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Faustian Bargain Vs Principled Position

  • 10 Sep 2022
  • 3 min read

For Mains: Faustian Bargain Vs Principled Position in Politics

What is a Faustian Bargain?

  • About:
    • Its classical definition refers to a pact where someone trades something of supreme moral and spiritual value to them, a core principle which defines their essential being, in return for power, knowledge, or wealth.
    • The idea comes from the German legend of Johann Georg Faust who sold his soul to the devil for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures.
      • This was for a fixed period and it is a tale that has inspired great literature from Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus to Goethe’s drama Faust.
      • In this bargain, Faust’s soul gets reclaimed by the devil for eternity when the contract expires. This is a hard bargain.
    • In modern terms, this means a temporary benefit gained for the suspension, or suppression, of one’s conscience. The guilt of the compromise, however, does not go away.
  • Examples:
    • The Chief Minister of Delhi too might have made such a bargain when he chose not to condemn the release of the 11 men who were convicted for serious crimes in the Bilkis Bano case while campaigning in Gujarat Election.
    • Perhaps deposed Myanmarese leader Aung San Suu Kyi also made a Faustian bargain when she made a deal with the Myanmarese Generals to come to power despite the atrocities by the army against the Rohingya.
    • The case of former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi can also be considered a Faustian deal with the Government that resulted in his nomination to the Rajya Sabha.
    • Faustian bargain, however distasteful and unethical it may be, be justified by better outcomes measured in utilitarian terms.
      • Mr. Kejriwal may produce a better government in Gujarat and Aung San Suu Kyi’s produced a democratic government in Myanmar.

What is the Principled Position?

  • About:
    • In contrast to the Faustian bargain, some politicians prefer not to make compromises believing that it is better to take public positions that are consistent with one’s values rather than adopt a utilitarian calculus of compromise with evil for a future good.
  • Examples:
    • Babasaheb Ambedkar resigned in 1951 when he felt Nehru had undermined his position as the Law Minister on the Hindu Code Bill which he wanted to be discussed.
      • His resignation speech is an artistic statement of the principled position.
    • Gandhiji entered into no Faustian bargain, nor did Nelson Mandela or Jawaharlal Nehru or Rabindranath Tagore.

Source: TH

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