“Pierre Maudet must accept his responsibilities” has been a rallying cry of those who want him to step down as Conseiller d’Etat as well as for those who want him to stay. Although both sides use the same language, neither side has explained the nature of “his responsibilities.” Both sides agree, however, that since there is no rule in Geneva governing removal from office, it is up to M. Maudet to determine how he sees his responsibilities.
What are Pierre Maudet’s responsibilities? In a short lecture in 1918, the German political philosopher Max Weber spoke of “politics as a vocation” and an ethic of responsibility. Weber emphasized the outstanding role of charismatic leaders. (Pierre Maudet, was the only Conseiller d’Etat elected on the first ballot in the last Geneva election.) Weber wrote; “Men do not obey him by virtue of tradition or statute, but because they believe in him…The devotion of his disciples, his followers, his personal party friends is oriented to his person and to its qualities.”
Why does Maudet remain popular? The charismatic leader, Weber explained, is driven by his calling. He is followed because of his inner strength derived from that calling. This inner strength is his power; the inner strength creates his position of dominance over his followers.
But who is this charismatic leader? Weber described him as not a typical civil servant. Whereas a civil servant is responsible to his superiors to ensure that the system functions, the political leader is prepared to fight for what he considers to be correct. The leader is not bound by a conventional hierarchical structure; responsibilities are not the same for a civil servant working within an institution and a charismatic political leader.
According to Weber, the charismatic leader is triply responsible; He is responsible for a cause, he is responsible to himself for that cause, he is responsible to himself for his cause. His autonomy, in this sense, remains intact as does his responsibility.
Responsibility is derived from the Latin respondeo, to respond. A charismatic leader, such as Maudet, according to Weber’s analysis, is narcissistic since he is only responsible or responding to himself.
But what is this cause? To find some resolution between politics and ethics and to avoid narcissistic charismatic leaders, Weber distinguished between an ethic of ultimate ends and an ethic of responsibility. The distinction is that in the ethic of ultimate ends “the Christian does rightly and leaves the results with the Lord” and the ethic of responsibility “in which case one has to give an account of the foreseeable results of one’s actions.” And, we should quickly note, in the ethic of responsibility the leader must give account of his actions to himself. Thus, the ethic of ultimate ends and the ethic of responsibility are two sides of the same inner-directed ethic of virtue. For Weber, the ethic of ultimate ends and the ethic of responsibility are complements which “only in unison constitute a genuine man – a man who can have the ‘calling for politics.’”
Martin Luther appears as Weber’s ideal charismatic leader. But Weber nowhere answered the question for what or to whom Luther was responsible. The implicit answer in Luther’s “here I stand” is that Luther was responsible to himself. For what? To whom? In Weber’s two ethics there is no responsibility to other people or for other people. In Geneva, it appears, Pierre Maudet alone will decide his fate. The vote of the general assembly of his party, the PLR, was only to “take the temperature.” Even if the majority had voted against him, there is no guarantee he will resign.
Those supporting Pierre Maudet refuse to consider the consequences of his actions. For them, the personal attributes of M. Maudet trump his self-avowed “unworthy” behavior. And, consequently, the decision as to whether to resign remains within Pierre Maudet’s perception of his actions. The consequences of his actions remain secondary to his cause.
In both of Weber’s cases, the leader’s conscience is subjective. But responsibility to others, or for rules or laws or group-persons, means responsibility to more than self since “the cause” is not “one’s cause.” A true statesman is responsible to the people, and not only to his cause. He is the people’s trustee. The true leader is responsive to others, but in a special responsibility much different from the responsibility of private citizens. M. Maudet’s trip was not a private matter since he is a Conseiller d’Etat.
To be responsible in this case would be for M. Maudet to respond to the wishes of the President of the PLR Suisse, Petra Gössi, to the President of the PLR Genève, Alexandre de Senarclens, and, it appears, also to two Federal Councillors. In addition, according to recent reports, Pierre Maudet’s situation has weakened relations between Bern and Geneva; he has become a pariah.
Weber’s hero, Martin Luther, has often been described as a “lunatic” or “angel.” Pierre Maudet is neither. His political responsibility is for his actions and to the entire population of Geneva. When people say “Pierre Maudet must accept his responsibilities” they should be saying “Pierre Maudet must accept responsibility for his actions to us, the citizens of Geneva.” Pierre Maudet’s responsibility is not only to his conscience.