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Against institutional conservatism

Axelsen, David V. (2018) Against institutional conservatism. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. pp. 1-23. ISSN 1369-8230

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Identification Number: 10.1080/13698230.2018.1426816


In this article, I argue against institutional conservatism, and the reluctance to include radical changes to important institutions within normative principles for fear of losing practical significance. In making this argument, I will focus on the debate on global justice, in which the issue is especially clear due to the greater potential effects of radical institutional changes. My main target, then, is theorists who are institutionally conservative regarding the institutional system of nation states. Although, these theorists are institutionally conservative for (somewhat) different reasons, they all face significant and potentially debilitating problems in guiding action towards the fulfillment of their own moral commitments. Here, I focus on institutionally conservative arguments for (only) a low level of global redistribution. The problem arises because the continued existence of the current system of nation states and the lack of international institutions with significant coercive powers present a significant obstacle to realizing their principled commitment to alleviating the basic needs of foreigners. As I will phrase it here, institutionally conservative theorists end up in a dilemma, the escape from which involves significantly weakening either their institutional conservatism or their normative commitments.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 Taylor & Francis
Divisions: Government
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2018 14:30
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:38
Projects: Project id: 4089-00313
Funders: Independent Research Fund Denmark

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