On Being a Realist about Migration

Res Publica 29 (1):129-140 (2023)
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Abstract

Does political realism have anything to contribute to the debates about migration in normative political theory? Anything well-established ‘moralist’ theories do not already acknowledge, that is? Addressing Jaggar’s (_Aristotelian Soc Suppl_ Vol. XCIV, pp. 87–113, 2020) and Finlayson’s (_Aristotelian Soc Suppl_ Vol. XCIV, pp. 115–139, 2020) critical intercessions into contemporary discourse about migration I argue that a political realist approach to the theory of migration faces what I call the ‘surplus challenge’: realists supposedly have no normative surplus over (liberal) cosmopolitan and nationalist moralist approaches. This nothing-more-to-add narrative is a common argument against the possibility and integrity of political realism (as seen in, _inter alia_, Leader-Maynard and Worsnip in _Ethics_ 128(4), pp. 756–787, 2018). I show how it misconstrues the realist agenda. Finlayson, on the other hand, paints the realist intervention as primarily about paying closer attention to colonialism’s long legacy. A properly radical intrusion, however, addresses the unchecked and unwarranted, overbearing normative power of moral principles. I will conclude that for the realist, shaking up the discipline will not come as easy as pointing at some overly historicised facts. However, and despite this, the realist intervention rightly problematises contemporary philosophy of migration for its moral normativism. A radical realist approach to issues of migration, which unmasks the unjustified ‘microphysics’ political power hiding behind normative veneers, is a properly cataclysmic intrusion and the right way forward.

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Adrian Kreutz
New College, University of Oxford

Citations of this work

Moderate realist ideology critique.Rebecca L. Clark - 2024 - European Journal of Philosophy 32 (1):260-273.
Moderate realist ideology critique.Rebecca L. Clark - 2024 - European Journal of Philosophy (1):260-273.

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References found in this work

Realism in Normative Political Theory.Enzo Rossi & Matt Sleat - 2014 - Philosophy Compass 9 (10):689-701.
Philosophy and Real Politics.Raymond Geuss - 2008 - Princeton University Press.
Being realistic and demanding the impossible.Enzo Rossi - 2019 - Constellations 26 (4):638-652.
Ideology Critique Without Morality: A Radical Realist Approach.Ugur Aytac & Enzo Rossi - 2023 - American Political Science Review 117 (4):1215-1227.

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