The contract of fallibility

Efraim Podoksik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper argues that modern political life faces a seemingly irresolvable contradiction. On the one hand, a moral judgement in politics can refer only to the consequences of any policy. On the other hand, in modern society no consequences can be reasonably predicted at the moment a decision is taken. This renders political life unbearable from the moral point of view, because almost any political decision is likely subject to failure in the future. The solution to this dilemma is to understand modern politics as a contract of fallibility, according to which citizens agree to withhold their moral judgements, as long as others do not act as if they assume their own infallibility. The adoption of such a theory might remove the sense of inescapable failure from ethically inclined political actors and emancipate our political discourse from irrational moralistic absolutism. In addition, the contract of fallibility can serve as the most economical justification of modern representative democracy.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)394-414
Number of pages21
JournalContemporary Political Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Consequentialism
  • Contract
  • Dirty hands
  • Ethical politics
  • Fallibility
  • Political judgement


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