Dorothea Gädeke | 2022

How political is Republicanism? Walking the fine line between moralism and realism

in: Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy , Volume 25, Issue 4

‘Politics comes first’. This commitment to an approach to normative theorizing that avoids controversial moralistic assumptions lies at the heart of Richard Bellamy’s defence of republican intergovernmentalism. However, a closer analysis of his argument for the primacy of politics reveals a tension in his account: In seeking to avoid a moralist approach, he seems to be torn between a Kantian Republicanism and a Williamsian Realism – while still holding on to some moralist intuitions. I show how this creates ambiguities on each of the three steps of his core argument, the distinction between legitimacy and justice, the defence of non-domination as the standard of legitimacy and the institutional proposal of a republican intergovernmentalism. And I propose to solve them by strengthening the Kantian Republicanism side of his approach, which, or so I will argue, can walk the fine line between moralism and realism. While – on my reading – this Kantian Republicanism already forms the heart of Bellamy’s account, it would require adjusting the realist conceptual framework on which he relies. And so my proposal is meant as an invitation to engage the underlying and intriguing question that Bellamy’s account raises: in what sense and to what extent is republicanism – whether of a Kantian or any other kind – a political political theory?

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