Political Hypocrisy: The Mask of Power, from Hobbes to Orwell and Beyond

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Princeton University Press, Feb 9, 2009 - Political Science - 288 pages
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What kind of hypocrite should voters choose as their next leader? The question seems utterly cynical. But, as David Runciman suggests, it is actually much more cynical to pretend that politics can ever be completely sincere. The most dangerous form of political hypocrisy is to claim to have a politics without hypocrisy. Political Hypocrisy is a timely, and timeless, book on the problems of sincerity and truth in politics, and how we can deal with them without slipping into hypocrisy ourselves. Runciman tackles the problems through lessons drawn from some of the great truth-tellers in modern political thought--Hobbes, Mandeville, Jefferson, Bentham, Sidgwick, and Orwell--and applies his ideas to different kinds of hypocritical politicians from Oliver Cromwell to Hillary Clinton.

Runciman argues that we should accept hypocrisy as a fact of politics, but without resigning ourselves to it, let alone cynically embracing it. We should stop trying to eliminate every form of hypocrisy, and we should stop vainly searching for ideally authentic politicians. Instead, we should try to distinguish between harmless and harmful hypocrisies and should worry only about its most damaging varieties.

Written in a lively style, this book will change how we look at political hypocrisy and how we answer some basic questions about politics: What are the limits of truthfulness in politics? And when, where, and how should we expect our politicians to be honest with us, and about what?

 

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Contents

Introduction
1
1 Hobbes and the Mask of Power
16
2 Mandeville and the Virtues of Vice
45
3 The American Revolution and the Art of Sincerity
74
4 Bentham and the Utility of Fiction
116
5 Victorian Democracy and Victorian Hypocrisy
142
6 Orwell and the Hypocrisy of Ideology
168
Sincerity and Hypocrisy in Democratic Politics
194
Notes
227
Bibliography
245
Index
259
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About the author (2009)

David Runciman is reader in political theory at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Trinity Hall. He is the author of The Politics of Good Intentions (Princeton), and writes regularly about politics for the London Review of Books.

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