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Some critics have argued that political theory is just political philosophy with some of its conceptual depth stripped away. In France, Germany, and throughout continental Europe more generally, completing a course of study in political philosophy has generally led to a position at a university or large research institution, where one could hope to work with “real” philosophy, to elaborate dense theoretical worlds, and to study the classics, whether ancient or modern. Others authors are viewed as a secondary literature. This can have significant drawbacks when political philosophy is limited to the exegesis of well-known authors—which is often the case in France—but does nonetheless imply a real conceptual depth. In English-speaking countries, it is more customary to address contemporary topics first and foremost, while classical references and analogies play a secondary role. Globally, however, the institutional field is favorable to the emergence of grand theories that go far beyond the confines of philosophy. In just the last half-century in the Western world, thinkers such as Louis Althusser, Étienne Balibar, Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, Axel Honneth, Ernesto Laclau, Susan Moller Okin, Toni Negri, Martha Nussbaum, Jacques Rancière, and John Rawls have enjoyed broad influence beyond their discipline of origin. Nothing equivalent has occurred in the world of political theory. Even Bernard Manin, likely the most influential French political theorist, has had limited impact compared to the predominant French political philosophers of his era…



  • Political theory
  • political science
  • sciences in society
  • continental philosophy
  • analytical philosophy
  • non-ideal political theory
Yves Sintomer
Professor of political science at the research center CRESPPA (CNRS/Paris 8 University/Paris Nanterre University), Visiting researcher at the Maison française d’Oxford, and Associate member, Nuffield College and Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. He has been deputy director of the Marc Bloch Center, Berlin, and Senior Fellow, French University Institute. He has among others published La démocratie impossible ? Politique et modernité chez Weber et Habermas (La Découverte, 1999) and The Government of Chance. Sortition and Democracy from Athens to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 2023).
Translated in English by
Sarah-Louise Raillard
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