House of Cards and Philosophy: Underwood's Republic
December 2015, Wiley-Blackwell
Is Democracy overrated?
Does power corrupt? Or do corrupt people seek power?
Do corporate puppet masters pull politicians’ strings?
Why does Frank talk to the camera?
Can politics deliver on the promise of justice?
House of Cards depicts our worst fears about politics today. Love him or loathe him, Frank Underwood has charted an inimitable course through Washington politics. He and his cohorts depict the darkest dealings within the gleaming halls of our most revered political institutions.
These 24 original essays examine key philosophical issues behind the critically-acclaimed seriesquestions of truth, justice, equality, opportunity, and privilege. The amoral machinations of Underwood, the ultimate anti-hero, serve as an ideal backdrop for a discussion of the political theories of philosophers as diverse as Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Marx. From political and corporate ethics, race relations, and ruthless paragmatism to mass media collusion and sexual politics, these essays tackle a range of issues important not only to the series but to our understanding of society today.
Introduction: Contemplating a House of Cards 1
Part I Socrates, Plato, and Frank 3
1 Of Sheep, Shepherds, and a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: The Cynical View of Politics in House of Cards and Plato’s Republic 5
James Ketchen and Michael Yeo
2 Being versus Seeming: Socrates and the Lessons of Francis Underwood’s Asides 16
John Scott Gray
Part II Imagining Possibilities: American Ideals in House of Cards 29
3 Frank Underwood Gives the Ideal Society a Reality Check 31
4 “What Will We Leave Behind?” Claire Underwood’s American Dream 42
Sarah J. Palm and Kenneth W. Stikkers
Part III Characterizing Frank: U¨ bermensch or the Prince 53
5 Underwood as U¨ bermensch: A Postmodern Play of Power 55
Leslie A. Aarons
6 Why Underwood Is Frankly Not an Overman 68
7 American Machiavelli 81
8 Machiavelli Would Not Be Impressed 92
9 Is Frank the Man for the Job? House of Cards and the Problem of Dirty Hands 102
Tomer J. Perry
Part IV Classical Liberalism and Democracy 113
10 Frank the Foole, Upon a House of Cards 115
Shane D. Courtland
11 Hobbes and Frank on Why Democracy Is Overrated 128
12 “Democracy Is So Overrated”: The Shortcomings of Popular Rule 141
13 “Money Gives Power . . . Well, a Run for Its Money”: Marx’s Observations on Why Capital and Not Frank Is Really in Charge of the White House 152
Chris Byron and Nathan Wood
14 Freedom and Democracy in a House of Fear 163
Roberto Sirvent and Ian Diorio
Part V Intrapersonal Relationships, Sexuality, and Race in House of Cards 173
15 Under the Covers with the Underwoods: The Sexual Politics of the Underwood Marriage 175
Jason Southworth and Ruth Tallman
16 The Spice of White Life: Freddy and Racist Representations 187
Stephanie Rivera Berruz
17 Broken Friendships and the Pathology of Corporate Personhood in House of Cards 197
Myron Moses Jackson
Part VI Existential Realities: Self-Love and Freedom 207
18 Praying to One’s Self, for One’s Self: Frank’s Ethics and Politics of Autoeroticism 209
Kody W. Cooper
19 Existential Freedom, Self-Interest, and Frank Underwood’s Underhandedness 219
J. Edward Hackett
Part VII Let Me Be Frank with You: Agency, Aesthetics, and Intention 227
20 Rooting for the Villain: Frank Underwood and the Lack of Imaginative Resistance 229
L´aszl ´o Kajt ´ar
21 Frank Underwood’s Intentions 237
22 Francis Underwood’s Magical Political Mystery Tour Is Dying to Take You Away; Dying to Take You Away, Take You Today 245
Austin Dressen and Charles Taliaferro
Part VII Virtue and Character in House of Cards 255
23 Frank Underwood and the Virtue of Friendship 257
Katherine K. Johnson
24 Have You No Decency? Who Is Worse, Claire or Frank? 265
President Frank Underwood’s White House Staff (Contributors) 282
J. Edward Hackett is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Akron, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Kent State University and John Carroll University. He is author of Being and Value in Scheler: A Phenomenological Defense of Participatory Realism (forthcoming) and co-editor of a forthcoming anthology, Phenomenology for the 21st Century. He is a specialist in phenomenology and ethical theory, and works at the intersections of phenomenology, pragmatism, and analytic ethics.
William Irwin (series editor) is Herve A. LeBlanc Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of Philosophy at King’s College in Pennsylvania and is the author of The Free Market Existentialist. Irwin originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books with Seinfeld and Philosophy in 1999 and has overseen recent titles including The Ultimate Daily Show and Philosophy, Game of Thrones and Philosophy, and Sons of Anarchy and Philosophy.