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Philosophy and Real Politics

by Raymond Geuss Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
08/2008
ISBN:
9780691137889
Format:
Hbk 128 pages
Price:
AU$59.99 NZ$63.47
Product Status: Not Our Publication - we no longer distribute
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Instructors
& Academics:
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.

Raymond Geuss teaches philosophy at the University of Cambridge. His books include Outside Ethics (Princeton), Public Goods, Private Goods (Princeton), and The Idea of a Critical Theory.

Endorsements:

''In this new study, Raymond Geuss mobilizes the strength of analytical philosophy to subvert the theoretical premises of contemporary political philosophy. He replaces its fixation on ideal norms and its abstraction from real confrontations with an orientation toward contexts of action and a rigorous concentration on the importance of political power. It is fascinating to see the result: a political philosophy that is once again a kind of intellectual craft, historically situated and locally engaged.''--Axel Honneth, J. W. Goethe University, Frankfurt

Raymond Geuss is the most sophisticated and subtle philosopher who takes seriously the tradition of critical theory. His critique of formal political philosophy--including in neo-Kantian philosophy like that of the late John Rawls--that shuns the crucial roles of power, historical context, and political action is powerful and persuasive. This grand text is an intellectual breath of fresh air.''--Cornel West, Princeton University

''Raymond Geuss's short, brilliant, and provocative book forces on political philosophers questions that we often prefer not to raise, let alone answer. Geuss takes seriously the disturbingly untidy character of many political transactions and the dangers of idealized abstractions. His ruthlessness toward Nozick and Rawls is in striking contrast to the attitudes of most of their critics. And Geuss lives dangerously, prescribing remedies drawn from Lenin, Nietzsche, and Weber that may have unpredictable side effects.''--Alasdair MacIntyre, University of Notre Dame

''This is a small gem of a book. With his other recent work, it establishes Geuss as a unique voice in political theory. Not everyone will find his arguments persuasive, and some will doubtless take offense, but there is something interesting, perceptive, and thought provoking on every page. It will stir debate.''--Glyn Morgan, Harvard University


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

In this new study, Raymond Geuss mobilizes the strength of analytical philosophy to subvert the theoretical premises of contemporary political philosophy. He replaces its fixation on ideal norms and its abstraction from real confrontations with an orientation toward contexts of action and a rigorous concentration on the importance of political power. It is fascinating to see the result: a political philosophy that is once again a kind of intellectual craft, historically situated and locally engaged. Axel Honneth, J. W. Goethe University, Frankfurt Raymond Geuss is the most sophisticated and subtle philosopher who takes seriously the tradition of critical theory. His critique of formal political philosophy--including in neo-Kantian philosophy like that of the late John Rawls--that shuns the crucial roles of power, historical context, and political action is powerful and persuasive. This grand text is an intellectual breath of fresh air. Cornel West, Princeton University Raymond Geuss's short, brilliant, and provocative book forces on political philosophers questions that we often prefer not to raise, let alone answer. Geuss takes seriously the disturbingly untidy character of many political transactions and the dangers of idealized abstractions. His ruthlessness toward Nozick and Rawls is in striking contrast to the attitudes of most of their critics. And Geuss lives dangerously, prescribing remedies drawn from Lenin, Nietzsche, and Weber that may have unpredictable side effects. Alasdair MacIntyre, University of Notre Dame This is a small gem of a book. With his other recent work, it establishes Geuss as a unique voice in political theory. Not everyone will find his arguments persuasive, and some will doubtless take offense, but there is something interesting, perceptive, and thought provoking on every page. It will stir debate. Glyn Morgan, Harvard University There is much to learn from and disagree with here. This book is vigorous in its arguments, displays an impressive historical sweep, and on several occasions gets in the perfect skewering criticism. Leif Wenar, University of Sheffield A discipline-altering book. Glen Newey London Review of Books 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 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
Raymond Geuss teaches philosophy at the University of Cambridge. His books include Outside Ethics (Princeton), Public Goods, Private Goods (Princeton), and The Idea of a Critical Theory.