A compelling account of a controversial and innovative episode in sociological thought.
From 1937 to 1939, a group of French intellectuals of diverse origins and disciplines gathered under the leadership of Georges Bataille and Roger Caillois to form the Collège de Sociologie. Inspired by Durkheim's theory of the sacred as the symbolic foundation of community, and having witnessed the importance of symbolic aesthetics in the rise of fascism during the interwar years, the short-lived but profoundly innovative Collège examined the possibilities for social bonds in the modern secularized era. Rethinking the Political demonstrates that the Collège de Sociologie's quest to create a new place for the sacred in modern collective life ostensibly entailed avoiding the theorization of both aesthetics and politics. While the Collège condemned manipulation by totalitarian regimes, its understanding of community also led to a rejection of democratic and communist forms of political organization, leaving the group open to accusations of flirting with fascism. Acknowledging these political ambiguities, the author goes beyond a narrow ideological reading to reveal the Collège's important contribution to our thinking about the relationships between community formation, politics, aesthetics, and the sacred in the modern world. She expands her historical account of the members' thought, including their relationship to Surrealism, beyond the group's dissolution, and shows how the work of Claude Lefort extends, but also resolves, many of the Collège's key theoretical insights. A fascinating study of some of the twentieth-century's most daring thinkers, Rethinking the Political offers crucial insights into the contradictions at play in modern notions of community that still resonate today.