No theme has been more central to international philosophical debates than that of community: from American communitarianism to Habermas's ethic of communication to the French deconstruction of community in the work of Derrida and Nancy. Nevertheless, in none of these cases has the concept been examined from the perspective of community's original etymological meaning: cum munus. In Communitas: The Origin and Destiny of Community, Roberto Esposito does just that through an original counter-history of political philosophy that takes up not only readings of community by Hobbes, Rousseau, Kant, Heidegger and Bataille, but also by Hölderlin, Nietzsche, Canetti, Arendt, and Sartre. The result of his extraordinary conceptual and lexical analysis is a radical overturning of contemporary interpretations of community. Community isn't a property, nor is it a territory to be separated and defended against those who do not belong to it. Rather, it is a void, a debt, a gift to the other that also reminds us of our constitutive alterity with respect to ourselves.
About the author
Roberto Esposito teaches contemporary philosophy at the Italian Institute for the Human Sciences in Naples. His Bíos: Biopolitics and Philosophy (2008) has also been translated into English.
"Underlying [Esposito's] philosophical work is the idea that our political vocabulary is exhausted. Old political notions need not to be replaced by new ones, but through historical reflection it is important to trace what has remained unthought in those concepts . . . Esposito's reflections are most stimulating."
—Walter Van Herck, Bijdragen, International Journal in Philosophy and Theology
"Those—especially English-speaking readers—familiar with Esposito's later research (and, in particular with Bios, Esposito ) will find this work particularly valuable for laying out the ontological ground upon which his account of immunity and biopolitics was subsequently worked out."
—Andrea Rossi, In-Spire Journal of Law, Politics, and Societies
"Esposito is an expansive thinker, unusually attuned to the historical as well as the philosophical dimensions of that hybrid field called 'political theory.' After a wondrous excursus on the problematic of 'community,' Esposito's challenging elaboration of community as alterity unfolds. This important and attractive translation brings to political theorists working in English Esposito's skill at speaking across the division between the analytic continental traditions."
—Kirstie McClure, University of California, Los Angeles
"With Communitas, Esposito has made an enormous contribution to the cardinal and complex notion of community, taking issue with the essentializing view of community that remains inherent in the language of contemporary philosophy. The reader feels guided through debates of great complexity by a generous expert who knows not only the major arguments, but the minor caveats and inconsistencies as well."
—Peter Connor, Columbia University
"With his usual erudition and philosophical precision, Roberto Esposito traces the development of the concept of community and its limits through the European tradition. His argument poses a challenge for anyone who wants to think community today."
—Michael Hardt, Duke University