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Mains Practice Questions

  • Q. Ethics and politics are the fields completely opposite to each other. Do you agree? (150 Words)

    19 May, 2022 GS Paper 4 Theoretical Questions


    • Highlight the perceived contradiction between Ethics and Politics
    • Assess their relationship and justify your arguments with examples
    • Present your agreement or disagreement with the statement and conclude with the need to revisit the popular perception of politics


    Ethics and Politics are seen as diametrically opposite domains of human life. While politics is about activities relating to the governance of a country, on the other hand ethics demands adherence to moral values. This contradiction has long puzzled politicians and thinkers and many have tended to taking sides, for example- Political philosophers like Machiavelli and Kautilya treated ethics in politics as an impediment in achieving the political objectives.

    Are Ethics and Politics compatible or antithetical?

    Politics is said to involve use of Machiavellian tactics such as deception, hate mongering, propaganda and demagoguery. All these practices are abhorred in ethical life but politicians often arrest and consolidate power by the use of these tactics.

    For example: In India, we see that crime, horse-trading, political vendetta, money and muscle power dominate the political life of unscrupulous leaders, who win elections despite having such ethical deficiencies in their character and deeds. In history too, disregard for ethics led to meteoric rise of various autocratic leaders like Hitler, Mussolini and Idi Amin who unleashed large scale violence in pursuit of their megalomania.

    Due to its negation of ethics and goal oriented decision making, politics has acquired new concepts like ‘Realpolitik’ and politicians have competed to project themselves as adherents of such political standards, because citizens are socially conditioned to believe that ethics in politics is more or less an expedient tool.

    But all these misconceptions were shattered by one man, who despite having the attributes of a veritable saint did not hesitate to wade into the quagmire of politics, his name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. One of the ‘seven social sins’ recognised by him is “politics without principles”.

    Throughout his political life, he never compromised with his principles and in the course, generated one of the startling political miracles of modern history i.e. demolition of a formidable imperial structure without firing a single bullet.
    Mahatma Gandhi was not alone in his commitment to ethics in politics. Across the world, we have stories of leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela etc. who exhibited unwavering commitment to ethical standards in politics. Even in our legends, characters of such disposition have been eulogized and held in high regard.

    For example, Yudhishthira in Mahabharat, is also known as Dharmaraja which means being the upholder of the Dharma because he was always driven by ethical ideals of justice, peace and tolerance.

    Ethical politics is a desirable democratic value which, when ingrained in a political system leads to eradication of socio-economic exploitation, corruption, disparity in natural resource distribution and inegalitarian practices.

    It would be naive to suggest that ethics and politics are contradictory to each other. Ethics is as important in politics as in any other sphere of life. Politics in present time is often seen in the prism of “winner takes all” narrative, but we need to broaden this definition of politics to include an ethical dimension because as Mahabharat proclaims- ‘Yato Dharma tato Jaya’ i.e. victory lies in upholding the principles in political life.

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