Dirty Hands and Clean Gloves: Liberal Ideals and Real Politics

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

30 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2010 Last revised: 7 Feb 2011

Richard Bellamy

University College London - Department of Political Science; European University Institute

Date Written: April 7, 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.

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

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: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1585731

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

European University Institute ( email )

Via dei Roccettini, 9
San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), Tuscany 50014
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://www.eui.eu/ProgrammesAndFellowships/MaxWeberProgramme/People/RichardBellamywebpage.aspx

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