humiliation is a complicated notion – and reality. The offence is subjective, and depends at least as much on those who receive it as on those who emit it. What will humiliate one will leave the other indifferent, and it even depends on when it happens. Humiliation is not quantifiable, measurable, like assault and battery. Hence the temptation to say that where there is no damage or harm there is no harm. It is not a matter of law, but only of personal feelings or morals, so go on, there is nothing to be said. And it is certain that certain feelings of humiliation can be stirred up and manipulated, to the point of making it an instrument of crime.
And yet, let’s take a step back and think more broadly, because the issue of humiliation should not be reduced to the context of the cartoon debate alone. Humiliation is a much more general social fact, to which we are surprisingly insensitive. If violence attacks the other person’s body, in his or her capacities and vulnerability, humiliation does even worse: it attacks the other person’s face, in his or her self-esteem and self-respect: it makes him or her blanch or blush, and often both at the same time. For humiliation presents itself in two apparently contradictory ways. On the one hand, it undermines self-esteem, by making the individual ashamed of his expression, of what he would like to show and to assert, it rebuffs him and excludes him from the circle of those who are allowed to speak. But, on the other hand, it also undermines respect and modesty, by revealing what he wanted to hide, by forcing the individual to show what constitutes his reserve, by overexposing him to the public eye, by forbidding him to withdraw.
Humiliation ruins not so much the immediate exchanges as the long circuit of recognition, which commercial exchange cannot measure. This is why the invisible effects of humiliation are so devastating. They run through time, because the humiliated will be humiliating, and humiliation infects all the paintings of life from one moment to the next, if it is not stopped. As Ariane Bazan remarked, they can go so far as to methodically destroy every possible scene of recognition, every possible reparation: the mother will kill all her children, as Medea rejected by Jason does. Reading Euripides, Bazan concluded: “it is to humiliation that barbarity responds”. The great tragedies are scenes of scorned recognition, of mutual ignorance.
Humiliation attacks the speaking subject but it also attacks the people: it is the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles that prepares the coming of Hitler to power, that of Russia or Turkey that keeps Putin and Erdogan there, it is the manipulation of the feeling of humiliation that had propelled the figure of Trump. And this story is not over. The Machiavellian instrumentalisations of fear and resentment have never reached, in all our countries simultaneously, such a level of dangerousness. To the manipulation of fear and xenophobia by French neo-nationalists, who sacralise secularism as if it were no longer the neutral framework for freedom of expression capable of peacefully coexisting with that of others, but the very substance of the French identity (an identity as monistic and exclusive as Catholicism once was for the Action Française), responds to the cynical manipulation of Muslims’ feelings of humiliation by the preacher-warriors of jihadism, who constantly instrumentalise resentment, in the world and in France. The jihadists here are playing on velvet, because to the old humiliation of military, economic and cultural colonisation has been added that of the suburbs and unemployment, and now the caricatures of the prophet, repeated over and over again.
We have heard a lot about the right to blaspheme: a curious expression, from all those (and I am one of them) who do not believe in blasphemy! To claim the right to blaspheme, to insist on blasphemy, isn’t it still believing in it, attaching importance to it? Isn’t it like the iconoclastic bands of the Reformation or the Revolution who ransacked churches in a kind of anti-superstitious superstition? The tragedy of the whole affair lies precisely in the fact that what is important for some is negligible for others. Some should learn not to attach so much importance to such satire, and others should learn to measure the importance of what they do and say.
What worries me today is the feeling that there is nothing important anymore, except the right to say that nothing is important. A society where everything is “cool” and “fun” is a society insensitive to humiliation, immune to any scandal, since there is nothing left to transgress, nothing to desecrate. And yet the function of scandal is vital to break a society’s complacency towards itself. Worse, when the ironist adopts an overhanging point of view, pointing out the idiocy of others, he interrupts any possibility of conversation. We can laugh, but it is still necessary for this to revive the pact which, in the name of our common and unfinished history, authorises, in a strong sense, mutual recognition.
Our question is therefore to institute a common theatre of appearance that gives full credit to the word of each other. This is what we are most lacking today. Once again: my remarks do not only concern the question of caricatures, but all the registers of our living together and our institutions. I hold humiliation to be the mainspring of the depoliticisation (in the strongest sense) of our society.
To come back to what could, in the face of this, re-found the political pact, I would like to return to the courage of intelligence. What our elders have made us aware of is not only the Machiavellianism of “brutality” and “concealment” by which the despots come and stay in power; it is also the “cowardice” and “voluntary stupidity” of the peoples who surrender to these facilities. We do not lack security or communication!
What we need is the courage to confront each other, and the intelligence not to believe that we are right on our own, without even trying to understand each other, to understand together what is happening to us. In this sense, intelligence is not intellectual, it is rather the fact of having “intelligences” outside one’s environment. It is also on this question of intelligence that we must learn to better articulate knowledge and power, the perspectives of scientific research and the ethical and political orientations of governance: all the more so since progress in knowledge is progress in the awareness of what we do not know, of what we must accept not to master, not to pretend to foresee.
And then, to put this crisis in the long term, we should remember that the transition from the old “Empire” regime to the modern “nation-state” regime, which was that of modern Europe, did not take place without huge massacres, population displacements and terrifying genocides – and perhaps even religious wars are deeply linked to these changes in theological-political regimes. But we are, through digital globalisation and migration flows, moving from the regime of the nation state to another regime, and this change is a particularly dangerous time, both a time of fragility and a time of dangerousness for societies, for themselves and for others. In this society of globalised networks, we must be particularly attentive to the emergence of the ‘mafia’ forms that political-military, commercial, financial or even religious powers take – when the only law that remains is that of ‘friends of our friends’, an ultra-contemporary mixture of warm clan feudalism and cynical deterritorialised connections.
I would add that we need to think as much of an instituting law, which regulates and directs from within the great choices of our societies, as of a Protestant law, I mean one that resists from the outside against the overly powerful encroachments of gigantic powers without counter-powers. It seems to me that democracy is threatened when one is left with only one or the other, with a right that only justifies the system, or a right that only resists, denounces, or protests: on both sides the law is destabilised, instrumentalised. We need a law that has been widely instituted, which is difficult to instrumentalise, all the more so in a brutal world of military, economic, but also media and cultural balances of power.
Now, whether we like it or not, “we are always barbaric with the weak”, as Simone Weil summed it up extraordinarily well: this is why we must “arm” the weak (with rights that are effective counter-powers), and “deprotect” the strong (with duties that correspond to effective responsibility). In other words, we must ensure that the weak are not too powerless, and the strong not too insensitive – that some can still act (what they are experiencing), and that others can feel a little (what they are doing).
These are some of the elements by which I would describe the crisis of democracy. And in your opinion, how do you describe it, this crisis, how do you tell it, explain it, and finally fight it? How to reinvent democracy, from what? What, in the historical forms of democracy, do you think is important, has priority, must be absolutely saved, and what would you consider secondary or contingent?
Mireille Delmas-Marty: We knew that democracy was fragile, but we thought that the triptych “democracy, rule of law, human rights” that characterises it would resist abuses. But we discovered that it can easily be destroyed in a few years in most European countries, and even in our own country: targeted assassinations, surveillance society, preventive detention, predictive justice and security internment mark a shift towards an authoritarian regime. From a criminal law of responsibility, which bases punishment on proof of guilt and proportionate to the seriousness of the offence, we are moving towards a “criminal law of security”, a police or even war law, which treats the suspect as a criminal by neutralising the presumption of innocence and the criminal as an enemy by replacing responsibility with undeniable dangerousness, adding to punishment a “security measure” of indefinite duration. This security right was introduced for sex offenders (French statute 2007) and has been extended to terrorism since 2015.
Then the pandemic reinforced the obsession with security and the normative madness seized our societies of fear, all the more easily since the combination of “tracing, posting and puçage” makes it possible to control human “populations”, assimilated to dangerous products. Then the crises multiplied. While a state of health emergency was declared, the recent return of Islamist assassinations has reactivated our questions while blurring the answers. Supporting the words of the Minister of National Education to denounce “Islamo-leftism which is wreaking havoc at the university”, a group of more than a hundred academics (Le Monde, 1-2 Nov. 2020) asked for the creation of a body to detect Islamist aberrations, on the grounds that “it is time to name things”.
Well yes, let’s name them, but let’s do so in the knowledge that not all denominations have the same function or the same meaning. Some of them designate values that can be called “ethical” because they pull us upwards, that is to say, towards surpassing ourselves, as a way of broadening the horizon of possibilities. This is the function of the French motto: “liberté, égalité, fraternité”. Other denominations, such as “laïcité”, are political principles, i.e. principles of organisation of life in society, which, by becoming legal, allow “living together”. The same is true on a global scale, which is essential in these times of accelerated globalisation. According to Jean-Louis Bianco, president of the Observatory of Secularism, the principle of secularism has three pillars: the freedom, to believe or not to believe, to change one’s religion, to practise one’s religion; the neutrality of the State and public services; and finally citizenship, a notion that adapts to all beliefs and religions: “it does not have to adapt to religions, it is the religions that have to respect it.”
But there are also ways of naming in a persifling tone, such as “multiculturalist ‘préchi-précha’, ‘anti-Western doxa’, practices that one wants to disqualify. We come to formulas, such as ‘Islamo-leftism’ or ‘Islamophobia’, which express opposing ideologies, but have the same function: to strike an individual or a group with anathema in order to place it outside the community, outside the ex-community in the literal sense of the term. Will anathema, of religious origin, be the language of our globalised societies? Will we be able to make peace, on earth and with the earth, if any thought that does not conform to ours is disqualified without real debate? Between the emancipation of religion and the intransigence of fundamentalist tendencies, tensions are thus created which lead to incomprehension and spread like a flame in a fire: from incomprehension to resentment then to anger, and finally to hatred which leads to barbarism, that is to say dehumanisation. Intended to spread terror, dehumanisation tends to abolish any possibility of living together.
To extinguish the fire, several legal techniques offer instruments but they are complex to use. On the one hand, freedom of expression, an ethical value, is enshrined in positive law and protected by law because it is necessary for democracy. But compliance with the law is not enough. Since the post-war period, the law no longer has all the rights. It must comply with the conditions laid down by supra-legislative (cf. Constitution) and supra-state (cf. European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, ECHR) provisions. That said, the rule of law does not impose freedom of expression as a value with absolute protection. Limited in Article 12 of the Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen by the obligation to “answer for the abuse of this freedom in cases determined by law”, freedom of expression is also limited by the ECHR: temporarily by derogations provided for in exceptional circumstances and permanently by “restrictions necessary in a democratic society”, relaxed by a “national margin of appreciation” allowed by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
More recently, the “vivre-ensemble” has emerged. Initially sociological and political, this concept was invoked by France to justify the law prohibiting the wearing of the full veil in the public space. Referring to the philosopher Levinas to show the importance of the face as an element of “vivre-ensemble”, without thinking of the risk of contradiction with the compulsory wearing of a face mask, the argument, which was upheld before the ECHR, was accepted by European judges in 2014. However, the Court stressed the “flexibility of the notion” and the UN Human Rights Committee came to the opposite conclusion in 2018, considering that such a “vague and abstract” notion could not justify any restriction on religious freedom.
In the same year, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing an International Day of Living Together, to be celebrated for the first time by UNESCO in 2019. Presented as a “cosmopolitical vision of transition”, living together remains profoundly secular in its formulation because religions are grasped at the level of the individual and his or her choices rather than as a cultural community. Their place is nevertheless more important in 2018 than in 2001, shortly after the attacks of 11 September, when the Declaration on the Diversity of Cultures, described as the “common heritage of humanity”, was adopted.
However necessary it may be, the art of naming things is therefore a difficult art. It is also a dangerous art when it leads to “bringing up”, that is to say denouncing, “attacks on republican principles and academic freedom” and to drawing up a “guide to appropriate responses”, a guide to political correctness, for academics whose job is to train emancipated citizens to think critically and to teach them to think for themselves.
It is true that thinking for oneself is a challenge when all crises are intertwined. In June 2020, France, in a state of health emergency but not yet hit by the October attacks, had voted two texts against terrorism. On the one hand, the Avia law obliging, in its flagship measure, online platform operators and search engines to remove within 24 hours, reduced to one hour for terrorist or child pornography content, “manifestly illegal” content. The expression covers incitement to hatred, but more broadly racist or anti-religious insults. Noting that operators would be encouraged to withdraw all content as soon as it is challenged, including legal content, the Constitutional Council censured this measure on 18 June 2020, on the grounds that it could lead to an infringement of the exercise of freedom of expression and communication that would not meet the three-fold test of the measure being “necessary, appropriate and proportionate”. The text will not be repealed, but will be deprived of most of its substance. Similarly with the law, passed on 10 August 2020, to introduce security measures against the perpetrators of terrorist offences after the execution of their sentence. Finally, three articles out of four were censured on 7 August by the French Conseil constitutionel, but the security slide is accepted in principle.
At the present stage, therefore, it can be said that the judge (national, European or global) remains a bulwark against security abuses, but one that is weakening, on the grounds that encroaching on the legislative power would establish a “government of judges” synonymous with the “democratic deficit”. Yet democracy does not only consist of a majority of votes, which can very well lead to “legal” despotism. It presupposes the resistance of human rights and the rule of law, and the role of the judge is all the more important as the trivialisation of the state of emergency legitimises a transfer of legislative power to the executive.
In our world “made up of political, military, economic, but also media and cultural balances of power”, you observe “the massive rise in resentment” and denounce “the mafia-like forms taken by military, financial or even religious powers”. This is why the law is more likely than ever to be used as an instrument, either to justify the system (“instituting” function) or to protest, to resist the system (“Protestant” function). In the absence of a real separation of powers, the democratic spirit could take the form of “SVP governance” (Knowledge, Will, Power): the cross-fertilisation of Knowledge (the learned and the knowing, science and experience), would enlighten the Citizens’ Wants (from the city to the Nation-State, to Europe, then to the World), which would frame the Powers (political-military with the States, economic with the TNCs, cultural...). However, the responsibility of the most powerful actors must be reinforced and the most vulnerable must not be enslaved. If the adventure story is the most adapted to the democratic spirit, the trust it postulates implies that the law reinforces responsibilities, and that impartial and independent judges provide a real normative guarantee, thus contributing to the organisation of solidarities and the implementation of interactions between actors and between normative levels.
As the complexity born of globalisation develops in this way, indeterminacy progresses and lawyers (re)become both gardeners and architects. As gardeners, they learn to adapt societies to the unpredictable developments in the world around them. Architects, they imitate the builders, from pyramids to cathedrals, who managed to dampen the disruptive movements of the winds by plunging a plumb line into a bucket of water, in order to regain straightness, literally and figuratively. Figuratively speaking, if the plumb line symbolises the straightness of cathedral builders, it could also symbolise the straightness of the builders of a common world and show how to move from the great disorder of deregulated globalisation to a kind of “ordered pluralism” that brings differences closer together without eliminating them, oscillating between internationalised (harmonised) diversity and pluralised (contextualised) universality. For there to be commonality, differences must remain but become compatible, and to make differences compatible it is not enough to juxtapose them, they must also be ordered around the common values generated by the processes of reciprocal humanisation we have described.
Faced with the permanence of health, ecological and social crises and the imminence of the disasters they herald, the “diversity of clamour” you spoke of at the beginning of our interview could quickly overwhelm us if we do not recognise values, ethical and/or legal, that are common enough to guide the human adventure by avoiding the two pitfalls of the Great Collapse and the Great Enslavement. Hence the need for a rebalancing between individual liberties and collective solidarities; between the spirit of responsibility and the spirit of obedience, between independence and interdependence. But this rebalancing, each of us – you said it in other words – will have to do it first of all within ourselves in order to renounce the ways of life to which “productivism-consumerism” has accustomed us. It will be difficult - the word “renunciation” is almost absent from the official discourse –, so strong are our resistances, real “deadly addictions”. To achieve this, fear is not the best counsellor, especially exclusionary fear, the one that dehumanises by obeying the impulses of the paleocortex, our old reptilian brain. On the other hand, we will have to value imagination, this jubilant capacity of the neocortex, particularly developed in humans, which reassociates old elements to make something new.
This is why I would like to praise the “imaginative forces of law”, those that dig into the depths of national histories or welcome the emergence of new categories, whether it be, for example, rethinking the appropriation of goods or the representation of people to guide this emerging global community that now includes future generations and non-human living beings. The notion of non-appropriable goods, which goes back to the old “commons”, is being extended to the new “global commons”, which are goods as different as health, reliable information, or the balance of the Earth’s ecosystem. At the same time, the notion of person is evolving to the point of opening up to non-human beings, therefore without responsibility, such as the Amazonian forest or a tributary of the Ganges in India. Since 2015, these new categories have inspired a great wave of “climate trials”. These trials, and those that will follow, show that the imagination, when enlightened by knowledge and stimulated by ‘the wonder of being part of the extraordinary adventure of being alive’, is a powerful engine for changing course. Provided you have a compass.
A compass of possibilities
Olivier Abel: How to think about wonder? How to welcome the unpredictable? Finally, I believe we agree with the tension you propose between the principle of responsibility and the principle of hope. Promise seems to me to be the right category here, because I am responsible for my promises, especially if I know that others count on me, but at the same time promises must always be able to be unbound, and they do not protect us against the unpredictable or the unexpected, nor against the unhoped-for. Hannah Arendt shows the impressive stabilising power that the ability to promise brings to human affairs. We can clearly see the political importance of the promise, in contracts, treaties, inviolable agreements. According to Arendt, philosophies and alliance societies accept this general unpredictability, and the promise serves here to create islands of certainty in an ocean of unpredictability: “when this faculty is abused to cover the whole field of the future and to trace a path well defended on all sides, they [promises] cease to bind and oblige, and the enterprise turns against itself.” This is what can worry us in what you call the Great Enslavement, whereby humans would like to swap the fragility of mutual promises for the solidity of the great programme narratives that would reshape the past and predict the future, in a totalitarian manner. The imagination of the possible reopens buried promises in the past, so that, as you say, the unpredictable becomes the unhoped-for!
Mireille Delmas-Marty: Of course, imagination doesn’t have all the answers. You asked, “How high will this flood of resentment go?” We received another terrible answer with the beheading of Samuel Paty: resentment can rise to hatred and barbarism, that is to say, to dehumanisation, if we sink to what you call “denial of humiliation.” But imagination is probably more powerful than fear. It is not “the fear of perishing, wrote Teilhard de Chardin in 1958, but the ambition to live that has thrown Man onto the exploration of nature and the roads of the air”. The ambition to live is the vital impulse that incites us to “last and grow” in the infinity of the Cosmos, in spite of human finitude and the limits of the planet. It is the impetus given by the “little unnamed breath from the countryside”, to attend Edouard Glissant’s Congress of the Winds, or the “little hope, this little girl who gives us good morning every morning” and whom Charles Péguy compares to the bud, so fragile at the end of the branch that it is effortlessly destroyed, but so necessary that without it the tree dies.
You also asked “how can we conceive of a common theatre of appearance that gives full credit to the words of each and every one of us?” The word itself is not enough, and discourse is quickly outdated. During our conversation, I told you how, after having published numerous texts on the globalisation of legal systems, I felt the limits of rational discourse and used the metaphor of clouds to represent the instability of legal systems, then imagined a compass rose to represent the headwinds born of globalisation and described their disorderly round. Hence the idea, to add sensory perception to cognitive reason, of inscribing words in matter, to make a kind of compass. An unusual compass because it does not have a North Pole, but has moving figures to represent the breaths that animate the world and indicate the multiple possible directions. A “compass of possibilities”, therefore, conceived as a theatre where the winds of the spirit meet the winds of the world and where human eyes on the world could tell each other, cross and recognise each other.
All this was made possible by the unlikely meeting of a jurist and a plastic artist-builder. Inspired by thought, the material took shape and then, in turn, it gave us something to think about. From thought to matter, the path goes through the symbolism of the four states: Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
Earth: a massive, mineral Wind Rose is anchored to the ground; an octagonal receptacle is hollowed out in its centre, while a minimalist cone-shaped structure supports the exact graphic projection of the rose towards the sky.
Air: emblematic figures are arranged in opposite pairs at the end of each branch. The bird, in flight or in a cage, symbolises the Freedom/Security pair; the hands, which fight or embrace each other, evoke the Competition/cooperation pair; the farandole, associative or separative, illustrates the Exclusion/integration pair; finally the cerebral sphere and the terrestrial sphere symbolise the Innovation/Conservation pair. Subjected to the world’s headwinds, each figure moves differently, transforming the Earth Rose into an aerial Round, as disordered as the human world. In an attempt to stabilise them, a spiral flies over these moving figures, carried by a rotating and oscillating axis on a joint located at the tip of the cone.
Fire: the “little innominate breath”, a citizen of the world who evokes the vital impulse of the new generations, is perched at the top of the spiral. Materialised by a crystal splinter, it reflects the light of the solar fire, the moon and the stars.
Water: the joint extends the axis of the spiral and transmits the movements resulting from the Roundness of the Winds to a plumb line, symbol of straightness. The mass of the plumb line is immersed in water, the primordial element contained in the receptacle. This stabilising place is like a centre of gravity where Earth, Air, Fire and Water meet.
In its turn, matter gives us food for thought: without the plumb line that holds it up, the spiral collapses, humanisms disappear and it is the Great Collapse announced by collapsologists. But without humanisms (the values they engender, and the regulatory principles that carry them), the world can also turn towards the Great Enslavement, which evokes the programmatic narratives inspired in particular by the New Silk Roads.
Unless we renounce the certainties of dogmatic thinking for the uncertainties of dynamic thinking and attempt open anticipation: neither predict nor prescribe, but welcome the unpredictable when it comes. The sole ambition of this “compass of possibilities” is to suggest to the spectator who plays the game of analogy between the winds of the world and the winds of the mind that the worst is not inevitable and that it is still possible to find a balance energised by the spiral of humanisms and stabilised by the plumb line of democratic governance plunged into the octagon of values and regulatory principles. To suggest that it is still possible, therefore, to imagine a world that would be pacified without being unified, harmonised without being unified, stabilised without being immobilised.
 M. Delmas-Marty, Sortir du pot au noir, L’humanisme juridique comme boussole, Buchet Chastel, 2019.
 J. Potočka, Plato and Europe, translated by Petr Lom, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002 (text written in 1973, just after the report of the Club of Rome, to which it refers briefly).
 M. Delmas-Marty, Aux quatre vents du monde, Seuil, 2016 ; Sortir du pot au noir, Buchet Chastel, 2019.
 The powers of law, it is their weakness and their strength, do not have the impossibility of technical power (competitors or adversaries must become commensurable or disappear): law is by definition transgressable, otherwise it is no longer law.
 E. Glissant, “La pensée du tremblement n’est ni crainte ni faiblesse mais l’assurance qu’il est possible de durer et de grandir dans l’imprévisible”, La Cohée du Lamentin, Gallimard, 2005 p. 23.
 Preamble to the Rio Declaration, Earth Summit, 1992.
 E. Letta, “L’interdépendance humaine guidera notre transition”, Le Monde, 22 mai 2020.
 Loi n°2017-399 relative au devoir de vigilance des sociétés mères et entreprises donneuses d’ordre.
 Loi n° 2019-486 du 22 mai 2019 relative à la croissance et la transformation des entreprises.
 C. Thibierge, La garantie normative, Mare & Martin, 2020.
 E. Glissant, La Cohée du Lamentin, Gallimard, 2005 p. 23.
 O. Abel, Le vertige de l’Europe, Geneva, Labor et Fides, 2019.
 We have allowed certain pasts, the colonial past, the Catholic past, for example, to be “orwellized”, now both hidden in a total amalgam, concealed, disfigured, and I would say buried alive in what they had of life and experience: this is historically simplistic and politically discouraging, because we can no longer rely on anything in the past, except on an amnesic and plated imagination, which moreover prevents any real criticism.
 O. Abel and J.-F. Lyotard, in “L’Émancipation comme problème 1789-1989”, Autres Temps, Les cahiers du christianisme social. N°25, 1990.
 They should perhaps be read under the polarisation of the social imaginary (ideology-utopia) proposed by Ricœur after Mannheim (P. Ricœur, Idéologie et Utopie, Paris, Seuil 1997, and Du texte à l’action, Paris Seuil, 1986).
 Les chemins de la répression, PUF, 1980 ; Sur les chemins d’un Jus commune universalisable, Mare & Martin, 2021 (à paraître).
 Modèles et mouvements de politique criminelle, Economica 1983, Les grands systèmes de politique criminelle, PUF, 1992.
 “Au Pays des nuages ordonnés” in Pour un droit commun, Seuil, 1994.
 M. Delmas-Marty, Aux quatre vents du monde, op. cit.
 M. Delmas-Marty, Sortir du pot au noir, l’humanisme juridique comme boussole, op. cit.
 M. Delmas-Marty, Une boussole des possibles, Gouvernance mondiale et humanismes juridiques, Editions du Collège de France, 2020.
 M. Delmas-Marty, Sortir du pot au noir, Buchet/Chastel, 2019 ; Une boussole des possibles, Ed. Collège de France, 2020.
 P. Chamoiseau, Frères migrants, Seuil, 2017 ; M. Le Bris (ed.), Osons la fraternité, ed. Philippe Rey, 2018 ; Registre sur l’hospitalité du groupe Pérou, etc.
 Cons. cont., décision n° 2018-717/718 QPC du 6 juillet 2018, M. Cédric H. et autre.
 B. Harcourt, Exposed – Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2015.
 P. Ricœur, Le Juste, Paris, Esprit, 1995, p. 148.
 K. Benoune, “Droits culturels : Rapport marquant le 10ème anniversaire du mandat”, A/HCR/40/53.
 E. Glissant, L’imaginaire des langues, Gallimard, 2010.
 M. Delmas-Marty, Le pluralisme ordonné, Seuil, 2006, p. 53.
 S. Guérard de Latour, “L’humanisme, une valeur à partager entre différentes cultures”, Observatoire des politiques culturelles, 2017, p. 25s.
 P. Ricœur, « Le paradigme de la traduction », in Le juste, Esprit, 2ème éd 2001, p. 135.
 E. Glissant, La Cohée du Lamentin, Gallimard, 2005.
 M. Delmas-Marty, Vers une communauté de valeurs, Seuil, 2011, pp. 81-98.
 S. Guérard de Latour, op. cit., p. 28.
 O. Mongin et J.-L. Schlegel, “les défenseurs de la caricature à tous vents sont aveugles aux conséquences de la mondialisation”, Le Monde, 4 November 2020.
 G. Renou, in Le vivre-ensemble saisi par le droit, Marie Rota (dir.), Pedone, 2020.
 J. Alix, “Au tournant de la punitivité en matière terroriste”, La lettre juridique no. 841, Lexbase, octobre 2020.
 E. Nicolas notes “the increasing erosion of the legal guarantee of rights in favour of the legal guarantee of the living”, in C. Thibierge, op. cit.
 M. Delmas-Marty, Les forces imaginantes du droit, 4 vol. Seuil, 2004-2011; Une boussole des possibles, op. cit.
 M. Delmas-Marty, “Au congrès des vents”, Aux quatre vents du monde, op.cit., p. 127 s.
 H. Arendt, The Human Condition, University of Chicago Press, 1958.. “Au congrès des vents”, Aux quatre vents du monde, op. cit., p. 127 et seq.