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Modern Theories of Politics

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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

Extract

This book is based on a series of lectures on political theory I delivered in the Department for Continuing Education at the University of Oxford in the winter of 2003 and the autumn of 2004. Its aim is to introduce the reader to the main ideas and arguments of the major political thinkers of modernity; these are Hobbes, Locke, Bentham, J. S. Mill, Rousseau, Burke, Hegel and Marx. It starts from the assumption that the best way to acquaint oneself with the ideas of a thinker is to read the work in which they are set forth. For this reason each chapter concentrates on the main writings of a single thinker and discusses in detail the views propounded therein. The book, as indeed the lectures from which it originated, is directed towards an audience that approaches the writings of the eight political philosophers for the first time. So no previous knowledge of political philosophy is pre- supposed. The purpose of the book is to serve as a guide to some of the most important writings on political philosophy of modern times. There are some points that I wish to make. Firstly, the book is not an history of political thought. Therefore, the eight thinkers are not discussed in chronological order. Jean-Jacques Rousseau lived and was writing before Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Edmund Burke lived and wrote before John Stuart Mill. John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx were contemporaries and wrote in the same period; Mill’s Principles of Political...

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