Secularism and Its Ambiguities

Four Case Studies
$13.95 / €11.95 / £9.95
September, 146 pages

One of the icons of present-day historiography, Carlo Ginzburg dissects here four moments of European intellectual history. This book relives the experience that participants in the Natalie Zemon Davis Lecture Series at the Budapest campus of Central European University had in 2019 listening to Ginzburg's eloquent and engaging presentations. For this volume, he has re-edited and reworked a selection of cases charged with the inherent ambiguity between secularism and religions.

Secularism is often identified with rejection of the sacred. However, if one assumes that secularism also appropriates and reworks the sacred, its ambiguities come to the fore.  The dilemma accompanies the reception of La Boétie's Servitude volontaire between 1574 and today. It surfaces again when in the mid-19th century Léon de Laborde analyzed the reproduction of the works of art (long before Walter Benjamin), regarding it as a phenomenon of vulgarization,  comparable to the way in which Christianity vulgarized religion. The tension around the secular, the destructive drives coming from this liberation and their sacrificial outcomes is discussed in the third essay. Starting with Voltaire, Sade, and de Maistre, Ginzburg arrives at the Collège de Sociologie (Paris, 1937–1939), and their attempt to analyze the ideological components of fascism. The fourth essay approaches a contemporary phenomenon – fake news – from a long-term perspective, reaching back to Gustave Le Bon.

30% discount until 15 July 2023 with the discount code LNZD23 for online orders through Hopkins Fulfilment Services.


Chapter 1. Hobbes’s Invisible Target: On the Reception of La Boétie’s La servitude volontaire

Chapter 2. Texts, Images, Reproductions: On the shoulders of Walter Benjamin

Chapter 3. Sacred Sociology: A Few Reflections on the Collège de Sociologie

Chapter 4. Fake News?