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Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government [Oxford Political Theory Series] Paperback – September 30, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0198296423 ISBN-10: 0198296428

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Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government [Oxford Political Theory Series] + On the People's Terms: A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy (The Seeley Lectures) + Just Freedom: A Moral Compass for a Complex World (Norton Global Ethics)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 30, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198296428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198296423
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.7 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #225,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Pettit offers a powerful explication and vindication of republicanism as a viable political philosophy for our times....The book is compelling because of Pettit's clarity and originality, as well as his choice of nondomination as the core of republicanism....Highly recommended for upper-division undergraduates as well as more advanced readers."--Choice

About the Author

Philip Pettit is Professor of Social and Political Theory, Australian National University and Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, New York.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
This very interesting book is a systematic attempt to use a traditional view of liberty as the basis for modern, pluralistic states. Like many, Pettit begins with Berlin's famous, though ambiguous, distinction between positive and negative liberty. He wants a formulation of liberty that captures some of the intuitive attractions of liberty in its negative, non-interference, form. He wants also to avoid some of the defects of liberty as non-interference in which liberty is "Freedom of the pike is death for the minnows (Berlin, 2 Concepts of Liberty)." Pettit's solution is the concept of liberty as non-domination. This is a traditional view associated with the republican tradition that begins in the city states of Renaissance Italy, particularly with Machiavelli, is transmitted in the Anglophone world by 17th century republican theorists like Harrington, and reaches its agogee in the 18th century with the writings of dissident British Whig intellectuals, Montesquieu, and Americans like Paine and Madison. In this version of liberty, there is strong emphasis on individual rights and freedoms, but in contrast to the libertarian ideal of liberty as non-interference, the state is authorized, indeed, encouraged to promote government and policies that prevent domination of individuals by others.

As Pettit makes clear, this view of liberty languished at the end of the 18th century because it was bound up with the elitism of classical republicanism. Utilitarian thinkers like James Mill and the increasingly democratic polities of America and some European countries undermined the elitism of the classical republican tradition.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on December 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
"Republicanism" is a thought piece on the nature and form of republican society and government. The idea of republicanism originated in Roman times, was elaborated upon by Machiavelli, found a following among the educated English gentry in the 17th century, and is a somewhat plausible description of the first one hundred years of U.S. society. But the book is only minimally interested in detailing any real-world implementations of republican ideas past or present.
Traditionally, republicanism has focused on the rights of civic-minded, virtuous, and independent elites to be free from the tyranny of emperors, kings, and the like. Those economically dependent on others (and most are) were not suitable candidates for the enjoyment of republican freedom. The Jeffersonian era is often described as republican because of a large base of independent farmers. Republicanism does not actually imply a precise form of government. A benign monarch can be seen as honoring republican ideas as much as a democratically elected government. At least historically, republicanism does seem to imply limited government with a large civic sphere. But public life in the modern era exists in a truncated form. The author scarcely discusses the isolation and privatization of modern life. It cannot be ignored that the rise of huge corporations has walled off more and more of society's daily actions from public view and control.
The author eschews the liberal idea that republican freedom consists mostly of the lack of interference from those powerfully situated. Instead, he emphasizes the lack of domination, even the potential for domination, as the key element of republicanism. The possibility, regardless of how remote, of arbitrary interference undermines the full development of republican freedom.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By William Bhusian on February 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is written for those who have studied or wish to study political philosophy in detail. And while you're studying philosophy and politics, brush up on your legal theory as well. You are going to need all three and more, to fully explore the ideas in this book.
The title 'Republicanism' is confusing. This is not a book about our current politcal parties or present republics. It is about creating political parties and using politcal ideas that are taken from ancient Rome, which was a 'republic'. Personally, I would have titled this book very differently, but that's just me. Mr Pettit can call his book whatever he wants. Because it's brilliant, would sell and would make people think even if it were titled 'This Book Stinks - and oh, by the way, we're watching you and we're sending crack assasins 'round to your house, if you even sniff in it's general direction'.
Pettit suggests not socialism, but cooperation between government and people. His ideas suggest we need more exchange of information between government and people. So yes, the people have to listen to government more, but he is not suggesting that government control the people or that people have to agree with what they are listening to.
And again, there is another term 'dominion' that is misleading if you only skim this book, or if you are not well studied in philosophy. The term 'dominion' does not mean lack of freedom in the context of this book. It means cooperation, but with the freedom to cooperate or not without suffering serious consequences if you don't.
Let me illustrate. Here in Australia (the author and I are from the same town) we are forced to either fill out a voting form, OR, send in a voting form in the mail. We ARE NOT forced to put anything sensible on that voting form.
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