Prescribing Institutions Without Ideal Theory

Journal of Political Philosophy 20 (1):45-70 (2012)
Authors
David Wiens
University of California, San Diego
Abstract
It is conventional wisdom among political philosophers that ideal principles of justice must guide our attempts to design institutions to avert actual injustice. Call this the ideal guidance approach. I argue that this view is misguided— ideal principles of justice are not appropriate "guiding principles" that actual institutions must aim to realize, even if only approximately. Fortunately, the conventional wisdom is also avoidable. In this paper, I develop an alternative approach to institutional design, which I call institutional failure analysis. The basic intuition of this approach is that our moral assessment of institutional proposals is most effective when we proceed from a detailed understanding of the causal processes generating problematic social outcomes. Failure analysis takes the institutional primary design task to be obviating or averting institutional failures. Consequently, failure analysis enables theorists to prescribe more effective solutions to actual injustice because its focuses on understanding the injustice, rather than specifying an ideal of justice
Keywords ideal theory  nonideal theory  institutional design  failure analysis
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DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9760.2010.00387.x
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References found in this work BETA

The Idea of Justice.Amartya Sen - 2009 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
The Law of Peoples.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
Philosophy and Real Politics.Raymond Geuss - 2008 - Princeton University Press.
World Poverty and Human Rights.Thomas Pogge - 2005 - Ethics and International Affairs 19 (1):1–7.
A Theory of Justice.John Rawls - 2009 - In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Philosophy and Rhetoric. Oxford University Press. pp. 133-135.

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Citations of this work BETA

Ideal Vs. Non-Ideal Theory: A Conceptual Map.Laura Valentini - 2012 - Philosophy Compass 7 (9):654-664.
Political Ideals and the Feasibility Frontier.David Wiens - 2015 - Economics and Philosophy 31 (3):447-477.
Global Justice and Global Realities.S. Nili - 2016 - Journal of International Political Theory 12 (2):200-216.
Assessing Ideal Theories: Lessons From the Theory of Second Best.David Wiens - 2016 - Politics, Philosophy, and Economics 15 (2):132-149.
Rawls’ Methodological Blueprint.Jonathan Floyd - 2017 - European Journal of Political Theory 16 (3):367-381.

View all 16 citations / Add more citations

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