Idealism, realism, and immigration: David Miller's Strangers in Our Midst

2016-09-23T15:17:13Z (GMT) by Phil Parvin
David Miller’s Strangers in Our Midst is an important contribution to the debate among political philosophers about how liberal democratic states should deal with the issue of migration. But it is also a thoughtful statement concerning how best to do political philosophy and, as such, contributes also to the growing debate within Anglo-American political theory about the relative merits of ‘ideal’ versus ‘non-ideal’ normative theorising. Miller’s argument in the book builds on his earlier published work in suggesting that political philosophy should be ‘for Earthlings’: it should not be understood as a process of ideal theorising which ignores political reality. He argues that normative theorists should seek to resolve complex political problems by taking seriously the political context that makes these problems complex, rather than putting aside that context in the interests of deriving first principles. This is a controversial approach, which requires political philosophers to take more seriously than they often do the expressed concerns of citizens living in democratic states and the practical problems associated with applying normative principles in ways which actually help address the issue at hand. This piece discusses some of these themes, and the issue of migration more generally, in order to help frame the debate which follows.