Ain’t Getting No Thymos

Meaning "spiritedness" in Greek, Plato described thymos as the part of the soul comprising pride, indignation, shame, and the need for recognition. Thymos was an indispensable warlike attribute in the ancient world, and remains so today. It is an aspect of inner life that galvanizes commitment to armed conflict and gives it meaning for many combatants; even for civilians who experience it vicariously. Thymos is the human undercurrent that flows amid the geopolitical externalities of war.

After WWII Russia and China embraced the ideology

Ralph Nader On Thymos

Candidates for public office, especially at the state and national levels, are never asked this central question of politics: "Since the people are sovereign under our Constitution, how do you specifically propose to restore power to the people in their various roles as voters, taxpayers, workers and consumers?"

Imagine that inquiry starting the so-called presidential debates of both the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. I'm not sure any of the candidates -- so used to saying, "I will do this" and "I propose that" -- would even know how to respond. Regardless of their affiliation with either of the two dominant parties, politicians are so used to people being spectators rather than participants in the run-up to Election Day that they have not thought much about participatory or initiatory democracy. Too many of them, backed by the concentrated wealth of plutocrats, have perfected the silver-tongued skills of flattery, obfuscation and deception.


Thymos – Desire, Reason, Recognition: Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man (1992)

Fukuyama thought, human beings didn’t just exhibit thymos, but also what he termed ‘megalothymia’: a desire not just for respect and proportionate recognition, but a need to disproportionately dominate over others in ostentatious and spectacular ways. Megalothymia was by no means always or necessarily a bad thing: it was what had driven human beings to build cathedrals, achieve great works of art, found empires and political movements, and generally help push the direction of History forwards. But if not channeled to appropriate ends it could quickly turn vicious, finding an outlet in the domination and oppression of others.

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