Advertisement

Res Publica

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 109–131 | Cite as

Reflections on a Crisis: Political Disenchantment, Moral Desolation, and Political Integrity

  • Demetris Tillyris
Article

Abstract

Declining levels of political trust and voter turnout, the shift towards populist politics marked by appeals to ‘the people’ and a rejection of ‘politics-as-usual’, are just some of the commonly cited manifestations of our culture of political disaffection. Democratic politics, it is argued, is in crisis. Whilst considerable energy has been expended on the task of lamenting the status of our politics and pondering over recommendations to tackle this perceived crisis, amid this raft of complaints and solutions lurks confusion. This paper seeks to explore the neglected question of what the precise nature of the crisis with which we are confronted involves, and, in so doing, to go some way towards untangling our confusion. Taking my cue from Machiavelli and his value-pluralist heirs, I argue that there is a rift between a morally admirable and a virtuous political life. Failure to appreciate this possibility causes narrations of crisis to misconstrue the moral messiness of politics in ways that lead us to misunderstand how we should respond to disenchantment. Specifically, I suggest that: (i) we think that there is a moral crisis in politics because we have an unsatisfactorily idealistic understanding of political integrity in the first place; and (ii) it is a mistake to imagine that the moral purification of politics is possible or desirable. Put simply, our crisis is not moral per se but primarily philosophical in nature: it relates to the very concepts we employ—the qualities of character and context we presuppose whilst pondering over political integrity.

Keywords

Political disenchantment Moral crisis Political integrity Machiavelli Value pluralism Moral conflict 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Earlier drafts of this paper were presented at the 2015 Ethics in Political Participation Workshop (Loughborough University), the 2016 Conference for Interdisciplinary Approaches to Politics (CIAP; University of Leeds), and the CCCU Politics and International Relations Research Seminar Series (Canterbury Christ Church University). I would like to thank the participants of these conferences and workshops—in particular, Ben Saunders, Andre Barrinha, Gisli Vogler, Yuri van Hoef, Laura Cashman, and Phil Parvin—for their encouragement and fruitful suggestions. I am also extremely grateful to the editors of Res Publica and the two anonymous reviewers for their support and constructive comments. Finally, many thanks should go to Phil Parvin for inviting me to the Ethics in Political Participation Workshop and for the time and energy he invested in putting this special issue together.

References

  1. Allen, Nicholas, and Sarah Birch. 2011. Political conduct and misconduct: probing public opinion. Parliamentary Affairs 64: 61–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, Nicholas, and Sarah Birch. 2012. On either side of a moat? Elite and mass attitudes towards right and wrong. European Journal of Political Research 51: 89–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnsperger, Christian, and Emmanuel Picavet. 2004. More than modus vivendi, less than overlapping consensus: Towards a political theory of social compromise. Social Science Information 43: 167–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bellamy, Richard. 2010. Dirty hands and clean gloves: Liberal ideals and real politics. European Journal of Political Theory 9: 412–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bellamy, Richard. 2012. Democracy, compromise and the representation paradox: Coalition government and political integrity. Government and Opposition 47: 441–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bellamy, Richard, Markus Kornprobst, and Christine Reh. 2012. Introduction: Meeting in the middle. Government and Opposition 47: 275–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berlin, Isaiah. 1969. Two concepts of liberty. In Four essays on liberty, ed. Henry Hardy, 118–172. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Berlin, Isaiah. 1980. The originality of Machiavelli. In Against the current: Essays in the history of ideas, ed. Henry Hardy, 20–73. New York, NY: Viking.Google Scholar
  9. Berlin, Isaiah. 1990. The pursuit of the ideal. In The crooked timber of humanity: Chapters in the history of ideas, ed. H. Hardy, 1–20. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  10. Berlin, Isaiah. 1999. Concepts and categories, ed. Henry Hardy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Brand, Russell. 2013. Brand on revolution: ‘we no longer have the luxury of tradition’. New Statesman, http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/10/russell-brand-on-revolution. Accessed 15 Nov 2016.
  12. Boggs, Carl. 2000. The end of politics. London: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  13. Boudreaux, Donald J., and Dwight R. Lee. 1997. Politics as the art of confined compromise. Cato Journal 16: 365–381.Google Scholar
  14. Bunting, Madeleine. 2010. Introduction. In Citizen ethics in a time of crisis, ed. Madeleine Bunting, Mark Vernon, and Adam Lent. http://www.citizenethics.org.uk/docs/EthicsTemplateDoc.pdf. Accessed 03 Sept 2016.
  15. Bush, George H. W. 2011. Speaking of freedom: The collected speeches. New York, NY: Scribner.Google Scholar
  16. Butterfield, Roger. 1946. Mr Mencken sounds off. Life Magazine 21: 45–52.Google Scholar
  17. Canovan, Margaret. 1981. Populism. London: Junction Books.Google Scholar
  18. Canovan, Margaret. 1999. Trust the people! Populism and the two faces of democracy, Political Studies 47: 2–16.Google Scholar
  19. Carens, Joseph. 1979. Compromises in politics. Nomos 21: 123–141.Google Scholar
  20. Colbert, Jack. 2015. Someone has to do it: Towards a practical defence of politicians. Contemporary Politics 21: 468–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Crouch, Colin. 2004. Post-democracy. London: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  22. Crozier, Michael, Samuel Huntington, and Joji Watanuki. 1975. The crisis of democracy: On the governability of democracies. New York, NY: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Dalton, Russell. 2004. Democratic challenges, democratic choices: The erosion of political support in advanced industrialised democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dionne, Eugene. 2009. Why Americans hate politics. New York, NY: Touchstone.Google Scholar
  25. Flinders, Matthew. 2009. Bridging the gap: Revitalising politics and the politics of public expectations. Representation 54: 337–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Flinders, Matthew. 2010. In defence of politics. The Political Quarterly 81: 319–328.Google Scholar
  27. Flinders, Matthew. 2012a. Defending Politics: Why democracy matters in the twenty first century. Oxford: Oxford University.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Flinders, Matthew. 2012b. The demonization of politicians: moral panics, folk devils and MPs’ expenses. Contemporary Politics 1: 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fumurescu, Alin. 2013. Compromise: A political and philosophical history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gerhardt, Sue. 2010. A labour of kindness. In Citizen ethics in a time of crisis, ed. Madeleine Bunting, Mark Vernon, and Adam Lent. http://www.citizenethics.org.uk/docs/EthicsTemplateDoc.pdf Accessed 10 Nov 2016.
  31. Gerson, Michael. 2012. Obama’s betrayal. The Washington Post. http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-08-16/opinions/35491970_1_obama-campaign-president-obama-romney Accessed 15 Oct 2015.
  32. Glover, Julian. 2010. A conflict of values. In Citizen ethics in a time of crisis, ed. Madeleine Bunting, Mark Vernon, and Adam Lent. http://www.citizenethics.org.uk/docs/EthicsTemplateDoc.pdf Accessed 10 Nov 2016.
  33. Gray, John. 2000. Two faces of liberalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  34. Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis Thompson. 2010. The mindsets of political compromise. Perspectives on Politics 8: 1125–1143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis Thompson. 2011. Is there room for political compromise in an era of permanent campaigning? The Christian Science Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2011/0104/Is-thereroom-for-political-compromise-in-an-era-of-permanent-campaigning. Accessed 10 Sept 2015.
  36. Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis Thompson. 2012. The spirit of compromise: Why governing demands it and campaigning undermines it. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Hamlin, Alan, and Zofia Stemplowska. 2012. Theory, ideal theory and the theory of ideals. Political Studies Review 10: 48–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hampshire, Stuart. 1978. Public and private morality. In Public and private morality, ed. Stuart Hampshire, 23–55. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hampshire, Stuart. 1983. Morality and conflict. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Hampshire, Stuart. 1989. Innocence and experience. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Hampshire, Stuart. 1991. Justice is strife. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 65 (3): 19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hampshire, Stuart. 1993a. The last charmer. New York Review of Books 40: 15–49.Google Scholar
  43. Hampshire, Stuart. 1993b. Liberalism: The new twist. The New York Review of Books 40: 43–47.Google Scholar
  44. Hampshire, Stuart. 2000. Justice is conflict. New Jersey, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Hatier, Cecile. 2012. ‘Them’ and ‘us’: Demonising politicians by moral double standards. Contemporary Politics 18: 467–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hay, Colin. 2007. Why we hate politics. London: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  47. Hay, Colin, and Gerry Stoker. 2009. Revitalising politics: Have we lost the plot? Representation 45: 225–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Heath, Antony, Roger Jowell, John Curtice, and Pippa Norris. 1999. British General Election Study, 1997. [data collection]. 2nd Edition. UK Data Service. SN: 3887, http://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-3887-1. Accessed 10 Nov 2017.
  49. Hollis, Martin. 1982. Dirty hands. British Journal of Political Science 12: 385–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Horton, John. 2010. Realism, liberal moralism and a political theory of modus vivendi. European Journal of Political Theory 9: 431–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Horton, John. 2011. Why the traditional conception of toleration still matters. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 14: 289–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Jack, Linda. 2012. Nick Clegg is in too deep. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/aug/23/nick-clegg-liberal-democrat-party. Accessed 10 Aug 2014.
  53. Jacoby, Russell. 2009. The end of utopia: Politics and culture in an age of apathy. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  54. Kane, John, and Haig Patapan. 2012. The democratic leader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Keane, John. 2009. The Life and Death of Democracy. London: Simon & Shuster.Google Scholar
  56. Kis, Janos. 2008. Politics as a moral problem. Budapest: Central European University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Lent, Adam. 2010. Afterword. In Citizen ethics in a time of crisis, ed. Madeleine Bunting, Mark Vernon, and Adam Lent. http://www.citizenethics.org.uk/docs/EthicsTemplateDoc.pdf Accessed 10 Nov 2016.
  58. Lepora, Chiara. 2012. On compromise and being compromised. The Journal of Political Philosophy 20: 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Lloyd, John. 2004. What the media are doing to our politics. London: Constable.Google Scholar
  60. Macedo, Stephen. 2004. Democracy at risk: How political choices undermine citizen participation and what we can do about It. Washington DC: Brookings.Google Scholar
  61. Machiavelli, Niccolò. 1985. The discourses, ed. Bernard Crick and trans. Leslie J. Walker. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  62. Machiavelli, Niccolò. 1998. The prince, trans. Harvey C. Mansfield. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  63. Machiavelli, Niccolò. 1996. Discourses on Livy, trans. Harvey C. Mansfield and Nathan Tarcov. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  64. Maier, Charles. 1994. Democracy and its discontents. Foreign Affairs 73: 48–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Mansfield, Harvey C. 1996. Machiavelli’s virtue. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. May, Simon-Cabulae. 2005. Principled compromise and the abortion controversy. Philosophy & Public Affairs 33: 317–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Meier, Kenneth. 1997. Bureaucracy and democracy: The case for more bureaucracy and less democracy. Public Administration Review 57: 193–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Mudde, Cas. 2004. The populist zeitgeist. Government and Opposition: An International Journal of Comparative Politics 39: 542–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Nathan, Richard. 1995. Re-inventing government: What does it mean? Public Administration Review 55: 213–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Norris, Pippa. 1999. Critical citizens: Global support for democratic government. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Norris, Pippa. 2011. Democratic deficit: Critical citizens revisited. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Oborne, Peter. 2005. The rise of political lying. UK: Simon & Schuster Ltd.Google Scholar
  73. Osborne, David, and Ted Gaebler. 1993. Reinventing government: How the entrepreneurial spirit is transforming the public sector. New York, NY: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  74. Osborne, David, and Peter Hutchinson. 2004. The price of government: Getting the results we need in an era of Fiscal Crisis. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  75. Parijs, Philippe van. 2012. What makes a good compromise? Government and Opposition 47: 466–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Philp, Mark. 2007. Political conduct. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Pinter, Harold. 2005. Art, truth and politics: The Nobel lecture. The Nobel Foundation, https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2005/dec/08/theatre.nobelprize. Accessed 05 Sept 2016.
  78. Pullman, Philip 2010. Foreword. In Citizen ethics in a time of crisis, ed. Madeleine Bunting, Mark Vernon, and Adam Lent. http://www.citizenethics.org.uk/docs/EthicsTemplateDoc.pdf Accessed 03 Sept 2016.
  79. Quindlen, Anna. 1994. Public & private—Two class acts, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/1994/11/12/opinion/public-private-two-class-acts.html. Accessed 17 Nov 2016.
  80. Ranciere, Jacques. 2006. Hatred of democracy. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  81. Russell, Meg. 2005. Must politics disappoint? London: Fabian Society. http://www.fabians.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/MustPoliticsDisappoint.pdf. Accessed 10 April 2016.
  82. Sabl, Andrew. 2002. Ruling passions: Political offices and democratic ethics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  83. Sandel, Michael. 2009. The Reith lectures: Markets and morals. http://www.bbc.co.uk.programmes/b00kt7sh. Accessed 10 Nov 2016.
  84. Sandel, Michael. 2010. We need a public life with a purpose. In Citizen ethics in a time of crisis, ed. Madeleine Bunting, Mark Vernon, and Adam Lent. http://www.citizenethics.org.uk/docs/EthicsTemplateDoc.pdf Accessed 03 Sept 2016.
  85. Shklar, Judith Nisse. 1989. The Liberalism of fear. In Liberalism and the Moral Life, ed. Nancy Rosenblum, 21–38. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  86. Sleat, Matt. 2013. Hope and disappointment in politics. Contemporary Politics 2: 131–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Stocker, Gerry. 2006a. Why politics matters: Making democracy work. London: Palgrave MacMillan.Google Scholar
  88. Stocker, Gerry. 2006b. Explaining disenchantment: Finding pathways to democratic renewal. The Political Quarterly 77: 184–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Stocker, Gerry. 2006c. Politics in mass democracies: Destined to disappoint? Representation 42: 181–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Stocker, Gerry. 2015. Anti-politics in Britain: Dimensions, causes and responses. http://www.idi.org.il/media/1429259/bythepeople_stoker.pdf. Accessed 16 May 2016.
  91. Stocker, Gerry, and Colin Hay. 2015. Understanding and challenging populist negativity towards politics: The perspectives of citizens. Political Studies.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0032321715607511.Google Scholar
  92. Taylor, Charles. 1992. The Ethics of authenticity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  93. Tillyris, Demetris. 2015. Learning how not to be good: Machiavelli and the standard dirty hands thesis. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18: 61–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Tillyris, Demetris. 2016a. Political integrity and dirty hands: Compromise and the ambiguities of betrayal. Res Publica.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11158-016-9323-4.Google Scholar
  95. Tillyris, Demetris. 2016b. The virtue of vice: A defence of hypocrisy in democratic politics. Contemporary Politics 22: 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Tillyris, Demetris. 2016c. After the standard dirty hands thesis: Towards a dynamic account of dirty hands in politics. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19: 161–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Valentini, Laura. 2012. Ideal vs. non-ideal theory: A Conceptual map. Philosophy Compass 7: 654–664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Vernon, Mark. 2010. Ethics with a little help from my friends. In Citizen ethics in a time of crisis, ed. Madeleine Bunting, Mark Vernon, and Adam Lent. http://www.citizenethics.org.uk/docs/EthicsTemplateDoc.pdf Accessed 03 Sept 2016.
  99. Walker, David, and Nicholas Jones. 2004. Invisible political actors: The Press as agents of anti-politics. London: New Politics Network.Google Scholar
  100. Wilby, Peter. 2012. By his act of betrayal, Clegg will lose his greatest reward. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/dec/14/betrayal-clegg-punish-alternative-vote. Accessed 10 Aug 2015.
  101. Williams, Bernard. 1978. Politics and moral character. In Public and Private Morality, ed. Stuart Hampshire, 55–73. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Williams, Bernard. 2002. In the beginning was the deed: Realism and moralism in political argument. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  103. Williams, Rowan. 2010a. Lecture for the Trinity Institute. The Times. http://www.timescolumns.typepad.com/files/rowan-williams-trinity-institute.doc. Accessed 03 Sept 2016.
  104. Williams, Rowan. 2010b. How to live as if we were human. In Citizen ethics in a time of crisis, ed. Madeleine Bunting, Mark Vernon, and Adam Lent. http://www.citizenethics.org.uk/docs/EthicsTemplateDoc.pdf. Accessed 03 Sept 2016.
  105. Williams, Rowan 2010c. Out of the abyss of individualism: We shouldn’t leave politics to managers and economics to brokers – or be afraid to reintroduce ‘virtue’ to public discourse. The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/feb/21/individualism-virtue-public-discourse. Accessed 03 Sept 2016.
  106. Zanetti, Véronique. 2011. Justice, peace and compromise. Analyse & Kritik 33: 423–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Politics and International Relations, School of Psychology, Politics and SociologyCanterbury Christ Church UniversityCanterburyUK

Personalised recommendations