Cover image for Distant suffering : morality, media and politics
Distant suffering : morality, media and politics
Boltanski, Luc.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Souffrance à distance. English
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xviii, 246 pages ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Originally published in French: Editions Métailié, 1993.
Reading Level:
1730 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
B105.S79 B6513 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Distant Suffering, first published in 1999, examines the moral and political implications for a spectator of the distant suffering of others as presented through the media. What are the morally acceptable responses to the sight of suffering on television, for example, when the viewer cannot act directly to affect the circumstances in which the suffering takes place? Luc Boltanski argues that spectators can actively involve themselves and others by speaking about what they have seen and how they were affected by it. Developing ideas in Adam Smith's moral theory, he examines three rhetorical 'topics' available for the expression of the spectator's response to suffering: the topics of denunciation and of sentiment and the aesthetic topic. The book concludes with a discussion of a 'crisis of pity' in relation to modern forms of humanitarianism. A possible way out of this crisis is suggested which involves an emphasis and focus on present suffering.

Table of Contents

Part I The Question of the Spectator
1 The politics of pity
2 Taking sides
3 The moral spectator
Part II The Topics of Suffering
4 The topic of denunciation
5 The topic of sentiment
6 The critique of sentimentalism
7 The aesthetic topic
8 Heroes and the accursed
Part III The Crisis of Pity
9 What reality has misfortune?
10 How realistic is action?