Political Theory for Mortals
Shades of Justice, Images of Death
Despite an abundance of violence occurring in political contexts, no liberal political theorist since Thomas Hobbes has talked directly and coherently about death. John E. Seery does. He contends that liberalism desperately needs a theoretical framework in which to discuss pressing matters of human mortality. Among the contemporary political issues that cry out for theoretical articulation, Seery suggests, are abortion politics, ethnic cleansing, suicide assistance, national reparations, environmental degradation, and capital punishment.
Seery offers a new conception of social contract theory as a framework for confronting death issues. He urges us to look to an older tradition of descent into an underworld, wherein classic theorists consulted poetically with the dead and acquired from them political insight and direction.
In this lively book, Seery excavates the infernal tradition by rereading the politics of death in Platonism, early Christianity, and contemporary feminism. Building on those traditions, he proposes a new, constructive image of death that can serve democratic theory productively. Reconsidered from the "land of the shades," social contractarian theory is sufficiently altered that, for example, a pro-life Christian and a pro-choice secularist might be able to strike common ground upon which to discuss abortion politics.