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Abstract

Modern political discourse is characterised by three pervasive and harmful illusions: the illusions of control, desert and revenge. The illusion of control holds that we can manage our social and economic environment to keep ourselves safe from harm. The illusion of desert holds that in a well governed society people generally get what they deserve. The illusion of revenge holds that it is beneficial and legitimate to punish those who transgress legal and social norms. I discuss the role these illusions play in political debates, drawing on work in social psychology to explain their appeal. I then try to imagine a radically new form of political discourse based on accepting that we are not in control, people do not get what they deserve and coercion is not the answer. I argue that this reimagined politics holds important advantages over the current paradigm.

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