Permanent revolution: Mohamed Bouazizi's incendiary ethics of revolt

Joseph Pugliese*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This essay stages a reflection on the complex relation that Levinas' philosophy has to violence and revolution. Confining my commentary largely to one pivotal essay, "Ideology and Idealism," I contend that Levinas must be seen as an advocate of revolution unconditionally oriented by ethics. He must be seen, moreover, as an advocate of nothing less than, in his own words, "permanent revolution." Rather than offer a purely abstracted commentary on Levinas' concept of permanent revolution, I stage a posthumous face-to-face of Levinas with Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who is seen as the catalyst who proceeded, after his self-immolation, to inspire both the Tunisian revolution and the revolutions of the Arab Spring that swept across North Africa and the Middle East. By interlacing Levinas' profound meditations on violence, revolution and the ideality of justice with Mohamed Bouazizi's suicide and the revolutions he catalyzed, I propose to illuminate the ethical dimensions of revolt, rebellion and revolution in the context of state violence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)408-420
Number of pages13
JournalLaw, Culture and the Humanities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • Emmanuel Levinas
  • ethics
  • justice
  • Mohamed Bouazizi
  • rebellion
  • revolution
  • state violence


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