The field of excuses, which is largely unexamined both in theory and in our common culture, is the battleground where the daily conflict between high ethical expectations and the pressures to cross the lines constantly takes place. The exploration of that psychological war zone for me and for others is in large part the purpose of this book.
I consider primarily what I call strict compliance as opposed to partial compliance theory. . . . The latter studies the principles that govern how we are to deal with injustice. It comprises such topics as the theory of punishment, the doctrine of just war, and the justification of the various ways of opposing unjust regimes, ranging from civil disobedience and militant resistance to revolution and rebellion. Also included here are questions of compensatory justice and of weighing one form of institutional injustice against another. Obviously the problems of partial compliance theory are the pressing and urgent matters. These are the things that we are faced with in everyday life. The reason for beginning with ideal theory is that it provides, I believe, the only basis for the systematic grasp of these more pressing problems.