Arendt and political realism: Towards a realist account of political judgement

Gisli Vogler, Demetris Tillyris

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This article argues that Hannah Arendt’s thought can offer significant insights on political judgement for realism in political theory. We identify a realist position which emphasises the need to account for how humans judge politically, contra moralist tendencies to limit its exercise to rational standards, but which fails to provide a sufficient conception of its structure and potential. Limited appeals to political judgement render the realist defence of the political elusive and compromise the endeavour to offer a meaningful alternative to the moralist tendency to displace politics. The potential and limitations of realist discussions on judgement are made visible in relation to proto-realists Judith Shklar and Isaiah Berlin. In seeking to enrich the realist conception of the political, the article introduces the displacement critique found in the neglected Arendtian ‘realism’. It also provides the foundations for a distinctly realist account of political judgement which, we argue, requires elaboration along two dimensions: the social coding of political judgement and the political capacities that help judgement build a suitable political sphere.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
Early online date25 Apr 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Apr 2019


  • political realism
  • Hannah Arendt
  • political judgement
  • Judith Shklar
  • Isaiah Berlin

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