Category: Tocqueville

Arendt Contra “Life”

Hannah Arendt famously insisted that any politics that attended to the demands of “life” was doomed to descend into factional strife.  How to understand her argument on these matters has troubled her readers ever since she first articulated this view in 1957’s The Human Condition and, more forcefully, in 1962’s On Revolution. It doesn’t help matters that the critique of a life-based politics in the former book is replaced (augmented) by a differently inflected argument in On Revolution: namely, that politics must avoid addressing “the social question.”  Just how Arendt’s disdain for “the social” connects to her insistence that “life” should never be the principal motive for “action” is hard to parse.

Let me start with life.  Arendt’s argument (derived from Aristotle in ways that resonate with Agamben’s adoption of the distinction between “bios”—bare life—and “zoe”—a cultivated life) is that life belongs to the realm of “necessity.”  What is needed to sustain life (food, shelter, etc.) must be produced and consumed.  The daily round of that production and consumption is inescapable—but the very opposite of freedom. 

Politics exists in order to provide freedom, to provide a space for action that is not tied to necessity.  As countless readers have pointed out, Aristotle’s polity relies on slaves to do the life-sustaining work tied to necessity—and Arendt seems nowhere more mandarin than in her contempt for that work.  While it is going too far to say that she endorses slavery, there is more than a little of Hegel’s master/slave dialectic in Arendt.  She seems at times to accept that the price of freedom, the price of escaping slavery, is an heroic, aristocratic disdain for life that allows the master to achieve his (it’s almost always a “he”) position of mastery in the life/death struggle that creates slavery in the Hegelian story.  Those tied to “life” are slavish in disposition; they have bargained away their freedom because they have valued life too highly—have, in fact, taken life (not freedom or mastery) as the highest (perhaps even the sole) value.  This contempt gets carried over into Arendt’s deeply negative views of “the masses.” 

Arendt’s disdain for “life” has often been seen as a critique of bourgeois sensibility.  The bourgeoisie is focused on “getting and spending” which it deems “private”—and is, consequently, uninterested in politics.  That’s one way of interpreting Arendt’s lament that politics is in danger of disappearing altogether in the modern world.  In a liberal society, all the focus is on “private” pursuits—the religion of personal salvation, economic pursuits, family and friends.  It is reductive, but not altogether inaccurate, to link Arendt to figures like Tocqueville who lament the loss of an aristocratic focus on “honor” even as they both admit that aristocratic virtues are lost forever.  If the triumph of “life” is to be overcome, it won’t be through a revival of either Aristotle’s or Machiavelli’s worlds. 

Arendt’s prescription (especially in The Human Condition) appears to be the attempt to substitute amor mundi (a love of the world) for the love of life.  My student Martin Caver wrote a superb dissertation on the concept of amor mundi in Arendt—and had to contend mightily with how slippery and vague that notion is in her work.  Pushed into thinking about this all again by Matt Taylor’s essay—and by a subsequent email he wrote to me in response to my post on his essay—here is how I would pose the contrast world/life today.

The problem with “life” from Arendt’s point-of-view is that life is monolithic.  Its demands appear to be everywhere the same: sustenance.  To maintain a life is a repetitive grind that Arendt depicts as a relentless “process” that never allows for individuation.  There are no distinctions within life.  Every living thing is the same in terms of possessing what we can call “bare life.”  Paradoxically, life renders everyone the same even as it also renders everyone selfish. Unlike politics, which for Arendt offers the possibility of individuation, selfishness just makes everyone alike. The bourgeois self is focused on “getting his”—which is why “life” is antithetical to amor mundi.  We humans are in a sorry condition unless we can generate some care (think of Heidegger on Sorge at this point) for the world that we share.  When everyone is pursuing only his own interest, the world falls apart. (Certainly sounds like a pretty good description/diagnosis of American society in 2020.)

What is this “world” that Arendt calls us to love?  She insists that it is the fact of “plurality” (the fact that we are with others on this planet) and that it is what lies “between” the various actors who inhabit it.  The modern retreat into the private is making the world recede.  We no longer (at least as intensely) live and act together in a shared world, in a public space.  That public space is the scene of politics for Arendt.  And politics is where one distinguishes oneself (i.e. where one can achieve a distinctive identity).  Politics is also where the world is produced through “acting in concert.”  The notion here (although Arendt never articulates it in this way and is way too vague about the particulars of “acting in concert”) is that a public space is created and maintained by the interactions of people within that space—just as a language is created and maintained by people using it to communicate.  The ongoing health and existence of the language is a beneficial, but not directly intended, by-product of its daily use by a community of speakers.  Our common world is similarly produced.

Love of that world thus seems to mean two things: caring for its upkeep, it preservation, and a taste, even a love, for plurality.  I must cherish the fact that it is “men,” not just me, who constitute this world.  In Iris Murdoch’s formulation: “Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.”

To understand Arendt’s critique of “life” in these terms leads almost too smoothly into her work of Eichmann and, then, to The Life of the Mind.  To be thoughtless (as Arendt accuses Eichmann of being) is precisely to be incapable of comprehending otherness, that fact that “something other than oneself is real.”  Selfishness is thoughtless, a failure of imagination, a failure to grasp the fact of plurality in its full significance.  Soul-blindness. And she reads Eichmann’s blindness in terms of his being entirely focused on climbing the ladder in the bureaucracy within which he works.  That’s why his evil is “banal.”  It’s the product of his daily round of making his way, not a product of any deeply-held convictions or ideology.  He was, in her view, quite literally just doing his job with an eye toward promotion, without any conception of how his actions were effecting other people.  (Whether this is a plausible reading of Eichmann is neither here nor there for the more general argument that the modern mind-set, along with the  bureaucracies—among which we must count large corporations—in which so many moderns are embedded, generates soul-blindness, the thoughtless inability to see the consequences of one’s actions apart from how those actions contribute to one’s “getting ahead.”)

No wonder, then, that Arendt’s grasps onto the passage in the Critique of Judgment where Kant calls for “enlarged thinking”—and ties judgment to the capacity to see something from the other’s point of view.  I must go “visiting,” Arendt says, in order to make a judgment.  The person who is focused solely on gaining a “good life” for himself will never encounter “the world,” never grasp plurality.

The problem comes when the critique of “life” in The Human Condition is paired with a critique of “the social”—and that problem becomes a crisis when the full implications of banning the social from politics are articulated in On Revolution.  Even Arendt’s most adept readers—Seyla Benhabib, Bonnie Honig, Hanna Pitkin—barely try to defend her position at this juncture.  Bluntly put, Arendt says that the polity should never attempt to address or alleviate poverty or material inequities.  The necessities of life—and how to secure them—should never be seen as a matter appropriate to politics.  To make that mistake is simply to make politics itself impossible while leading to endless strife. 

The puzzle has always been how a thinker of Arendt’s power could have been so blind, so stupid, so thoughtless (she is never so close to her caricature of Eichmann as at this point) on this score.  How could she think 1) that banishing the endless strife over material resources to “the social” somehow solves the problem of that strife, and 2) that “politics” could somehow (by fiat?) be separated from allocation of resources (where those resources include power and status as well as material goods)?  I can only suspect that she harbors the old aristocratic disdain of “trade” and imagines she can erect of field of contention where only distinction, honor, and virtuosity are at stake—and nothing so vulgar as monetary reward.  Arendt’s ideal politics are, after all, agonistic.  She is not against strife.  But she wants a “pure” strife focused exclusively on excellence, unsullied by irrelevant considerations of money or status.  She hates “society” because she deplores the standards by which it confers distinction.  No surprise that her politics seem so aesthetic—and that she goes to Kant’s Critique of Judgment to discover his politics.  What matters in the idealized aesthetic space is the quality of the performance—and nothing else. 

So the question Arendt poses for us is: Is it harmful to have this ideal of a practice (or practices) that are divorced (by whatever means are effective) from questions of material necessity and reward?  At a time when utilitarian considerations seem everywhere triumphant, the desire to carve out a protected space has a deep appeal.  Reduction of everything to what avails life (Ruskin’s formula) very quickly becomes translated into what can produce an income.  Various defenses of the university are predicated on fighting back against the utilitarian calculus.

But the danger of taking the anti-utilitarian line (the aestheticist position, if you will) is that it reinforces the bourgeois/classical liberal assertion that “the economic” is its own separate sphere—one that should be understood as “private.”  Arendt may be a sharp critic of bourgeois selfishness and how that selfishness diminishes what a life can be even as its blithely denies the necessities of life to others, but she seems to be reinforcing the liberal idea of “private enterprise.” 

It is not clear how (or where) economic activities exist at all in the “world” she wants us to love.  And we have ample evidence by now that leaving economics to themselves is not a formula for keeping the economic in its place, in preventing its colonizing other spheres of human activity.  Just the opposite.  Laissez-faire is a sure-fire formula for insuring that the economic swallows up everything else.  It accumulates power as relentlessly as it accumulates capital—and thus distorts every thing in the world.

In the realms of theory, then, Matt’s instinct that a monolithic, overarching concept like “life” would be better replaced by a pluralistic reckoning of the needs and desires of “living” seems promising.  The thought is that “life” requires (in order for it to be defined) a contrast with “not life” (the world fills that role in Arendt)—and thus to a designation of the enemies of life (or, in Arendt’s mirror image, to a denigration of “life” in favor of another value, amor mundi).  In either case, the logic leads to a desire to eliminate something because it threatens what is desired. 

The alternative path of pluralism disarms such categorical condemnations.  That path returns us to the “rough ground” (Wittgenstein) of tough judgments about what to do in particular cases where we have to attend to the particulars—and not think that generalized formulas are going to be of much (if any) use.  There are always going to be multiple goods and moral intuitions in play, with painful trade-offs, and messy compromises.  No overarching commitment or slogan—like “reverence for life”—is going to do the work. Similarly, we cannot successfully separate things into separate spheres—the aesthetic in that bin, the economic in another one, and politics in a third. It is just going to be messier than that even as we also struggle to prevent any one type of motive swamp the others.  Pluralism is about (among other things) giving multiple motives some room to operate.  Which is why I remain so attracted to some version of a universal basic income, some version of supplying the minimal resources required to “flourish” to all.  Only when the material necessities can be taken for granted because secured (not disdained because they are bestial or vulgar) can other motives take wing.

One can also expect that others will disagree with, castigate her for, the course of action she does pursue, the positions for which she advocates.  Plurality comes with a price—which is why it is hard to love.  And why thinkers keep imagining formulas that will enable our escape from it. 

Independence and Freedom Not the Same

“It would be wrong to muddle independence with freedom.  No one is less independent than a free citizen” (269, footnote 46, in The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution).

No statement in Tocqueville more succinctly captures the difference between his version of conservatism and the hyper-individualistic ideology that passes as conservatism in contemporary America.  I sympathize with the Corey Robin point that conservatism is always about protecting privilege, that Burke’s corporate conservatism and Hayek’s individualistic conservatism may look different in various ways, but, au fond, they are both about preserving power and wealth in the hands of thems that already gots.

That’s why republican virtue is perhaps the best tradition to attach Tocqueville to. He is against liberal individualism if that means vigorous pursuit of economic prosperity; but he is all in favor of individual rights, seeing the protected civil liberties are essential—and that they should be extended to all.  In that respect, he is not a conservative.  He has no truck with privileges being granted to only one class of citizens.  He is an egalitarian.

But . . . He also believes that there should be a political class that takes on the responsibility of managing public affairs.  It is that class which truly enjoys “freedom,” but which lacks independence precisely because of its great responsibilities.  Self-government (which is freedom) is not an exemption from the collective; it is, rather, action within the collective.  That’s where he is not liberal—and where he tends to conservatism because he is an elitist about this political class.  But it is also where he is most at odds with contemporary American conservatives for whom independence is the essence of freedom—the very mistake that Tocqueville deplores.

Two complications.

1. “The aims recommended by the reformers were many and varied but their methods were the same.  They wanted to borrow the strength of central government and use it to smash everything and rebuild it according to a new plan of their own devising.  Such a task could, they thought, be accomplished only by the central power” (77).  This is the liberalism of fear (Judith Schlar’s term.)  Fear the accumulation of power.  Build in checks and balances; disperse power so it resides in several locations.  Yes, he wants a political class—but he also wants to hem in its power by various institutional safeguards. Revolutionaries are to be feared both because they want to smash everything, want to rebuild according to a plan grounded solely in unrealistic theory, and because they are all about accumulating power into their own hands.  They are the quintessential centrailizers.

2. Not completely clear in Tocqueville what he sees as the optimal relation of the legislative to the executive power. He is very clear that local assemblies, the more local the better, should legislate.  But he also seems to say in various places that a truly free people executes its own decisions.  The doing should be done by the people who are also the beneficiaries of those actions.  So he can seem a very radical proponent of direct or participatory democracy at times—even while at other times he relies on a distinct political class to alone be the political actors.  So he can write with despair about a situation in which “no one imagined that an important matter could be brought to a successful conclusion without the involvement of the state” (77)—suggesting that his ideal is when the state proves unnecessary because the people take matters into their own hands.  But he will show a deep distrust of the people in other places.  And, of course, his anti-state bias in favor of a republican mode of citizen involvement has all the classic scale problems that afflict the republican tradition.  The emphasis on the local works against any larger political entity—but empire and, subsequently, the nation-state are persistent historical forms that swallow up small-scale city-states and their like.

Political Liberty and Material Comforts

A long passage from Tocqueville that captures one essential theme of his work, followed by a short comment by me.

“I have often wondered where this passion for political liberty comes from—a passion which, throughout all ages, has inspired men to the greatest accomplishments of human kind—and what feelings feed and foster its roots.

I see quite clearly that, whenever nations are poorly governed, they are quite ready to entertain the desire for governing themselves.  But this kind of love for independence, which has its roots only in certain particular and passing evils brought on by despotism, never lasts long; it disappears along with the accidental circumstances which caused it.  They seemed to love freedom; it turns out they simply hated the master.  When nations are ready for freedom, what they hate is the evil of dependency itself.

Nor do I believe that the true love of liberty was ever born of the simple vision of material benefits it makes available, for this vision is often hidden from view.  It is indeed true that, in the long term, freedom always brings with it, to those who are skilled enough to keep hold of it, personal comfort, wellbeing and often great wealth.  But there are times when freedom briefly disturbs the enjoyment of such blessings; there are others when despotism alone can guarantee a fleeting exploitation of them.  Men who value only those material advantages from freedom have never kept it long.  What has tied the hearts of certain men to freedom throughout history has been its own attractions, its intrinsic charms quite separate from its material advantages.  It is the pleasure to be able to speak, act and breathe without restriction under the rule of God alone and the law.  Whoever seeks anything from freedom but freedom itself is doomed to slavery.

Certain nations pursue freedom obstinately amid all kinds of danger and deprivation.  It is not for the material comforts it brings them that they appreciate it; they look upon it as such a valuable and vital blessing that nothing else can console them for its loss and when they experience it they are consoled for all other losses.  Other nations grow tired of freedom amid their prosperity, which they allow to be wrenched from their hands without a fight, for fear of compromising, by making an effort, the very wellbeing they owe to it.  What is missing to keep such nations free?  The very desire to be so.  Do not ask me to analyse this lofty desire; it has to be experienced.  It enters of itself into those great hearts which God has prepared to receive it.  We have to abandon any attempt to enlighten those second-rate souls who have never felt it”  (167-68; end of Book III, Chapter 3 of The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution).

Lots to say here, but I will try to restrain myself.  “Freedom” in Tocqueville is as content-less as it is in Arendt—and requires love.  It must be pursued for its own sake.  And the ability to pursue it in such purity is a gift from the gods, is a function of grace.  And there is also the familiar Christian paradox that you’ll get other rewards (namely “material comforts” in this case) if you don’t pursue such rewards directly.  You are aiming for salvation, but you must have faith or do good works (depending on your version of Christianity) for their own sakes, not because you want salvation.  A pure heart is everything.

Also the persistent—unto our own day—association of vulgarity with the pursuit of money.  “Great hearts” have other things on their mind.  Leave it to “second-rate souls” to be the business men.  Almost everyone I know (as my generation reaches its fifties and slides into its sixties) wants to write a novel.  A surprisingly large number of them has actually done so.  Art is today’s way of avoiding vulgarity, of attending to things that matter, of having an ambition one needn’t apologize for.  Tocqueville’s idea that politics can be so lofty is, in our day and age, risible.  Politics is even dirtier than business.  At least in commerce there is some possibility of an honest day’s work honestly done.  The desire for purity persists; the ability to find a place to experience such purity (outside of art and the private realm of family and friends) recedes.

Tocqueville’s conservatism lurks beneath the surface, especially in the way that “freedom” in his view always brings “order.”  He is of “the party of order” despite his not feeling comfortable with many explicit paeans to that virtue.  It’s rather a neat rhetorical trick to praise “freedom” when, in many cases, what you really admire is order.

That said, however, it is worthwhile considering the extent to which “order” does deliver “material comforts.”  I have always thought that there should be an “order” tax.  That is, when thinking about economic competition between nations, we greatly underestimate the extent to which investors crave order.  A well ordered nation does not need to match wages or other economic incentives 100% to attract investors.  That’s why—as Tocqueville shrewdly notes, even though it rather undermines his point–“despotism” can also provide material comforts.  (Think Singapore or China.)  And that “order premium” or “order tax” should underwrite stricter laws for capturing tax revenues from companies like Apple that free ride on US stability and rule of law while using shell games to claim their profits are generated in Ireland—or some such tax shelter.

Tocqueville does seem right in suggesting that fear of losing prosperity will lead to the sacrifice of freedom.  It does often seem to me that the “stability” of US democracy (which is, in actual fact, a plutocracy at this point, offering freedom of the Tocqeviullian sort to few, if any) boils down to the fact that people are managing to get by, and are more terrified by the thought of losing what they have than by any other thought.  People are grimly hanging on for sheer life—and can only imagine that any change would be for the worse.  They have no faith that politicians or the government could ever do better; they could only make things worse.  So they acquiesce, as Tocqueville suggests, in their unfreedom in return for getting by.  A very bad bargain, no doubt.

It is interesting that Tocqueville always writes as if freedom once did walk the earth.  It is always something that has been lost.  A skeptic like me would like to see some attempt to prove that point.  The middle ages just don’t appear to me a golden age of freedom.  But I must also admit that the same habit of thought pervades my thinking.  When I say the American people has made a bad bargain, I am basing my claim, in part, on the notion that the freedom that has been lost since 1950 has not come with economic benefits.  Except for blacks (and even there the record is very, very mixed) and for the top 10%, Americans today are demonstrably worse off economically than they were in 1965.  All the statistics about average wages and family wealth prove that point.  The erosion of the average American’s prosperity has been slow but steady since 1970.  So we have sold our freedom for a mess of pottage, not even for the real goods.

 

Centralization, Freedom, and Bourgeois Desire

Tocqueville mostly discusses political centralization, the collecting of power in the central state.  He shows how that centralization empties out the provinces in two ways: 1. It leads elites to move to the metropole and to the court, an especially severe problem in France because Paris becomes everything; and 2. It turns provincials into imbeciles because they have no responsibility for their own welfare or governance.  Strip people of any ability to shape their own destiny and of any responsibility to see that things actually function and you make them passive, sullen, apathetic, cynical, and bitter (perhaps not all five, but some combination of this soup.)

Tocqueville is less interested in economic centralization.  But he does recognize that economic inequality is a serious problem for any polity.  His way of thinking about this is curious. He believes that all Frenchmen are becoming increasingly alike.  His basis for this claim, never made explicit, seems to be that everyone now pursues economic gain. Self interest of the Adam Smith variety is now universal.  It is here that Tocqueville’s idealization of the “manly virtues” (a term he uses constantly) of the aristocracy is hardest to credit.  “The men of the eighteenth century were hardly aware of that form of passion for material comfort which is tantamount to being the mother of servitude, a feeling, flabby yet tenacious and unchanging, which is ready to fuse and, as it were, entwine itself around several private virtues such as love of family, reliable customs, deference to religious beliefs and a lukewarm and regular practice of established Christian ritual.  While this supports integrity, it forbids heroism and excels in turning men into well-behaved but craven citizens.  Those men were both better and worse.”  Against this timid middle class, always worried about its financial well-being and security, we get the “ancient idols” of the aristocracy: “Courage, reputation and, I dare say, generosity” (122 in the Penguin Classic edition).

But that aristocracy has been destroyed and we must acknowledge that “much more freedom existed then (during the ancien régime) than nowadays,” although Tocqueville admits that this freedom was “disjointed and spasmodic” and “almost never went so far as to provide citizens with the most natural guarantees they needed” (123).  I can only guess that by “guarantees” he means rights established in law and protected in practice.  The aristocracy’s “generosity” never extended so far as to provide such rights for “citizens” (a concept that was itself foreign to aristocratic thinking).

His view on economic inequality seems to be this: we need an aristocracy that is above economic worry.  But that aristocracy only gets that privilege if it makes sure the rest of the nation doesn’t suffer penury.  By not resisting the monarchy’s over-taxation of the non-aristocrats, using its power instead to secure exemption from taxes for itself, the aristocracy of the ancien régime created the conditions for the Revolution—and the intense hatred of the other classes for the aristocracy.  If, instead, the aristocracy had resisted the monarchy’s centralization of power by attending to the local communities over which it once held sway, then the old order would not have collapsed.  Once they ceded power over the local community to centralized government, the aristocracy no longer had a distinctive function—and they became just like everyone else.

How to characterize “everyone else”?  Tocqueville understands the new reality of “equality” to mean that all the classes share the same desires—for “material comfort” as he puts it.  Thus, like Arendt much later, Tocqueville thinks the triumph of commercial society—and of the levelling that it produces by turning everyone into economic agents—also entails the destruction of a political class, a group of men (it’s always men) who pursue glory and honor, not wealth, and discover the “public happiness” of political effort.

Now comes the hard part.  Tocqueville believes that having different classes, ones with very different desires and ambitions (and, although he does not say it, very different duties and responsibilities), gives us more interconnection between the classes.  When each station has its duties, then we don’t get the competition of all against all, and we also don’t get the effort to be utterly self-reliant.  Each class needs the others—and will live amidst the others.  Paradoxically, then, less class division means less class interaction.  Once everyone is equal, once everyone is pursuing the same course of action, there is no need for interaction.  Instead, we get segregation, with like only dealing with like.

The big picture: we are all slaves to money.  We acquiesce in political centralization because we want to be left alone to pursue our fortunes.  And we have very little contact with our fellow citizens beyond commercial relations because we have no need to “associate” with them.  And, of course, just those local, small-scale “associations” are what Tocqueville believes provide the best security against the tyranny of centralization.

What he doesn’t see, of course, is the centralization of economic power.  Partly that’s because he is in deep denial about the aristocracy’s economic position even as he idealizes its political role.  He simply doesn’t seem to register economic coercion, the ways in which economic necessity tramples on freedom.  And he doesn’t see the rise of the corporation, of the urge to centralize economic power that is as much a threat as the urge to centralize political power.

Still, when we today are obsessed with the ways that economic inequality has undermined the interaction among classes (which it certainly has), it can be useful to think of the institutional and geographic formations of inequality along with tracking the dollars.  Instead of fixating on the billionaires, maybe we should think about the places—Wall Street, Silicon Valley—and the institutions—the Stock Exchange, Google—that reside in those places.  What happens when the rest of the country is emptied out—both of people and of economic resources?  Surely it is right to claim that parts of America are more foreign to each other in 2017 than they were in 1960.  Even as other parts of America—black America, gay America—are less foreign than they once were.

I know, I know: putting it this way implies “less foreign” to a certain segment of “privileged” white America.  Allow me that solecism for the nonce; I am in search of other game at the moment.  And, of course, “less foreign” hardly means anything like fully transparent.  But the point isn’t some kind of Kantian “universal communicability.”  It’s about opportunities for interaction, for daily collaboration in some common enterprise.  The Tocqueville and Arendt complaint is that we don’t have such opportunities except in commercial enterprises.  We don’t any longer govern our small communities together as places we must make work for all of us.  We have out-sourced that responsibility to central government—and, I am adding, we have also outsourced making the goods we need (food, clothing etc.) to large corporations.  In that way, the local food movement is a Tocquevillian project.

The larger point is the way that Tocqueville sees equality and freedom in tension (whereas we are liable to see them as complementary).  Freedom needs to be enacted—and, for Tocqueville, it is enacted through collective action: the making of the laws and social arrangements that we then obey because we have made them ourselves.  But equality discourages collective action.  (Here is where Tocqueville is absolutely distinct from Arendt, who firmly believes that equality enables, is a sine non qua, of collective action.)  How so?  Equality fosters individualism, the competition of all against all, even as it also generates a sense of the individual’s political powerlessness (this from Democracy in America).  How can my one vote make a difference?  Thus equality provides lots of incentives to being non-political, of simply not partaking in collective decision-making or collective implementation of those decisions.  Again, let’s just out-source those tasks.  We’ll hire our political servants to do that work for us.

The result is “thin” as opposed to “thick” democracy.  And a society in which different groups barely interact beyond commercial transactions.