chapter  5
‘[Un]Dazzled by the Ideal?’—James Tully and New Realism
Pages 8

Sophocles’s play is unmentioned in the two volumes of Public Philosophy in a New Key (2008).4 But Haemon is still here. Like Haemon, Tully positions himself between the worlds of dissidence and governance, speaking to the powerful in soft reasonable tones on behalf of subaltern subjects, and showing political theorists how, if we look past the abstractions and grand narratives that often bedazzle us, we could be usefully informed by the startlingly diverse array of freedom-oriented practices on the “rough ground” of politics. Directing our attention away from concepts and toward the real, Tully seems to echo Raymond Geuss’s recent call to realism in political theory. But Tully departs from Geuss by focusing not on stability but freedom as the first principle of politics, not on modus vivendi settlements but on justice, not on the state as the central political institution but on diverse civic practices, and not on the decision as the essence of politics but on the plural real practices and freedoms that make up daily political and civic life. Tully calls his position agonism but given his call to attend to the real, engage actual practices, and resist abstract or essentialist categories including many that surface in Geuss’s own realism, Tully might well be seen as a New Realist.5