In her new book, Ruth W. Grant challenges the usual standards for political ethics. Arguing that hypocrisy can be constructive and that strictly principled behavior can be destructive, she explores the full range of ethical choices by brilliantly distinguishing among the varieties of hypocrisy and integrity. Grant focuses primarily on the works of ...
In her new book, Ruth W. Grant challenges the usual standards for political ethics. Arguing that hypocrisy can be constructive and that strictly principled behavior can be destructive, she explores the full range of ethical choices by brilliantly distinguishing among the varieties of hypocrisy and integrity. Grant focuses primarily on the works of Machiavelli and Rousseau. While Machiavelli is often understood as arguing for the necessity of hypocrisy, Rousseau is portrayed as an antihypocrite who advocates a principled idealism. Grant's reinterpretation of these thinkers, however, allows us to see their considerable common ground. Both understood that political relationships require hypocrisy, since such ties are formed and maintained among people whose interests conflict and who need, yet cannot trust, one another. Both also appreciated the inevitable allure of ambition, vanity, and pride in building and maintaining these relationships. In this light, Machiavelli and Rousseau could be considered critics of the liberal project, which both would view as an ultimately fruitless attempt to establish open, honest, and rational politics. As Grant reveals, hypocrisy can be found in the most unlikely people - be they 'moralists, ' with their unwavering devotion to principle, or moderates, with their complacency toward injustice. Rather than condemning hypocrisy altogether, then, one must subtly discriminate among its various forms. Drawing on a wealth of material, from Moliere's comedies to Rousseau's conception of political integrity, Grant offers a new conceptual framework, one that clarifies the differences between idealism and fanaticism, moderation and rationalization. Her inquiryuncovers the moral limits of compromise and argues that we must judge political behavior with a discerning eye, keeping the images of integrity that guide our judgment always within our sight.
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