Ethics & International Affairs Volume 28.2 (Summer 2014): "Global Justice and Avant-Garde Political Agency" by Lea Ypi

Jun 13, 2014

Global Justice and Avant-Garde Political Agency, Lea Ypi (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 226 pp., $99 cloth.

Review by Tom Bailey

In Global Justice and Avant-Garde Political Agency, Lea Ypi proposes a novel approach to political theory in relation to the issue of global equality. She fiercely criticizes the tendency to abstract from the realities of political agency in "ideal" theorizing, since, she insists, such abstraction renders the conclusions drawn practically irrelevant and indeterminate. But she also refuses to treat current political practices and norms as given constraints in the manner of "nonideal" theorizing, on the grounds that the selection of relevant practices and norms is always morally loaded and their analysis inevitably conservative. Instead, Ypi proposes that theory begin with a specific political conflict, diagnose the failure of existing practices and norms to resolve it, and, in this light, develop better practices and norms. She calls this approach "dialectical" insofar as it considers political practices and norms to develop progressively in resolving emerging political problems, and "activist" or "avant-garde" in its responding and contributing to political change through appropriate political agents.

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