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Going home in peace: the economy of virtues, and apathy as a right

Keywords: political apathy, political participation, political theory, rational choice, modern society.

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this article proceeds from the premise that, even if you accept the principle that justice is impossible in the complete absence of virtue, a good political system ought to be parsimonious in any requirement of virtue as an input, so as not to impose undue restrictions on its own ability to function. assuming a more or less random distribution of virtue through time and space, it would be preferable, all other things being equal, to have a system equipped to operate not only in periods of abundant moral and ethical virtue, but also - and particularly - in periods of scarcity, when such qualities seem depleted in human nature. this exigency grows critical in the context of a modern society, in which the ever-increasing complexity and impersonal nature of social relations will produce anonymity that would urge extreme caution in the presumption of virtue as an element of social relations - a caution that sociology unanimously teaches us. in such a context - one in which not all issues will involve everyone equally, nor will all voices be always audible - prudence advises and tolerance demands that political apathy - or, rather, mere abstention - should be recognized, if not as a new modality of virtue, at least as a basic right: in the exercise of which, i will respectfully silence myself whenever appropriate before the judgment of actors more intensely immersed than i, and let myself hope for silence from a few so as to be heard when i see fit to express myself.


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