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Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought (Expanded Edition) [Paperback]

Sheldon S. Wolin
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

29 Jan 2006

This is a significantly expanded edition of one of the greatest works of modern political theory. Sheldon Wolin's Politics and Vision inspired and instructed two generations of political theorists after its appearance in 1960. This new edition retains intact the original ten chapters about political thinkers from Plato to Mill, and adds seven chapters about theorists from Marx and Nietzsche to Rawls and the postmodernists. The new chapters, which show how thinkers have grappled with the immense possibilities and dangers of modern power, are themselves a major theoretical statement. They culminate in Wolin's remarkable argument that the United States has invented a new political form, "inverted totalitarianism," in which economic rather than political power is dangerously dominant. In this new edition, the book that helped to define political theory in the late twentieth century should energize, enlighten, and provoke generations of scholars to come.

Wolin originally wrote Politics and Vision to challenge the idea that political analysis should consist simply of the neutral observation of objective reality. He argues that political thinkers must also rely on creative vision. Wolin shows that great theorists have been driven to shape politics to some vision of the Good that lies outside the existing political order. As he tells it, the history of theory is thus, in part, the story of changing assumptions about the Good.

In the new chapters, Wolin displays all the energy and flair, the command of detail and of grand historical developments, that he brought to this story forty years ago. This is a work of immense talent and intense thought, an intellectual achievement that will endure.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 792 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Expanded edition (29 Jan 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691126275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691126272
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 321,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Winner of the 2006 David and Elaine Spitz Prize, Conference for the Study of Political Thought

"[T]he original edition . . . provided the most impressive synoptic interpretation of politics by any recent Western thinker. Measured, assured, and resolutely independent, it was also wonderfully lacking in self-importance. . . . [T]hat first book remains just as illuminating and every bit as imposing; but it is now accompanied by a second and very different book. . . . Its message is chilling: . . . that politics itself, in its generous Western understanding, is well on the way to being eliminated from the experience of human beings. Each of these books is a remarkable achievement."--John Dunn, Times Higher Education Supplement

From the Inside Flap

"Sheldon Wolin is our premier contemporary theorist of engaged democracy. This expanded edition of Politics and Vision offers an extraordinarily comprehensive and acute account of the encounter between philosophy and political power, from classical Greece to the postmodern era of Superpower. The new edition demonstrates the power of Wolin's original enterprise by bringing it into constructive relationship with Marx, Nietzsche, and Dewey, and with political philosophy since Rawls. Essential reading for anyone concerned with the possibilities of politics in the twenty-first century."--Josiah Ober, Princeton University, author of The Athenian Revolution and Political Dissent in Democratic Athens

"In his classic work, Sheldon Wolin brings to light the most fascinating meanings of politics in its highest sense. He writes with the passion of the citizen who worries about power, and the rigor of the thinker committed to intellectual sharpness and historical awareness. In this new edition, Wolin explores in depth the most difficult challenges that our democratic ocieties are facing after their victory over totalitarianisms. Like the first edition, this new one will open fresh avenues to political thinking, and will teach us new and valuable lessons in the difficult art of being free citizens."--Maurizio Viroli, Princeton University, author of Niccolò's Smile: A Biography of Machiavelli

"I am happy to report that the excitement of the great work represented by the first edition still remains, and that this book is, if anything, enhanced by the addition of the chapters on theorists including Marx, Nietzsche, Popper and Dewey, and Rawls. This revised and expanded edition is more somberly reflective than its predecessor, and at the same time more provocative in the overall picture it presents."--Jeremy Waldron, Columbia Law School, author of God, Locke, and Equality

"A great, provocative, intense, brilliant book. Several generations of political theorists were provoked and instructed by the original edition. Here, Sheldon Wolin brings up to date our understanding of politics and shows why earlier understandings are inadequate to contemporary developments."--Tracy B. Strong, University of California, San Diego, author of The Idea of Political Theory

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - but not for beginners 13 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wolin masterfully dissects the changing attitudes and perceptions of political philosophy - the impact socilogical leanings had on it - and much, much more. He is fearless in defending the original author's intentions (The chapter on Machievelli is particularly enligtening), and writes with a clarity usually lacking in this area of study.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magisterial political philosophy 23 Feb 2006
By niccolo raven - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is an exemplary work that engages the entire history of political thought in the Western tradition. Wolin has added four significant chapters to the original 1960 book and one addresses postmodernism looking at the Nietzschean background to our epoch. For any one doing serious scholarly work in political thoery, philosophy, critical theory, history this book is a necessary possession. For the rest, probably the best general work of Western political thought available.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep survey of political thought in the West 11 Dec 2004
By Bo K. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is so rich and it is about so many things that it is difficult to praise in a brief blurb, but suffice it to say that it presents the development of political thinking since Plato to Roman political thought in the age of the Empire to the rise of the Catholic Church to the Reformation, to the reawakening of Classical theory in Machiavelli and onward to the development of modern ideas of the state, of order and security, representation of the polity, democracy, and authoritarianism. Each chapter is written like an individual essay, but with a depth unmatched my most other books on the subject. Perhaps Q. Skinner's development of western political thought is an approximation.

This book is not just a brief summary of the major figures and ideas; it is a discursis of THE tradition, THE language, THE development of theories AND praxis of human beings applying reason to organize themselves into groups for better protection against scarcity and death. Sexy, hmm?!

It would be interesting to read an equivalent book on the Eastern political tradition, as China is not covered here.

But otherwise, I cannot praise this book more highly. It is one to reread every year or so. When you have some free time that is. And after you reread Hamlet. Or maybe you're better off rereading Robinson Crusoe. Same question, different answer, anyhow.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What is "political"? 10 April 2008
By J. Grattan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Of course, this is perhaps the foremost book on political theory of the last fifty years - basically required reading for anyone with claims to being a political philosopher or interpreter. It is an examination of the nature of political thinking and its connectedness and importance with regard to economics, religion, and the broader society from the time of Plato to the Bush II administration.

This expanded version of the book consists of seventeen somewhat independent chapters devoted to leading political thinkers, such as Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Marx, Nietzsche, and to such concepts as liberalism, community, democracy, and totalitarianism. Given the nature of the subjects the reading is slow going, though quite informative. There does seem to be a certain amount of needless repetition, even within chapters, and the overall affect is more one of fragmentation than of a unifying thread. For most, undoubtedly multiple readings would be required for full assimilation.

There will be no attempt here to offer any sort of critique of the substance of the book - a large project to be sure. There is an interesting chapter that dissects the political writings of John Rawls, the leading political theorist of the late twentieth century. The impact of Superpower and corporate dominance on the possibilities for democratic action in the current era is explored. It is clear that the notion of what is political is ever-changing and is not without its complexities.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading 24 Sep 2007
By Jane S. Oliver - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This eminently readable work can be picked up and put down as time permits--no small virtue in a busy time, and essential for a proper education in political ideas that still very much shape our world. Without making many explicit comparisons or contrasts, Wolin somehow manages to suggest numerous points of intersection between our political dilemmas today and those that beset people thousands of years ago. This is an erudite, witty, accessible book. It should be required reading for all Americans--especially for those of us who like to shoot our mouths off about liberals, conservatives, and other such oddities in the common bestiary. I wouldn't let my copy go for five times what I paid for it.
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to keep and reread! 26 May 2014
By Ricardo JM - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Great insights from Sheldon Wolin! The book advances political situations that will be faced (and solved?) in the next few decades.
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