Bioethics Blogs

Web Roundup: Polarization on the rise by Maria Cecilia Dedios

This web-roundup looks at the problem of polarization. Several events during the past month have brought the issue to the forefront. As a result, the web was filled with debates over this increasing political and social polarization that is indeed becoming more and more evident not only in the U.S. but in many societies around the world.

At the more basic level, polarization refers to the split of social or political groups based on opposing views. Over time, the two sides or “poles” get further and further apart. It is in this dynamic that people, be it group members, party affiliates, or the citizens of a country, find it increasingly hard to remain neutral. Indeed, it can be difficult to counter polarization once the process has been triggered because it tends to happen along economic, political and, moral lines, and because it mobilizes affect and emotions as much (or even more) than rational argumentation. If the whole description sounds oddly familiar, it is because processes of polarization have been prominently in the news this month.

In the U.S., the elections have made obvious a polarization running deep within and between political parties. Ted Cruz’s refusal to endorse Trump was framed along moral lines, as he asked voters to “follow their conscience”, reviving deep divisions in the Republican Party and drawing accusations of betrayal and broken promises. At a different level, the campaign is also exacerbating ingroup-outgroup thinking, splitting Americans along the lines of “us” vs. “them”. The America above all discourse has a strong component of nationalism that is dangerous for many different reasons. Among them, the fact that it offers itself as a justification for hurting people who are not “us”, and that it contributes to internal fragmentation and instability by defining a narrower idea of who truly belongs and who doesn’t, leaving minorities of all kinds outside this category.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.