By Justin Steinberg
Author: STEINBERG, Justin. Professor of Philosophy, Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center.
Reference: Spinoza’s Political Psychology: the taming of fortune and fear. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018, 235pp. ISBN 9781107141308.
Spinoza’s Political Psychology advances a comprehensive interpretation of Spinoza’s political writings that emphasizes the unity of Spinoza’s mature thought. It puts forth a novel reading of Spinoza’s political method, presenting governance as an adaptive craft that requires psychological attunement. This reveals the extent to which Spinoza’s account is indebted to civic humanism. On this reading, Spinoza deploys psychologically realism in the service of empowerment: by attending to the actual motivational and epistemic capacities of its citizens, the state can reorient their affective make-up, liberating them from stultifying passions. Spinoza’s Political Psychology offers fresh readings of Spinoza’s arguments for toleration and democracy, dispelling the conception of Spinoza as a principled liberal republican. It also indicates how Spinoza’s political thought might contribute to contemporary political philosophy by offering a provocative and sustained version of non-idealism that takes seriously the normative significance of the affects.