Political Utopias: Contemporary Debates
Political theory, from antiquity to the present, has been divided over the relationship between the requirements of justice and the limitations of persons and institutions to meet those requirements. Some theorists hold that a theory of justice should be utopian or idealistic–that the derivation of the correct principles of justice should not take into account human and institutional limitations. Others insist on a realist or non-utopian view, according to which feasibility–facts about what is possible given human and institutional limitations–is a constraint on principles of justice. In recent years, the relationship between the ideal and the real has become the subject of renewed scholarly interest. This anthology aims to represent the contemporary state of this classic debate. By and large, contributors to the volume deny that the choice between realism and idealism is binary. Rather, there is a continuum between realism and idealism that locates these extremes of each view at opposite poles. The contributors, therefore, tend to occupy middle positions, only leaning in the ideal or non-ideal direction. Together, their contributions not only represent a wide array of attractive positions in the new literature on the topic, but also collectively advance how we understand the difference between idealism and realism itself.
“This is a compelling representative of a positive trend in social and political philosophy: the exploration of the space between the extremes of idealism and realism. The idea motivating this collection is that there is more than one way to mix ideal and non-ideal elements in one’s political theorizing. Each contributor marks a different point on a continuum, with David Estlund’s contribution on prime justice the most idealistic and David Wiens’s the most realistic … All in all, this book contains an impressively wide range of views while still retaining a set of linked themes.”
–Patrick Taylor Smith, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews