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date: 13 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

How should International Political Theory (IPT) relate to public policy? Should theorists aspire for their work to be policy-relevant, and if so in what sense? When can we legitimately criticize a theory for failing to be relevant to practice? In this chapter, I argue that it counts heavily against a theory if it is not precise enough to guide policy and reform given certain empirical assumptions, but that theorists should be very cautious when engaging with questions of policy and institutional design. Some principles of IPT can be criticized for being insufficiently precise, but a degree of abstraction from concrete policy recommendations is a virtue, rather than a vice, of IPT. I discuss this issue with reference to John Rawls’s principle of a duty of assistance.

Keywords: theory and practice, policy advice, non-ideal theory, Rawls’s Law of Peoples, duties to assist

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