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Rationalism in Politics


Much recent political thought has been devoted to the proposition that neither political endeavor properly understood nor theorizing about such endeavor is or could ever be a kind of rational activity. I examine three broad approaches that celebrate, respectively, rhetorical practices of political persuasion, agonistic conceptions of democracy, and, more generally, a kind of hard-headed critical realism rooted in the plain facts of political life. I argue that criticisms of rationalism in politics associated with these approaches systematically ignore central tenets of what might be called a post-Kantian convergence of recent and important philosophical perspectives and that such perspectives can be enormously useful in addressing and critically evaluating the underlying intellectual structures of political life.

Corresponding author
Peter J. Steinberger, Robert H. and Blanche Day Ellis Professor of Political Science and Humanities, Reed College (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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