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103 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best introduction to political philosophy.
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...
Published on 3 Jan. 2001

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8 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good though incomplete
Enjoyable reading for those who want to become acquainted with some questions of political philosophy. However, no introduction to political philosophy is complete with only one page dedicated to Burke and Oakeshott and not a single reference to Popper or Isaiah Berlin. Nevertheless, pleasing.
Published on 21 Sept. 2002 by Carlos do Carmo Carapinha


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103 of 104 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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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect introduction, 19 May 2008
By 
Bruno - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: An Introduction to Political Philosophy (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read short intro to political philosophy, 24 Feb. 2008
This review is from: An Introduction to Political Philosophy (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
4.0 out of 5 stars A critical but sympathetic guide to the persuasiveness of liberal political philosophy, 9 Sept. 2007
By 
S. Briscoe - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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. He also in the final chapter discusses feminist objections.

The book is overall a well-measured, subtle and clear introduction to liberal political philosophy, ideal for students of the subject. I give it four stars rather than five because there is a wider world of political philosophy not much engaged with. Although Wolff is reasonably explicit about the purpose of the book as a liberal manual, his bias leaves liberal thought better intact than is often elsewhere concluded.
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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 review is from: An Introduction to Political Philosophy (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars highly recommended for the layman, 27 Feb. 2009
By 
Mr. J. Hudson - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: An Introduction to Political Philosophy (Paperback)
This book functions on a number of different levels. Although it is clearly written for the university student ; it can easily appeal to the layman equally well. As a layman; I was looking for an introduction to political philosophy which would give me a general concept of where politicians get the justification for poking their unwelcome noses into the private lives of ordinary citizens. With the increase in media headlines about Orwellian society; it would also be interesting to compare `what is taught' against `how it is applied'. This book is exceptionally good, in that it gives an excellent general introduction to the subject. It is also written by a British university lecturer . It is written in plain English and is well structured to give a good general overview. It gives a good general overview of the `big names' in the history of political philosophy. The author makes a reasonable attempt to produce the theoretical good and bad aspects of political philosophy; but tiptoes through the `real world' political application. This is perhaps understandable since the author runs the risk of being branded as spreading `political unrest' among his students. The book does it's job so well, that it exposes the weakness in the teaching of political philosophy . The presentation of theory and practice is so clearly done that you can see that there is almost no co-relationship between theory and practice. The author presents politics as a `voter driven' system. Anyone looking at the real world can see that it is `ruling class' driven. There are some damning examples of the difference between theory and practice given in the book; but the author leaves the reader to contemplate the significance. Imagine lecturers in engineering or science telling the students that any machine they build using the principles being taught; won't work. The ancient Greeks believed that the relationship between `ruling classes' and citizens is one of farmers and cattle in fields. This is never mentioned in the book ; which is surprising since it perfectly matched the mentality which the author describes throughout the book. Excellent book ... thoroughly recommended for the layman.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, balanced, and refreshing, 15 Jun. 2012
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This review is from: An Introduction to Political Philosophy (Paperback)
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, aspiring to guide us from `muddled ignorance' to `informed bemusement'.

Firstly, we learn that, despite the general consensus that we need an appointed authority to prevent general breakdown in society, no theory can be found to demonstrate definitively that that all citizens should be compelled to obey it !

Secondly, the different forms of democracy are analysed -it would work better than the alternative (benign dictatorship with exhaustive opinion polls) if people voted according to their conscientious estimate of the best solution for the whole of society. It is actually of more doubtful efficacy if we (as we tend to) simply choose what's best for ourselves (`the tyranny of the majority'). Unless of course democracy has an added function - perhaps to promote a culture of universal respect.

As to the questions: How much liberty should we each possess ? Which is more important when social justice competes with liberty? Which should be our primary concern, the individual or society ? After elegant exposition of the arguments, I was left to agree with Wolff that `there can be no final word' in political philosophy.

Finally, there are other equilibria to recognize: should we be radical and progressive, placing our weight behind whichever argument we find most plausible? Or conservative, and sceptical of the usefulness of political theories? And should we prioritise reforming the law, or focus on applying it with sensitivity and compassion?

Thanks to this book, I am now more intrigued by politics, less impressed by politicians, and a fully signed-up floating voter !
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant introduction, 20 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: An Introduction to Political Philosophy (Paperback)
Jonathan Wolff's introduction to political philosophy is by far the superior of all within its kind. Whilst many introductions to philosophy tend to overlook political and social philosophies, Wolff provides a sweeping and impartial review of the main debates in political philosophy through a series of intriguing and engaging questions. This unusual structure is one of the highlights of this peerless work; it maintains an interesting atmosphere of intellectual curiosity and provides an arena for the contention of different views. Furthermore, it allows for a development of political philosophy from the ground up; a real and unmissable novelty.
Another feature of this work, which I have heard offered as a criticism, is a lack of decisive conclusion; Wolff remains entirely objective in his treatment of the arguments and his indecision is one of the many highlights of this work. This is most eminent in his conclusion to the book itself, in which he claims that despite a lack of answers, we ought to continue to practice our political philosophising.
In writing this review, I must confess, I endeavour to remain objective in my dealing with the work and have tried to find grounds to criticise it. However, there is nothing in this work which I find I can provide negative report of, at least without making trivial or unfounded attacks.
Overall, this is by far the greatest introduction available and one which is entirely deserving of its great reputation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic bite sized introduction to a daunting subject., 23 Jan. 2011
By 
R. Cutts (uk) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: An Introduction to Political Philosophy (Paperback)
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 matter.

This book turned out to be pretty much perfect. The writing is very straightforward and engaging. Each point of argument tackled was discussed, however briefly, from multiple points of view before moving on. This is something that I believe is of great importance, especially in introductory texts.

If you are new to the subject I can safely say I'd be astonished if there was a better book available.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very accessible and honestly engaging, 10 Nov. 2006
This review is from: An Introduction to Political Philosophy (Paperback)
As an upper sixth-form student hoping to pursue a partial degree in philosophy, this book has been an excellent introduction to the central issues of political philosophy.

Lucid, impartial text that avoids dry language and communicates ideas clearly and enjoyably make this book a highly recommended pick.
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An Introduction to Political Philosophy
An Introduction to Political Philosophy by Jonathan Wolff (Paperback - 19 Jan. 2006)
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