Despite the rich history and contemporary relevance of the intersection of comedy, political practices, and political thought, comedy has thus far not received sustained attention in the field of political philosophy. This research programme will address this lacuna by developing parallels between (i) the specific outlook on human action offered by comedies and (ii) the perspective of a tradition of political thought known as political realism.
The overall objective of this research programme is to demonstrate that comedy reflects the theoretical and methodological commitments of political realism, and to establish comedy’s contribution to realism by drawing out realism’s transformative potential.
Three specific research objectives will be combined to support the overall objective. (a) The first objective will develop an account of democratic citizenship informed by comedy by exploring Aristophanes’ comedies. (b) The second objective will develop an account of political judgment informed by comedy, by analysing Machiavelli’s comedies and political writings in relation to each other. (c) The third objective will develop an account of the relation between ideals and practice in politics informed by comedy by drawing on theoretical reflections on comedy by Hegel, Vischer, and Marx.
Each of the specific research objectives corresponds to a central feature of political realism. By developing these objectives through comedy, the researcher will explicate structural parallels between comedy and political realism. In each of the specific objectives, the transformative potential inherent in comedy will be elucidated. In doing so, the researcher will use insights derived from this parallel to develop a more nuanced understanding of political realism’s potential to conceptualize social transformation. Thus comedy transpires as the means through which the full potential of realism for political philosophy as a whole can be grasped for the first time.