On “political will”

One often hears complaints about a lack of “political will.” We know we need to rein in carbon emissions, for instance, yet so far the “political will” to do so has not emerged. We know we need to regulate the banks more closely, but again, we seem unable to muster the “political will.” One suspects that neuroscientists should focus their efforts on identifying the mechanism underlying “political will,” with the goal of producing a pill that politicians could take in order to summon it up — then all our problems would be solved.

What I’d like to suggest is that we actually have more than enough “political will.” Doing the right thing — once you know what it is — is generally the path of least resistence. It takes a real act of will to persist in doing the wrong thing, and even more to convince yourself that the wrong thing is really the right thing. This dynamic might be clearer if we called it political willfulness.

If you recognize what is right, you don’t need some additional surplus of arbitrary willfulness in order to achieve it. Instead, you release your willfulness and just “go with it.” There aren’t two “choices” here, each equally requiring an act of will — the choice is actually between either actively willing or releasing your will in order to get on with things.

3 thoughts on “On “political will”

  1. Aren’t you describing Zizek’s version of ideology? We know very well that we must controll carbon emissions but nevertheless we continue to act as if there are no consequences for not acting.

  2. Or the rational continuing to supplant the actual, even once we know that they stand in conflict. That we take the absurdity of our rationalized worldview, and smother our consciousness of that absurdity under our pillow so we can keep doing what we’re doing.

    All of which is abstruse — but I mean that doing the right thing is harder, the farther your existence is from what is right. It’s easier, not to do the right thing, but to smother the conflict in self-assertion of privilege.

Comments are closed.