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Politics: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – June 15, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0192853882 ISBN-10: 0192853880

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Editorial Reviews


"Surveying the history of politics from Plato to the present, it provides a good readable introduction to politics for beginners or a brushup for advanced students or faculty on areas too long ignored."--Choice

"Minogue's slim volume is an admirably light and sensible guide to political practitioners and students who want to learn more about the theoretical and historical context of today's controversies....We would all sleep more soundly if every prospective parliamentary candidate from every party was required to read this admirable book before the next election."--Sir Philip Goodhart

"Kenneth Minogue is a very lively stylist who does not distort difficult ideas....The book cannot fail to attract attention."--Maurice Cranston

"A refreshing, provocative, witty book! It does an excellent job of placing politics within the contexts of history and modern life."--Steve D. Boilard, Western Kentucky University

About the Author

Kenneth Minogue is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the London School of Economics.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192853880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192853882
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.5 x 4.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I found it in "Politics: A Very Short Introduction".
Nonetheless, this is a very lively book that is thought provoking and fun to read.
Dr. Bojan Tunguz
What most engaged me was the subtle depth and erudition.
Richard Hench

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Eduward du Bois on October 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is the first time that I read a book from the "Very Short Introductions" of the Oxford University Press and it sure made up for what it promised. A very well introduction on that abstract concept called politics.

Because it was such a small book, only 110 small pages, I expected a quick read, a snack for the hungry reader, something that you read in one zip. But that turned out to be a mistake. This is not an American style book, which tent to be somewhat gentler to the reader, but the English style, shorter and more to the point. But don't get me wrong, this is a very well written book and explains the many involved concepts and insights very well, in an incredible short amount of time.

The books starts by explaining what is not politics, despotism is not politics Minogue tells us and uses history to explain. How better to explain the nature of things by the history of it? He tells us about how the Greeks organized politics, how the Romans changed it and what kind of transformation the Christian idears changed our political culture into something we have today. As the history becomes more recent he starts to explain important political concepts as the modern state, political doctrine, the role of justice and morality. One of the last chapters in the book is about political ideology, which I found one of the best of the book. The book ends with the future of politics and describes the clash between ideology and politics.

As is inevitable in a book on politics, the writer him self has his own belief system he likes most and before I bought the book, I did some googling on the author. Minogue seems to be a English political conservative.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By T. J. Olson on November 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
Within a very short time, Oxford's Very Short Introduction series has established itself as among the best of its kind. And this installment by London School of Economics and Political Science emeritus professor, Ken Minogue, is no exception. If you've not had the pleasure of this urbane and learned scholar's company, then here is a fortunate substitute.
In a perfect outline of the field, Minogue covers the history of political thought from the ancients throught the moderns, enticing one to know more about the rise western civilization, "how we got here," and why peaceful societies must cultivate the art of politics. He then moves on to foreign relations, analytical methods, and modern democratic functional topics.
One gem of concision concerns politics as ideology and the difference it makes, the topic of which professor Minogue is quite simply the authority. If this moves you, then pick up his classic "The Liberal Mind," newly reissued--or else for a serious education, "Alien Powers: The Pure Theory of Ideology." Whether you want to grasp the seductive thrall that enraptures ideologists from Eric J. Hobsbawm to John Gray, or from historic communism to today's Islamism, "Alien Powers" is an essential guide to unmasking all pretense of knowledge.
Bravo, professor! Thanks for a masterful primer.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on January 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Otto von Bismarck once remarked that politics is "the art of the possible." This sentiment is meant to convey the idea that there is not much room for idealism in the everyday conduct of politics. Indeed, as "Politics: A Very Short Introduction" observes repeatedly, all attempts at organizing affairs of men along some highly idealized guiding principles invariably result in large-scale bloodshed. Another way of looking at this is to think of politics as a necessary evil, albeit one that can improve the lot of humanity in concrete ways without the need to reach all the way to the stars.

Because of its nature, politics can be a very unsavory subject to deal with. It is one of the virtues of this very short introduction that it aims to take a very long-term view of politics as it has evolved over the course of several millennia. This is also a very western-centric view, taking the beginnings of what we recognize as civic politics in the ancient classical world of Greece and Rome. Nonetheless, it is a fact that politics as a participatory civic activity has for the first time been well defined in the classical context, and whether consciously or unconsciously political institutions for the next two millennia have been compared to their purported classical ideals.

This book is written in a very literary style that is as far removed from the standard textbook writing as they come. The author throws sweeping generalizations and one-sentence characterizations with an almost reckless abandon. In a way this approach can be very refreshing, and makes this an enjoyable book to read. Even when you come across points that seem dubious at best you will appreciate the insights that are being offered. The book treats politics within the history of ideas, rather than a craft.
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24 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Gill Patrick on May 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book suffers from its overall argument, which is that the notion of politics has been construed, expanded, and has therefore become meaningless. In Minogue's view, if everything from reading a poem to conducting a love affair is considered political, then politics ultimately becomes meaningless. Minogue suggests that the death of true politics is somewhat of a paradox. If politics becomes the micromanagement of social life, in his words: "Politics will have died, but everything will be politics" (p. 111). I do not necessarily disagree with this argument, but Minogue does not sufficiently explain what is wrong with the view that everything is political, and he does not sufficiently explain what true politics should be. Given that the book title is "A Very Short Introduction," it seems the author would explain the nature of politics in detail and what politics is or should be.
Minogue never really explains what politics is, and this becomes a problem throughout the book. In the last chapter and in one or two other places in the book, he mentions that politics has something to do with power, but he does not elaborate this point. In the beginning of the book he discusses the problems with despotism, but then later in the book (p. 106) he argues that despotism is opposed to politics. In my view, politics is ultimately about the issue of power, the power of how society should be organized, and how that power should be divided. In this sense, despotism is very much political, although it is not desirable, since political power is designated to one or very few people.
Minogue's lack of discussion of political power and his strange view of despotism as opposed to politics affects his discussion of democracy, or the lack of a discussion there of.
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