Dirty Hands and Clean Gloves: Liberal Ideals and Real Politics
University College London - Department of Political Science; European University Institute
April 7, 2010
European Journal of Political Thought, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 412–430, 2010
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
Date posted: April 10, 2010 ; Last revised: February 7, 2011