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Political Normativity: a Straw Man or a Genuine Problem for Political Theorizing?

International relations
Political theory
VIRTUAL019
Zoltán Gábor Szucs
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Monday 09:00 - 13:00 (17/05/2021)

Tuesday 09:00 - 13:00 (18/05/2021)

Wednesday 09:00 - 13:00 (19/05/2021)

Thursday 09:00 - 13:00 (20/05/2021)

Friday 09:00 - 13:00 (21/05/2021)


Abstract

The recent revival of realist political theory (Bernard Williams, Raymond Geuss, John Dunn, Mark Philp, William A. Galson, Matt Sleat, Glen Newey, Enzo Rossi, Andrew Sabl, Alison McQueen, Edward Hall, Janosch Prinz, etc.) brought renewed attention to the problem of political normativity as realism is often associated with the view according to which politics is governed by a special set of norms and it has a certain level of autonomy from morality. This alleged connection sparked heated attacks on the part of the critics of realism on the claim of an autonomous political normativity (for instance, Cross 2017 in Constellations; Estlund 2018 in CRISPP; Leader Maynard&Worsnip 2018 in Ethics; Erman &Möller 2018 in Journal of Politics). The aim of the workshop is to reframe this current debate in two respects. First, it seeks to question the credibility of the allegation that realism would be based on a mutally exclusive dichotomy between an autonomous political normativity and moral normativity instead of a complex relationship between political necessities and moral claims. The importance of this aim could be that it can free the problem of political normativity from the deadlock of a fruitless and oversimplyfying ’realism debate’ and open it to a much broader discussion about the political-ethical challenges of politics as a more or less autonomous sphere of social activity that can be seen as relevant to a much wider audience. The point is not to accept the existence of an autonomous political normativity as a given, but, instead, to look at how various answers to this possibility can help us offer better answers to our most pressing contemporary normative questions whether in a realist key or in any other form Second, the workshop seeks to add a historical dimension to the discussion of the problem of political normativity. But, instead of looking for a ’realist tradition’ of classical authors who emphasized the importance of political success or order over justice (e. g. Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes etc.), the proposed historical investigation should focus on two other problems: first, the relationship between modernity and the autonomy of politics (see Quentin Skinner’s famous essay about the concept of the state) and, second, the challenges of an autonomous political sphere to a great variety of political philosophies, ideologies, thinkers. Given these problems, it seems unreasonable to narrow down the problem of political normativity to a ’realism debate’ and overlook the great variety of theoretical reflections on this problem ranging from those who explicitly discussed this problem, but argued against an autonomous political normativity to those who recognized some subordinated role of conflicts between political necessities and moral norms (see, for instance, the Marxian discussion of the ’dirty hands’ problem from György Lukács to Jean-Paul Sartre) on to those who stressed the autonomy of politics in one form or another (see as different thinkers as Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Max Weber, Carl Schmitt, Bernard Williams, Chantal Mouffe etc).

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