Daniel Innerarity on Time and the Other

With the loss of the significance of the territory, space has been replaced by time as the central concept in human conflicts. Nowadays, strangers are not those who live far away but those who live in a different epoch. Margins are not a territorial category but a temporal one. . . The real inhabitant of the “provinces” . . . or of the “periphery” is a narcissist of his own calendar.

Ethics of Hospitality. (Translation is mine.)

This is just brilliant, people. This Spanish philosopher – who deserves to be a lot more widely known than he is – has come up with the perfect definition of what the Other is today. Ethnic conflicts that are based on disputes of territory are moving into the past. We are seeing more and more ethnic tensions that are based on the differences of calendar. People of the post-industrial, feminist, secular societies and the inhabitants of the feudal, patriarchal, fundamentalist cultures begin to clash more and more often in the countries of Western Europe and North America.

This is one of the reasons why the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians cannot be resolved by Israel withdrawing to pre-1967 borders. You can settle the territorial aspect of the conflict but that will do nothing for reconciling the temporal contradictions between a culture that has moved (albeit not without its problems) into the modern era and one that has not.

18 thoughts on “Daniel Innerarity on Time and the Other

  1. Deep. Name of the author?

    Reminds me of another thought by a rabbi of 18th century (no clue about name) once said (paraphrasing):

    Some stand for disbanding confessions and traditions for a pure secular (atheist) society. Some think we do not move fast enough with the changing times. They forget that time never stood still, and various generations had, and will have their own challenges. Survival depends on adaptation, however we must remember that nothing is worse than the elimination of belief and piety, which ignites the desire in people to stand on top of their own tower of babel.


  2. I agree with OI. And the next target of Huntington were Hispanics, about how they were a threat to the United States because they were destroying “American” values and did not integrate. So I’ll pass on this guy. Besides, ethnic conflicts seem alive and well in a lot of places in the world.


  3. It is self-evident that this is aimed at people like Sarah Palin supporters and not at any ethnic group.

    Of course, we can always just celebrate difference and worship multi-culturalism instead.


  4. “It is self-evident that this is aimed at people like Sarah Palin supporters and not at any ethnic group” .
    No, it’s not. Having never heard of the author, the first thing that came to my mind was Samuel Huntington. And until you mentioned it, I never thought of Sarah Palin. And I still doubt it’s aimed at them. But the quote you mentioned definitely doesn’t make it obvious that he is talking about the religious right in the US.


    1. Oh no, the US is barely even mentioned in the book. On this blog, I have written many times that the main conflict in Western societies is between those who have accepted and welcomed modernity and those who haven’t been able to. This is a non-ethnic issue. It is truly about being able to inscribe oneself into the progress of time or trying to resist it. To me, Palin’s supporters are the epitome of this push to resist the changes that modernity has brought about. Anybody who is conservative by definition belongs to the group of narcissists of their own time. Conservatives avowedly strive to “conserve” things, prevent them from changing.

      The real Otherness is not about ethnicity, the territory where one was born or moved to, says Innerarity. It’s about the different clocks that run differently in people’s heads.

      This idea is very dear to me and I’m glad I found theoretical support for it in this philosopher.


  5. It bugs me that I can’t read this book. Maybe I should take Spanish just so I can explore the author’s ideas more fully.


    1. No need (even though learning Spanish is always a good idea). I will keep posting about this philosopher and when my conference talk is made public, I will either link to it or publish it here on the blog in some format. I think it’s going to be quite good.


  6. If you consider this a non-ethnic issue then it would be better to not tack on statements like the following: “This is one of the reasons why the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians cannot be resolved by Israel withdrawing to pre-1967 borders. You can settle the territorial aspect of the conflict but that will do nothing for reconciling the temporal contradictions between a culture that has moved (albeit not without its problems) into the modern era and one that has not.” Given the wide range of beliefs and practices that fall under these two particular national/ethnic identities, I don’t see how you can conclude that one national identity is modern and one is not, particularly when these are not even necessarily exclusive categories. Maybe this isn’t what you mean, but I was quite surprised at this jump. Do you mean individuals or particular groups within these larger national identities, like the American example you gave above? Or something else?


    1. What I mean is that Israel is at least a semi-secular state and moving towards greater secularism, while there is no hope of independent Palestine moving in a secular direction. In temporal terms, this is the difference between the medieval era and enlightenment.

      I also want to clarify that the philosopher in question mentions neither Israel or Palestine at any point. This part comes exclusively from me.


      1. To the uninitiated, how “semi-secular” differs from “secular”? What are the benchmarks? Are we judging on a curve 🙂 ?


      2. Independent Palestine could possibly move in a semi-secular direction. Israel could reverse course (like the US). Or the opposite. “No hope” is a pretty strong statement, as things like this are difficult to know until they happen. In my opinion, drawing secular/non-secular lines along national borders (literal or figurative) obscures and reduces a variety of struggles going on inside these borders, including things like what secularism actually means.


        1. “A Gaza rights group says the ruling Hamas militant group has barred male hairdressers from working in women’s salons. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said Monday that five male hairdressers were interrogated and forced to sign declarations that they wouldn’t work in women’s salons. Male hairdressers for women are rare in conservative Gaza where genders rarely mix in public.”


          “Since Hamas seized full control over the Gaza Strip in 2007, Palestinian women have been deprived of many of basic rights, such as strolling along the beach alone or smoking in public. Under Hamas, female lawyers are not allowed to appear in court unless they are wearing the hijab.

          They are also barred from going to male hairdressers. A woman who is seen in public with a man is often stopped by Hamas policemen and questioned about the nature of the relationship between them.

          Women in the Gaza Strip who have dared to participate in public political and social events have been repeatedly harassed by the Hamas government. As a result, many of them have been forced to stay at home out of fear for their lives.”


          “According to some estimates, there are now 300 gay Palestinian men secretly living and working in Israel.

          Their willingness to live there – despite the risk of being detained and deported as a security threat – is due to Palestinian attitudes towards gay men, they claim.

          One 22-year-old gay man who fled from Gaza into Israel four years ago told BBC World Service’s Outlook programme he was almost killed when his family found out about his sexuality.”


          For the US to “reverse course”, its Enlightenment era constitution has to be repealed in its entirety. Of course, anything is possible under the sun but I think it only makes sense to discuss more realistic probabilities. To me, the probability of a fundamentalist religious government in Palestine is much higher than the possibility the US will repeal its constitution.


          1. Gaza is part of Palestine, not all of it, nor even the majority of it. Hamas is a Palestinian movement, not the only one. As evident in the links you put above, there are plenty of Palestinians unhappy with Hamas, for example, who might prefer a more secular independent state. The US can’t entirely reverse course, but it can become more or less secular (if indeed, you consider it secular to begin with) particularly when fundamentalist voices are becoming more credible. This is a range, not an either/or situation.


            1. “Women are discriminated against in laws governing marriage, divorce, custody of children, inheritance, and violence against women. Palestinian men and women do not have equal access to justice, and women are particularly discriminated against in the penal code, which is derived from Jordanian and Egyptian law. The law enforcement structure is male dominated and sometimes biased against women. Women are marginally represented among judges and police, which may make women hesitant to turn to the courts or law enforcement for help. Access to justice has proved a challenge for both men and women throughout the second Intifada (2000 to present). The existing political situation, in addition to Israeli incursions and the inability of the Palestinian Authority to enforce the law properly, has rendered the judiciary and law-enforcement mechanisms weaker than ever. It has also strengthened the use of tribal and customary law.

              The judiciary system in Palestine is composed of a hierarchy of courts. Women are not recognized as full persons before the courts as witnesses or in matters related to marriage, divorce, and custody of children. The Women’s Center for Legal Advice and Counseling (WCLAC) report for 2000 states that the Palestinian judiciary exhibits views of women as “inferior” and that women generally are “looked down upon and treated with scorn.” It also reports that “a divorced woman is treated as though she has been ‘indicted’ for failing to try to sustain the marriage.”

              Women suffer disproportionately from law enforcement that is weakened by the fact that Palestinians fall under four different legal systems-Israeli, Jordanian, Egyptian, and Palestinian-and there are no legal agreements between the various authorities. For example, a father with an Israeli passport or a Jerusalem identity card can kidnap his child and go to the Israeli area, where the Palestinian Authority cannot enforce child custody laws. The same holds true for alimony cases in which husbands living inside Israel can escape their legal obligations to their former wives.

              A number of Palestinian women have been murdered by family members for “tarnishing the name and the honor of the family,” although statistics are difficult to obtain because police often report these crimes, or “honor killings,” as suicides or other causes of death. It is estimated that there are about 20 documented cases of honor crimes in Palestine annually. The WCLAC in Jerusalem states in its report on the situation of Palestinian women in 2001 that 38 cases of femicide were documented between 1996 and 1999, 12 of which occurred in the West Bank and 26 in Gaza; the murders were all committed by close male relatives such as fathers, brothers, and uncles.”


              The only point of this entire post is that people who accept the above-mentioned practices – irrespective of their ethnic origins – will find it difficult to coexist with people who don’t. I am honestly not understanding what it is we are arguing about here.


  7. My point is just that you cannot know whether one accepts or rejects these practices (or some of them, etc) based on one’s national or ethnic identity, and in particular whether one is Israeli or Palestinian (or both). So, I think you should be more careful (or perhaps more specific) in what you call modern and medieval. To me, there is a huge difference between saying for example, that a particular cultural practice (like preventing female lawyers from appearing in court without the hijab or honor killing) is not modern versus an entire culture (Palestinian) is not modern, particularly when “Palestinian” contains a wide variety of beliefs and practices. For what it’s worth, I almost always object to the phrase “(nationality) culture” regardless of what one is talking about so this is also an instance of that.


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