Political Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 26 Jun 2003
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
This book is a very good short introduction to political philosophy. It fully meets the requirement that "political philosophers...are bound to challenge many of the conventional beliefs held both by politicians and by the public at large...when political philosophers put forward their own ideas and proposals, these nearly always look strange and disturbing to those who are used to the conventional debate" (pp. 9-10). This is all the more essential "at moments when we face new political challenges that we cannot deal with using the conventional wisdom of the day" (p. 11). I wish more political philosophers would heed this imperative, moving towards new paradigms as required by the metamorphosis into which humanity is cascading, instead of marginally improving ideas which are important but in need revaluation, often radically so.
All chapters are enlightening. Thus, chapter 4 on "Freedom and the limits of government" succinctly discusses central issues of "liberty" and "human rights." Departing from common views, the author distinguishes between "human rights" and "citizen rights", recommending quite counter-conventionally that "rights that belong on the longer list (of) rights of citizenship...ought to be recognized as basic protections for the individual within our political community - while in other communities a different set of rights, overlapping with but not identical with ours, should prevail (p. 72, emphasis in original). The author is careful "not to succumb to debilitating political correctness." Thus, he offers a balanced view of feminism and multiculturalism (p. 102).Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very good book for a decent insight into political philosophyPublished 1 month ago by Blake Stephens
Fantastic introduction to the topic. I found this book engaging on a number of levels. It was clear, well structured and full of very thoughtful questions. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Udey
Excellent! Not all books in this series are, but this one is.Published 7 months ago by Dr. N. Popovic
In reviewing books, one likes to have some foreknowledge of the subject at hand, even if one does consider oneself omniscient on the subject. Read morePublished 14 months ago by S. Meadows
just the book needed for my class and only started using it. ThanksPublished 22 months ago by Dorothy Condor
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