Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Depoliticization of Society - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3
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The Depoliticization of Society - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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The Depoliticization of Society
“Aristippus in and out of Athems.” The American Political Science Review 73 (March 1979): 113–128.
Central concepts of classical Greek political philosophy are today anachronistic and tyrannical because of structural transformations in Western social institutions. For example, the Greeks held that the political state is identical with total society, that the polity is a “whole” that subsumes subordinate “parts.” This whole/part scheme was plausible in the ancient Greek polis because politics so colored and dominated most social institutions. But this politicized scheme became illusory in modern Europe with the emergence of liberal bourgeois capitalism. The growing independence of such non-political and semi-autonomous social realms as commerce and religion increasingly claimed the now self-conscious individuals' allegiance. In effect, society and free individuals gradually emerged distinct from the state.
Accordingly, modern attempts to revive the now obsolete premises of Greek politicized thinking harbor false assumptions: (1) that the state can be “humanized” as a family or community with a socially unifying purpose; and (2) that individuals are completely “political animals” that realize themselves through political identification. In the modern pluralist and individualist societies, attempts to return to the old Greek politicized whole/part scheme would tend toward tyranny as Benjamin Constant argued in his De l'esprit de conquête et de l'usurpation (1814). Constant's crucial insight is that the modern revival of the old res publica concept of politics: “only serves to overlegitimize a technically efficient bureaucratic agency with police powers. The idea that only politics provides a ‘public space’ for human self-realization … makes it nearly impossible to understand why citizens might want to resist the coercive encroachments of a hypertrophic state.”
Today in the West we enjoy:
plenty of nonpolitical avenues of social interchange, and we take advantage of them everyday. It is, in fact, the rather improbable evolutionary emergence of a pluralistic and ‘centerless’ communicative network which lends plausibility to the modern liberal notion of ‘negative freedom,’ and especially to the idea that human beings should be free not to participate in politics.
Today democratic centralism would interfere with the naturally harmonious and voluntary arteries of true social action such as nonpolitical science, law, art, family, education, press, and the economy. Also, the modern separation of state and society renders implausible such classical moral claims (in Plato and Aristotle) as the emphasis on duties instead of rights and the subordination of the individual (or his chosen social agencies) to the all-encompassing state.
Aristippus, the article's title character, was a North African voluptuary and pupil of Socrates. As founder of the pleasure-approving and earthy Cyrenaic school he rejected the necessity of submerging his personal individuality in the civic collective. Aristippus believed (says Xenophon) that freedom is incompatible with the politics of ruling or being ruled: “I do not shut myself up in the four corners of a politeia.” Today Aristippus has become a type of the modern depoliticized individual.