Handmaiden, Gadfly, Midwife? The Roles of Normative Political Theory

17 Pages Posted: 30 Dec 2010

Date Written: 1996


The present paper considers the role of normative political theory and its relationships to empirical social science research, arguing for the possibility, plausibility and fruitfulness of normative political theory regarded as providing a somewhat independent stance for critical assessment of existing social institutions. The central topics occasioning these reflections are the intertwined issues of legitimacy, democracy and stability within the European Union.Part 1 delineates various important conceptions of ‘legitimacy’, part 2 considers the notion of democracy. Part 3 sketches some alternative conceptions of the role of political theory, and part 4 pursues the implications of these views for why research in normative political theory appears important. Part 5 expands on one alternative to strict functionalist accounts of political theory, indicating how Normative Contractualism may be brought to bear on central issues facing Europe. Part 6 concludes the paper by indicating where this kind of normative political theory relies on empirical research.

Keywords: normative political theory, legitimacy, democracy, stability, European Union (EU)

Suggested Citation

Follesdal, Andreas, Handmaiden, Gadfly, Midwife? The Roles of Normative Political Theory (1996). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1731866 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1731866

Andreas Follesdal (Contact Author)

Pluricourts ( email )

P.O. Box 6706
St. Olavs plass 5
0130 Oslo

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