The Pure Theory of Politics

By Bertrand Jouvenel De | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
THE MANNERS OF POLITICS

Let us indulge in a piece of make-believe. Ruritania is endowed with a computer which infallibly gives the optimal answer to every question, including those which refer to the choice of its attendants. All Ruritanians know ex ante that the prescriptions issued by the computer will be the most conducive to the good of the whole; and indeed ex post, when each prescription has been published, it becomes apparent to anyone who takes the trouble to check that this is the wisest decision. Assuming such a magic machine, what follows? However convinced that a decision coming from the computer is the best for the whole, an individual Ruritanian, Ego, may still dislike and infringe a prescription, because it does not suit his egotistical rationality1 or, even more simply, because he will not bow to reason.2

If however Ego, under the conditions stated, revolts against the prescription of the computer, he will be handicapped in recruiting associates or followers. Those he will seek to stir up will be aware, ex hypothesi, that their action, behaviour or demand goes against the reasonably assessed good of the Whole. Such recruitment must therefore be limited to those who share a special interest, or who are fired by some blinding passion.

Now let us add a second assumption (and here we move up from the mythology of science into philosophic anthropology). Suppose that Ruritanians have a nature so different from that with which we are familiar that the view of what is good for the whole invincibly determines their will. Now the problem is entirely solved: what is

____________________
1
Rousseau powerfully made this point: 'Basing virtue on reason alone is giving it a shaky foundation. They say that virtue is the love of order. But should and can this love dominate over the love of my own well-being? Let them give me a clear and sufficient reason to prefer it. At bottom their supposed principle is a pure play of words: because I can in turn state that vice is the love of order taken in a different sense. The difference is that the good man refers himself to the order of the whole and the bad man sees the whole in relation to himself: he makes himself the centre of all things, while the good man sees himself at the circumference and looks to the centre of the whole.' This is from "La profession de foi du Vicaire Savoyard" in Emile, and it is noteworthy that Voltaire jotted against this paragraph on his copy of the book: 'These horrors should never be discovered to the public.'
2
It is profoundly unsafe to assume that men act rationally in Politics.

-187-

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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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