Volume 48, Issue 1, January 2022
Realistic and Pragmatic Approaches to Democratic Legitimacy
Realism against Legitimacy
For a Radical, Action-Oriented Political Realism
This article challenges the association between realist methodology and ideals of legitimacy. Many who seek a more “realistic” or “political” approach to political theory replace the familiar orientation towards a state of (perfect) justice with a structurally similar orientation towards a state of (sufficient) legitimacy. As a result, they fail to provide more reliable practical guidance, and wrongly displace radical demands. Rather than orienting action towards any state of affairs, I suggest that a more practically useful approach to political theory would directly address judgments, by comparing the concrete possibilities for action faced by real political actors.