Res Publica

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 189–200 | Cite as

The Challenge of a Moral Politics: Mendus and Coady on Politics, Integrity and ‘Dirty Hands’

Susan Mendus: Politics and Morality, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2009, 130 pp. C. A. J. Coady: Messy Morality: The Challenge of Politics, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2008, 123 pp.
  • Stephen de Wijze
In his book Moral Man and Immoral Society, Reinhold Niebuhr begins his chapter entitled ‘The Conflict between Individual and Social Morality’ thus:

A realistic analysis of the problems of human society reveals a constant and seemingly irreconcilable conflict between the needs of society and the imperatives of a sensitive conscience. This conflict, which could be most briefly defined as the conflict between ethics and politics, is made inevitable by the double focus of the moral life. One focus is in the inner life of the individual, and the other in the necessities of man’s social life. From the perspective of the individual the highest ideal is unselfishness. Society must strive for justice even if it is forced to use means, such as self-assertion, resistance, coercion and perhaps resentment, which cannot gain the moral sanction of the most sensitive moral spirit. The individual must strive to realise his life by losing and finding himself in something greater than himself (Niebuhr 1995...



My thanks to Eve Garrard, Ben Saunders and an anonymous reviewer for comments and suggestions on how to improve the review.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social SciencesThe University of ManchesterManchesterUK

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