When interest in political realism started to resurge a few years ago, it was not uncommon to interpret realist political theory as a form of non-ideal theorising. This reading has been subjected to extensive criticism. First, realists have argued that political realism cannot be interpreted as merely a form of applied political theory. Second, realists have explained that political realism can defend a role for unfeasible normative prescriptions in political theory. I explain that these developments, besides allowing us to reject interpretations of political realism as a form of non-ideal theory, have given us reason to think of political realism as a form of ideal theory. Yet, when ideal theory enters the picture, a series of methodological questions arise regarding the proper use of ideals. In this paper, I clarify how the relationship between ideal and non-ideal theory ought to be conceptualised in realist political theory. I examine the two major interpretations of the role of ideals that have been provided so far - the target and benchmark interpretations - and I show that neither is compatible with some of the fundamental theoretical commitments of realist political theory. This both allows me to point out the requirements that an interpretation of the relationship between ideal and non-ideal theory must meet to be defined as properly realist and allows me to emphasise the strengths of the realist approach. Accordingly, I propose a new interpretation of the role of ideals, one consistent with realist theoretical commitments: I suggest that realist political ideals ought to be interpreted as models.
Political realism and the relationship between ideal and non-ideal theory / Favara, Greta. - In: CRITICAL REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY. - ISSN 1369-8230. - (2022), pp. 1-22. [10.1080/13698230.2022.2120657]