ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

Political Normativity: a False Friend for Realist in Political Theory?

Political Theory
Methods
Realism
Liberalism
Normative Theory
Theoretical
Janosch Prinz
Maastricht Universiteit
Janosch Prinz
Maastricht Universiteit

Abstract

In this paper, I will argue that realists should not (principally) rely on the distinctiveness of a political normativity in order to defend the value of their perspective. I will approach this argument through two points. The first will be that realists should be wary of a priori commitments that do not remain open to the shifting patterns of meaning-making of politics. I take this to imply that realists should not make the autonomy of politics one of their key assumptions (or commitments). The autonomy metaphor suggests that there are separate spheres of politics and morality. While realist concerns with the ambition of certain versions of prevalent moral theories (e.g. utilitarianism or deontology) to fully regulate politics with their preferred moral principles are well-founded, the idea of the autonomy of politics often reads like the negative mirror image of such ambition: that politics does not need to consider moral claims. Whether or to what extent this may be the case cannot, however, be determined a priori or outside a particular context. The context for much of contemporary realist political theory is “liberal democracies”, in which moral matters seem to be intertwined with politics in one form or other. Realists should open themselves to a more interpretive approaches, for example such with an ethnographic sensibility, in order to make a stronger connection to the practices of politics, from which which claim to theorize. The second and related point is that whilst realists have concentrated on how political normativity is different from political normativity, they have spent comparatively little time on the concept of normativity. I argue that realists should be careful to consider whether the embrace of “normativity” does not invite back in some of the most. They should do so only after having developed a detailed account of the rise of the notion of “normativity” itself in political philosophy. Should it be closely connected to the kind of moralizing and excessively idealizing prescriptive theorizing that realists reject, any realist account of “political normativity” would have to be an explicitly revisionist account. At the very least, realists should be careful to outline their conception of normativity in an evaluative rather than prescriptive vein.