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An Introduction to Political Philosophy Paperback – 19 Jan 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 2nd Revised edition edition (19 Jan. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019929609X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199296095
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 1.3 x 13.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review from previous edition 'A lucid and enviably clear introduction to some of the most important questions of political philosophy...The book is written in a style that manages to be chatty without being irritating, something not often achieved by professional philosophers aspiring to write for a general or student audience' (Matt Matravers, International Journal of Philosophical Studies)

'This is exactly what the title says - it introduces students to many of the central topics of political philosophy and in the process to many of its most distinguished figures from Plato to John Rawls. By organizing his book around major issues, Wolff provides the structure that beginners need. He also introduces some distinctive ideas of his own, especially on such matters as the ownership of property, the persuasiveness of anarchism, and the limits of the right to self-destructive behaviour. He writes with an enviable clarity and even-handedness' (Alan Ryan)

'A superb piece of work...far and away the best introduction to political philosophy I've ever seen' (Dudley Knowles)

'Wolff makes each issue come alive...This book is the ideal introduction to the subject and should be widely read. It is a book I wish I had written' (Paul J. Kelly, Political Studies)

'There is probably no better introduction of this sort...a clear and engaging account of academic political philosophy today' (Andrew Levine, Mind)

'The clarity of presentation betrays an admirable intimacy with the problems and texts discussed, and an ability to present sympathetic accounts of positions on both sides of controversial issues. To my knowledge, it is the best volume of its kind' (Clark Wolf, Teaching Philosophy)

'Jonathan Wolff's An Introduction to Political Philosophy can be unhesitatingly recommended. With its clarity of language, which never sacrifices subtlety of thought, this book is set to become a classic...We are given just what we require, with no ideologies being subliminally proposed' (Christopher J. Walker, Diplomat)

About the Author

Jonathan Wolff is Professor of Philosophy at University College London.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

103 of 104 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Jan. 2001
Format: Paperback
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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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Bruno VINE VOICE on 19 May 2008
Format: Paperback
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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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 24 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Briscoe on 9 Sept. 2007
Format: Paperback
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 By Yannis Theocharis on 14 May 2009
Format: Paperback
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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