So on the sliding scale of idealism vs. cynicism, where would you put ASOIAF?
Smack dab in the middle. GRRM recognizes the obstacles to his ideals: they’re easily manipulated and hijacked, The System doesn’t automatically represent them and often chews up those who do, and even those with admirable ends will often resort to considerably less admirable means. But that doesn’t mean he’s saying that sticking to those ideals is stupid or worthless–quite the opposite. What makes, say, Davos standing up to the Freys in the Merman’s Court so powerful is precisely that he does it with no guarantee of success.