ABSTRACT

By making evil the sovereign moral concept in political thought, we reveal a distinctive civic ethic that is preventive in its orientation. In the previous chapter, I characterised this preventive ethic as an ethic of austerity. In the remaining chapters of the book, I shall elaborate the core virtues that may be expected to feature in any instantiation of the austerity ethic, alongside the virtue of austerity itself. As noted, the central virtues I have in mind include justice, mutuality and hope. It makes sense to begin with justice, simply because it is so often the overriding preoccupation in public ethical debate. But this is not meant to imply a system of priority that treats justice as the ‘fi rst virtue’ of public life and the others as somehow subordinate. As we shall see, both mutuality and hope are so deeply implicated in the work of justice that any determinate system of priority is rendered unintelligible. Without them, the preventive ethic, in whatever form, would be unsustainable.