The Equating of the Unequal

Social Imaginaries 1 (2):92-102 (2015)
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Abstract
This is an English translation of Waldenfels' German essay: Equality and inequality are basic elements of law, justice and politics. Equality integrates each of us into a common sphere by distributing rights, duties and chances among us. Equality turns into mere indifference as far as we get overintegrated into social orders. When differences are fading away experience loses its relief and individuals lose their face. Our critical reflections start from the inevitable paradox of making equal what is not equal. In various ways they refer to Nietzsche’s concept of order, to Marx’s analysis of money, to Lévinas’s ethics of the Other, and to novelists like Dostoevsky and Musil. Our critique turns against two extremes, on the one hand against any sort of normalism fixed on functioning orders, on the other hand against any sort of anomalism dreaming of mere events and permanent ruptures. Responsive phenomenology shows how we are confronted with extraordinary events. Those deviate from the ordinary and transgress its borders, without leaving the normality of our everyday world behind. The process of equalizing moves between the ordinary and the extraordinary. What makes the difference and resists mere indifference are creative responses which are to be invented again and again.
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