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Accepted Paper:

No Success like Failure: On the Ethical Potential of De-Responsibilization among Orthodox Jewish-Israeli Meditators  
Ori Mautner (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

For orthodox Jewish practitioners of Buddhist-derived meditation, one is successful because in an important respect one has failed. Failing in a way that demonstrates success involves relenting some responsibility and ascribing it to others, thus revealing de-responsibilization's ethical potential.

Paper long abstract:

Recent anthropological writing has emphasized the constitutive roles senses of failure play in religious self-fashioning, associating failure’s productive ethical potential with people’s willingness to assume greater responsibility for various aspects of their lives. By contrast, among orthodox Jewish-Israeli practitioners of Buddhist-derived meditation, failure does not operate primarily as a means for future ethical accomplishment. Instead, one is successful precisely because in an important respect, one has failed. Moreover, among orthodox Jewish meditators, failing in a way that demonstrates that one is actually successful does not involve taking greater responsibility. Rather, it involves relenting some responsibility and ascribing it to God or to a tsaddik (righteous person). Indeed, orthodox meditators learn—to a significant extent, through meditative practice—to consider themselves responsible primarily for their efforts but less so for such efforts’ results, which are under other entities’ control. So, whereas a central academic analysis of mindfulness practices has been that they are neoliberal technologies of ‘responsibilization’, orthodox meditators’ approaches towards failure are ones of de-responsibilization. Buddhist-derived meditation practices may therefore operate as technologies in which meditators learn to take less responsibility for failure—though without impinging on their ability to inhabit the moral system or to experience success. De-responsibilization, then, can at times prove at least as ethically productive as responsibilization.

Panel Irre01
Accounting for failure
  Session 1 Tuesday 30 March, 2021, -