The recent prominence of the ideal/non-ideal debate is largely due to the fact that it offers a vocabulary in which to diagnose what many see as a key problem of political theory: its relative unwillingness to provide solutions to urgent problems facing people here and now; or for people as they are rather than as they should be. The primary aim of this article is to offer an improved understanding of the territory that the ideal/non-ideal debate relates to. Adapted from the source document.
AbstractThis article examines how the exemplars of ideal theory have addressed what I term 'the problem of preservation'. The 'problem' in question is not so much that a political community must make provisions for its self-preservation, but rather that its provisions must correspond to the intentions and capabilities of its neighbours. This constraint implies that the ability of a political community to pursue ideals rather than power depends heavily on who its neighbours happen to be. This article shows how Aristotle, Rousseau, Kant, and Rawls address this problem by recommending measures such as defensive fortification, collective security, and democratic peace, which, they claim, will dampen the anarchic nature of the international system. It argues that the implausibility of these measures renders the ability of political communities to heed the moral guidance offered by ideal theory contingent at best and impractical at worst. If proponents of ideal theory wish to resist this conclusion, then they must offer a more persuasive answer to the problem of preservation.
In this review piece I assess the theoretical approach employed by Elizabeth Anderson in her book The Imperative of Integration. Anderson advocates a non-ideal theoretical approach to questions of normative political theory. She uses non-ideal arguments to offer a compelling justification of racial integration as a social policy. I unpack her argument to identify some of the important strengths of non-ideal theory. In doing so, I argue that non-ideal approaches provide insights that are necessary for the development of persuasive answers to normative questions, but that are not achievable with ideal theoretical alternatives. Adapted from the source document.