Lorna Finlayson’s book has the deceptively simple aim of showing that there is no distinction in kind to be drawn between the methodology of political philosophy and the philosophy itself.  Lorna Finlayson, The Political Is Political: Conformity and the Illusion of Dissent in Contemporary Political Philosophy Rowman and Littlefield: London 2015, £24.95, paperback 211 pp, 978 1 78348 287 0 And, she suggests, since the methodology is in turn really just a way of trying to sustain the distinction between political philosophy and politics, the collapse of this distinction also supports the claim that the political philosophy/politics distinction is itself untenable. Political philosophy—or, it turns out, mainstream analytic political philosophy—has a mistaken understanding of itself as standing outside or above the messy power-ridden realm of actual politics, Finlayson argues; this misunderstanding is ideologically motivated, and the methodology of political philosophy serves to exemplify and buttress it. Showing that the distinction between the methodology of political philosophy and political philosophy is ideological, in the pejorative sense familiar from critical theory since Marx, will help to emancipate us from this misunderstanding and allow us to see that political philosophy is political all the way down. Thus emancipated, we will be better placed to see that much of what we have taken to be neutral philosophical virtues—constructiveness and charity are her examples—have been serving the ideological purpose of bolstering liberalism, while what presents itself as dissent from the primacy of analytic liberal political philosophy is already disciplined by this methodological buttressing in ways that mute its ability to challenge the dominance of liberalism.
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