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Political Philosophy: A Beginners' Guide for Students and Politicians Paperback – August 4, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0745635323 ISBN-10: 0745635326 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Polity; 2 edition (August 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745635326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745635323
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.5 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #546,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"An obviously well thought out and researched book, providing an excellent touchstone for those coming to political philosophy for the first time."
Australian Journal of Political Science

"Political Philosophy is enthusiastically recommended not just for students, but for anyone seeking to prepare themselves to cast a well-informed vote in elections."
Midwest Book Review

"A triumph of a book that illuminates the last two decades of politics and points the way to the next ... How does philosophy affect politics? Through books like this."
James Purnell MP

"Adam Swift's introduction to politial philosophy is clear-headed, fair-minded and fluently written. It will be of great value to students and all those interested in contemporary debates about liberty, equality, justice and community."
Michael Sandel, Harvard University

From the Back Cover

Politicians invoke grand ideas: social justice, democracy, liberty, equality,community. But what do these ideas really mean? How can politicians across the political spectrum appeal to the same values?

This revised and expanded edition of Political Philosophy: A Beginner’s Guide for Students and Politicians, answers these important questions. Accessible and lively, the book is an ideal student text, but it also brings the insights of the world’s leading political philosophers to a wide general audience. Using plenty of examples, it equips readers to think for themselves about the ideas that shape political life.

Democracy works best when both politicians and voters move beyond rhetoric to think clearly and carefully about the political principles that should govern their society. But clear thinking is difficult in an age when established orthodoxies have fallen by the wayside. Bringing political philosophy out of the ivory tower and within the reach of all, this book provides us with tools to cut through the complexities of modern politics. In so doing, it makes a valuable contribution to the democratic process.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Harry Brighouse on April 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
I've been using Adam Swift's Political Philosophy: An Beginner's Guide for Students and Politicians (UK) in my Political Philosophy course this semester, and, having now had several students thank me for assigning it, I should probably recommend it more widely. The book is written at an angle to my course. The course goes through the main ideas of various important contemporary theorists of justice: Rawls, Sen, Nozick, Milton Friedman (ok, he's the odd-one-out, but my view is that nobody should leave college without reading chapters 1,2 and 6 of Capitalism and Freedom, and I abuse my position as a professor to do my bit), Kymlicka, Okin, Fraser, and G.A. Cohen. The book is more conceptual; it consists of chapters on Social Justice, Equality, Freedom, Community and (in the new, second, edition) Democracy, which go through various distinctions and problems in thinking about those concepts, and it only refers to the work of particular philosophers insofar as it is relevant to the problem at hand. The book also includes a lovely discussion of the division of labour between political philosophers on the one hand and political activists and politicians on the other, and offers a semi-sympathetic diagnosis of the reasons that politicians often seem to be such uncareful thinkers about matters of value. It really is a superb piece of writing, accessible to anyone with an interest in these matters, but somehow achieving the accessibility without compromising the complexity of the issues in question.

I usually feel obliged to talk in class a good deal about the books I assign, but I haven't been talking about Swift's book much because it getes everything right (so nothing to argue with) and is written with such precision and transparency that there's nothing to clarify or explain.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
This very well written book is a nice introduction to contemporary political philosophy. Swift's approach is a bit unusual. Rather than a traditional historical approach, Swift has selected 5 of the most important themes in modern political philosophy; social justice, liberty, equality, community, and democracy. Swift is mainly concerned with providing readers with the essential intellectual tools to approach these themes. He provides a series of concise descriptions and discussions of contemporary thinking about the themes. Swift's primary goal is not provide a comprehensive analysis of contemporary thinking but rather to present clear definitions of the key questions and fair depictions of the most important approaches to those questions. Swift tries to present the best aspects of different approaches. He is not, however, uncritical. In the spirit of clarity and presenting good examples of careful analysis, he articulates strong criticism of some widespread but erroneous views. Von Hayek, Berlin's influential Two Concepts of Liberty, and Communitarian criticisms of Liberalism get very effective critiques. Each section has a good final section recommending further reading.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on April 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
Now in a revised and expanded second edition featuring a new chapter specifically about democracy, Political Philosophy: A Beginners' Guide for Students and Politicians by Adam Swift (Fellow in Politics and Sociology, Balliol College) is a highly accessible text for students, lay readers, and novice political philosophers concerning basic political principles that are used to govern society. Chapters describe and discuss philosophical constructs such as social justice, liberty, equality, community, and democracy, and especially dissect common misperceptions and assumptions concerning the denotative meaning of certain principles and labels. Laden with examples designed to prompt the reader to think long and hard concerning what political concepts such as "social justice" truly mean, Political Philosophy is enthusiastically recommended not just for students, but for anyone seeking to prepare themselves to cast a well-informed vote in elections.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stein's Object a on June 15, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brilliant introduction to the field of political philosophy, first and foremost with a view to the English-speaking liberal tradition. Easy to read, yet this thematically structured book covers the most important topics in depth.

As a Habermasian and Scandinavian social democrat, what Swift presents as leftist views appears to me to be the views of the centre-right. Still, the book's exquisite conceptual rigour (which one would expect from an analytical philosopher) actually helped me sharpening my understanding on liberty/freedom within the Scandinavian model of distribution.

Overall, this book is highly recommended. It presents itself as a beginners guide, but is has a lot to offer to the advanced reader as well. For example, Amartya Sen's name is not mentioned in the chapter on social justice. Yet over a few paragraphs, elegantly interwoven in the general text, Swift explains the basic structure of Sen's so-called "capability approach".
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1 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A. Martinez on October 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I didn't like it. It is books like this that make me wish my instructors always used source materials, not interpretations. I fell he comes short in some areas, but there is the undeniable benefit of ease of use.
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