The place of valuation in the theory of politics: A phenomenological critique of political behavioralism [Book Review]

Journal of Value Inquiry 8 (1):17-29 (1974)
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Abstract

When it reaches its absolute limit, namely, when it comes to the question of good and evil, politics must seek ethics for help, for I do not wish to consider political power as an ultimate end in itself though it is an intermediary end. There is not only the reality of power but also an ethic of power as well. For “the concept of the ‘good life’ mutually implicates politics and ethics.” As a relationship between man and man, the exercise of power is not ethically neutral but is moral; and ethical questions arise only when man is not alone, that is, he exists in relation to others. Because the possibility of evil is inherent in every move of power, the problem of power is an ethical problem: “the problematic of evil is intertwined with the problematic of power.”The idea of human dignity is what underlies an existentialist ethics. Gabriel Marcel has this in mind when he speaks of “the existential background of human dignity.” A preponderance of the existentialist critique of the dehumanizing, alienating and depersonalizing tendency of modern man and society accentuates this singular, self-same idea of human dignity. Human dignity is not just an idea of equality, political or otherwise. It infuses all such principles of politics as freedom, justice, equality and responsibility one wishes to defend, and it underlies such problems of politics as war and peace, racism, human rights and colonialism. All these principles and problems of politics make direct or indirect, and explicit or implicit reference to human dignity.By human dignity is meant an affirmation of the moral respect for the absolute worthiness of each and every individual as a human person. To appeal to and call upon human dignity is to affirm the very humanity of man, both the quality of being truly human and a collectivity of men. The idea of human dignity is never a testimonial to atomic individualism, the allegation of which is often made by many critics of existentialism and should properly be reserved for the “possessive individualism” of the Hobbesian and Lockeian political tradition. Rather, it is an appeal to solidify and strengthen the sense of a human community. For to be authentically human (to be “personal”) means to be social or intersubjective. The ethical accent on human dignity is not a move away from politics for the sake of the romanticism of political defeat much less of “an escape for the bewildered” and of harboring the idea of the absurd. But rather it is to bring politics close to ethics or to close the gap between politics and ethics, a two-faced Janus. I wish to defend the ethical triumph of political man, the consummation of politics.By widening the gap between ethics and politics in the name of the logic of science and value neutrality, the political behavioralist as a theorist (not as an individual actor) is totally oblivious to the ethical foundation of politics. It should be said that one cannot make a commitment noncommittally, the behavioralist's commitment to value neutrality notwith-standing.The cardinal malaise of the methodological credo of value neutrality is the indifference to or insensibility of political behavioralism to the living dialectic of truth and action when its declared aim is merely to acquire knowledge whose subject matter is the anonymous object inhumanly called “man.” It is the conspiracy of political epistemology narrowly conceived rather than political silence or depoliticization which is on trial in a phenomenological critique of political behavioralism. To summon the credo of relevance to remove the barriers of political silence or to solicit the politicization of the political science profession alone is, though a leap forward, far short of resolving the predicament endemic to political behavioralism as an adequate theory of politics

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