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Abstract

This article provides a conceptual map of the debate on ideal and non-ideal theory. It argues that this debate encompasses a number of different questions, which have not been kept sufficiently separate in the literature. In particular, the article distinguishes between the following three interpretations of the ‘ideal vs. non-ideal theory’ contrast: (i) full compliance vs. partial compliance theory; (ii) utopian vs. realistic theory; (iii) end-state vs. transitional theory. The article advances critical reflections on each of these sub-debates, and highlights areas for future research in the field.