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Politics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by [Minogue, Kenneth]
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Politics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Kindle Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Review

This is a fascinating book which sketches, in a very short space, one view of the nature of politics the reader is challenged, provoked and stimulated by Minogue's trenchant views. (Ian Davies, Talking Politics)

a dazzling but unpretentious display of great scholarship and humane reflection. (Neil O'Sullivan, University of Hull)

Professor Minogue's slim volume is an admirably light and sensible guide to political practitioners and students who want to learn more about the theoretical and historical context of today's controversies. (Sir Philip Goodhart)

Kenneth Minogue is a very lively stylist who does not distort difficult ideas. (Maurice Cranston)

Minogue is an admirable choice for showing us the nuts and bolts of the subject. (Nicholas Lezard, Guardian)

About the Author

About the Author: Kenneth Minogue is Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics and author of a number of books, including Alien Powers: The Pure Theory of Ideology.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 330 KB
  • Print Length: 131 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0192853880
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (24 Feb. 2000)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0058C6EW8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #35,890 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Politics is, when you stop to think about it, surprisingly slippery in its definition. In this Very Short Introduction, Minogue begins by trying to pin down what we mean by the word, and compares it to what (in his view) it isn't: despotism. He then proceeds to explore the history of politics, starting with the ancient Greeks and Romans and moving on through medieval politics and the influence of Christianity, all the way to the present day.

The author then turns to the practice of politics: how it is experienced, the difference between the State and society, the role of the individual, culture, and the economy. He investigates international relations and examines what we mean by "the national interest". He looks at the experience of engaging in politics - and the type of person it takes to be a politician. As you would expect, parties and doctrines are covered, including the conservative-liberal divide, and where socialism fits into that picture. Concepts like justice, freedom and democracy are also considered.

Finally, Minogue moves on from the practice to the science of politics, and the attempt to understand politics as a process or mechanism. The last chapter is a glance into the future: at growing internationalism, at the widening definition of politics, and how almost everything is now deemed 'political'. There have been hints at the author's political leanings throughout earlier chapters, but it is here that they really come to the fore.

History forms a dominant part of this book, as you might expect. The first third is a solid history of politics, but be warned: the author assumes familiarity with significant figures like Machiavelli and Marx, and takes it from there.
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Format: Paperback
As a second year political science student, I considered it to be excellently written, even for people who don't have much idea on politics, and it gives a good insight on what the main theories and ideas that you need to retain on politics. He introduces a good evolution of politics from ancient Rome and Greece to the twentieth century. In all it's a great jargon-free introduction to politics and is very recomended.
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Format: Paperback
This is probably one of the most amazing, challenging and beautifully-written books I have ever read in my life (at least in English). Kenneth Minogue has produced an outstanding page-turner. The book covers the essential history of politics and looks at the ways in which it is experienced, construed, challenged and also threatened in our modern society. It is an excellent introduction that every serious student of Politics must read.
However, I think that first year university students, who have little or no knowledge of politics might find the content of this book a bit tricky and confusingly complicated. It thus seems appropriate to rename it from "A Very Short Introduction" to "A Very Short Review".
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Format: Paperback
It is perhaps inevitable, given the essentially contested nature of politics, that any book on the subject is bound to be slanted, opinionated and infused with the author's own biases. But in an introductory text, an author arguably has a special obligation to at least strive for objectivity, to at least present the facts or differing opinions on a subject to a reader, and let them decide among them (or, at the very least, to make an argument that is presented as such, rather than as a statement of fact). In all of this, Kenneth Minogue completely fails. What he has actually produced is a highly ideological treatment of the topic, disguised as an objective statement of fact.

The best aspect of the book is that Minogue understands that politics means different things at different moments and so he takes readers through Ancient Greece, Rome, and the formation of modern states. These summaries are understandably brief but they give a decent overview of the notion of politics held in the past. Where the book completely falls down is in its presentation of the present. For all of Minogue's warnings about people assuming that today's values are natural and eternal, his presentation of contemporary politics unthinkingly and uncritically endorses the current liberal-democratic, capitalist mainstream and dismisses any attempt to change prevailing arrangements as inherently dangerous. He presents the current order as entirely natural, uncritically endorsing individualism (without considering its historical contingency and negative effects), along with dubious concepts like the "national interest" and "public good".
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Format: Paperback
Otto von Bismarck once remarked that politics is "the art of the possible." This sentiment is meant to convey the idea that there is not much room for idealism in the everyday conduct of politics. Indeed, as "Politics: A Very Short Introduction" observes repeatedly, all attempts at organizing affairs of men along some highly idealized guiding principles invariably result in large-scale bloodshed. Another way of looking at this is to think of politics as a necessary evil, albeit one that can improve the lot of humanity in concrete ways without the need to reach all the way to the stars.

Because of its nature, politics can be a very unsavory subject to deal with. It is one of the virtues of this very short introduction that it aims to take a very long-term view of politics as it has evolved over the course of several millennia. This is also a very western-centric view, taking the beginnings of what we recognize as civic politics in the ancient classical world of Greece and Rome. Nonetheless, it is a fact that politics as a participatory civic activity has for the first time been well defined in the classical context, and whether consciously or unconsciously political institutions for the next two millennia have been compared to their purported classical ideals.

This book is written in a very literary style that is as far removed from the standard textbook writing as they come. The author throws sweeping generalizations and one-sentence characterizations with an almost reckless abandon. In a way this approach can be very refreshing, and makes this an enjoyable book to read. Even when you come across points that seem dubious at best you will appreciate the insights that are being offered. The book treats politics within the history of ideas, rather than a craft.
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