Living Ethically, Acting Politically

Living Ethically, Acting Politically

How can we conceive of freedom and responsibility when our power is limited and we are subject to the forces of society? Melissa A. Odie asks what it means to live responsibly amid historical harm and wrongdoing, in the wake of slavery and genocide, or in the face of severe resource asymmetries. By connecting resistance to evil with reflections on the nature of power and political action, Odie reveals the daily ways people commonly exercise power, inflict harm, and show themselves capable of actions that transform both selves and the world. Viewed in this context, truly ethical political action may appear miraculous but could happen at any time.

Odie asks what it means to live freely when advantages are distributed disproportionately according to race, gender, class, culture, and religion. What do freedom and responsibility entail when, for example, creating a home for oneself implies social and economic commitments that render others homeless? To address these questions, Orlie links diverse intellectual concerns and constituencies in the social sciences and humanities, offering original interpretations of Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, and Thomas Hobbes. She compares their thinking to that of the seventeenth-century Quakers who found political possibilities in the powers they called "spirit" in the world and in themselves.