Can Realism Move Beyond a Methodenstreit?The Political Theory of Political Thinking: The Anatomy of a Practice, by FreedenMichael. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.Liberal Realism: A Realist Theory of Liberal Politics, by SleatMatt. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2013 [Book Review]

Political Theory 44 (3):410-420 (2016)
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Is there more to the recent surge in political realism than just a debate on how best to continue doing what political theorists are already doing? I use two recent books, by Michael Freeden and Matt Sleat, as a testing ground for realism’s claims about its import on the discipline. I argue that both book take realism beyond the Methodenstreit, though each in a different direction: Freeden’s takes us in the realm of meta-metatheory, Sleat’s is a genuine exercise in grounding liberal normative theory in a non-moralistic way. I conclude with wider methodological observations. I argue that unlike communitarianism (the previous contender for the discipline’s renewal), realism has the potential to open new vistas, though their novelty is to a large extent relative to the last forty years or so: realism is best thought of as a return to a more traditional way of doing political philosophy.

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Enzo Rossi
University of Amsterdam


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