International Political Theory Meets International Public Policy

In Chris Brown & Robyn Eckersley (eds.), Oxford Handbook of International Political Theory. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 480-494 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX


How should International Political Theory (IPT) relate to public policy? Should theorists aspire for their work to be policy- relevant and, if so, in what sense? When can we legitimately criticize a theory for failing to be relevant to practice? To develop a response to these questions, I will consider two issues: (1) the extent to which international political theorists should be concerned that the norms they articulate are precise enough to entail clear practical advice under different empirical circumstances; (2) whether they should provide concrete practical advice on policy choice and institutional reform. These questions are related but distinct, and we should answer each quite differently. Regarding the first, I shall argue that it counts heavily against a theory if it is not precise enough to guide policy and reform given certain empirical assumptions. On the second, I will argue that theorists should be very cautious when engaging with questions of policy and institutional design. Some principles of IPT can be criticized for being insufficiently precise, but a degree of abstraction from concrete policy recommendations is a virtue, rather than a vice, of an element of IPT. I conclude that we should aim to be precise without being concrete. To help fix ideas and anchor my argument, I will discuss these issues with reference to a principle that John Rawls has advocated in his influential work The Law of Peoples (Rawls 1999a): a duty of assistance to societies that lack the capacity to satisfy the basic needs or protect the basic rights of their people.

Author's Profile

Christian Barry
Australian National University


Added to PP

355 (#24,036)

6 months
15 (#54,410)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?