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Dirty Hands and Clean Gloves: Liberal Ideals and Real Politics


Richard Bellamy


University College London - Department of Political Science

April 7, 2010

European Journal of Political Thought, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 412–430, 2010

Abstract:     
Can liberal ideals clean up dirty politicians or politics? This article doubts they can. It disputes that a ‘clean’ liberal person might inhabit the dirty clothes of the real politician, or that a clean depoliticised liberal constitution can constrain real world dirty politics. Nevertheless, the need for a democratic Prince to wear clean liberal gloves offers a necessary and effective political restraint. However, it also means that citizens share the hypocrisy and dirt of those who serve them - for we legitimise the dirtiness of politics by requiring politicians to seem cleaner than we know they ever can be in reality.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 30

Keywords: Democratic politics, dirty hands, legitimacy, public, private, Machiavelli, Rawls, Weber

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Date posted: April 10, 2010 ; Last revised: February 7, 2011

Suggested Citation

Bellamy, Richard, Dirty Hands and Clean Gloves: Liberal Ideals and Real Politics (April 7, 2010). European Journal of Political Thought, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 412–430, 2010. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1585731

Contact Information

Richard Bellamy (Contact Author)
University College London - Department of Political Science ( email )
Gower Street
London
United Kingdom
020 7679 4980 (Phone)
020 7679 4969 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/spp/people/richard-bellamy
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