Detachment: Essays on the limits of relational thinking

Candea M., J. Cook, C. Trundle & T. Yarrow (ed.) 2015.Detachment: Essays on the Limits of Relational Thinking. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

This volume urges a reconsideration of the productive potential of disconnection, distance and detachment, as ethical, methodological and philosophical commitments. In so doing, we write against the grain of a strong tendency in contemporary social theory and public life.

Engagement has, in a wide range of contexts, become a definitive and unquestionable social good, one that encompasses or abuts with a number of other seductive cultural tropes, such as participation, democracy, voice, equality, diversity and empowerment. Conversely, detachment has come to symbolise a range of social harms: authoritarianism and hierarchy, being out of touch, bureaucratic coldness and unrespon- siveness, a lack of empathy, and passivity and inaction. Yet as this book argues, in a wide range of settings detachment is still socially, ethically and politically valued, and the relationship between detachment and engagement is not simple or singular.

The detachment volume is out.

‘By now detachment has been thoroughly dethroned as a general ideal for modern subjects. This makes it possible for the authors assembled in this compelling volume to present subtle, detailed explorations of practices of detachment in different contexts -from pig farming in Britain to monastery life in Tibet. Like attaching, detaching, too, emerges as an art that is situationally worthwhile, necessary, or unavoidable. Start reading and – can I say this? – you will be hooked.’
Annemarie Mol

Professor of Anthropology of the Body at the University of Amsterdam

Joanna Cook
Joanna Cook
‘This book quite brilliantly exposes the imperative of connection that drives so much of contemporary theory. Taking their distance from this imperative, the contributors develop a sophisticated and insightful proposal for the potentiality of detachment or disconnection as an ethical and epistemic practice. The proposal is at once measured and provocative; social scientists of all kinds will be stirred by Detachment.’


Alain Pottage

Professor of Law, London School of Economics