Technicians of Human Dignity: Bodies, Souls, and the Making of Intrinsic Worth

Technicians of Human Dignity: Bodies, Souls, and the Making of Intrinsic Worth

Technicians of Human Dignity: Bodies, Souls, and the Making of Intrinsic Worth

Technicians of Human Dignity: Bodies, Souls, and the Making of Intrinsic Worth

Synopsis

Technicians of Human Dignity traces the extraordinary rise of human dignity as a defining concern of religious, political, and bioethical institutions over the last half century and offers original insight into how human dignity has become threatened by its own success. The global expansion of dignitarian politics has left dignity without a stable set of meanings or referents, unsettling contemporary economies of life and power.

Engaging anthropology, theology, and bioethics, Bennett grapples with contemporary efforts to mobilize human dignity as a counter-response to the biopolitics of the human body, and the breakdowns this has generated. To do this, he investigates how actors in pivotal institutions --the Vatican, the United Nations, U.S. Federal Bioethics--reconceived human dignity as the bearer of intrinsic worth, only to become frustrated by the Sisyphean struggle of turning its conceptions into practice.

Excerpt

I began the work that led to this book amid breakdowns connected to the notion of human dignity and to the politics of intrinsic worth that have accompanied that term since the mid-twentieth century.

Despite what some have suggested, these breakdowns have not been primarily discursive —though ever since the global expansion of human rights discourses in the 1970s, one prominent response has been a multiplication of talk about human dignity and its discontents. These breakdowns, rather, have been taking place at other critical junctures. Most importantly, they have been taking place at those junctures where the question of how to talk about human dignity has become bound up in the problem of how to turn it into a practice.

Spiritual politics

In the postwar era, human dignity began to be fashioned as the anchor point for what might be called a “spiritual politics”: spiritual in that the politics of human dignity have been indexed to something “essential” about human life that needs to be made the norm of material existence, political in that human dignity has become the animating concern of sustained efforts to rethink dominant modes and forms of power.

Despite being elaborated across diverse venues, the spiritual politics of human dignity have been fashioned in a remarkably consistent manner. in the first place, human dignity has been fashioned as intrinsic. It has been talked about, acted on, and instituted as though “grounded” in nothing other than itself. It is for this reason, for example, that the authors of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.