The Politics of Moral Capital

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It is often said that politics is an amoral realm of power and interest in which moral judgment is irrelevant. In this book, by contrast, John Kane argues that people's positive moral judgments of political actors and institutions provide leaders with an important resource, which he christens 'moral capital'. Negative judgements cause a loss of moral capital which jeopardizes legitimacy and political survival. Studies of several historical and contemporary leaders - Lincoln, de Gaulle, Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi - illustrate the significance of moral capital for political legitimation, mobilizing support, and the creation of strategic opportunities. In the book's final section, Kane applies his arguments to the American presidency from Kennedy to Clinton. He argues that a moral crisis has afflicted the nation at its mythical heart and has been refracted through and enacted within its central institutions, eroding the moral capital of government and people and undermining the nation's morale.