Type
Article
Titre
Hostageship: What can we learn from Mauss?
Dans
Journal of International Political Theory
Volume
14
Numéro
2
Pages
183 - 202 p.
ISSN
17550882
DOI
10.1177/1755088217751513
Mots clés
al-Qaeda, commensurability, ethics, hostages, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, just war tradition, Mauss, utilitarianism
Résumé
EN
Hostages have become an important political and security issue in the context of conflicts in the Middle East and in Africa. The work of Marcel Mauss helps us to shed a new light on this phenomenon, which today is portrayed in negative terms as a major violation of fundamental universal rights such as the right to liberty. In The Gift, however, Mauss refers to the granting of hostages as “acts of generosity.” In line with Mauss’ approach, I consider hostageship as a “total social phenomenon,” combining politics, law, and economics, in both domestic and global settings, which reveals structural political and social questions that need to be addressed. The article highlights the role that hostages fulfilled as “gifts” in premodern international relations when hostages were granted and not taken as they are today. I underline the role they notably performed as elements of proto-diplomacy. I show the reasons why the function of hostages has changed over time by underlining the importance of the later Middle Ages as a transitional moment. Finally, I discuss the issue of contemporary hostageship from a normative perspective, arguing along with Mauss, against an interest-based utilitarian vision of hostageship and in favor of a solidarist approach to hostage crises.

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