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Modern Theories of Politics


Evangelia Sembou

Everything you ever wanted to know about modern political theory, but never dared to ask …
This book offers a concise introduction to the main ideas and arguments of the major political thinkers of modernity. It considers the following key thinkers: Hobbes, Locke, Bentham, J. S. Mill, Rousseau, Burke, Hegel and Marx.
Perhaps the best way to understand the ideas of a thinker is to read from their work. This book devotes each chapter to the main writings of a single thinker, providing excerpts from their work and explaining their views in detail. Readers are not expected to have any previous knowledge of the writings of these eight political philosophers, but by the end they should have a solid grasp of their central ideas. This book serves as an essential guide to some of the most important writings on political philosophy of modern times.


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Introduction 1 Chapter 1 Thomas Hobbes 5 The Methodology of Leviathan 5 Hobbes’s Human Beings 8 The Natural Condition of Humankind 10 The Laws of Nature 13 The Commonwealth 16 The Liberty of Subjects 21 Chapter 2 John Locke 23 The Two Treatises of Government 24 The State of Nature 25 The Theory of Property 29 Civil Society 32 Consent 36 Political Society 41 Revolution 45 Chapter 3 Jeremy Bentham 49 The Principle of Utility 50 The Political Theory 57 vi Chapter 4 John Stuart Mill 71 Mill’s Refinement of Utilitarianism 73 On Liberty 81 On Women’s Emancipation 101 On Socialism 118 Chapter 5 Jean-Jacques Rousseau 131 The Discourse on Inequality 131 The Social Contract 139 Hegel on Rousseau and the French Revolution 156 Chapter 6 Edmund Burke 161 The Nature and Sources of the Ref lections 162 His Criticism of Natural Rights 164 His Version of Contract Theory 167 On Religion 172 Pragmatism vs. Metaphysics 174 His Criticism of the French Revolutionary Government 178 Chapter 7 G. W. F. Hegel 183 The Structure of the Philosophy of Right 183 Abstract Right 185 Morality 187 Ethical Life 188 vii Chapter 8 Karl Marx 205 His Critique of Hegel’s Political Philosophy 208 The Critique of Liberalism 210 His Revolutionary Strategy 214 The Theory of Alienation 217 His Theory of History 221 His Theory of the State 223 Bibliography 227 Index 243

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