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8 - The new realism : from modus vivendi to justice

from Part II - The challenge of realism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Bonnie Honig
Northwestern University
Marc Stears
University of Oxford
Jonathan Floyd
University of Oxford
Marc Stears
University of Oxford
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Political theorists periodically go public to fault their subdiscipline for its flaws. As the chapters of this volume demonstrate, the critique is often that political theory is too ahistorical, abstract and removed from the political realities theory is supposed to help us understand. Caught up in canonical texts, gripped by ideal questions never asked by real politicians, like ‘what is justice?’ or ‘which is the best regime?’ or ‘how are subjects formed?’, political theory is said to list too far to one side, becoming all theory, no politics. On the other hand, when political theorists correct the imbalance and turn to complex historical case studies or the practicalities of daily life, they are accused of abandoning the big questions and grand narratives that dignify their mode of inquiry and distinguish it from mere journalism. Both timeless and timebound, it sometimes seems that political theory can do no right.

Political Philosophy versus History?
Contextualism and Real Politics in Contemporary Political Thought
, pp. 177 - 205
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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