Articles by SSE Riga Assistant Professor Xavier Landes in French media
Wednesday 05/07/2017

Articles by SSE Riga Assistant Professor Xavier Landes in French media

SSE Riga Assistant Professor Xavier Landes recently has written two articles for the online magazine Slate France, which covers current affairs, politics, and culture.

In this article, "Our constant moral indignation pulls our society down", Xavier Landes (SSE Riga) and Pierre-Yves Néron (Université Catholique de Lille) argue that moral grandstanding has numerous negative consequences in addition to being intrinsically problematic.

Moral grandstanding means defending radical positions in order to signal our moral virtue and distinguish ourselves. Everyone indulges in moral grandstanding at some point, especially in social media such as Facebook. Moral grandstanding has four adverse effects:

  • it is a race to the bottom
  • it perverts political debate by polarizing positions and devaluing compromise
  • it serves as a tool of social distinction between (pseudo) virtuous elites and the rest of the population, therefore violating equality among citizens
  • finally, it is endemic in academia, which is worrisome, in light of the importance of good-faith debate and critical thinking for scientific inquiry

Red the full article (in French) at


In his second article, “Conservatism is also in crisis”, Xavier Landes refers to the fact that the recent elections in the US and France have demonstrated that it is not only the left which is experiencing a crisis, but conservatism too. In The Conscience of a Liberal (2007), Paul Krugman considers that conservative politicians have deserted the centre of the political spectrum, becoming more ideological, especially in their opposition to the welfare state. Also, the left has moved toward the centre and faces conservatives that are less prone to compromises than they were a couple of decades ago. “Elaborating on Krugman’s analysis, I believe that conservatism is in crisis,” says Xavier Landes.

“One manifestation is the tendency to endorse parts of the rhetoric of the far-right in relation to immigration and Islam (e.g. in France with the ideas of the National Front or in Denmark with Dansk Folkeparti). Furthermore, conservatism not only offers ideological content, it has also been characterized by some dose of pragmatism, i.e. the belief that political changes need to be gradual and that policymakers should take into account existing institutions and conventions,” continues Xavier.

This pragmatic side is particularly visible in Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism. In short, conservatives have traditionally been wary of grand plans of social engineering imposed "from above", by the government. Therefore, the current crisis is ideological, but also practical. It is a crisis of ideas and attitudes. Political conservatism is becoming more reactionary. And this is something about which progressives should worry a lot since it is much more difficult to enter into a fruitful dialogue with reactionary politicians than with conservative ones.

Read the full article (in French) at


Xavier Landes is an assistant professor at SSE Riga. After studying economics, political science and philosophy, Landes got his Ph.D. in philosophy from Université de Montréal in 2008. He has worked at various institutions such as Université de Montréal (CRE), the University of Toronto (Centre for Ethics), the University of Copenhagen, Université Catholique de Lille, and Institut d'Études Politiques de Lille. His fields of specialization are political philosophy and normative economics with an emphasis on business ethics, happiness and the welfare state. His present project at SSE Riga is to determine the moral obligations of public and private institutions, mostly the state, corporations and markets, in relation to well-being and sustainability.

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