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This chapter develops the implications of Spinoza’s invocation in Chapter 6 of the traditional analogy between the oikos and the polis. This analogy serves to challenge the perception that absolute monarchy offers greater respite from the intolerable anxiety of the state of nature than does democracy. He acknowledges that people associate monarchical rule with peace and stability, but asserts that it can too easily deform its subjects. Unchallenged monarchy may be credited with a certain order, “but if slavery, barbarism, and desolation are to be called peace, there can be nothing more wretched for mankind than peace.” This is all familiar to friends of Spinoza, but what kind of democracy is the alternative to those monarchies that tend toward despotism? It is a form of association that, he suggests, resembles a bitterly quarrelsome but nevertheless virtuous family. Thus, he admits that democratic, or popular rule, is typically turbulent and disorderly, but urges his reader to view contentions and disputes as a kind of salutary discord that preserves rather than threatens virtue.
This chapter highlights some distinctive features of Spinoza’s Political Treatise, comparing it to his better known Theological-Political Treatise and Ethics. It summarizes the contributions to the volume, which are among the very few published commentaries on Spinoza’s unfinished but rich Political Treatise
Spinoza's Political Treatise constitutes the very last stage in the development of his thought, as he left the manuscript incomplete at the time of his death in 1677. On several crucial issues - for example, the new conception of the 'free multitude' - the work goes well beyond his Theological Political Treatise (1670), and arguably presents ideas that were not fully developed even in his Ethics. This volume of newly commissioned essays on the Political Treatise is the first collection in English to be dedicated specifically to the work, ranging over topics including political explanation, national religion, the civil state, vengeance, aristocratic government, and political luck. It will be a major resource for scholars who are interested in this important but still neglected work, and in Spinoza's political philosophy more generally.
This essay examines Elizabeth Grosz's provocative claim that feminist and anti-racist theorists should reject a politics of recognition in favor of “a politics of imperceptibility.” She criticizes any humanist politics centered upon a dialectic between self and other. I turn to Spinoza to develop and explore her alternative proposal. I claim that Spinoza offers resources for her promising politics of corporeality, proximity, power, and connection that includes all of nature, which feminists should explore.
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