Political Philosophy, Political Neutrality, and Scholarly Activism

Michael Frazer

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


There are two opposed views on the proper relationship between academic research and political activism. The first, often inspired by Weber, argues that scholars must remain politically neutral. The second, often inspired by Marx, argues that since scholarship cannot disengage itself from larger social struggles, the primary responsibility of an academic is to ensure that their work helps rather than hinders the cause of human emancipation. Given that normative political theory necessarily takes controversial positions on contested political matters, it might seem that political philosophers must here side with scholar-activists. This paper will argue that such a move would be mistaken, and that political philosophy at its best embodies an ethos that is neither wholly partisan nor wholly neutral. This form of critical, open-minded partisanship is, I argue, close to the version of objectivity actually advocated by Weber. While political philosophy neither can nor should be value-free, it must adopt a skeptical attitude toward all partisan claims. Following Weber, I argue that scholars, activists, and scholar-activists alike would all benefit from a spirit of objectivity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018
EventECPR 2018 General Conference - Universitat Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Duration: 22 Aug 201825 Aug 2018


ConferenceECPR 2018 General Conference
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