Political Morality

Discussions of political morality frequently refer to several classical sources, notably Niccolò Machiavelli’s much-quoted work The Prince (1513), in which he advises political leaders that they “must learn how not to be good,” meaning that in order to get and keep power, they must do things that are not permitted by the standards of ordinary life. Another influential source is Max Weber’s essay, “Politics as a Vocation” (1918), which distinguishes between an “ethic of ultimate ends” and an “ethic of responsibility”: The former, in Weber’s view, tends toward a sort of fanaticism that ignores consequences, while the latter is recommended as the right ethic for political actors who value the preservation of necessary institutions. A third source is Jean-Paul Sartre’s play, Les mains sales (1971), ...

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