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Political Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 26 Jun 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (26 Jun. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192803956
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192803955
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.5 x 11.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

David Miller is Professor of Political Theory, University of Oxford, and an Official Fellow of Nuffield College. He has written books and articles on many aspects of political theory and philosophy. In 2002 he was elected to a Fellowship of the British Academy. He lives in Oxford and is married with three children.

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Petrolhead VINE VOICE on 3 Dec. 2007
Format: Paperback
Short, readable, crystal clear. Politics books are often a hard climb or at least a tedious trudge. This is a smooth glide by comparison.
Miller states at the start that he wants to avoid jargon and academic mumbo-jumbo and he does just that, taking us on a concise but enjoyable tour of political philosophy. He begins at first principles and gradually builds his arguments, with deftly chosen examples adding depth and colour to the text. The logical progression means that the focus is firmly on democracy (since that is the political system that makes most sense to most people nowadays). Although he presents (and knocks down) arguments for alternative systems, don't expect great forays into the pros and cons of ideologies like Communism or Fascism. Among the concepts he tackles are justice, social justice, freedom, multiculturalism, feminism and globalisation.
The thoughts of political philosophers such as Plato, Rousseau, Locke, Mill and Rawls are woven beautifully into the flow, compact nuggets that reinforce rather than halt the narrative. Anyone who has tried to trawl through Rawls in the original will whisper a quiet thankyou when they arrive at the digested wisdom of Miller's version.
Miller makes a promise at the outset and he sticks to it: to be scrupulously fair and present all sides of each argument, even if the reader doesn't share his own leanings (which I sensed were slightly leftward).
In sum, it would be hard to do better than this for a well-reasoned introduction to (or refresher course in) political philosophy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Eade on 7 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not being exactly new to the ideas of political philosophy I found certain aspects of this book somewhat basic particularly regarding the ethical considerations of good governance and justice. However I have now had a lot of gaps filled and my ignorance enlightened in other areas.

Arguments for and against different points of view from across the whole political spectrum were presented and discussed without presuming infallible wisdom on the part of the author but yet still with a candid attitude and no attempt to mask his own views. Indeed the book ends with a rough outline of the author's ideas of how we might improve society as it currently stands.

I would thoroughly recommend this book to all those new to the subject but also to anyone with a healthy critical outlook even if they feel they have a good idea of how society should be run already as you might find some ideas you had not given fair consideration to before.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A. Person on 28 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback
This was a mildly interesting introduction to an interesting subject. I felt it rambled a little, and was disappointed that it did not introduce any key theorists and missed out some key concepts (sovereignty, for example). The book only really succeeds in raising some key questions, but does not introduce one to the multifarious attempts to answer these questions. Furthermore, Miller's own opinions (given heavy weighting in the final chapters) are not particularly interesting or radical, and given the nature of the medium (a 'very short introduction') would be better presented elsewhere.

If you want a very short introduction to the subject of political philosophy, a good alternative is the 'Politics: A Very Short Introduction', which I have found to be a much better read and much more thorough.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Andrew on 17 July 2007
Format: Paperback
This little book is a quick yet thoughtful work-through of some major areas of political philosophy. Whats great is that you can finish it in a single evening and know loads more than before. David Miller is a very good writer and his narrative style sweeps the reader along as he investigates political issues. Miller has refrained from cluttering his text with unnesscary jargon. Throughly enjoyable and refreshingly different to other introductions, this is simply a very good book. I loved the way in which Miller used a 14th century painting ('Allergory of Good and Bad Government' by Lorenzetti) to act as a discussion point for opening up political philosophy becuase it really added flavour to proceedings.

It should be warned, however, that this book is far from comprehensive even in an 'introduction' sense of the word. Instead of being written with a quick synopsis of all the major discussion, Miller instead opts for a continuous narrative that works through *some* of the major topics of the discipline. Interestingly, Miller's book is not so much an illustration of the debates as it is an argument for his personal conclusions through illustrating these debates. This is not neccessarily a bad thing, though, as it still serves to introudce the reader to the fundamentals and still allows the reader to come to their own opinons. In many ways, it is actually quite nice to see conclusions made for once rather than questions left unanswered as coming to conclusions is also a part of the philosophical discipline.

I have given this book five stars becuase its great, but it should be realised that other, more comprehensive introductions could prove better due to more depth. However, it undoubtedly introduces political philosophy in an excellent manner, especially considering its length (130 or so very small pages). It is, afterall, meant to be a very short introduction and it scores five stars when taken as such.
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Format: Paperback
In reviewing books, one likes to have some foreknowledge of the subject at hand, even if one does consider oneself omniscient on the subject. We read non-fiction not to be entertained, but to be informed. The idea of political philosophy is more fundamental than the level at which I usually ponder. As such, it seemed an appropriate topic on which to read a very short introduction. The individual notions will be familiar to us all. What makes this an interesting work is the particular combination of topics, along with their interplay.

Miller writes under the headings of political authority, democracy, ‘freedom and the limits of democracy’, justice, ‘feminism and multiculturalism’ and finally, ‘nations, sates and global justice’.

In the discussion of political authority, the figure of Thomas Hobbes looms large. In many ways, this is quite a sad outlook, particularly as I look at it from a christian perspective, as much of Miller’s argument is to do with a carrot-and-stick approach, whereby adherence to political authority is done so out of the threat of some form of physical violence. The root of this seems to be the notion of human selfishness and greed, but this seems to be accepted as a fact to live with rather than a problem to be addressed.

In democracy, attention switches from Hobbes to Rousseau. The discussion pulls on a few threads that will likely occur to anyone who has considered democracy, such as how to protect the rights of the minority and how democracy differs from mob rule, but there’s nothing earth-shattering here.

In discussing freedom, our central figure is John Stuart Mill. Miller doesn’t so much give answers and just ask the reader a series of questions to consider.
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