This essay engages critically with the recent emergence of "political realism" in political theory (centrally in the work of Raymond Geuss and Bernard Williams). While sympathetic to and convinced of the importance of the core of the enterprise which it identifies, the essay is critical of some of the claims made about the independence of politics from morality and the historically contingent character of political values, and suggests that realism may itself succumb to illusion. The final section sketches an account (...) of the nature of evaluative judgment in the study of politics and, in conclusion, defends both the pluralist character of political theory and the pressing importance of the questions that realism raises and that are inadequately attended to by the bulk of post-war political theory. (shrink)
This article argues for greater realism in political theory with respect to judgements about what politicians ought to do and how they ought to act. It shows that there are major problems in deducing what a given politician should do from the value commitments that are common to liberalism and it makes a case for recognizing the major role played by the context of action and particular agent involved. It distinguishes political virtue from moral virtues and argues that the ‘decisionist’ (...) features of political agency render evaluation a partly post hoc process. The article advocates a version of political realism that is rooted in an understanding of the distinctive character of political rule and that provides the basis for a contextualist but non-relativist account of ‘what is to be done’. (shrink)
This study examines the writings and thought of Thomas Paine and his commitment to democracy and republicanism, showing how the clear, direct style of his rhetoric is intimately linked with the power of his political and religious ideas.