Neoliberalism, Hedonism and the Dying Public

Reclaiming Political Agency through the Exercise of Courage

in Theoria
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  • 1 Ohio State University, USA sharratt.2@osu.edu
  • 2 Ohio State University, USA wisniewski.49@osu.edu
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Abstract

While the pursuit of hedonism is legitimated by neoliberal governmentality, its disciplining and isolating forces prevent individuals from being fulfilled by their pursuit of pleasure. Concomitantly, this hedonism (pursuing pleasure to avoid pain) causes individuals to withdraw from public political life. In this article we argue that, instead of attempting to pursue pleasure through the experience of material comfort, individuals ought to orient themselves towards membership in substantive political associations. Further, we argue that it is through such membership that one can attain genuine fulfilment, while simultaneously reclaiming agency, both on individual and collective terms. Though individuals must be willing to take on the risk of pain, their membership in substantive political associations provides genuine fulfilment, while also allowing for the construction of new worlds through political action.

Contributor Notes

Grant M. Sharratt is a PhD candidate in political science at the Ohio State University. His primary interests are in political theory, including theories of freedom, republicanism and citizenship. He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation, which links political praxis to citizenship in order to revive a conception of the political citizen. This approach links republicanism with critical pedagogy, placing at the core of citizenship public practices of freedom. E-mail: sharratt.2@osu.edu

Erik A. Wisniewski is a PhD candidate in political science at the Ohio State University. His primary interests are in international relations theory, including global governance, great power competition, international order and the philosophy of science. He is currently developing his doctoral dissertation, examining how differentiation both in states’ desire for change and in the strategies that they pursue affect change in international order. E-mail: wisniewski.49@osu.edu

Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

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