Stoic Conservatism (pages 125-141)

Tristan J. Rogers

ABSTRACT: What might a Stoic approach to politics look like? David Goodhart aptly describes the political divide pervading Western societies in terms of the ‘somewheres,’ who are communitarian, rooted in particular places, and resistant to social and political change, versus the ‘anywheres,’ who are cosmopolitan, mobile, and enthusiastic embracers of change. Stoicism recognizes a similar distinction. This paper defends a conservative interpretation of Stoic politics. According to ‘Stoic conservatism,’ cosmopolitanism is an ethical ideal through which we perform the obligations assigned by our communitarian role(s) in society. The view is ‘conservative’ in that it favors existing institutions as the starting point for virtue instead of reasoning a priori about what virtue requires. Stoic politics consists neither in cosmopolitan transcendence of particular attachments, nor in passive acceptance of the communitarian status quo, but in ethical improvement toward virtue, within the political structure of society.

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