The Question of the Agent of Change

Journal of Political Philosophy 28 (4):355-377 (2019)
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In non-ideal theory, the political philosopher seeks to identify an injustice, synthesize social scientific work to diagnose its underlying causes, and propose morally permissible and potentially efficacious remedies. This paper explores the role in non-ideal theory of the identification of a plausible agent of change who might bring about the proposed remedies. I argue that the question of the agent of change is connected with the other core tasks of diagnosing injustice and proposing practical remedies. In this connection, I criticize two linked postures that nonideal theorists sometimes adopt: a technocratic mode of neutral policy recommendation, whereby philosophers say what “we” must do to address some problem, without attending to the way agency enters the problem and its possible resolution; and the tendency to treat non-ideal theory as primarily consisting int eh enumeration of duties we are failing to fulfill, and specification of who is under what additional duties in light of this shortfall. My argument is that these tendencies fail to register in a coherent way the practical character of political philosophy.



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Ben Laurence
University of Chicago

Citations of this work

Activist‐led Education and Egalitarian Social Change.Cain Shelley - 2021 - Journal of Political Philosophy 29 (4):456-479.
Freedom‐amelioration, transformative change, and emancipatory orders.Lukas Schmid - 2022 - European Journal of Philosophy 30 (4):1378-1392.
Climate obligations and social norms.Stephanie Collins - 2023 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 22 (2):103-125.

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