Contextualism in normative political theory and the problem of critical distance

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Political theory is contextualist when factual claims about context are part of the justification of normative political judgments. There are different kinds of contextualism depending on whether context is relevant for the formulation and justification of political principles (methodological contextualism), whether principles themselves are contextually specific (theoretical contextualism), or whether context is only relevant for the application of principles. An important challenge to contextualism is the problem of critical distance: how can theories ensure a critical perspective if facts about the context to be evaluated are also part of the justification for the normative judgments? Tariq Modood and Simon Thompson have defended what they call iterative contextualism, which combines elements of all three kinds of contextualism in an attempt to avoid the problem of critical distance. The present paper discusses Modood and Thompson’s iterative contextualism and whether it manages to avoid the problem of critical distance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)953-970
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Important note from the Publisher regarding the attached version of the article:“This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. The final authenticated version is available online at:”.


  • Kontekstualisme
  • Politisk teori
  • Metodologi
  • begrundelse
  • Sekularisme

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