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Philosophy and Real Politics
Raymond Geuss

Hardcover | 2008 | $28.95 | £23.95 | ISBN: 9780691137889
128 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400835515 |
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Many contemporary political thinkers are gripped by the belief that their task is to develop an ideal theory of rights or justice for guiding and judging political actions. But in Philosophy and Real Politics, Raymond Geuss argues that philosophers should first try to understand why real political actors behave as they actually do. Far from being applied ethics, politics is a skill that allows people to survive and pursue their goals. To understand politics is to understand the powers, motives, and concepts that people have and that shape how they deal with the problems they face in their particular historical situations.

Philosophy and Real Politics both outlines a historically oriented, realistic political philosophy and criticizes liberal political philosophies based on abstract conceptions of rights and justice. The book is a trenchant critique of established ways of thought and a provocative call for change.


"A discipline-altering book."--Glen Newey, London Review of Books

"[Geuss's] intention in Philosophy and Real Politics, his short, sharp new book, is . . . to introduce a note of realism into contemporary philosophical debates about justice, by force if necessary."--Adam Kirsch, City Journal

"A manifesto for a new political philosophy. . . . Geuss's realist proposal brings forcefully to the contemporary political discussion the idea that philosophy is an engaged discipline, both in the sense of engagee, of directly speaking to the political issues of the day, and in the sense of having its own historical cultural commitments firmly in view."--Katerina Deligiorgi, The Philosopher's Magazine

"Philosophy and Real Politics is an impressive and provocative essay on contemporary Anglo-American political philosophy theory."--Christoph Konrath, Law and Politics Book Review

"[G]iven the current trends in political philosophy, Geuss's book is both timely and extremely important. One of Geuss's many virtues as a political philosopher is his ability to effectively confront philosophical complacency, and this superb book is surely successful in this regard."--David Sherman, Social Theory and Practice

"A slim, devastating critique of the flight towards abstraction and pristine idealism in contemporary liberal political thought--a path led by the late John Rawls. Geuss's work deserves to be far better known."--Sunil Khilnani, Outlook India


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Table of Contents:

Preface vii
Introduction 1
Part I Realism
Who Whom? 23
Priorities, Preferences, Timing 30
Legitimacy 34
Tasks of Political Theory 37
Understanding, Evaluation, Orientation 37
Conceptual Innovation 42
Ideology 50
Part II Failures of Realism
Rights 60
Justice 70
Equality 76
Fairness, Ignorance, Impartiality 80
Power 90
Conclusion 95
Notes 103
Works Cited 109
Index 113

This book has been translated into:

  • German

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Raymond Geuss:

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