Københavns Universitet
Uafhængig af ledelsen


The Problem of Polarization

Foredrag — Talk on polarisation by Vanderbilt political philosopher Robert Talisse


Date & Time:

Time: 21 Apr. 2022, 10:00

Place: Center of Health and Society (CSS), Øster Farimagsgade 5, 1353 Copenhagen K

Room 10.0.11

Organizer: Centre for Medical Science and Technology Studies (MeST)

Hosted by:
Ezio Di Nucci ezio@sund.ku.dk


MeST Seminar with Robert Talisse (Vanderbilt)

The Problem of Polarization


Polarization looms large in diagnoses of democracy’s current dysfunctions. But it’s not clear what the problem is. Popular accounts suggest that the problem lies with partisan division and rancor. However, these may be inevitable in a democratic society. They may even be healthy. If polarization is a problem, we need to look beyond animosity. I distinguish two different phenomena: political polarization and belief polarization. The former is a measure of the ideological gulf between opposing political parties. The latter is a cognitive phenomenon that transforms members of likeminded groups into more extreme versions of themselves. Both kinds of polarization raise problems for democratic politics, but it’s the combination of the two – the “polarization dynamic” – that’s toxic: As we shift into our more extreme partisan selves, we grow more approving of intransigence and belligerence from politicians who share our partisan affiliation and more insistent on homogeneity among partisan allies. In the end, we are driven to the idea that democracy is possible only among those who share our political identity – and that’s a fundamentally anti-democratic position.