Reflections on a crisis: political disenchantment, moral desolation, and political integrity

Tillyris, D. (2017) Reflections on a crisis: political disenchantment, moral desolation, and political integrity. Res Publica. ISSN 356-4765.

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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.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Political disenchantment; moral crisis; political integrity; Machiavelli; value pluralism; moral conflict
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics > BJ0001 Ethics (General) > BJ1725 Ethics of social groups, classes, etc. Professional ethics
H Social Sciences
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
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Demetris Tillyris
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2018 14:29
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2019 15:30

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