List Price: $ 75.00
Save 40 % off List Price
On Politics : A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present
Three decades in the making, one of the most ambitious and comprehensive histories of political philosophy in nearly a century.
Both a history and an examination of human thought and behavior spanning three thousand years, On Politics thrillingly traces the origins of political philosophy from the ancient Greeks to Machiavelli in Book I and from Hobbes to the present age in Book II. Whether examining Lord Acton's dictum that "absolute power corrupts absolutely" or explicating John Stuart Mill's contention that it is "better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied," Alan Ryan evokes the lives and minds of our greatest thinkers in a way that makes reading about them a transcendent experience. Whether writing about Plato or Augustine, de Toqueville or Thomas Jefferson, Ryan brings a wisdom to his text that illuminates John Dewey's belief that the role of philosophy is less to see truth than to enhance experience. With this unparalleled tour de force, Ryan emerges in his own right as one of the most influential political philosophers of our time.
Book 1: From Herodotus to Machiavelli. Remarkably detailed yet highly readable, the first volume of this monumental history of political theory covers an enormous span of time and wealth of writings, from Herodotus through Aristotle, the ancient Roman theorists of law, St. Augustine and the medievals, right up to Machiavelli. In tracing the origins of modern conceptions of the political, Ryan (John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism) a professor of political theory at Princeton University, devotes much attention to the great founding texts, such as Plato's Republic and Cicero's On Duties. However it's Ryan's insistence on the influence that the formation and development of the Roman Catholic papacy had on emerging ideas about the nature and role of the nation state that provides the most valuable and fascinating insights. Admirably, Ryan is not afraid to take strong, almost polemical positions, such as when he argues that Plato, in his writings on justice, merely offers an "antipolitics." Questionable as such a thesis may be, it adds satisfying frisson to otherwise familiar material. In addition, contemporary American politics lurk in the background, as Ryan, in this absorbing and edifying read, regularly reminds us of what modern citizens might gain from a deeper understanding of the roots of today's political ideals and loyalties. Book 2: From Hobbes to the Present. This second volume, which itself runs well over 600 pages, covers the turn of the 17th century to the present. Starting with Thomas Hobbes, whom Ryan regards as the father of our modern conceptions of politics, the book ranges through Locke, Rousseau, Hegel, and Marx. In addition, Ryan devotes several chapters to modern movements such as republicanism, imperialism, various strands of socialisms, and fascism. Throughout, Ryan demonstrates a prodigious grasp of the various theories and ideas, and the history and events that fuel and underpin such notions. Again, contemporary American politics constitute the implicit context through which we might judge and apply such ideas. Ryan frequently considers the political ramifications of slavery, and offers nuanced views on the relationship between socialism, liberalism, and the welfare state. He admirably considers the political thought of advocates of violence, such as Franz Fanon and the Islamic nationalism of Sayyid Qutb. To his credit, Ryan approaches the problematic aspects of modern democracy with real concern, even if his commitment to it veers between pragmatic and resigned. Nonetheless, these two volumes constitute a remarkable achievement, one that will be immensely valuable to both students and readers for years to come. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
October 21, 2012
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.