Political Philosophy

Political Philosophy : A Beginners' Guide for Students and Politicians

3.95 (187 ratings by Goodreads)
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Politicians invoke grand ideas: social justice, liberty, equality,community. But what do these ideas really mean? How can politicians across the political spectrum appeal to the same values? Political Philosophy: A Beginners' Guide for Students and Politicians answers these important questions. Accessible and lively, the book is an ideal student text, but it also brings the insights of the world's leading political philosophers to a wide general audience. Using plenty of examples, it equips readers to think for themselves about the ideas that shape political life. Democracy works best when both politicians and voters move beyond rhetoric to think clearly and carefully about the political principles that should govern their society. But clear thinking is difficult in an age when established orthodoxies have fallen by the wayside. Bringing political philosophy out of the ivory tower and within the reach of all, this book provides us with tools to cut through the complexities of modern politics. In so doing, it makes a valuable contribution to the democratic process.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 208 pages
  • 140 x 216 x 19.05mm | 370g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0
  • 074562846X
  • 9780745628462

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Table of contents

Preface Introduction Further reading Part I: Social JusticeConcept v. conceptions: the case of justiceHayek v. social justiceRawls: justice as fairnessNozick: justice as entitlementPublic opinion: justice as desertConclusion Further reading Part II: LibertyTwo concepts of liberty? Three distinctions between conceptions of liberty: (1) effective freedom v. formal freedom(2) freedom as autonomy v. freedom as doing what one wants(3) freedom as political participation v. freedom beginning where politics endsFreedom, private property, the market and redistributionResisting the totalitarian menaceConclusion Further reading Part III: EqualityEgalitarian plateauEquality of opportunityEquality and relativities: should we mind the gap? Positional goodsThree positions that look egalitarian but aren't really(1) Utilitarianism (or any aggregative principle)(2) Diminishing principles, priority to the worst-off, and maximin(3) Entitlement and sufficiencyEquality strikes backConclusion Further reading Part IV: CommunityCorrecting misunderstandings and misrepresentationsObjection 1: Liberals assume that people are selfish or egoisticObjection 2: Liberals advocate a minimal stateObjection 3: Liberals emphasize rights rather than duties or responsibilitiesObjection 4: Liberals believe that values are subjective or relativeObjection 5: Liberals neglect the way in which individuals are socially constitutedObjection 6: Liberals fail to see the significance of communal relations, shared values and a common identityObjection 7: Liberals wrongly think that the state can and should be neutralSummaryOutstanding IssuesLiberalism, neutrality and multiculturalismLiberalism and the nation stateConclusion Further reading Conclusion index
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Review quote

"Adam Swift's book accomplishes a rare feat: it is at once an engaging and accessible introduction to a complex body of philosophical ideas that will be immensely useful to novices, and it is a sophisticated and original synthesis that will be of great value to seasoned academics familiar with the problems under discussion." Erik Olin Wright, Vilas Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin
"A stunning achievement. Beginning students will learn painlessly how to avoid the commonest blunders in the interpretation of Rawls's theory of justice (all of which have appeared in print, incidentally), and will be spared the effort to make sense of Berlin's "two concepts of liberty," thanks to Swift's crisp exploration of its multiple confusions. Politicians will, if they take it to heart, feel ashamed of pretending that the invocation of "community" solves any problems, intellectual or practical, and will understand why it is morally disreputable to pander to popular notions of desert. In addition academic political philosophers will find their criticisms of egalitarian liberalism stated clearly and succinctly, and then deftly refuted." Brian Barry, Arnold A Saltzman Professor in Philosophy and Political Science, Columbia University, New York

"Adam Swift's introduction to political philosophy is clear-headed, fair-minded and fluently written. It will be of great value to students and all those interested in contemporary debates about liberty, equality, justice and community." Michael Sandel, Professor of Government, Harvard University

"Worthwhile read!" Politico's Bookshop

"he has produced a triumph of a book that illuminates the last two decades of politics and points the way to the next...How does philosophy affect politics? Through books like this." James Purnell, MP

"It most certainly fills a market niche in the international introductory political theory / philosophy textbooks market." Contemporary Political Theory
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About Adam Swift

Adam Swift is a Fellow in Politics and Sociology at Balliol College, Oxford.
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Rating details

187 ratings
3.95 out of 5 stars
5 29% (54)
4 42% (79)
3 25% (46)
2 4% (7)
1 1% (1)
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