Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
Elegant, balanced, and refreshing
on 15 June 2012
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 !