Thought for the Day: Kenneth Minogue on Politics

From the late Kenneth Minogue’s very fine Politics: A Very Short Introduction (highly recommended):

“In our time,” Thomas Mann remarked, “the destiny of man presents its meaning in political terms.” This is certainly true for a lot of bores in universities who believe that one cannot enjoy a poem or conduct a love affair without at the same time making a political statement. At a common-sense level, this view is no less foolish than the sub-Freudian opinion that everything we do is a sexual revelation. . .

Common sense is the point. In politics things are real, and propositions are (more or less) true or false. People bleed and die. Politics, with difficulty, sustains the common world in which we may talk to each other, and philosophers who dissolve experience into perspectives, horizons, sensa, values, dominations, cultures, and the rest will destroy that common world. Politics is the activity by which the framework of human life is sustained; it is not life itself. The skeptical philosopher, the moral relativist, the rancorous academic social critic, the religious visionary, and the artistic seer have their place in our civilization, but their intrusion into politics has not been happy, especially during the last two centuries. Experience shows that politics, for all its capacity order many ways of life, needs to keep its distance from these adventures. Yet the activity of politics is human life at a stretch, full of heroism and duplicity. To understand it is to know how varied it can be, at this time and that place.

Comment: Thomas Mann was a political child, if not an idiot much of the time. But that’s for another day.


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