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An Introduction to Political Philosophy (OPUS) [Paperback]

Jonathan Wolff
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Paperback, 8 Feb 1996 --  
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An Introduction to Political Philosophy An Introduction to Political Philosophy 4.7 out of 5 stars (19)
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Book Description

8 Feb 1996 OPUS
This book looks at the central problems involved in political philosophy and the various past attempts to solve these problems. What would life be like without the state, for example? What justifies the state? Who should rule? How much liberty should the citizen enjoy? How should property justly be distributed? Jonathan Wolff looks at these stimulating questions in the light of works like Plato'sRepublic, Hobbes' Leviathan, Locke's Two Treatises of Government, Rousseau's Social Contact, Mill's On Liberty, Marx's Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and Rawls' Theory of Justice, and considers the debates which have developed between various philosophers. In this final chapter he also considers more recent issues, particularly that of feminist political theory.

Product details

  • Paperback: 247 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford; first edition edition (8 Feb 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192892517
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192892515
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 13 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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superb ... the best introduction to political philosophy that I've ever seen (Dr Dudley Knowles, Department of Philosophy, Glasgow University)

He writes with an enviable clarity and even-handedness. (Alan Ryan)

'This book is the ideal introduction to the subject and should be widely read. It is a book I wish I had written.' (Political Studies)

About the Author

Jonathan Wolff teaches in the Philosophy Department at University College, London.

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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
101 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best introduction to political philosophy. 3 Jan 2001
By A Customer
As a philosophy graduate I can without hesitation recommend this book as the finest introduction to political philosophy. Covering all the major areas of comtemporary debate, Wolff offers an exceptionally clear account of the issues and arguments.
Beginning which the fundamental question of why there should be a state at all, he moves towards the crucial debates that informed most 20th century politics: the distribution of goods in society and the level of personal freedom each of us should enjoy.
The book also offers clear expositions of past masters of political philosophy, from Plato through Hobbes and Locke, to Mill and Marx. To read this book is to be given a crash course in the history of political philosophy, as well as the perfect preface to studying the texts themselves.
This book is ideal for a student just beginning their studies,or as a refresher course, but would be just as suitable for the general reader seeking a broad account of comtemporary and historical political thought.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect introduction 19 May 2008
This is probably the best introduction available, being lucid and succinct, it also takes just the right approach to the subject for the beginner. Instead of a chapter by chapter guide to the main thinkers or theories, Wolff cleverly structures the book in such a way that the student is gently coaxed into exploring the fundamental questions of political philosophy for himself. The author notes at the beginning that it is sometimes said that 'who gets what?' and 'who says so?' are the only two questions of importance in the subject. Whilst denying this to be entirely the case, Wolff puts these questions firmly into intial context by asking why we need the state at all and then proceeds to ask if we do need the state, who indeed should govern it? He then explores the issue of the distribution of goods before returning to the 'who says who gets what?' and by the end of the book the reader should be able to explore that question through the lenses of the competing theories of today, such as feminism or communitarianism.

I was lucky enough to have the author as one of my lecturers at university and, indeed, to take my tutorials in political philosophy in my final year. As a working class student with little self-esteem and who was failing abjectly to mix within the rarefied air of an elite university, Mr Wolff admirably strived to boost my confidence and his tutorials (and lectures) were a model of patience and clarity. This book is imbubed with these qualities throughout and thus can't be recommended highly enough. Whether you are an a-level student or a 1st year undergrad, this book will have you asking the right questions and position you to look in more detail at the major theories.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read short intro to political philosophy 24 Feb 2008
Jonathon Wolff has written an excellent and easy to digest intro to political philosophy. It's not particularly long and doesn't provide an in depth look at many topics. But it covers off the basics and sets out the key ideas and people. He has also used a semi chronological layout which helps give a sense of the way thought has developed over time. A good resource for a student, but certainly readable enough for someone taking a casual interest in the subject area.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Jonathan Wolff defines the territory of political philosophy by reference to the modern distinction between descriptive and normative political study; i.e. a descriptive process entails the collecting and ordering of factual data about politics, a normative process entails reasoned argument to the effect of purporting a theory on which to model politics. The latter normative process is the task of political philosophy.

Whilst an introduction to political philosophy might aspire to be a purely descriptive account of normative arguments (and criticisms), Wolff's book isn't neutral in this respect, assuming throughout a (in his words) `liberal individualist' outlook. As such his starting point in chapter one is the 17th century proto-liberal depiction of the State of Nature, and the pressing need to find a rational basis for political rights and obligations. After discussing in chapter two how best to justify political interference in otherwise free peoples lives, Wolff goes on in chapters 3, 4 and 5 to consider the question of who should govern, the significance of freedom as a political concept, and property distribution.

By the end of the book the reader will have impressed on him a rudimentary but subtle philosophical appreciation for the virtues of liberal democracy. Furthermore, he will have encountered many of the key thinkers in the development of the liberal tradition, including Locke, J.S. Mill and John Rawls. However, Wolff also ensures an awareness that a philosophical defence of politics is problematically never rigorous enough to overcome every sceptical argument. Indeed, Wolff is particularly sensitive to the persuasiveness of arguments for anarchy, and to the reality that politics is very rarely sustained by rational assent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short and very comprehensible introduction 14 May 2009
This is the perfect introductory book for those who can't be bothered to study in depth the massive, and (often) dull political philosophy classics by Penguin editions (you know, the ones with the terrible paper quality and undersized letters that you need a magnifying lens to read).

Professor Wolff has done that for you, and decided to offer one of the simplest (and shortest) introductions to political philosophy. Designed (I believe) principally for Philosophy undergraduates, this book positions ideas such as anarchy, the state, democracy, liberty, property and freedom into political philosophy scrutiny, and analyses their descendance, logic and evolution with lots of clever examples, arguments and counter-arguments.

This book is a thoroughly enjoyable experience and a very comprehensible introduction into the main concepts of political philosophy.

Strongly suggested to those interested in familiarising themselves with political philosophy and to those who... want to make their arguments, in politics chat, slightly deeper and worthy of discussion!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Very readable and enjoyable. Would recommend to anyone who wants a basic primer. It's primarily concerned with the state and its power; the philosophy of politics, as you might... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Kishan
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect synopsis of the main political philosophers and arguments
This book proved ideal for my undergraduate module in Political Philosophy, I would recommend to any fellow students. It is very comprehensive while remaining crystal clear. Read more
Published 3 months ago by UsefulShopper
5.0 out of 5 stars great
a course book so had to be aquired fast, i shall use this site for more course material and i'll recommend it to others
Published 16 months ago by Mr A J Bird
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant introduction
Jonathan Wolff's introduction to political philosophy is by far the superior of all within its kind. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Liam
5.0 out of 5 stars So usefull
This book has really good info on political philosophy and was a lifesaver for me. Attempting to actually read all of Hobbes and Rousseau in the time I had was impossible, but this... Read more
Published 19 months ago by the cook
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, balanced, and refreshing
Reading a political philosopher is a refreshing contrast from the bogus certitudes of politicians. Wolff considers key topics such as the state, democracy, liberty, and justice,... Read more
Published on 15 Jun 2012 by anozama
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This is a brilliant book by Wolff! He writes in a very logical and easy to follow way, explaining major concepts (often complicated) in a very accessible way. Read more
Published on 8 Nov 2011 by DominicJC
5.0 out of 5 stars the best introduction to political philosophy
It is now deservedly established as the best introduction to political philosophy. It is concise, rich and inspiring as it would make one to follow the ideas discussed further. Read more
Published on 23 Sep 2011 by S. MOHAMADI
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy study
My daughter read this book from a library, but it is so good it is helping with her philosophy degree at Oxford
Published on 4 Mar 2011 by N. Hunt
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic bite sized introduction to a daunting subject.
This is the first book I have read about political philosophy, I was looking for a grounding in some basics without getting lost in the potentially overwhelming subject... Read more
Published on 23 Jan 2011 by R. Cutts
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