The chapter makes the case for a realist approach to the political-ethical experience of living in illiberal regimes. It starts with an explanation for why realism is neither an ideal nor a non-ideal theory: it is because political realism (in its every form) is based on the rejection of what the chapter calls the justificatory model of normative political theory. The justificatory model contends that a satisfactory normative explanation of any political-ethical phenomenon has to rest on a coherent ethical theory. Realism, in contrast, argues that normative political theory cannot be merely an expanded, applied form of ethical theory. It does not necessarily mean that a realist should deny the relevance of moral considerations to politics (even though radical realists might sometimes think so) but at least that any strict distinction between moral and non-moral, facts and values is untenable and that, accordingly, a genuinely political ethics should focus on the all-things-considered answers to the everyday challenges of politics (as liberal realists tend to think). In other words, the chapter argues that it is possible to offer a normative political theory outside the narrow constraints of the justificatory model. The chapter then turns to methodological questions and argues that there are at least two main forms of realist political theory: genealogy (preferred mostly by radical realists) and ethical phenomenology (preferred by liberal realists). After examining both approaches, the chapter contends that the specific purposes of the book an ethical phenomenology with a genealogical edge would be the best option.
The chapter, largely inspired by theories of political obligation, addresses the political-ethical experience of the citizens of illiberal regimes qua citizens. The chapter starts with an explanation of how membership constitutes citizenship, why various forms of membership like membership in a polity, in a political community, and in a political regime largely but not entirely overlap, and why they can even come into conflict with each other. In a regime built on a very strong conviction that the source of the survival of the regime is dependent on widespread actual political support and electoral success and allowing to play political hardball but not encouraging massive falsification of the electoral results, the political office of citizens cannot be simplified into how people are manipulated and oppressed. In fact, people are given plenty of reasons for accepting the terms of the regime and much more than that. It is they who can ultimately decide the fate of the regime. The chapter focuses on three distinct faces of citizenship: citizens as subjects, individuals, and the main constituency of the regime. It shows how these three faces of citizenship are affected by the five principles of action characterizing illiberal regimes and how they shape the demands of constitutional purpose, linkage, and integrity of the office of citizenship in an illiberal regime. The chapter also examines the difference between civil activism and elected magistracy. It argues that civil activism is a member of the family of offices of citizens.
The chapter addresses the political-ethical experience of living in illiberal regimes with the help of the examination of a family of political offices that all have an independent source of authority from politics. The chapter discusses three distinct members of this family of political offices: the offices of civil servants, experts, and judges. In each case, the chapter identifies the independent source of authority that plays a constitutive role in the formation of these offices: the common good, epistemic authority, and justice. Civil servants are supposed to impartially administer the common good and interact with politicians to the extent their office demands them to do so. Experts are supposed to make claims on the basis of their unique access to a body of expert knowledge and they interact with politics insofar as their knowledge has political implications. Judges are supposed to serve justice and defend it against unwarranted political interference. The chapter explains the characteristically illiberal experience of these offices by showing how the demands of their constitutional purposes, linkage, and integrity are filtered through the five basic principles of action of illiberal regimes (egalitarian, competitive, electoral, oligarchic, and self-preservative). It also examines how the political virtues of illiberal constancy and loyalty are needed to meet the complicated challenges of holding these offices. The main difficulty, of course, is that all the principles of action of illiberal regimes are hardly compatible with respecting the claims for independence of the holders of these offices, making the life of these officeholders very tiresome.
The introduction explains how the book has grown out of two interconnected concerns: empirically, a current global wave of de-democratization that led to the emergence of a new generation of authoritarian regimes hiding behind the façade of liberal democracies and, theoretically, the need for a theoretical framework that is capable of capturing this phenomenon in a way that does justice to the circumstances of politics. Hence the main ambition of the book is to offer a realist political-ethical exploration of the experience of people living in illiberal regimes. The challenge here is to avoid the apology of these regimes while appreciating the ethical seriousness of the experience of people living in them. The basic idea is that every form of political rule, in order to survive, has to provide people with plenty of political-ethical reasons to accept their terms of rule, and illiberal regimes are no exceptions. As a consequence, people are given plenty of political-ethical reasons to acquiesce to the terms of these regimes, and if we overlook this aspect of political rule, we will fatally misunderstand the nature of the political-ethical experience of the people living in various forms of political rule. Among other things, we will misunderstand why even the sincerest and the most passionate opposition to illiberal regimes is necessarily an uphill battle in a political-ethical sense. The chapter briefly presents how this problem has long been a recurrent theme of realist political thought as a reason why other approaches to politics are fundamentally unsatisfying.
The chapter explains what an illiberal regime is. It starts with an overview of the comparative politics literature on the gray zone between liberal democracies and fully authoritarian regimes, shows where we can find illiberal regimes in real life, and gives closer attention to the works of Anna Lührmann et al., Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way, and Andreas Schedler, who try to conceptualize the gray zone in terms of electoral democracies, competitive authoritarianism, and electoral authoritarianism. The chapter points to the lower tiers of electoral democracies and upper tiers of electoral authoritarian regimes (in terms of Lührmann et al.’s terminology) as the typical examples of illiberal regimes and then explains why it seemed indispensable, at least for the purposes of the present work, to coin a new term to describe these cases. The main argument of the chapter is that the normative background assumptions of comparative politics have a strong resemblance to the justificatory model, making the realist critique of the latter applicable to the former too. After examining the most problematic points of the normative background assumptions of the comparative politics literature, the chapter proposes a neo-Aristotelian alternative to it emphasizing the impossibility of justifying any regime type in terms of a single, coherent ethical theory of democracy. This is an exercise in genealogy in a realist sense because it traces back the normative assumptions of modern comparative politics to classical regime theory and shows how the latter’s normative assumptions were replaced with the justificatory model.
The main aim of the chapter is to put the theoretical framework of the previous chapters to use and provide the ‘big picture’ about the political-ethical experience of living in illiberal regimes. The chapter starts with the operationalization of the neo-Aristotelian regime theory by translating its general characterization of illiberal regimes into five (egalitarian, competitive, authoritarian, oligarchic, and self-preservative) principles of action that will appear in the everyday considerations of people living in illiberal regimes. The goal is to make the ethics of politics as playing hardball (a constitutive experience of living in illiberal regimes) more accessible to the readers. Then the chapter proceeds with the explication of some important metaethical implications of political realism that are also relevant to the problem of playing hardball, notably: value pluralism, the dirty hands problem, moral dilemmas, and political compromise. The next part of the chapter turns to the question of how various normative contexts (among which political regimes stand out as especially important) shape political agency: after explaining why neither abstract individualism nor social constructivism is a good starting point for understanding the political-ethical experience of actual people in normative political theoretical terms, the chapter examines five types of primary normative contexts that shape political agency and will play an important role in the analysis of the political-ethical experience of living in illiberal regimes in the second part of the book: ad hoc and general reasons for action, political rule, membership in various political associations, political regimes, and political offices, and political virtues.
The book offers a novel – Williamsian liberal realist – normative political theoretical examination of the political-ethical experience of living in illiberal regimes. Starting with a critique of the predominant mode of normative political theory (the justificatory model), the first part of the book explains why such an examination should focus on the various normative contexts which shape political agency by providing people with reasons for action (e.g. ad hoc and general reasons, political rule, membership, political regime types, political offices, and political virtues). It also explains why the main concepts referring to various regime types in comparative politics are not perfectly suitable for such an examination. It is because their normative background assumptions of comparative politics show eerie resemblances to the justificatory model. Therefore, the book offers a neo-Aristotelian alternative to them which is more compatible with a realist enterprise. The second part of the book turns to the examination of three families of political offices and how they shape political agency in an illiberal regime in their own way: the office of elected magistrates, the office of people having some independent source of authority (civil servants, policy experts, judges), and the office of citizens. The main tenet of the book is that it is possible to be critical of illiberal regimes without insisting on the justificatory model and also that it is possible to appreciate the ethical seriousness of the experience of living in illiberal regimes without finding those regimes justifiable.
The chapter explores the political-ethical experience of living in illiberal regimes through the prism of the office of elected magistrates. It examines how the ambition of politicians to seek power and glory through electoral success in illiberal regimes shapes the political-ethical experience of certain people within such regimes. Given that illiberal regimes are built on unfair but real multiparty electoral competitions in order to secure real popular support and that elections in illiberal regimes are always as much about the survival of the regime as about winning elections, the office of elected magistrates plays a uniquely distinguished role in illiberal regimes which provides people who hold or seek elected offices with plenty of reasons to come to terms with the regime. The chapter explains how illiberal ambition is formed by a great variety of potentially conflicting demands of the constitutional purpose of the office, the demands of linkage, and the demands of integrity and carefully examines how these three kinds of demands raised by holding elected office in illiberal regimes are deeply affected by the various principles of action that define illiberal regimes in neo-Aristotelian terms (egalitarian, competitive, electoral, oligarchic, and self-preservative). The chapter pays due attention to the differences between those who are supporters and opponents of the regime and also those who are incumbents and those who only seek to hold an elected position. The specific problem associated with those who are opponents of the regime but hold some elected office (‘incumbents-in-opposition’) is also briefly addressed.
The chapter analyzes the third case study: Brendan Duddy, a businessman from Derry, Northern Ireland. Duddy served as an intermediary between the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and the British government at various times between 1973 and 1993. The analysis focuses on three stages in Duddy’s efforts: the backchannel that Duddy established and led during the PIRA truce (1975), Duddy’s mediation initiatives during the first (1980) and the second (1981) Republican prisoners’ hunger strikes, and the revival of Duddy’s channel in 1990–1993 for clandestine negotiations on conditions for direct official negotiations between the British government and the Republican leadership.
This chapter presents a concluding discussion on the PPEs’ activity and their impact, building on the proposed theoretical framework and the empirical comparative analysis of the four main case studies, alongside the other cases from the broad database. In order to examine the question of the PPEs’ impact, the chapter first analyzes which influence patterns were evident in the PPEs’ activity and which of these were most prevalent and effective. It then examines the impact of variables at three levels: variables related to the PPE, variables related to the initiative, and external variables. The next part analyzes other questions that arise from the research regarding various aspects of the PPE phenomenon: the personality profile of the PPEs, their social characteristics, the risk of misperception and misunderstandings in their activity, PPEs as a historical phenomenon, and the potential of the study’s proposed framework as a basis for future research.