Overdoing Democracy

The Center for Media Engagement and Media Ethics Initiative Present:


Overdoing Democracy: The Problem of Political Polarization

Dr. Robert B. Talisse
W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy
Vanderbilt University

April 7, 2020 (Tuesday) ¦ 3:30PM-5:00PM ¦ BMC 5.208


9780190924195Partisan polarization is tearing the country apart. Although common analyses recommend that the way to address polarization is to encourage citizens and politicians to “reach across the aisle,” data show that this strategy frequently backfires, escalating rather than easing partisan hostility.  Offering an alternative prescription, Talisse argues that polarization is a result of the near total infiltration of political allegiances and identities into our social lives.  Today, our everyday activities are increasingly fused with our political profiles: commercial  spaces, workplaces, professions, schools, churches, sports teams, and even public parks now tend to embody a particular political valence.  When politics is permitted to saturate our social environments, we impair the capacities we need in order to enact democracy well.  In a slogan, when we overdo democracy in this way, we undermine it.  The solution is to build venues and activities where people can engage in cooperative activities together in which their political identities are neither bolstered nor suppressed, but simply beside the point.  If we want to do democracy well, we need to put politics in its right place.

talisseDr. Robert B. Talisse is the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. An internationally recognized theorist of democracy, Talisse has lectured throughout the world about democracy, moral disagreement, political polarization, and the ethics of citizenship. Overdoing Democracy: Why We Must Put Politics in its Place is his tenth book. Among the books he has authored are Why We Argue (And How We  Should) (with Scott Aikin), Democracy and Moral Conflict, A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy, and Democracy After Liberalism.

Co-sponsored by the UT Austin Ethics Project. The Media Ethics Initiative is part of the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. Follow Media Ethics Initiative and Center for Media Engagement on Facebook for more information.

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