Staying Human in Politics

The political system is a determining factor in every society. It is shaped by structures, institutions and a political culture – factors that provide the framework for political action. However, what needs to be kept in mind is that politics is always made by human beings. And despite their involvement in the ‘political apparatus’, these people have their own perspectives; perspectives that can never be exclusively limited to the views of their party or their political function. Every single episode in their lives has an impact and makes a unique individual out of each and every politician.

On the basis of this assumption, the project “Staying Human in Politics” aims to examine the challenges to “stay human” faced by current and former Austrian politicians. It aims to find out how they approach such challenges and what role their own values, ideals and needs play in this process.

The idea for this book project emerged from the publication on staying human in the hospitals (“Mensch bleiben im Krankenhaus”, 2013) by Clemens Sedmak. In this publication, Sedmak develops a general outline for humane behaviour in the daily routine of hospitals. Following this approach, “Staying Human in Politics” does not focus on the ‘big issues’ of political ethics, but on typical, specific and maybe even ‘mundane’ situations in the daily lives of Austrian politicians from community to EU levels. What is it they perceive as morally challenging, or even as a dilemma? And what are the opportunities and limits of a responsible treatment of such challenges? “Staying Human in Politics” examines these questions through guided, qualitative interviews with Austrian politicians.

Five topics are at the core of the project:

  • The ‘political system’: general conditions for political action
  • Upheavals and transitions in the lives of politicians
  • Inwardness and personal values
  • Leadership qualities and responsibilities
  • The work-life balance

The research results will be used for a new publication by Clemens Sedmak, called “Staying Human in Politics” (“Mensch bleiben in der Politik”). In the book, Sedmak will provide drafts for ethical guidelines in the daily lives of politicians. The publication is scheduled for autumn 2015 and will be published through Styria Verlag.