Read "Agents of Change: Political Philosophy in Practice" by Ben Laurence

Ben Laurence's new book Agents of Change: Political Philosophy in Practice,  has been published by Harvard University Press. It was selected by the Seminary Co-op as a notable book for 2021!

About Agents of Change: The appeal of political philosophy is that it will answer questions about justice for the sake of political action. Contemporary political philosophy struggles to live up to this promise. Since the death of John Rawls, political philosophers have become absorbed in methodological debates, leading to an impasse between two unattractive tendencies: utopians argue that philosophy should focus uncompromisingly on abstract questions of justice, while practicalists argue that we should concern ourselves only with local efforts to ameliorate injustice. In Agents of Change Laurence argues that we can combine utopian justice and the practical response to injustice in a political philosophy that unifies theory and practice in pursuit of change. Political philosophy is not a purely normative theory disconnected from practice. Rather, political philosophy is itself a practice—an exercise of practical reason issuing in action. This begins in ordinary life with the confrontation with injustice. Philosophy draws ideas about justice from this encounter to be pursued through political action. Laurence argues that the task of political philosophy is not complete until it answers the question “What is to be done?” and comes all the way back to agents of change in their struggle against injustice.

Ben Laurence is Associate Instructional Professor in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division and the Division of Social Sciences, and he teaches courses on the philosophical foundations of human rights, as well as in the Human Rights in World Civilizations Core sequence.

Professor Laurence’s research focuses on big picture questions about the relation of political philosophy to agency, history, and change. He also works on the philosophy of human rights, labor rights, racial justice, and Kant’s political philosophy. His work has appeared, among other places, in The Journal of Political Philosophy, Philosopher’s Imprint, and Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

Find Agents of Change here at the Seminar Coop Bookstore and here at Harvard University Press.