Dueling for Equality

Political Theory 34 (6):715-740 (2006)
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This essay argues that aristocratic values and social practices were deployed in the transition to modernity, where equal dignity replaced positional honor as the ground on which an individual's political status rests. The essay focuses on dueling, one of the most important practices for the maintenance of aristocratic honor, at the moments of transition, primarily in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The author argues that the practice has resources for an egalitarian refashioning. This is because it is a system for the distribution of respect and because it involves social equals. At the same time, it is necessarily masculine, which limits the degree to which it can realize equality. The essay argues that the egalitarian refashioning emerged in part out of eighteenth-century thinkers' own reinterpretation of the practice. The focal theorist in the essay is Immanuel Kant, whose discussion allows us to weave together theoretical discussions of honor with the social practices of dueling.



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