• NOS4A2
    5.8k
    There has been endless couch-fainting about the rise in divisiveness in politics today, that some fear it will lead to extremism, sectarian violence and even civil war. So whenever a pundit laments divisiveness he expects and usually receives praise.

    But I grow suspicious when I here this sort of rhetoric, because when I think of the most unified politics in the world I picture the zero-party politics of Saudi Arabia and North Korea, where dissent is violently suppressed and unity imposed.

    Rather, shouldn’t we defend divisiveness as a natural feature of democracy?
  • Baden
    13k


    There is plenty of room between the type of divisiveness that would lead to a civil war and totalitarian levels of enforced conformity. Those who defend Trump-type-divisiveness are overwhelmingly not pro civil war and those that criticize it are overwhelmingly not pro totalitarian conformity. So, some level of divisiveness is good, but too much is bad, and people disagree about the levels that are desirable while almost never willing either extreme. If there's more to it than that, I'd love to know what.
  • Artemis
    2k
    some fear it will lead to extremism, sectarian violence and even civil war.NOS4A2

    Correction: it already has led to extremism and violence.
  • NOS4A2
    5.8k

    Correction: it already has led to extremism and violence.

    I don’t see how that is the case.
  • Streetlight
    8.8k
    In political theory, there's a useful distinction that often gets made between 'antagonistic' and 'agonistic' politics, where antagonism is the struggle between enemies, while agonism marks the struggle between adversaries. Whereas antagonism marks the effort to vanquish or destroy the enemy, agonism is an adherence to shared principles over whose meaning is contested over by adversaries. For the ancient Greeks, the agon was a contest, primarily athletic, in which competitors pitted themselves against each other, but nonetheless in a spirit of mutual admiration for the other. (for more).

    If, as some democratic theorists have it, the whole point of democracy is to transform antagonism into agonism, the danger occurs when the direction of flow changes from agonism to antagonism: when the other becomes not an adversary to compete with, but an enemy to destroy. So yes, divisiveness ought to be affirmed and even celebrated, but ideally in a way that doesn't make of the other someone to destroy (although a little bit of strategic destruction every now and then ain't so bad, in my books).
  • NOS4A2
    5.8k


    Great point. There seems a fine line between agonism and antagonism. Maybe that’s why the words used to describe debate—“argument”, “offence”, “counter”, “riposte”, “defense”, “knife”, “opposition”—can be applied to combat.
  • deletedusercb
    1.7k
    Rather, shouldn’t we defend divisiveness as a natural feature of democracy?NOS4A2

    Agreed, but currently the divisiveness is extremely binary. No nuance. Any quibbling over either sides political correctness and you are evil and leading us to the end of the country, the race, the planet, civilization.....

    A healthy country will have differing, even strongly differing opinions. Divisive implies to me that part of the intent is to divide. That there is an urge not simply to push things in the direction one wants, but an urge to divide, make the divisions extreme, just as an end in itself.

    And I think some people are benefitting from this and setting it in motion. And then there are many others who are triggered in flocks.
  • Artemis
    2k
    I don’t see how that is the caseNOS4A2

    Have you been following the news lately? There have been more than a couple attempted and committed mass killings by white supremacists and more than a couple protests where supremacists violently clashed with antifa and social justice protesters.
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