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Living with adultery

Under the old code of behaviour, if you committed adultery you kept it discreet and people pretended not to notice. This hyprocrisy worked, says Jonathan Rauch-it discouraged infidelity while accommodating human nature. Now adulterers like Bill Clinton are legally pursued but morally excused

By Jonathan Rauch   March 1998

A famous and prestigious company-one that you have heard of-recently named an adulterer to a very senior post. This is no ordinary adulterer; he got the other woman pregnant and then left his wife and child for her. He makes no secret of this; but he was promoted anyway.

Not many years ago we would have known how to deal with this man. People in his social circle would have been scandalised. His company would have found a reason to sideline him. He would have retained a job, probably a good one; but his life would never have been the…

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