Political Psychology in the Modern State: Thumos Beyond the Politics of Recognition

Modern political thought tends to ignore the place of spiritedness in the psychology of political life, although it was explicitly thematic in For 2000 years–prior to the birth of the modern state–thumos, or spiritedness, was a core theme in the psychology of political life. Between the intellect and the emotions, this third component of man pertained to the realm of desire.

Yet, modern political thought largely ignores the role of thumos in politics. Even Francis Fukuyama, the modern champion of its importance, underexamines the place of thumos in the soul and its impact on political society by reducing it to the soul’s craving for recognition, dignity, and esteem.

Is thumos best understood as the fire animating tribal identity, self-assertion, and an increasingly divisive and belligerent polity? Can this power be confined to the level of consciousness, or is its place in the psyche of man more complex?

Through the lens of a Platonic-scholastic psychology, our panelists (Joe Capizzi, Matthew Crawford, Mark Shiffman, and Adrian Walker) will delve deeper into the role of thumos in the modern soul. Particular attention will be given to questions regarding the relationship between thumos and work, economic competition, violence, and political legitimacy.

A recording is available here.