Bread and Circuses

bread and circuses by Tim Lahan

Bread and Circuses‘ (Latin: panem et circenses) is a metaphor for a superficial means of appeasement. In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the creation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace. The phrase also implies the erosion or ignorance of civic duty amongst the concerns of the common man (l’homme moyen sensuel).

In modern usage, the phrase has become an adjective to deride a populace that no longer values civic virtues and the public life. To many across the political spectrum, left and right, it connotes the triviality and frivolity that in popular culture is supposed to have characterized the Roman Empire prior to its decline.

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