Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Modern Morals and Happiness (Dodo Press) Paperback – September 11, 2009
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed
About the Author
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
He begins by stating that "The vices and moral weakness of man are not invincible: Man is perfectible, or in other words suceptible of perpetual improvement." (Pg. 140) Noting that "justice is reciprocal," Godwin asserts that if his neighbor is in need of ten pounds which he can spare, "unless it can be shown that the money can be more beneficiently employed," the neighbor has a "right" to that money. (Pg. 175) This is because "We have in reality nothing that is strictly speaking our own." (Pg. 194)
He rejects the obligatory Locke/Rousseau Social Contract, asking, "upon what principle is that obligation founded? Surely not upon the contract into which my father entered before I was born?" (Pg. 213) If government is founded on the consent of the people, "it can have no power over any individual by whom that consent is refused." (Pg. 216) He asserts that government in reality "is a question of force, and not of consent." (Pg. 239) A monarchical government renders the people subject to the "caprice of individuals." (Pg. 436) Even a limited monarchy "raises one man... over the heads of the rest of the community... arbitrarily and by accident.Read more ›
And he achieved this by his mastery of these subjects, in spite of the highly sophisticated, yet "common man-serving," political system which he embraced -- "Anarchism" -- which was universally despised by his friends, the moneyed elite.
This book was his masterpiece, and it proposed slow, deliberate, contemplative action in changing and ultimately correcting the many serious flaws in the existing systems of political order.
Unfortunately, the "Great Terrors" of the French revolution began just two years after the publication of his book. It's violence stunned and terrified the political and intellectual elite of Europe.
For various unconnected reasons and quite ironically, Godwin's name and his anarchic beliefs became immediately associated with the brutality and the chaos of the French Revolution itself.
To this day the term "anarchy" is misunderstood, especially in America, as a result of this mistaken association.
All this in spite of the fact that his work actually criticized severely the futility of sudden and violent action to achieve any political goals.
Nevertheless, in a matter of months his work was suddenly vilified by all of his former admirers (largely "fans" who had never actually bothered to read it), and his career came to an abrupt end while he was still in his early forties. Young indeed for such a highly respected intellectual!
The work speaks for itself, simple in its directness and quite eloquent.
I couldn't recommend it more highly to anyone interested in finding solutions to the vast miasma of political problems that face the world today!
Alan Wrightson, author of "Humanity Revealed"
Godwin's view of human nature is wrong. His view of the determinism (the nature around us is determined, so we have to be.) is immature. He mauls the definitions of 'voluntary' and 'involuntary' action beyond recognition. The good part, honestly, was his critique on existing governments. Very astute, unless you consider that Montesquieu made identical observations several years befor Godwin was born. Still, if you've not read or don't want to read Montesquieu, Godwin's is a forcefully stated, action-packed polemic.
His view of a stateless society based on a jejune faith in honesty of all people everywhere is extremely naive and one wonders why Godwin, who doesn't have faith in government or the ruled people (yes, even in democracies) could have faith in peoples capacities for honesty and the self-government that it entails.
Alas, I gave this two stars because of it's originality, it's contributions to anarchism (a movement that produces an adequate thinker from time to time) and most importantly, as an historically interesting contrast to Rousseau and Montesquieu who predated this book and Proudhorn, Goldman and even Marx who followed it.