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?
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.
"A very intelligent, subtle, and learned guide to the classics and to the pre-eminent historical examples of hypocrisy from Mandeville and Hobbes, to Jefferson and the Victorians, with some concluding examples to illustrate the special problems of hypocrisy and sincerity in democracies."--David Martin, Times Literary Supplement
"[Political Hypocrisy] contains a plethora of shrewd and quotable remarks. . . . What struck a chord with me was his gentle demolition of the idea that a politician's profession of his own sincerity, or passionate belief, proves anything at all."--Samuel Brittan, Financial Times
"University of Cambridge political theorist David Runciman takes a far more textured, sophisticated approach to the phenomenon in Political Hypocrisy, a timely, long overdue study of one of public life's in-your-face puzzles."--Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Political Hypocrisy is not just another denunciation of politicians as liars. Instead, it offers us a tour, from Hobbes and Mandeville to Bentham and Orwell. Runciman is best on the American revolutionaries and our eminent Victorians, perhaps because both the US war of independence and the British empire required self-aware democratic politicians to gloss over the gaps between their proclaimed beliefs and their actual behaviour."--David Willetts, Prospect Magazine
"Political Hypocrisy is a deep and thought-provoking work."--Tim Dunne, THE
"In the excellent Political Hypocrisy, British journalist David Runciman uses the 2008 campaign to test his thesis that hypocrisy and anti-hypocrisy are joined in a 'discrete system' and that our obsession with this antagonistic tango is making modern politics impossible."--Richard King, The Australian Literary Review
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: Hobbes and the Mask of Power 16
Chapter 2: Mandeville and the Virtues of Vice 45
Chapter 3: The American Revolution and the Art of Sincerity 74
Chapter 4: Bentham and the Utility of Fiction 116
Chapter 5: Victorian Democracy and Victorian Hypocrisy 142
Chapter 6: Orwell and the Hypocrisy of Ideology 168
Conclusion: Sincerity and Hypocrisy in Democratic Politics 194
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by David Runciman: