By Glen Newey
Why do political philosophers draw back from politics? Glen Newey bargains a not easy and unique critique of liberalism, the dominant political philosophy of our time, tackling such key matters as country legitimacy, value-pluralism, neutrality, the character of politics, public cause, and morality in politics. studying significant liberal theorists, Newey argues that liberalism bypasses politics since it ignores or misunderstands human motivation, and elevates educational systembuilding over political realities of clash and gear.
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Additional info for After Politics: The Rejection of Politics in Contemporary Liberal Philosophy
Intractable difficulties also attend the strong form of semantic realism which Skinner’s approach demands – not because there are problems in defending a truth-conditional semantics, but because it is far from clear, even in principle, what the relevant truth-conditions would consist in. Given that, the theoretical space exists for radical disagreement over what counts as hermeneutic success, even within a blankly realist view of truth-conditions. 20 After Politics More notable for present purposes, however, is that the project of political design, if viable, would leave it quite unclear why present-day political philosophers should take any professional interest in their discipline’s history (assuming that on this approach there was something with sufficient institutional or thematic integrity to constitute such a history).
It is fair to ask why this reductivist programme in political philosophy is so widely pursued, if it is as odd as I allege. I address this question below. The rejection of politics My major explanation of the reductivist tendency will invoke politics itself, and not just theorising about it. The rejection of politics is a phenomenon witnessed well beyond academic political philosophy. The most basic reason for the rejection of politics is mistrust of it, and the distaste which political practice, and political professionals, so often engender.
The alternative is a theory which is empty because inapplicable, and inapplicable because not tailored to human agency; it is an apt target for Marx’s stricture on theorists who, losing themselves ever further in abstraction from the world, fancy that they are penetrating ever closer to its core. The characteristic move of the theories of morality and practical reasoning most influential since the Enlightenment is to offer a reductivist analysis. A given moral theory offers its preferred conception of the true or primordial moral concept(s) – usually, a ‘thin’ concept such as that of the good, or the right – and duly issues a set of theory-approved prescriptions for understanding moral agency; the latter may be construed in terms of states of the agent in acting, or states of affairs aimed at by moral action, or some hybrid of the two.