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By B.P. Dauenhauer

This number of essays attracts jointly paintings performed in the course of a interval of greater than fifteen years. during those years a lot has replaced, together with a lot approximately politics. styles of political job were trans­ shaped. ways that we were conversant in construe politics were considerably transformed and occasionally changed. a few it seems that in­ tractable conflicts were resolved. different, it appears extra achievable, conflicts have proven surprising longevity. a couple of political doctrines as soon as thought of indefinitely serviceable have misplaced all relevance. And the cloth and technical assets at our disposal glance strikingly various than they did quite a few years in the past. functional politics of no matter what stripe encounters at each flip ever extra grave environmental degradation. yet, or so this assortment assumes, no longer every thing political has replaced. a few political concerns, either "theoretical" and "practical," stay many times trenchant. Questions just like the following call for ever renewed attention. what's the aspect and price of belonging to a political neighborhood? What entitlements and duties keep on with upon such club? or perhaps extra essentially, what stipulations are required for there to be politics in any respect? Taken jointly, the essays accumulated during this quantity suggest a manner either to appreciate and to have interaction in politics that's adequately responsive either to perennial political matters and to the unusual exigencies of our period. a few of them current criticisms of generally held, warmly adored methods of addressing political issues. Others suggest positive possible choices.

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Rather, what one can learn from them, and this lesson is of radical importance, is that this issue is not a soluble problem. It is, instead, an “Unencompassable” tension, a tension that is ineradicable because it springs from man’s irremovable finitude. Neither perception, nor speech, nor meditative thinking overcomes the im­ plications of that finitude. Finitude, then pervades all theory and practice. Insisting upon this irrecusable finitude significantly reshapes the tension between thought and political conduct.

Every element of the political situation is simply 40 Elements o f Responsible Politics a component of a whole. None is self-subsisting with an independent posi­ tive meaning. Any responsible political initiative, like any speech, must ac­ knowledge the irreducible complexity of the context against which it arises. 8 Thus, for example, capitalism cannot be regarded as unmitigated evil nor does Soviet Communism deserve simplistic, virulent denunciations. 9 The diachronic features of Merleau-Ponty’s political thought, however, introduce subtle but substantial modifications into this conclusion.

In this sense there is no pure action. One the one hand, all political action both creates civilization and opportunities for community and at the same time encroaches upon one’s fellow men. 21 Merleau-Ponty concludes: But what if our actions were neither necessary in the sense of natural necessity nor free in the sense of decision ex nihilol In particular, what if in the social order no one were innocent and no one ab­ solutely guilty? What if it were the very essence of history to impute to us responsibilities which are never entirely ours?

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