The virtue of vice: a defence of hypocrisy in democratic politics

Tillyris, D. (2015) The virtue of vice: a defence of hypocrisy in democratic politics. Contemporary Politics, 22 (1). pp. 1-19. ISSN 1356-9775.


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This essay suggests that Machiavelli's claim that the moral vice of hypocrisy is inescapable in politics constitutes a real issue for democratic politics today. Indeed, it concludes that democratic societies are implicated in creating the impetus to hypocritical behaviour. The essay questions the prevalent conviction that a liberal democratic polity should be premised on transparency and candour, not on hypocritical manipulation – a conviction which is paradoxically shared by the dirty hands thesis which is mostly owed to Michael Walzer and which purportedly takes Machiavelli's insights on the moral messiness of politics seriously. Attempts to deny the necessity of political hypocrisy misconstrue the realities of democratic politics – the messy context in which politicians operate and what is distinctive of political friendships. Democratic politicians operate in a context ridden with conflict and dependence which renders hypocrisy a necessary political virtue and one of the strings that hold together a virtuous political life.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Machiavelli, hypocrisy, political virtue, moral conflict, democratic politics, dirty hands
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology
Depositing User: Demetris Tillyris
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2016 11:08
Last Modified: 31 May 2017 22:33

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00