What does it mean to be a political subject?

In a short piece of writing (300-500 words), respond to the question below by drawing on what you’ve learned over the past five weeks. Make sure you make explicit reference to the reading. I do not want you to answer this question off the top of your head. Rather it should be the result of careful reflection on the reading assignment.

What does it mean to be a political subject? In your answer compare and contrast either Held’s account of humans as interdependent, or Beauvoir’s account of human beings as transcendent and responsible with Thomas Hobbes’ account of human nature. How does Hobbes’ description of human nature lead to a particular way of understanding politics? How would our understanding of politics change if we instead adopted the theory of Beauvoir or Held?

Notice that I am asking you to do two things

  1. Explain the accounts of human nature on offer from two different thinkers (Hobbes on the one hand and Beauvoir OR Held on the other).
  2. Explain how these accounts lead to a conception of political life – what we are required to do as political subjects and what political action looks like.

Once again, I want to remind you that the task of this paper is to explain clearly – that is to teach your reader – what the assigned texts say. That means that this is not a book report. Rather it is an invitation to get inside the texts and to think along with the authors – to actually do the thinking yourself – so as to articulate the ideas expressed in the texts as clearly and as compellingly as you can. Use examples. Think about Beauvoir’s description of the Serious Man, say, and why he is politically dangerous. Think about Hobbes’ description of life in the state of nature and how this follows directly from his understanding of human beings as material, desiring creatures. Think about Held’s use of the mother-child relationship as the model for ethical life.

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