Political Science | The Political Theory of Anti-Political Politics
Y490 | 15594 | Dalecki

POLS-Y 490 (15594) The Political Theory of Anti-Political Politics –
Jacek Dalecki

Anti-political politics (or antipolitics) is a form of engagement in
politics by way of non-political means.  It focuses on civic activity
within society and one’s moral conduct rather than on directly
affecting policy outcomes.  On the group level, antipolitics provides
for a strategy of fostering independent social activism and enlarging
society’s liberty within authoritarian political arrangements.  On the
individual level, antipolitics is a method of spiritual survival under
the conditions of political coercion – of asserting one’s free will in
political realities that rule out the very thought of autonomy and

This course is intended to examine the theoretical underpinnings of
antipolitics.  Two broad themes will be prominent throughout this
seminar: (1) How antipolitics managed to confront autocratic practices
without declaring a de facto war on autocratic regimes and (2) What
prescriptions it offered to allow individuals to reclaim their
autonomy and dignity.  We will analyze early origins of anti-political
politics in classical political theory (Epictetus, Thomas More), its
nascent echoes in modern political theory (Étienne de La Boétie), and
the principles of antipolitics put forth in contemporary political
thought (Vaclav Havel , George Konrad, Adam Michnik, et al.).  Among
the topics that we will scrutinize are: sources of political power,
dilemmas of political engagement, the meaning of freedom, the concept
of civil society and conditions under which civil society can
materialize, paradoxes of anti-political reasoning, and the
effectiveness of anti-political propositions.  It is worth noting
about the latter that, although nonviolent and defensive, antipolitics
has been viewed as among the key factors that brought the end to
Communism in Eastern Europe two decades ago.  Anti-political politics
may produce unexpected practical results, indeed.