The Pure Theory of Politics

By Bertrand Jouvenel De | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
ON THE NATURE OF POLITICAL
SCIENCE

Political activity is dangerous. Arising inevitably out of men's ability to influence each other, conferring upon them the benefits of joint endeavour, an indispensable source of social boons, it is also capable of doing great harm. Men can be moved to injure others or to ruin themselves. The very process of moving implies a risk of debasement for the moved and for the mover.1 Even the fairest vision of a good to be sought offers no moral guarantee, since it may poison hearts with hatred against those who are deemed an obstacle to its achievement.2

No apology is required for stressing a subjective dread of political activity: the chemist is not disqualified as a scientist because he is aware that explosives are dangerous--indeed that chemist is dangerous who lacks such awareness.

This feeling of danger is widespread in human society:3 and has always haunted all but the more superficial authors: very few have, like Hobbes, brought it into the open; it has hovered in the background, exerting an invisible but effective influence upon their treatment of the subject; it may be, to a significant degree, responsible for the strange and unique texture of political science.

There are no objects to which our attention is so naturally drawn as to our own fellows. It takes a conscious purpose to watch birds or ants, but we cannot fail to watch other men, with whom we are

____________________
1
'Tel se croit le maitre des autres qui ne laisse pas d'être plus esclave qu'eux', says Rousseau in the first lines of the Social Contract. He elucidates in Emile: 'Domination itself is servile when beholden to opinion: for you depend upon the prejudices of those you govern by means of their prejudices.'
2
It is a sobering exercise to count the expressions of anger (as against those of good will) which occur in the speeches or writings of political champions of this or that moral cause.
3
Different voices denounce the encroaching State, overbearing Lords, an Established Church, tentacular unions, or the dominant party: yet such voices, however discordant, all express distrust of some form of established power. In the same manner, emergent power is deemed frightening by some when an agitator musters a mob, by others in the case of a rising dictator: though one may turn into the other. The same feeling crystallizes on different stems.

-29-

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The Pure Theory of Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Part I- Approach- Politics as History 1
  • Chapter 1- Configuration and Dynamics 3
  • Chapter 3- On the Nature of Political Science 29
  • Part II- Setting- Ego in Otherdom 41
  • Chapter 1- Of Man 43
  • Chapter 2- Home 48
  • Chapter 3- Otherdom 55
  • Part III- Action- Instigation and Response 67
  • Chapter 1- Instigation 69
  • Chapter 2- Response 83
  • Part IV- Authority- ''Potestas'' and ''Potentia'' 97
  • Chapter 1- On Being Heard 99
  • Chapter 2- The Law of Conservative Exclusion 109
  • Chapter 3- Place and Face 118
  • Part V- Decision 129
  • Chapter 1- The People 131
  • Chapter 2- The Committee, I (judicial or Political) 146
  • Chapter 3- The Committee, II (foresight, Values and Pressures) 157
  • Part VI- Attitudes 167
  • Chapter 1- Attention and Intention 169
  • Chapter 2- The Team against the Committee 176
  • Chapter 3- The Manners of Politics 187
  • Addendum the Myth of the Solution 204
  • Conclusion 213
  • Index 215
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