De l’ avarice comme genre de vie

une contribution à la lecture de Kitāb al-Buḫalāʾ d’ al-Ğāḥiẓ

Miserliness as a Way of life

a contribution to the Reading of al-Ğāḥiẓ’s Kitāb al-Buḫalāʾ
In: Oriens
Salah Natij Université Paris 4 – Sorbonne

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In this article, we defend the hypothesis according to which that what al-Ğāḥiẓ attempted to expose, criticize, and problematize in Kitāb al-Buḫalāʾ (the Book of the Misers), is not only the phenomenon of miserliness as socioeconomic conduct, but also especially the speech of misers as the revealing symptom of the choice of a form of life. To use a concept developed by Marcel Mauss, we would say that for al-Ğāḥiẓ the phenomenon of miserliness constitutes a ‘total social fact’ in that al-Ğāḥiẓ analyzes and treats miserliness not as a simple act to give and/or to receive involving only an economic aspect, but as a summary of all the facts which constitute the sociocultural space, a kind of cross-section in the body of society. The question asked by al-Ğāḥiẓ in this work is one of the social link generally, community life in particular and, more specifically still, the sense of friendship that the other member of the dyad is capable of showing. Thus, we see al-Ğāḥiẓ insist on the fact that miserliness is not a fact of economy. Instead, it shows itself and acts especially as it involves the choice of a form of life and a mode of presence in society, a choice which determines, in turn, a mode of appropriation and employment of the language in the speech of the misers.

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