In the United States in particular, there is almost no social space today, whether that’s Thanksgiving dinner or going shopping, that has not become saturated with political meaning. In Overdoing Democracy: Why We Must Put Politics in Its Place (Oxford University Press, 2019), Robert Talisse argues that contrary to what many democratic theorists have argued, democracy is something we can do too much of – and that it is in fact being overdone. Talisse, who is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, notes that features of everyday life are overwhelmingly transformed into expressions of political identity, and argues that this transformation undermines democracy itself, since it undermines our capacity for civic friendship, or the capacity to see our political rivals as our equals. His book is a provocative contribution to discussion among political theorists about the problems facing contemporary democracy; from a practical standpoint, he also suggests that a way to counter this situation is to consciously seek out social interactions where politics is off the table.
Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.