Contra the prevalent way of thinking about the dirty-hands problem, this article suggests that dirty hands need not necessarily entail suffering and that a politician who does not suffer for his dirty-handed acts should not be cast as a bad politician. In so doing, the article: (i) argues that the connection between DH and suffering is unsatisfactorily totalising and rests on a contentious conception of conflict as a dysfunction and (ii) develops an alternative account of the good dirty-handed politician, which is associated with what proponents of the prevalent view of the problem find impossible: calm acceptance of – even indulgence in – one’s dirt. This recognition has important implications for our contemporary culture of contrition and for the way we evaluate the characters of our politicians.
This paper considers three arguments by David Shugarman and Maureen Ramsay for why dirty hands cannot be democratic. The first argues that it is contradictory, in principle, to use undemocratic means to pursue democratic ends. There is a conceptual connection between means and ends such that getting one’s hands dirty is incompatible with acting in accordance with democratic ends. The second claims that using dirty-handed means, in practice, will undermine democracy more than it promotes it and therefore cannot be justified. The final criticism states that politicians with dirty hands are a sign that politics is no longer meeting the criteria necessary to be called democratic. The paper shows that such rejections of democratic dirty hands are based on misunderstandings of the nature of dirty hands and democratic politics.
Responding to Dirty Hands in Politics
How should citizens respond to dirty-hands acts? This issue has been neglected in the theoretical literature, which has focused on the dilemma facing the politician and not on the appropriate responses of citizens. Nevertheless, dirty-hands scenarios pose a serious dilemma for the democratic citizens as well: we cannot simply condone the dirtyhanded act but should instead express our moral condemnation and disapproval. One way of doing this is through blame and punishment. However, this proposal is unsatisfactory, as dirty-hands agents commit wrongdoing through no fault of their own. I argue that we ought to make conceptual space for an idea of no-fault responsibility – and a corresponding notion of no-fault forgiveness – according to which we can hold agents to obligations without blaming them.
This article considers Sartre's perspective on political violence with reference to his 1948 play Dirty Hands. Focusing on the concrete political questions that confronted Sartre in his context, it traces the development and result of conversations with Merleau-Ponty, Camus and the Marxist tradition that shaped his thinking on this subject. At the end of this dialectical process, Sartre arrived at a position that refused both bourgeois humanism, with its disavowal of political violence, and what is here termed Official Communism – the prevailing Manichean politics of his day and the institutionalized repression that went along with it. In other words, he affirmed the violence of the political without by that token affirming the politics of violence. It is argued here that these conversations and this conclusion are dramatically illustrated in Dirty Hands.
In Being and Nothingness (1943), Sartre explains love as a strategy for achieving control over "being-for-others," the objectified aspect of the self-imposed by others' defining looks. Two contemporaneous fictions by Sartre, The Room (1939) and Dirty Hands (1948), expand the notions of love and of being-for-others in surprising directions. Dirty Hands shows the creative, productive potential of being-for-others: Hugo's reliance on the other for his self-definition paradoxically generates his decisive embrace of being for-itself. The Room dramatizes the role of the family in constituting a child's subjectivity: Eve's family situation explains her ontological imprisonment in the dimension of being-for-others. The two stories' tolerant vision of the complex social and psychological reasons for adopting being-for-others as one's dominant modality contrasts with Sartre's rigorous critique of reliance on being-for-others as a form of bad faith in Being and Nothingness. The fictions' enlarged perspective on human love and on being-for-others provides a framework for complicating and critiquing the ontological categories presented in Being and Nothingness.
Adrian van den Hoven
Neither the apparently cold-blooded murder of a complete stranger, the central event in The Stranger, nor Hugo's murder of Hoederer in Dirty Hands—a political assassination or crime of passion, depending on how one views it—can be considered unusual acts, in literature or in life. The topic of murder has itself created an extremely popular genre: the detective novel or "whodunit," which has become a huge industry and has aficionados everywhere, Sartre being one. In French theater, the topic of political assassination has resulted in such famous plays as de Musset's Lorenzaccio (1834), which ostensibly deals with Florence in the sixteenth century and the tyrannical Alexandre de Médicis, who is assassinated by his young cousin, but is in fact "a limpid transposition of the failed revolution of July 1830." It is well known that Sartre was an admirer of Musset and Romantic theater. In 1946, Jean Cocteau, who helped with the staging of Les Mains sales (Dirty Hands), wrote L'Aigle ` deux têtes (The Two-Headed Eagle), which was inspired "by the sad life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria and her tragic death by the hand of the Franco-Italian assassin, Luigi Lucheni." Sartre himself, in Nausea, has Anny use the engraving in Michelet's Histoire de France depicting the assassination of the Duke de Guise as a perfect illustration of "privileged situations."
This article considers Sartre's relations with the French Communist Party (PCF) in the years immediately following the Liberation when the PCF considered that, of all the prominent French intellectuals, it was Sartre who posed the greatest threat. This article opens by situating the PCF within the French political landscape immediately after the Liberation and addressing its attitudes towards intellectuals. It then examines the main themes of the attacks launched by the PCF, between 1944 and the staging of Les Mains sales (Dirty Hands) in 1948, on both Sartre and existentialism and the reasons for these attacks. It concludes by noting the differences between the PCF and Sartre on three specific political issues during this period.
Sartre's evocation of ideological socialism in Dirty Hands' protagonist Hugo, as opposed to the pragmatism of the realist, Hoederer, found an attentive audience in April 1948. The means are justified by the ends, Hoederer insists, although that means “getting one's hands dirty.“ Eighteen months later, Camus produced Les Justes, which offers an implicit rebuttal of Sartre's position. Kaliayev-like Hugo, an idealist and an intellectual-is rebuked by his hard-line colleague, Fedorov, for failing to throw his grenade at the Archduke's carriage merely because he was accompanied by children. Kaliayev's vindication of the individual's moral conscience, even in the midst of collective action, counters Hoederer's position. For Camus, the ends do not necessarily justify the means; there are always lines to be drawn in the name of an ethical stance which, ultimately, protects human dignity from the allure of morally compromised “progress.“ Consideration of each playwright's notion of authenticity, as embodied in their respective protagonists, leads us to consider whether Sartre had, in effect, anticipated Kaliayev in the person of Hugo and foreshadowed his critique of Camus's L'Homme révolté, which led to their definitive quarrel.
The reawakening of interest in Sartre outside of specialist circles prompted by the publication of Lévy’s Le siècle de Sartre shows no sign of abating as we move into the new century. In England, it is true, a combination of endemic anti-intellectualism and age-old francophobia has conspired to ensure that Sartre’s face has sadly not graced the covers of Hello! Magazine or Home and Garden, but the theatre has proved more welcoming. Following Richard Eyre’s revival of Dirty Hands in Spring 2000, there have been two new productions of No Exit. The later of the two (Spring 2001) was unfortunately too recent for Ben O’Donohoe to be able to include in his witty review, in this issue, of the reception of Sartre’s theatre in the USA and UK; however, if the publicity bumph is anything to go by (‘Hilarious!’, ‘Uproariously funny!’) the director would appear to have tapped into a rich comic vein that had remained concealed these fifty-five years past.
Intergenerational Democracy and the Political Epidemiology of COVID-19
“dirty hands” because expedience or prudence demands that an individual or group be categorized as an exception, or as “bare life” over and against which the lives of fully qualified citizens are valued. Historically, children and youth represent the