Is Spinoza a theoretician of self-interest? Historians of philosophy have arrived at diametrically opposed answers to this question. His introduction of the term conatus, meaning endeavor or striving, in part 3 of the Ethics, together with his assertion that when human beings most seek that which is useful to them individually they are most useful to each other, might appear, as A. O. Hirschman argued, to render him both a follower of the Stoics and a predecessor of Mandeville and Smith. This essay takes the opposite view, arguing that Spinoza is above all the theoretician of the self-destruction and self-negation that societies of servitude require. The author calls these tendencies the inhumanization of politics, the forms in which the human is systematically subjected through affective imitation to what is incompatible with human existence.

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