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A realist theory of liberal politics
Author: Matt Sleat

Events at the beginning of the twenty-first century have served to demonstrate to us the truth of the insight at the heart of the recent renewed interest in realist political theory that politics is characterized by inevitable and endemic disagreement and conflict. Yet much contemporary liberal political theory has taken place against the backdrop of an assumed widespread consensus on liberal values and principles. A central theoretical question for our day is therefore whether liberalism is a theory of politics consonant with the modern world or whether it is grounded in untenable theoretical presumptions and foundations.

This monograph offers the first comprehensive overview of the resurgence of interest in realist political theory and develops a unique and urgent defense of liberal politics in realist terms. Through explorations of the work of a diverse range of thinkers, including Bernard Williams, John Rawls, Raymond Geuss, Judith Shklar, John Gray, Carl Schmitt and Max Weber, the author advances a theory of liberal realism that is consistent with the realist emphasis on disagreement and conflict yet still recognizably liberal in its concern with respecting individuals’ freedom and constraining political power. The result is a unique contribution to the ongoing debates surrounding realism and an original and timely re-imagining of liberal theory for the twenty-first century. This provocative work will be of interest to students and all concerned with the possibility of realizing liberalism and its moral aspirations in today’s world.

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Series: Beginnings
Author: Steven Earnshaw

Terms used to describe artistic practices have different meanings from their common usage, but 'realism' as an aesthetic idea cannot be too far removed from the way we would talk about something 'real'. This book explores the artistry and aesthetics of realist literature, along with the assumptions of realist literature. It examines the different ways in which theorists, critics and philosophers conceptualise 'realism'. The book argues that a 'realist' sensibility is the ground on which other modes of literature often exist. It considers verisimilitude that is associated with the complexity of realism, describing the use of realism in two ways: capital 'R' and small 'r'. A set of realist novels is used to explore preliminary definition of realism. The STOP and THINK section lists some points to consider when thinking about realist works. The book looks at the characteristics of the Realist novel. It deals with the objections raised in discussions of Realism, from the Realist period and twentieth- and twenty-first century criticisms. The book provides information on the novel genre, language that characterises Realism, and selection of novel material. It looks at crucial elements such as stage design, and a technical feature often overlooked, the aside, something which seems non-realistic, and which might offer another view on Realism. The book talks about some writers who straddled both periods from the 1880s and 1890s onwards, until the 1920s/1930s, gradually moved away from Realism to modernism. Literary realism, and Aristotle's and Plato's works in relation to realism are also discussed.

Steven Earnshaw

Introduction In this chapter I aim to give a sense of some of the most important critical work on literary realism from the mid-twentieth century to the present. The field is complex, contributing no doubt to the belief that realism is a ‘slippery’ term, and there can be no attempt here to be comprehensive. I begin by giving a sketch of the different channels of thought and arguments, and also place them in relation to the discussion on the preceding pages. One aspect that will emerge as significant, and which has not been quite so apparent as yet, is the

in Beginning realism
Steven Earnshaw

The reader of realism naturally focuses on content, not style. (Spector in Bloom 1987 : 231) I have made repeated reference to the importance of language in discussions of realism, and in this chapter we look at the different ways in which language is conceptualised in relation to discussion of realism. As I pointed out at the end of Chapter 8 , such a discussion cuts across both literary critical concerns and philosophy. The title ‘The language of Realism’ is not intended to suggest that there is a single aspect to the use of language in realism, but

in Beginning realism
Steven Earnshaw

Philosophy and the realist impulse: Aristotle and Plato As consistently registered in this book, there has been an ever-present realist impulse in literature and art, and the argument has been that in the nineteenth century this combined with other factors to produce the self-conscious Realist aesthetic. Among those factors philosophical and scientific ideas played a large part, although we should also note that philosophy of art prior to this period also advocated versions of realism. However, it is worth pointing out that the term often taken as synonymous

in Beginning realism
Matt Sleat

7 The moderate hegemony of liberal realism Legitimacy is a central concept in realist thought. Though the popular caricature of realism, especially in international relations theory, encourages the view that might is synonymous with right, that the ability to rule is the same as the right to do so, realists have often stressed that this is not the case. Rather, there is an important difference between rule as mere domination and rule as authoritative that the concept of legitimacy allows us to determine. This begs the obvious question of how liberal realism

in Liberal realism
Matt Sleat

6 The partisan foundations of liberal realism The aim of this chapter is to explore the ramifications for liberal theory of taking seriously the fact of political pluralism that incorporating the realist vision of politics demands. Any political theory that requires addressing or managing pluralism, be it moral, religious or political, will need to have an account of the origin and nature of that disagreement, for this will be crucial in determining the appropriate response. Realism has offered several different such accounts ranging from the clash of interests

in Liberal realism
Matt Sleat

5 Bernard Williams and the structure of liberal realism The hankering for political consensus that lies at the heart of liberal theory is not some epiphenomenal offshoot of an underlying epistemological commitment to a form of Platonism or value monism, but is driven by the moral commitment to place theoretical and practical limitations on the ends to which political coercive power can be put. This is a noble objective. Yet as we saw in the previous chapter, even attempts to modify the nature and content of the required consensus to a set of less substantial but

in Liberal realism
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Philip Cunliffe

The International Relations (IR) theory of realism and the practice of peacekeeping would seem to be at odds with each other. Realist theorising in IR is traditionally focused on, for example, grand questions of geopolitical rivalry between major powers, on arms races between industrialised states with sophisticated weapons systems, on the dynamics of military and nuclear strategy. For realists, international peace is only ever a temporary reprieve and one produced by shifting alliances of mutual convenience and interest calibrated by the

in United Nations peace operations and International Relations theory
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A. J. Coates

1 Realism Realism resists the application of morality to war. Such resistance is typically part of a more general moral scepticism that is applied not just to the extreme circumstance of war but to international relations in general. The reason for this resistance is twofold. In the first place, it springs from the conviction that the reality in question is morally intractable, the dynamics of international relations and war being seen to confound most, if not all, attempts to apply an alien, moral structure to them. Secondly, and more urgently, it arises from

in The ethics of war