Walzer Political Action Analysis

912 Words 4 Pages
In “Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands”, Walzer addresses the conflict between morality and politics, and questions whether or not a moral, political actor is even possible. In light of earlier theorists, such as Machiavelli and Weber, Walzer argues that it is extremely likely for political actors to encounter “dirty hand” problems, in which the actor may have to sacrifice moral principles to make the “right” decision. Walzer argues that, whilst this is an inevitability for politicians, they can still be considered “moral”, meeting both moral-absolutist and consequentialist demands (Litvin, 2011), provided they do what is politically necessary, but understands themselves to be guilty as a result.

To construct this argument, Walzer
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Walzer’s overarching argument is founded upon the assumption that the prospective politician is neither a consequentialist nor an absolutist. Instead, they are someone who is “willing to compromise what they recognise as a genuine moral principle for the sake of a sufficiently weighty moral end” (Dovi, 2011, p. 130). Moreover, Walzer confines his argument to this individual decision maker, as seen in his two examples. This is not a realistic assumption, in the political arena, it is likely that there will be various internal forces and pressures that can shape the prospective actor’s choices. Specifically, the presence of absolutists is key (Dovi, 2011), as they can serve as moral exemplars, that through their commitment to moral principles, can reinforce other’s commitment. Walzer’s individualistic approach doesn’t realise the potential bad, cumulative effects that such dirty hand decisions can have on polity (moral corruption). Absolutists are necessary to mitigate such negative effects and preserve the likeliness of moral behaviour in the political arena, by reinforcing existing moral principles. Occasionally, one cannot understand what is at stake morally, until they witness what others are willing to risk. In this way, absolutists can aid in preventing others from sacrificing their moral principles, and from their feeling of guilt being nullified. Walzer does not acknowledge the role that absolutists can play. Consequently, his argument surrounding the dirty hand dilemma, ignores some forces that can ensure moral sensibilities. It is also connected to his idea of guilt. Without absolutists to maintain the moral balance in politics, it can be easy for actors to repeatedly make such decisions, which will in turn, nullify their moral commitments. Actors who continuously dirty their hands, eventually lose touch

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