Faustian bargain

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From the medieval legend of Faust, who made a contract with the devil, exchanging his soul for worldly gains.

Noun[edit]

Faustian bargain (plural Faustian bargains)

  1. (idiomatic) An agreement in which a person abandons his or her spiritual values or moral principles in order to obtain wealth or other benefits.
    • 1974, Joel Primack and Frank von Hippel, "Nuclear Reactor Safety," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 30, no. 8 (Oct), p. 5 (Google preview):
      It has been remarked that all technology is a Faustian bargain: one obtains conveniences and sometimes luxuries, but in exchange one gets an increased potential for catastrophe.
    • 1997 July 20, "Blackmail!," Businessweek (international edition) (retrieved 29 Aug 2012):
      But for decades, many executives actually employed sokaiya as muscle to keep unruly investors in check during their choreographed annual meetings. . . . Yet executives' reliance on mobsters turned out to be a Faustian bargain. By the 1970s, the sokaiya had figured out how to become stockholders themselves and threaten to ask embarrassing questions at annual meetings.
    • 2011 March 10, Ellen Barry, "Plain Speaking From Biden in Moscow Speech," New York Times (retrieved 29 Aug 2012):
      Vice President Joseph R. Biden . . . used a speech at Moscow State University to criticize Russia’s legal and political systems. “I urge all you students here: Don’t compromise on the basic elements of democracy. You need not make that Faustian bargain.”

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