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The Contemplation of the World

Figures of Community Style

1996
Author:

Michel Maffesoli
Translated by Susan Emanuel

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A provocative guide to the distinctive style of postmodernity.

Eminent French theorist Michel Maffesoli pursues and extends his project of decoding contemporary societies. Here, Maffesoli questions afresh the mundane stuff of contemporary sociality, seeking to discern its primary mode of expression-its forms, style, rules, and principles-its aesthetics.

The Contemplation of the World adds a compelling twist to current work related to postmodern practices by linking the resurgence of images to archaic cultures in which myths played a major unifying role.

Steven Ungar, University of Iowa

In The Contemplation of the World, eminent French theorist Michel Maffesoli pursues and extends his project of decoding contemporary societies. Here, Maffesoli questions afresh the mundane stuff of contemporary sociality, seeking to discern its primary mode of expression-its forms, style, rules, and principles-its aesthetics.

The advent of postmodernity marks the beginning of the “society of the image.” It is as if the fragmentation of the social has gradually and necessarily corresponded to massive crumbling of our representations of the real and resulted in their infinite refraction. Henceforward we are living in the heart of an ever-increasing entanglement of objects, signs, and images. Located somewhere between dream and reality, we are the unfettered prisoners of a symbolic universe of growing opacity and mysterious meanings.

In The Contemplation of the World, Maffesoli seeks to explore those unobtrusive links that regulate and organize the ensemble of our representations-the raw material refashioned in our imaginary and our fantasies-exploring what it is that is recognizably “postmodern” about them. Maffesoli stresses the connection that exists between concern for the present, daily life, and the aesthetic of the imaginary, defined here as empathy, community, and shared emotion. This collective style, redistributed, redesigned, and reinvented, expresses for all to see both the stakes and the norms of a new type of community.

The Contemplation of the World proposes a map of “the vast domain of the collective imaginary,” allowing us to better understand where today’s culture stands and helping us to perceive within its clamorous confines the outlines, still frail, of a “community ideal.”

Michel Maffesoli is professor of sociology at the University of Paris (I) Sorbonne and is the author of numerous books.

Susan Emanuel has a doctorate in communications from Rennes University in France and has translated works by Pierre Bourdieu and Armand Mattelart.

Book Default Image

Michel Maffesoli is professor of sociology at the University of Paris (I) Sorbonne and is the author of numerous books.

Susan Emanuel has a doctorate in communications from Rennes University in France and has translated works by Pierre Bourdieu and Armand Mattelart.

Book Default Image

The Contemplation of the World adds a compelling twist to current work related to postmodern practices by linking the resurgence of images to archaic cultures in which myths played a major unifying role.

Steven Ungar, University of Iowa