Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Palinurus: Engaging Political Philosophy

Agnes Heller: The Moral Maxims of Democratic Politics

Journal Home
About Palinurus
Editorial Collective
Articles
On The Political
Interviews
Reviews
Issue Number
Links
Miscellaneous
Topics

Agnes Heller's essay addresses the tension - in practice - between politics as techne and politics founded on morality.

The relationship between politics and morality, at least in recent times, may be

formulated in the following contradictory assertions and theoretical propositions.

 

1. Politics is a form of techne. In political life we do not follow ethical norms,

but technical rules. The success of any kind of politics depends on the skillful

application of a number of basic rules. These rules can be learned. To an extent,

their skillful application demands a special talent. It is also partly a matter of

experience. Any form of politics which is not based on adherence to a set of

technical rules will fail to achieve its objectives. The assertion that politics is a

techne is also to be understood as a postulate: politics should be practiced as a

techne.

 

2. Politics, in practice, is learned and applied as techne. It should, however,

be founded on morality. The real task of politics is not simply to seize power or

strengthen one’s hold on power but to improve humankind and the world. The

merits of any system of politics depend on the strength of moral purpose of those

who believe in it and act in accordance with it. Any system of politics which does

not adhere to some moral norm must be wrong, simply because it sets no high

moral goals and is, moreover, incapable of generating any enthusiasm for

achieving them.

 

Despite the contradictions between the norms they establish, both propositions

agree in stressing that in practice politics follows technical rules and not moral

norms. We shall now go on to question the truth of this assertion and examine

how far either or both of these norms can be justified.

 

The assertion that politics only follows technical rules and not social norms can

only be true in one particular case, namely, when all political decisions are taken

by just one person and that person is above all social laws and controls – either

an absolute monarch, a charismatic leader, or a despot. It is no coincidence that

Machiavelli recommended the Prince to adopt his political techne. If an individual

stands above all social rules, then it follows that he does not have to conform

to them. At the same time, however, his power depends entirely upon the

spectacular success of his political and military decisions. Neither his goals nor

the means by which he achieves them presuppose a consensus; a false consensus, motivated by fear, is guaranteed anyway. It must be acknowledged, however, that unlimited political power is characterized not by its stability but by its liability. If a statesman’s freedom of action is prescribed and limited to some extent, then the population is much more tolerant of his failures than if he enjoyed unlimited power. Furthermore, the human psyche is not adapted to wielding unlimited power. The consequences of all this are easy to appreciate. Although politics can only be practiced as techne as long as the statesman is above all social rules, under those circumstances its practice is de facto rarely governed by rational considerations. When power is unlimited politics generally loses all trace of rationality.This is a minor point which is repeated here only in order to dispel the

preconception that politics is nothing but techne.

 

Apart from this one case, politics could never be practiced as pure techne, and

that still holds true today. Tradition, on the one hand, and laws, on the other,

considerably restrict both the choice of goals and the means of achieving them.

Moreover, these social norms not only prescribe the limits which cannot be

exceeded without arousing disapproval, but they also contain more or less

definite rules for just conduct. There are, of course, various restrictions and rules

governing behaviour within individual countries and relationships with other

states (both allies and enemies). The conduct of politics as pure techne is more

customary in the latter than in the former case, but even there are exceptions. The argument that the rules are frequently violated, particularly in the

sphere of foreign politics, is irrelevant. Moral norms are frequently violated

without losing their validity.

 

There are, of course, technical rules in all forms of politics. ‘Politics’ as such,

however, has no general technical rules, for differing social norms determine the

nature of the rules operating in different societies. For example, the technique of

vote-catching can only be employed in a state where elections are held at all.

Whether someone plays an aristocratic or a jovial role depends no less on the

rules of a society than on its parliamentary methods.

 

In a modern state where the rights and liberties of the individual are protected

by law, its social norms are formalized in its constitution (whether written or

unwritten). No political technique is officially permitted to infringe the constitution,

although in practice of course it may. But as well as legal controls, there are

also numerous purely traditional rules which have to be taken account of in the

mechanics of politics.

 

Social norms are binding on those active in politics. Whether an individual

accepts them as binding on himself or conforms to them purely for pragmatic

reasons is another question. From this point of view, the attitudes of politicians

are of minor importance. As long as they do not infringe the society’s political

norms and conduct their political affairs within this framework, it does not

matter whether they are motivated by concern for the prosperity of their country

or by the pursuit of power. As Kant pointed out, the norms of politics have

nothing to do with morality. They are ethical (sittliche) norms, reflecting social,

not moral, values.

 

In countries where human rights are constitutionally guaranteed, politicians

must accept them as defining the limits on (and opportunities for) their own

actions. They function as the ethical framework for all political activity. This

does not mean, however, that human rights also have the status of moral

maxims governing this activity. Those engaged in politics are not compelled

to take into account whether or not their decisions promote the liberty, equality, etc., of every citizen. All that they need to consider are simply the reactions of those who elected them, of their supporters, and of other power groups, together with their possible counteraction. They must, that is, take into account whether their decisions will provoke protests which make it impossible to put them into effect and which might jeopardize their own positions of power. It is clear, therefore, that the ethical norms expressed in a bill of human rights can be accepted as maxims of wise political conduct, and that they are in fact usually accepted as such. One may suspect that in countries where human rights are guaranteed, political morals are in a much healthier state than in those where this is not the case. However, it cannot be inferred from this that political morality is in an equally healthy state. This can be seen most clearly in the field of foreign politics. Despite the fact that every member of the United Nations has committed itself in writing to respect human rights, the majority of states have today still not constitutionally recognized the existence of human rights, still less enacted legislation to guarantee them. It is not surprising that these empty gestures, which

commit countries to nothing, have failed to lead to the provision of agreed social

norms in international affairs. Even in democratic states, where the recognition

of human rights imposes moral restrictions inside the country and has made

possible the formulation of maxims of wise political conduct, no such maxims can

be applied in the sphere of foreign politics because of the lack of any social morals

which could result in a similar commitment. Consequently, the democratic

regulation of foreign politics by maxims of wise conduct is inconceivable at

present. Only when politics is prepared to follow moral maxims will there be any

likelihood of introducing truly democratic politics in the field of international

relations. It will, however, be necessary to assume here that foreign and domestic

politics cannot be completely separated from one another. We can, moreover,

take seriously Marx’s dictum that no nation can be free that oppresses peoples. In

the same spirit I should like to put forward the following theoretical suggestion: a

consistently democratic form of politics is not characterized solely by the fact that

a state recognizes human rights as constituting social norms and chooses its

maxims for wise conduct accordingly. It must also conduct its political affairs in

accordance with a set of moral maxims.

 

We have assumed that both our contradictory suggestions about the relationship

between politics and morality agree in asserting that politics today is simply

techne. We have rejected this assertion as false. We have concluded that, with

some exceptions, political activity is governed by social norms and that its

technical rules must also be compatible with these norms. In acknowledging that

constitutional guarantees of human rights define moral norms and the legal status

of democratic politics we also refuted the suggestion that politics should simply

obey technical rules. We also made the theoretical suggestion that a consistently

democratic form of politics should accept certain moral maxims. Accordingly, it

would seem that we share the view that politics should be founded on morality.

However, this is not the case.

 

A moralizing form of politics has the aim of improving mankind and the world.

If one wants to improve mankind, one must have a clear conception of what true

virtue is. True virtue relates to mankind as a whole, all aspects of man’s

behaviour both in public and in private life. Moralizing politics opts for a particular

way of life and is prepared to demand its general adoption, at least within a

given country or political movement. Modern society, however, is characterized

by its heterogeneity. It contains a multiplicity of customs and individual options

which is increased further by the various cultural traditions within a country.

Moralizing politics is antagonistic towards all cultures, movements, classes,

even individuals, with divergent life-styles. It can, therefore, only achieve its goal – of improving mankind in accordance with its conception of virtue – by resorting to

force. Moralizing and oppression go hand in hand in politics. The history of

puritanical political systems, and particularly of Jacobinism (which openly

declared its belief in morality and in terror), speaks for itself.

 

Moralizing politics has two distinct traditions. One upholds a conception of

virtue and a way of life founded on religion and is pre-enlightenment, even

though it has re-emerged in our own time (in, for example, forms of politics based

on Islamic teachings on virtue). The other crystallized out in the course of a series

of revolutions (as a reaction against Liberalism) and can be characterized as a

retreat from enlightenment. In this second case it can also happen that the

morally evil, in Hegel’s use of the term, functions as the basis of politics. If one

looks at the slogans of the two most destructive dictatorships of this century,

‘Honour is loyalty,’ ‘The party is our reason, our honour, our conscience,’ one

can understand immediately how morality and terror can be associated. Moralizing

politics is certainly no less cruel than machiavellian politics. The proposition

that the end justifies the means is part of its ideological arsenal rather than part of

the mechanics of politics (which does not recognize ‘sacred’ goals, only ‘advantageous’ ones). If one were faced with the choice between political techne and moralizing politics, it would certainly cause less suffering to human beings if one were to choose the former.

 

It is clear from what has been said so far that any theoretical proposal that one

accept certain moral maxims for political conduct is far from being a plea for all

politics to be founded on morality. But before we begin analyzing what moral

principles a form of politics not founded on morality might have, we must first

examine carefully another area of political activity.

 

In politics, one can either follow certain laid-down principles or act in a purely

pragmatic fashion. These two possibilities can also be combined in various ways.

Pragmatic politics is the politics of adaptation. It involves skillful manoeuvring

on the part of several power groups or lobbies, each attempting to safeguard their

own position of power. Programmes and objectives must be regarded here purely

as instruments of power. A pragmatic politician will never voluntarily retire from

office simply because he cannot push through his policies; instead, he will give

his support to some other policy. Pragmatic politics is often termed, with

justification, ‘empirical’ (since it responds with great sensitivity to experience).

Sometimes it is even called ‘bureaucratic’ (since it risks nothing and develops

no new initiatives). However, this label is inapt. Nowadays, all types of political

activity require some form of bureaucratic apparatus, pragmatic politics no less

than politics motivated by principles.

 

‘Principled’ politics sets out to put into effect programmes, plans, and aims that

have been conceived in advance. A politician committed to certain principles will

resign if he cannot achieve his objectives, and will wait until the time is ripe for

their achievement; in a state which does not recognize liberal values, he will

simply achieve his objectives by force, if he can. The political principles

themselves can differ greatly, not simply in kind but also in scope. They may

include the complete restructuring of economic or foreign policies or changes in

party policy, or they may relate to a single specific objective or decision. This

does not mean, of course, that ‚principled‘ politicians are indifferent to power,

only that they always regard power as ‘power to achieve something’.

 

It is open to debate whether pragmatic or principled politics is ‘better.’ Viewed

strictly from a standpoint of a morality based on individual conscience, principled

politics is preferable. Which of the two kinds of political action proves to be

better depends probably on whether the politician lives in a democratic or an

undemocratic state. In an undemocratic country, principled politics may cause

more harm than pragmatic politics. If one poses the question of how politics

could be regulated by moral maxims, however, one is forced to come down on the

side of principled politics. But it must always be born in mind that principled

politics is not necessarily superior to purely pragmatic politics. The principles

which a politician should be encouraged to adopt as moral maxims are, therefore,

those which can in general ensure the superiority of principled politics over

purely pragmatic political action.

 

When we examined principled politics we were talking about political and not

moral principles. Principled politics has just one moral implication – loyalty to a

chosen set of principles. The principles themselves are not moral in origin. If it

were possible to formulate universal political principles which were capable of

acting as principles in all forms of democratic politics (however diverse their

individual goals) and which could function as maxims of a universal morality as

well, then, theoretically at least, our problem would be solved. It is easy to see

why.

 

If politics is founded on morality, it is open to it to use any means to achieve

whatever desired ‘improvement’ in mankind it sets as its aim. But no single way

of life (no system of moral values) is universal, even if it claims universality.

Accordingly, its political principles are ideological and essentially undemocratic,

simply because it generalizes particular values and therefore prevents, if it can,

the expression and representation of all other value systems. Indeed, it excludes

and suppresses them. However, if it is not a particular value system that is

(wrongly) universalized, but the political principles themselves, then those

political principles become binding on all men, whatever their value system or

way of life. Political principles can only be universalized if they assume a

plurality of value systems and ways of life. In order for political principles to

function as moral maxims, they must accord in form (though not it content) with

all moral decisions.

 

What does it mean to follow universal principles (as moral maxims)? Certainly

not (or not only) to declare one‘s belief in them. It means rather: (a) to consider

whether political decisions are in accord with those principles, (b) a readiness to

base one’s arguments for any political decision upon those universal principles,

and (c) to brand as illegitimate all political decisions taken by individual citizens

(or nations) if it is proved that they contradict those principles.

 

It seems as though we have worked out something quite abstract, Utopian, and

hypothetical. This not so, however. All we have done has been to reconstruct,

albeit with some modifications, a procedure that has been in existence and put into

practice sporadically for more than two hundred years. It would be more

accurate to say that we were arguing in the spirit of a democratic tradition.

 

A glance at the Declaration of Independence will be sufficient to make this clear.

 

The Declaration begins with the statement that the political decision which it

represents requires a reasoned justification. The way this is expressed, however,

makes it relevant to more than just this one political decision. It has something to

say about all similar decisions: ‘When in the course of human events, it becomes

necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands… a decent respect to the

opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes….’ The

Declaration goes on to list the universal principles which are also valid as moral

maxims. All governments should safeguard the three ‘unalienable’ human rights,

as well as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If this does not happen, then

‘it is their right (that of the people), it is their duty, to throw off such government

and to provide new guards for their future security.’ It is clear from the reference

to ‘duty,’ which cannot mean political duty since it calls for the overthrow of the

existing political order, that the three universal political principles were also

conceived of as moral maxims. However since the Declaration goes on to list the

grievances of the American colonies against the English Crown and these turn

out all to be political in nature, it is clear that they were devised primarily as

political principles. The nature of the colonies’ grievances confirms that the

Crown had persistently violated all universal political principles. That is

sufficient to justify the specific political act proposed here. And the conclusion

reads: ‘We, therefore . . . solemnly publish and declare, That these United

Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States.’

 

This is a masterpiece of political deduction, without a trace of ideological

demagogy. Of course, the argumentation depends on the truth (correctness) of

the initial premise. However, the truth (and correctness) of the initial premise

requires no justification. It reads: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident,

that allmen are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain

inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

It was appropriate in the Declaration to assume the universal principles of politics

(which also have the status of moral maxims) as self-evident, not simply because it

restated a view which was already widely held at the time or because such a

Declaration could not concern itself with philosophical problems, but also for

more profound reasons.

 

One could criticize the text of the Declaration on the grounds that its starting point

is wrong. First of all, the assertion that all men are created equal and with

unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was by no means

self-evident at the end of the eighteenth century. It was only self-evident within

the context of a particular view of the world. It is, moreover (according to our

view) a false assertion as it stands. We shall return to the second point later. As

for the first point, however, I believe that it is impossible to improve substantially

upon the views expressed in the Declaration, still less to evade them. It is true that

the political principles of the initial premise are only self-evident with a specific

political world view. Clearly, however, it becomes impossible to formulate any

general principles of political conduct at all as soon as one starts looking in detail

at all possible forms of political conduct. In speaking at all about universal

principles, one can only mean a form of politics which can be related to universal

political principles. The title of this essay is: ‘Moral maxims of democratic

polities.’ In fact, it is anything but self-evident that politics must be democratic;

but within the framework of this analysis it is assumed to be so. It is the axiom of

our argument. So here too I am following in the footsteps of those who drew up

the Declaration. And I believe that the idea of replacing the initial formulation,

‘sacred and undeniable,’ by ‘unalienable’ in the final version of the Declaration

involved a similar insight on the part of its authors and that the fundamental

reason for it is to be found in the axiomatic validity of the principles.

 

In proposing universal principles for a democratic system of politics, I must reemphasize that they are only reformulations of traditional democratic principles.

But one can only reformulate principles which have already at some time been

regarded as self-evident, if only within one particular world view. They have to

be reformulated in order to make them more plausible in the context of contemporary philosophy and, by so doing, to be able to acquit them of the

charge that they are ‘wrong.’ At the same time, the principles can only be reformulated in the spirit of contemporary philosophy if they are subjected

to some form of social radicalization.

 

The principles are as follows:

 

1. Act as if the personal liberty of every citizen and the independence of every

nation depended on your actions. This is the moral maxim and political principle

of liberty.

 

2. Act in accordance with all the social rules and laws, whose infringement,

even in the case of just one citizen (or one nation) you would disapprove of. This

is the moral maxim and political principle of (political) equality.

 

3. In all your political dealings assume that all persons are capable of making

political decisions. So submit your plans for public discussion and act in

accordance with the outcome of those discussions. If you cannot do so, resign all

your positions of power and set about convincing others of the correctness of your

opinions. This is the moral maxim and political principle of (rational) equality.

 

4. Recognize all human needs, as long as they can be satisfied without coming

into conflict with the maxims of liberty, political equality, and rationality. This is

the moral maxim and political principle of justice.

 

5. In all your dealings support those classes and nations which are enduring

the greatest suffering, as long as this does not conflict with the other maxims of

political conduct. This is the moral maxim and political principle of equity.

 

These are, in my view, the universal moral principles of democratic politics.

They are, at the same time, moral maxims since they can act as guide-lines for all

moral decisions. Using these maxims we can also formulate the basic law of

democratic politics: Act in a way which allows all free and rational human beings

to assent to the political principles of your actions.

 

This basic law assumes the possibility of a consensus omnium, not a consensus

in all political decisions but a consensus about the political principles of such

decisions. Simply because free and rational human brings assent to the principles

of decisions and actions, this does not prevent them from questioning, criticizing,

or even opposing an individual decision or action. A consensus omnium will be the

exception rather than the rule. If individuals were forced to reach such a consensus, this would establish a norm which would be firstly unrealizable, secondly unnecessary from the point of view of democratic politics, and thirdly

undesirable. Firstly, there can often be not just one but several decisions which

are in accord with the first, second, fourth, and fifth principles, and in a society

with many heterogeneous ways of life and different needs and desires it is highly

improbable that everyone would arrive at the same decision. Decisions are in any

case always taken under pressure of time. The third principle of democratic

politics enjoins that in cases where there are several options and time is pressing,

the decision of the majority as it emerges through discussion should be accepted.

The principle of majority rule would often be criticized, but there is no way of

avoiding it completely. This can be unpleasant and frustrating for the minority,

but whenever decisions have to be taken quickly one has to say: vox populi vox

dei. In practice, a consensus omnium assumes homogeneity in a particular decision or action and does not leave room for discontent or trial and error, a state of affairs which is far from desirable. However, if all that is required is a consensus

omnium that the political principles must be obeyed, then unanimity and

disagreement need not be thought of as mutually exclusive.

 

To avoid misunderstandings, it should be emphasized that the basic law is not

meant to be a legitimizing principle in the stricter sense of the word. The requirement that one act in a way which allows all free and rational human beings to assent to the political principles of your actions is not only binding on governments but on all those engaged in political activities, that is, it is formulated in a spirit of absolute reciprocity. If all men can and should act legitimately, that is, in accordance with the basic law, there can be no legitimation in the narrower sense of the term, namely the legitimation of domination. And then there is no such

thing as domination.

 

It may seem as if we have become lost in daydreams and tangled up in contradictions. We were talking about politics, about a form of action in which

power is the overriding factor. But at the same time we assumed the existence of a

basic law of political conduct which precluded domination of one group or

individual by another. We have also generalized the concept of legitimate

political conduct in such a way that it can apply to all those engaged in political

activities. In Max Weber’s classical formula, however, authority is identified with

legitimate power. I should like to suggest here that Weber’s third form of

legitimation of domination, namely legitimation by laws, is highly ambiguous

and can be interpreted in accordance with our own analyses.

 

‘Domination‘ describes a relationship between ordering and obeying. If all men

obey the laws (or just one single law) equally, then the word ‘domination’ is

simply a metaphor without any social content. In saying this, I in no way wish to

deny that domination cannot be legitimized by laws, only to emphasize that

legitimation by laws does not necessarily mean the legitimation of domination.

 

In our analysis of the universal principles (moral maxims) of democratic

politics nothing was said about the structure of any society. It goes without saying

that universal principles and the basic law can only in practice act as guidelines

for conduct if all persons (and all nations) have an equal opportunity to participate

in the decision-making process. If this condition is not fulfilled, they function

only as moral maxims which are binding only in the consciences of some

individuals. It is an old truth that property relations determine whether men are

equal enough to enjoy equal freedom. Aristotle regarded (relative) equality of wealth as the first prerequisite for equality of freedom. It is tempting to contrast ‘being’ and ‘having’ as the two possible forms of human existence, but only birds can be free without owning any possessions, and then only in the realm of allegory. I have discussed in detail in another article the proposition that all persons must be

property-owners in order to be free, and merely repeat it here. In the modern

industrialized world, universal ownership of property is only conceivable in the

form of collective ownership, of self-government. If no single individual enjoys

such overwhelming economic power that he can force his political will upon

others, and if everyone enjoys sufficient economic power that they can direct

some of their energies towards the political decision-making process, then one is

only ‘obeying’ laws, not another individual or group, and then it becomes

conceivable that one is obeying the universal political principles and the basic

law. The result is a society without a ruling elite.

 

This does not mean, however, that there exists such a thing as a society without

power. It would be attractive to imagine a society in which power did not exist,

but this would also be a society without politics.

 

If one defines power as the ability of some individuals or social classes to

impose their will upon others, then one cannot speak of power in a society in

which universal political principles are binding on everyone. But this is too

narrow a definition of power. It is still power when some individuals are

empowered to refuse to others the right to act in accordance with their own will

or to satisfy their needs. And in this sense the universal principles are not in any

way inconsistent with the exercise of power.

 

If after public debate it is agreed that a decision may be reached on the basis of

majority opinion (in accordance with the third general maxim), then the minority

is forbidden to assert its will (in accordance with the first maxim). The fourth

maxim enjoins the recognition of all human needs (as long as their satisfaction is

not inconsistent with any of the other maxims), but not the satisfaction of all

these needs. The relative priority of the needs of different social groups is also a

matter for public discussion. So at any given time, there must be some groups

whose needs cannot be satisfied. This means, on the one hand, that power is

decentralized, and on the other hand that power conflicts are resolved by rational

discussion (in Habermas’ sense of the word). It certainly does not mean that there

is no longer any such thing as power.

 

Moreover, a system of politics committed to universal political principles

(moral maxims) excludes neither pragmatism nor political techne. The ability to

propose rational compromises acceptable to all concerned during the course of

a discussion demands certain pragmatic skills. And once a decision has been

reached in accordance with the principles, certain learnable rules must be obeyed

and abilities brought into play when putting it into effect. These may, with

justification, be described as the technical skills of politics. What a system of

politics based on these principles does exclude are ideological and moralizing

politics, since adherence to these principles makes it impossible to set up any

individual way of life or goal as an absolute, ‘the general good’ or ‘all that is

desirable.’

 

The theoretical proposal that universal principles be accepted as binding moral

maxims for a democratic system of politics, therefore, does not seem Utopian at

all, even less so since the principles themselves have been worked out in the

course of a long tradition stretching back more than two hundred years. It is also

clear, however, that today they can only have force as purely moral maxims

founded on individual conscience, since the preconditions for their universalization

as political principles are lacking in society. They do not exist even in liberal-democratic countries where human rights and liberties are respected, as a result of property relations in them, and they are completely absent from the various forms of despotism, where no trace of such principles has yet emerged. In foreign affairs, the establishment of the principles present many difficulties. The inequality in property relations is even more striking here than within individual

states. Political power is more centralized too, and liberal-democratic states are

confronted more frequently with despotic states than with other liberal-democratic

ones. Neither from a philosophical nor a political point of view can we simply acknowledge the fact that liberal-democratic states are impotent. Although,

on the one hand, it would be suicidal to urge that force (that is, the power to compel others to do something) should be completely eliminated from the

arsenal of present-day political strategies, it would, on the other hand,

be even more suicidal to abandon the norms represented by universal

political principles and by so doing aid and abet the enemies of all democratic traditions.

 

You cannot force anyone to be free. You can, however, force them into a

situation in which they have to listen to rational arguments and meet them with

counterarguments. If one forces others into a situation where they have to share

power equally for a short period, the way is then open for rational argument.

This is not a new procedure; it occurs every day when striking workers force

employers to listen to their grievances. From the point of view of democracy,

however, power that has no other purpose than the destruction or suppression of

another group cannot be tolerated. Within a liberal state which respects human

rights and liberties, it is by no means impossible to introduce the above procedure

into all political affairs. The same procedure is much more difficult to apply to foreign affairs. There is, however, no alternative as long as one is determined not to give up hope that democratic politics can become universally established, and if one does not want to see the world edge nearer the catastrophe of a third world war. The principle of such a system of politics would not, of course, be identical with the basic law of democratic politics nor with its principles. It would be: in all your political decisions and activities strive for a balance of power which can bring about the universal acceptance of the political principles (as moral maxims). From the point of view of democratic traditions and the democratic ethos, the acceptance of such principles would not only be honest (principled), but it would also make good pragmatic sense. By ‘good pragmatic sense’ I mean that all other options

can only lead to the self-destruction of all democratic traditions.

 

 

From Praxis International, (1:1) April 1981. Redigitized by Central and Eastern European Online Library – www.ceeol.com