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With radicals like these, who needs conservatives? Doom, gloom, and realism in political theory

Finlayson, L (2017) 'With radicals like these, who needs conservatives? Doom, gloom, and realism in political theory.' European Journal of Political Theory, 16 (3). 264 - 282. ISSN 1474-8851

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Abstract

This paper attempts to get some critical distance on the increasingly fashionable issue of realism in political theory. Realism has an ambiguous status: it is sometimes presented as a radical challenge to the status quo; but it also often appears as a conservative force, aimed at clipping the wings of more ?idealistic? political theorists. I suggest that what we might call ?actually existing realism? is indeed a conservative presence in political philosophy, and that its ambiguous status plays a part in making it so. But I also argue that there is no necessary connection between realism and conservatism. This paper describes the three contingent and suspiciously quick steps which lead from an initial commitment to being attentive to the real world, via a particular kind of pessimism about political possibilities, to an unnecessarily conservative destination. In the process, I try to show how the ubiquitous trinity of realism, pessimism and conservatism might be pulled apart, thus removing the artificial tension between ?being realistic? and the demand for far-reaching social change.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Realism; pessimism; modus vivendi; liberalism; conservatism
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2016 15:38
Last Modified: 18 May 2018 15:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/17392

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