Political Loneliness: Modern Liberal Subjects in Hiding

Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (2020)
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Abstract

Political Loneliness: Modern Liberal Subjects in Hiding examines the loneliness that remains at work in modern life even as we find ourselves increasingly interconnected. While much has been said about this experience in the main currents of continental philosophy, this book opens new paths within this discourse by developing the problem of loneliness in a political register. The central claim of this book is that neoliberal subjectivity has rendered us lonely. Drawing especially on the work of Hannah Arendt, the author suggests that the political structures we have inherited from the liberal tradition—such as the anonymity of the vote and the right to pursue one’s private self-interest as far as possible—have left us hidden from one another, unable to appear as members of a common world. The author further argues that it is precisely this experience of political loneliness that renders citizens in liberal and allegedly open societies desperate to belonging and willing, in turn, to surrender to delusional fellowships like totalitarianism. By developing the problem of loneliness in a political register, this book offers a framework for interpreting the rise of totalitarianism at the beginning of the twentieth century, no less than the ascendance of right-wing populism in Western liberal democracies today. It thus makes an important contribution to debates in current continental philosophy, liberal political theory, and critical theory regarding issues of alienation, political life, and community in the present age.

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Jennifer Gaffney
Loyola University, Chicago

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