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Death Camps and Designer Dresses: The Liberal Agenda and the Appeal to 'Real Existing Socialism'

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Abstract:

Political philosophers tend to notice their differences more than their similarities. I suggest that contemporary analytic political philosophy in fact exhibits a 'dominant paradigm', the main features of which are a commitment to liberal capitalism and a preference for the designing of 'just institutions.' To subscribe to this paradigm involves making a decision about how to manage the philosophical 'agenda.' In order to focus on certain issues within this paradigm, alternatives, most notably socialism, have to be excluded from prolonged consideration. A popular way of supporting this policy is by reference to the perceived failure of 'real existing socialism.' Taking the late political philosopher Brian Barry, among others, as an example, I argue that this argumentative strategy is unconvincing, and furthermore that its deployment tells a worrying story about the practice of political philosophy.

Keywords: BRIAN BARRY; IDEOLOGY; LIBERALISM; METHODOLOGY; POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY; SOCIALISM

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/th.2011.5812601

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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