January 21, 2022

The qualification of statesman—in the feminine, stateswoman—distinguishes, among the political leaders of a country, those who run the state and hold the real executive power, i.e. the head of state in title (provided that his functions are not of pure representation like those of many constitutional monarchs), the head of government and his ministers, especially the holders of sovereign functions [ref. necessary]. The term can also refer to political figures who do not effectively lead the state, but are deemed to have the capacity to do so in the event of access to power. This qualifier can have an ameliorative aspect, and aim to underline the capacity of the state figure to rise above partisan divisions to seek the only common good, as well as the acuteness of his awareness of his own responsibilities.

The figure of the statesman in Antiquity


Plato, like Socrates, is very critical of statesmen. In the Gorgias, he compares the statesmen of his time to bad cooks: they would have “regaled the Athenians by serving them whatever flattered their desires”. Plato's critique rests on the idea that "these vaunted statesmen have been unable to teach their own political worth", and that therefore they would not really possess them.


According to Aristotle, "if the first duty of the statesman is to know the constitution which must generally pass for the best that most cities can receive, it must be admitted that most often political writers, while showing of a great talent, were mistaken on the capital points. It is not enough to imagine a perfect government; what is needed above all is a practicable government, easy to apply and common to all the States. »

The figure of the statesman versus that of the simple politician

According to James Freeman Clarke, the difference between the simple politician and the statesman is that the first seeks to win the next elections while the second thinks of the interest of the next generations.

The main characteristics of the statesman

According to the doctoral student in the philosophy department at the University of Montreal Antoine Dionne Charest, there are at least two things that characterize a statesman: representation and service. As a representative, the statesman not only represents state institutions to citizens and society but also (since the state is usually attached to them) the nation, i.e. a common territory, a language and a common culture, a common history. As a servant, he serves the citizens, the society, the state and the nation at the same time and he puts the common good before his personal interests. According to Antoine Dionne Charest, the priority of the common good is the first duty of any statesman. For senior civil servant Jean Serisé interviewed by Le Figaro Magazine, statesmen and women are characterized by several traits: not getting rich thanks to their situation, assimilating facts quickly, adapting to circumstances, rising to the above events and dig their own grave. On this last point, the author notes: “The statesman takes decisions without being forced to do so, which he knows will lead to his downfall. It is impossible for them to do anything other than what they believe they should do", like Charles de Gaulle with the referendum on the Senate or Valéry Giscard d'Estaing with abortion, the right to vote at 18 or taxes. on capital gains.


See also

External links

(en) Profession Statesman on France 24


Nicholas Machiavelli, The

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