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On Politics Hardcover – 6 Dec 2012

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Hardcover, 6 Dec 2012
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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (6 Dec. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781846147791
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846147791
  • ASIN: 1846147794
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,412,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

In a work of astonishing scope and ambition, Alan Ryan, surveying the whole vast field, concisely charts the welter of conflicting positions and tracks the sometimes thrilling, sometimes catastrophic consequences of political thought (Stephen Greenblatt)

Ryan demonstrates vivacity throughout, and a tenacious grasp of the human meaning of everything that has transpired in political speculation from the ancients on through the threshold of our own dark age. I commend particularly his terse eloquence, his capacious erudition, and the judicious intensity with which he somehow allows his whole being to inform his vast scope and deep concern of our human limitations (Harold Bloom) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Alan Ryan, the former warden of New College, Oxford, has taught political theory at Oxford and Princeton since 1969. His books include The Philosophy of John Stuart Mill, Bertrand Russell: A Political Life and Liberal Anxieties and Liberal Education. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on 11 Mar. 2015
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent work - sad to see that there are so few reviews here that one nitwit can bring down the average rating. There is a limit to what can be done, even in 1000 pages of small print, in doing justice to the nuances of 2,500 years of political thought (even Bertrand Russell had a similar problem with his history of western philosophy), so this book is better seen as an introduction than a complete course. But it traces the broad outlines of its subject very effectively, punctuated with fascinating autobiographical sketches, and has given me, as a lay reader, some very useful pointers on which political thinkers I would like to read more closely ( - although I was surprised Bernard Crick didn't get a mention. His "Defence of Politics" gave me an initial interest in this subject area.)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 5 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Politics is a dirty word but we cannot do without it, not in modern societies at any rate. How can we live together in spite of not being in one mind about so many important matters? The United States is struggling to find an answer to this question as we speak. But the question is always with us.

Alan Ryan gives a tour from the ancient Greeks to the 20th Century, examining how thinkers from Herodotus to John Rawls have tried to answer how we can live together with our differences. What is the justification for authority? When is it right to force someone to do something that they don't want to do? We all know that humans must live together. But we are fractious, and the incentives for going our own way, even if its against our own interests, are very strong. How can this conundrum be resolved? Thinkers have offered an astonishing range of answers to these questions in the 2500 years since the Ancient Greeks started thinking about them. Some like Marx and Plato deny that these questions will even arise at all in their respective utopian schemes. Some contemporary intellectuals think likewise. As Ryan puts it, in their scheme of things there will be `no economic life to regulate, no crime to suppress, no conflicting interest to balance, no competing policy to reconcile, no conflicts of value to assuage, accommodate or suppress (p. 70). Their optimism seems unfounded. We will always live with these questions. Utopia, the title of Thomas More's eponymous book, means `nowhere'.

But does this mean that if we cannot agree, then only brute force can make us live together? No thinker has really thought this - not even Hobbes or St. Augustine, two pessimists about the human condition, if coming from different premises altogether.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Dec. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
My review title for this extraordinary book reflects my admiration for Professor Ryan's most welcome support for the great political theorists of the past. Far too many historians and others have tried in recent years to undermine thinkers such as Plato and Hobbes.
This monumental work, which is really three books packaged as one, aims to restore our respect and awe for political philosophy at a time when politics around the world is regarded with something bordering on contempt. In the opinion of this reviewer he has succeeded admirably.
Professor Ryan who began his study of political issues at Oxford before moving to Princeton poses a number of fundamental questions. For example, he asks: what is the basis of the state's authority over its citizens? and how can we organise and run our collective affairs without giving up individual rights?
In a lovely phrase the Professor writes: 'long-dead writers often speak to us with greater freshness and immediacy than our contemporaries'.Kant,for example, may therefore well have the most cogent things to say about gay marriage. Mr Cameron please take note.
The author's use of history enables the reader to view problems from a new angle and hopefully use the likes of Montesquieu to formulate more efficient policies.
Professor Ryan reminds us that many of the major political thinkers of the past were quite extraordinary beings. Hobbes, for example, based his major political ideas on fear and terror.
This is a very impressive book that deserves a wide audience. After reading certain sections of the book for a second time i could not help wondering how the ideas and arguments of, for example, Plato, Hobbes, Mill and Bellamy have been viewed and interpreted in the non Western world. Perhaps the Professor can let us know in another book.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By corporalbob on 8 Feb. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a detailed history of the development of political thought, yet is easy enough to read. It is a must for anyone who is interested in politics and how we should be governed.
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