- “ideal theory”
Do you consider that your work belongs to the field of "political theory", and why?
I see myself very much as a political theorist. I sometimes describe myself as a contemporary political theorist (though see more on that below), sometimes as a normative theorist (though disliking the suggestion that one deals only in norms and never in facts), and perhaps most frequently describe myself as a feminist political theorist. I enjoy the last because it indicates something of my political commitments. It is also important to me in disrupting frequent assumptions about the irrelevance of gender to our pursuits. To put this more generally, I see political theory as playing a key role in disrupting assumptions: this is a large part of what draws me to the field. What differentiates us from our more self-described "scientific" colleagues is not a lack of interest in what happens in politics, nor even a lack of empirical knowledge (although no doubt we could all do better on this score). It is, rather, the perception that the concepts typically employed in political discussion, like rights, equality, democracy, and representation, are very far from self-evident. They have often disturbing histories; they can operate as ideologies even when contributing to analysis; and each one of them lends itself to competing interpretations. This means that much of what we do is to complicate what might otherwise appear simple. This, of course, is what people so often criticise in academics: they see us as delighting in the complications, as seeing things from too many different angles, and as paralysing action in the process…
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