Political Theory

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Throughout our exploration of contemporary political theory we have attempted to seek an understanding of the American Experience by studying relationships. Our findings continue to show us a major disconnect that festers between American ideology, social institutions and our citizens. American thought, rooted in concepts of fear, revenge and isolation have bred a culture of disengagement from one’s surroundings. This disengagement from reality, referred to as innocence by James Baldwin is illuminated through the words, “innocence is a dream of safety and purity by imagining a sovereignty not subject to sentience and need, history and others, loss and death.” (Shulman 134) The pervasiveness of innocence can be traced from colonial fears of the “wild” native to modern apprehension over Muslim extremists. Though resilient we have begun to explore how innocence may be overcome by care of the soul. “Care of the soul” can be defined as the pursuit of virtue in one’s own life and their contribution to society. Historically the Ancient Greeks, a civilization from which western culture draws heavily, placed significant value on the care of the soul. For the Ancient Greeks care of the soul was maintained through the constant struggle to develop arête or personal excellence. The Greeks believed that the exemplary citizen was one who continually sought one’s highest degree of excellence in all matters including interactions with others. Foucault noting Socrates writes that, “for by teaching citizens to take care of themselves (rather than their goods) one also teaches them to take care of the city-state itself.” (Foucault 492)

Growing up black, homosexual and poor in the 1920’s would shape Baldwin’s own unique challenges to care for his soul. Stacked against Baldwin was a society that sometimes feared, resented and ignored him. Baldwin gives a powerful example of this challenge through the lines, “Oh, we dissembled and smiled as we groaned and cursed and did our duty....
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