“Rescuing the Democratic Self. The Case against Thoughtlessness.” Litro Magazine, August 2016.

arendt_archive_1-071113.jpgIdeology is, once again, en vogue, and in a Europe in crisis, that can hardly surprise. This is a crisis of the public sphere, and of the grand narratives in the larger sense, which after all have not melted into a postmodern celebration of difference. So how to face this? Pitting one ideology against the other seems not only ethically questionable – it is also completely beside the point, as this crisis does not obey one narrative alone.

In all this discursive cacophony, we need to take a step back and figure out our position of response, to give us any chance of tackling what is not just a terrorist threat, but a crisis of the democratic public sphere and the values that come with that. I would like to suggest an alternative take: working towards a new vision of the democratic self. Hannah Arendt’s philosophy of thoughtlessness offers a starting point.

Arendt’s belief in the responsibility of each of us to think, judge and debate empowers individual subjects across the dividing lines of class or nationality. Whether in the echochambers of the internet or in the face of populism, we need this debate about claiming back control, in ways that completely subvert Nigel Farage’s slogan.

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