The Politics of Good Intentions: History, Fear, and Hypocrisy in the New World Order

The Politics of Good Intentions: History, Fear, and Hypocrisy in the New World Order

The Politics of Good Intentions: History, Fear, and Hypocrisy in the New World Order

The Politics of Good Intentions: History, Fear, and Hypocrisy in the New World Order

Excerpt

What difference is there between the polemics of most of the
representatives of the so-called “new morality” against the
opponents whom they criticise, and those of any demagogue
you care to mention? Someone will say: the nobility of their
intentions. Fine! But what we are talking about here is the
means which they use; and the opponents whom they attack
claim likewise, with equal honesty from their point of view,
that their ultimate intentions are noble. “They that take the
sword shall perish with the sword”, and war is war wherever
it is fought.

Max Weber, “Politics as a Vocation”, 1919

This book is about what is new in politics at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and what isn't. The language of “newness” has dominated political argument in recent years: new threats, new challenges, new opportunities, a whole new world order. The event that has given so many of these arguments their impetus is the attack on the United States that took place on September 11, 2001. That event provides the focus for a number of the chapters here, but the real purpose of this book is to get beyond the confines of the immediate past, and to place contemporary politics in a broader historical perspective, by comparing the character of political life and political thought now with their character at other times and in other places. It is impossible to know whether the nature of modern politics and the modern state have fundamentally changed in recent years unless we know something about how the modern state came into being, and how it has evolved over time. This book tries to use the long history of modern politics—from the time of Thomas Hobbes in the seventeenth century until today—to make sense of the brief present. History does not repeat itself, but it does not follow that the past . . .

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