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

Journal article


Tillyris, D. 2017. Reflections on a crisis: political disenchantment, moral desolation, and political integrity. Res Publica. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11158-017-9387-9
AuthorsTillyris, D.
Abstract

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.

KeywordsPolitical disenchantment; moral crisis; political integrity; Machiavelli; value pluralism; moral conflict
Year2017
JournalRes Publica
PublisherSpringer
ISSN356-4765
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/s11158-017-9387-9
Related URLhttps://link.springer.com/
Publication dates
Online21 Dec 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited05 Jan 2018
Accepted30 Nov 2017
Accepted author manuscript
Output statusPublished
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