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Customer Review

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best overview but not only - contains also critical discussions and great arguments, May 15, 2006
This review is from: Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (Paperback)
This book contains the best overview of all the important themes, subjects and schools of contemporary normative political philosophy. The language is simple yet elegant and it might indeed be fun to read at some points.

The chapters it contains are as follows:

2. Utilitarianism - the best discussion of utilitarianism I have found. Beats all introductory ethics books by far (see my other reviews).

3. Liberal egalitarianism - Very good overview of Rawls's earlier theory (TJ). He doesn't commit the regular mistakes that introductory books make, but sees Rawls's arguments as they should be seen. Contains also a great overview of a much less-known theory of Dworkin (which was only available in articles before "Sovereign Virtue" 2000).

4. Libertarianism - Indepth overview of Nozick's theory + very good counterarguments. Sees Nozick as he should be seen with the concept of self-ownership at the center of the entitlement theory. Great discussion of the rebuttals to Chamberlain experiment. Nozick can be interpreted differently, but Kymlickas is also an adequate one. This chapter also includes an overview of contractarian mutual advantage theory put forward by David Gauthier. It concludes with a good discussion of libertarianism and freedom and how they do not really fit together.

5. Marxism - Indepth overview of contemporary analytical marxism in the context of politics. Discussion of the marxist rejection of justice, marxist arguments for abolishing private property, about exploitation and about alienation. Guys mentioned are Cohen, Elster, Roemer and others. You wont find this material elsewhere.

6. Communitarianism - The movement of the 80s. Great discussion of philosophical communitarianism's main ideas like: politics of the common good, social self, social thesis and etc. Sandel and Taylor are mostly mentioned, Walzer and MacIntyre less so.

7. Citizenship theory/ 8. Multiculturalism - an addition in the new, 2001 edition. Haven't read those parts yet, but since these are the areas that Kymlicka is the most known scholar in, you should know what to expect.

9. Feminism - A very interesting overview of the wide field of feminism in politics. Touches upon sexual equality and discrimination, the public and the private and the ethic of care (Gilligan and others).

You will also get a great bibliography and a lot of ideas for further reading. It is a must have for any aspiring student in political philosophy or ethics. Kymlicka himself seems to support a somewhat liberal position most, although he doesn't explicitly state it.


It is not only for students. If you read a lot of primary sources you can see that many quote this book. It isnt just a neutral introductory volume (there are no such things in phil anyway), but a book with many good arguments by Kymlicka not found elsewhere. Of course it also contains good overviews of arguments found in articles that are not usually available for or read by most people. So even a working scholar can benefit a lot from this book - but they probably know that already :)

P.S to the reviewer who had doubts about treating Nozick on the basis of equality. Nozicks theory is not about equality in the real world, but the justification of the theory is in some sense the equality of everyones self-ownership rights. This is the reason Kymlicka deals with Nozick in the way he does.
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