Politics should focus more on the Good Life

April 22, 2022

Politics should focus more on the Good Life

Sebastiaan Crul
April 22, 2022

Politics should focus more on the Good Life

How can we reinstate the concept of the Good without downplaying the systemic risks threatening our global society?
Sebastiaan Crul
April 22, 2022
Politics should focus more on the Good Life
Sebastiaan Crul
Maya Turolla
April 22, 2022
Design by Zeynep Algan. © FreedomLab

We need to fundamentally revitalize the concept of the Good in politics to counterbalance our obsession with risks. Otherwise, a stoic ethic, imposed by grim world outlooks, will further complicate structural change. In the Netherlands, we have a famous saying that goes: “met mij gaat het goed, met ons slecht” (I am well, but we are not). This perfectly fits our long history of prosperity and grumbling national character. But this paradoxical state of a happy private life combined with a hopeless outlook on the world is well on its way to becoming the human condition of the West, perhaps even more deeply entrenched than the cynicism and nihilism of the postmodern 80s. 

On a political-institutional level, we seem to be stumbling from crisis into crisis while academics, politicians, and intellectuals warn us against the real crisis looming ahead. The saying “in the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity” is only a pathetic way of apologizing for this terrible worldview that is so extremely preoccupied with risk management and resilience politics. Yet, at the same time, even though many people worry about the world, most of us (no, not everyone) seem to be dealing with it pretty well. This is because the good life has already been detached from public life. In the past two centuries, living standards have increased enormously and, step by step, the ideology of liberalism and individualism have privatized the Good Life, replacing communal and political values with private ones that sacralize everyday life (e.g. family, friends, fun). On the one hand, this now actually works as a shield – “let the world burn, I’m doing fine” – but, on the other hand, if we do not revitalize the ethics of the Good Life in our national political institutions, citizens in (rich) Western countries will further disengage from national and global issues. 

Burning Questions:
  • How can we reinstate the concept of the Good without downplaying the systemic risks threatening our global society?
  • What is necessary in order to realign the privatized art of living with a political discourse or ideology?
About the author
Economist and philosopher Sebastiaan Crul writes articles on a wide range of topics, including rule of law in digital societies, the virtualization of the lifeworld and internet culture. He is currently working on his doctoral degree on the influence of digitalization on mental health and virtue ethics, having previously published dissertations on the philosophy of play and systemic risks in the finance industry.
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