COLLOQUIUM: Jeff Green, UPENN, "Caring and Not Caring About Politics: The Idea of Extrapoliticism in Ancient Context"

Thursday, February 9, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

402 Cohen Hall 

Drawing on Homer, Herodotus, Plato, and Epicurus, among others, this paper recovers an ancient, though largely forgotten, democratic tradition which associates the egalitarian mindset with the tendency periodically not to care about politics—both in the sense of criticizing political life as disrespectful of human equality and in the sense of celebrating certain practices that draw on political ideals even as these are deployed in a non-political direction. I call this distinctly democratic form of political indifference extrapoliticism. The paper concludes by defending the contemporary relevance of extrapoliticism against the charge that it is civically irresponsible. For ordinary citizens in contemporary liberal democracies, whose relationship to politics is likely an ongoing source of consternation, extrapoliticism has the potential to provide a partial shield, constructed from egalitarian materials, against the psychological strains of ordinary political life.