Hostname: page-component-cd4964975-8cclj Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-31T04:25:35.044Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Rationalism in Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 November 2015

Reed College
Peter J. Steinberger, Robert H. and Blanche Day Ellis Professor of Political Science and Humanities, Reed College (


Much recent political thought has been devoted to the proposition that neither political endeavor properly understood nor theorizing about such endeavor is or could ever be a kind of rational activity. I examine three broad approaches that celebrate, respectively, rhetorical practices of political persuasion, agonistic conceptions of democracy, and, more generally, a kind of hard-headed critical realism rooted in the plain facts of political life. I argue that criticisms of rationalism in politics associated with these approaches systematically ignore central tenets of what might be called a post-Kantian convergence of recent and important philosophical perspectives and that such perspectives can be enormously useful in addressing and critically evaluating the underlying intellectual structures of political life.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2015 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Abizadeh, Arash. 2007. “On the Philosophy/Rhetoric Binaries: Or, Is Habermasian Discourse Motivationally Impotent?Philosophy and Social Criticism 33 (4): 445–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Arendt, Hannah. 1968. Between Past and Future. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
Audi, Robert. 2001. The Architecture of Reason: The Structure and Substance of Rationality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 6794.Google Scholar
Beiner, Ronald. 1983. Political Judgment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Benhabib, Seyla. 1996. “Toward a Deliberative Model of Democratic Legitimacy.” In Democracy and Difference: Contesting the Boundaries of the Political, ed. Benhabib, Seyla. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 6794.Google Scholar
Bohman, James. 1996. Public Deliberation: Pluralism, Complexity and Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1972. Esquisse d'une théorie de la pratique. Geneva: Droz.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brandom, Robert. 2000. Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Brown, Harold. 1988. Rationality. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Chambers, Simone. 2009. “Rhetoric and the Public Sphere: Has Deliberative Democracy Abandoned Mass Democracy?Political Theory 37 (3): 323–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cohen, Joshua. 1998. “Democracy and Liberty.” In Deliberative Democracy, ed. Elster, John. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 185232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Connolly, William. 1983. The Terms of Political Discourse. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Connolly, William. 1991. Identity/Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Connolly, William. 1997. The Augustinian Imperative. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
Davidson, Donald. 2001. Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Dryzek, John. 2010. “Rhetoric in Democracy: A Systemic Appreciation.” Political Theory 38 (3): 319–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dunn, John. 2000. The Cunning of Unreason. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
Estlund, David M. 2008. Democratic Authority: A Philosophical Framework. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Gadamer, Hans-Georg. 1972. Wahrheit und Methode: Grundzüge einer philosophischen Heremeneutik. Tübingen: Mohr.Google Scholar
Garsten, Bryan. 2006. Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Geuss, Raymond. 2008. Philosophy and Real Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Green, Jeffrey E.. 2010. The Eyes of the People: Democracy in an Age of Spectatorship. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Hegel, G. W. F. 1952 [1807]. Phänomenologie des Geistes. Hamburg: Felix Meiner.Google Scholar
Heidegger, Martin. 1967 [1927]. Sein und Zeit. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer.Google Scholar
Herman, Barbara. 1993. The Practice of Moral Judgment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Honig, Bonnie. 1993. Political Theory and the Displacement of Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Jubb, Robert, and Kurtulmus, A. Faik. 2012. “No Country for Honest Men: Political Philosophers and Real Politics.” Political Studies 60 (3): 539–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lasswell, Harold D. 1936. Politics: Who Gets What, When, How. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
McCabe, David. 2010. Modus Vivendi Liberalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miller, David. 1995. On Nationality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Mouffe, Chantal. 2005. The Democratic Paradox. London: Verso.Google Scholar
Oakeshott, Michael. 1962. “Political Education.” In Rationalism in Politics, ed. Oakeshott, Michael. London: Methuen, 111–36.Google Scholar
Putnam, Hilary. 1981. Reason, Truth and History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Quine, W. V. O. 1950. “Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis.” Journal of Philosophy 47 (22): 621–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rawls, John. 1993. Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Rossi, Enzo. 2012. “Justice, Legitimacy and (Normative) Authority for Political Realists.” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 15 (2): 149–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rossi, Enzo, and Sleat, Matt. 2014. “Realism in Normative Political Theory.” Philosophy Compass 9 (10): 689701 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Runciman, David. 2010. Political Hypocrisy: The Mask of Power, from Hobbes to Orwell and Beyond. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Sangiovanni, Andrea. 2008. “Justice and the Priority of Politics as Morality.” Journal of Political Philosophy 16 (2): 137–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schmitt, Carl. 1996 [1932].The Concept of the Political. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Schnapper, Dominique. 1994. La commaunité des citoyens: sur l'idée moderne de nation. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
Searle, John. 1983. Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shapiro, Ian. 2003. The State of Democratic Theory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Skinner, Quentin. 1972. “Motives, Intentions and the Interpretation of Texts.” New Literary History 3 (2): 393408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Skinner, Quentin. 1996. Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sleat, Matt. 2014. “Legitimacy in Realist Thought: Moralism and Realpolitik.” Political Theory 42 (3): 314–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Steinberger, Peter J. 2000. “The Impossibility of a Political Conception.” Journal of Politics 62 (1): 147–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Steinberger, Peter J. 2015. The Politics of Objectivity: An Essay on the Foundations of Political Conflict. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Strawson, P. F. 1959. Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics. London: Methuen.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Strawson, P. F. 1992. Analysis and Metaphysics: An Introduction to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tarnopolsky, Christina. 2007. “Platonic Reflections on the Aesthetic Dimensions of Deliberative Democracy.” Political Theory 35 (3): 288312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Viroli, Maurizio. 1995. For Love of Country: An Essay on Patriotism and Nationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Williams, Bernard. 2007. In the Beginning Was the Deed: Realism and Moralism in Political Theory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1958. Philosophical Investigations: Third Edition. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
Yack, Bernard. 2006. “Rhetoric and Public Reason: An Aristotelian Theory of Deliberation.” Political Theory 34 (4): 417–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Young, Iris Marion. 1987. “Impartiality and the Civic Public: Some Implications of Feminist Critiques of Moral and Political Theory.” In Feminism as Critique, eds. Benhabib, Seyla and Cornell, Drucilla. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 5676 Google Scholar
Zerilli, Linda. 2012. “Value Pluralism and the Problem of Judgment: Farewell to Public Reason.” Political Theory 40 (1): 631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar