- 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: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #499,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Politics: A Very Short Introduction
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"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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The modern idea of politics as the embodiment of a natural "will to power" is evident in these lines by William Cowper: "I am monarch of all I survey,/ My right there is none to dispute;/ From the center of all round to the sea/ I am lord of the fowl and the brute." This is the libido dominandi [lust to rule] noted in ancient times by St. Augustine. If we assume with Thomas Hobbes that political conflict is the result of everyone grasping for advantage -- because of scarcity, passion for glory, or diffidence (pp. 54-55) -- the result may be easily expressed as a variation of Parkinson's law. To paraphrase C. Northcote Parkinson: "Politics expands to fill whatever medium (or receptacle) is available to it." It thus becomes unlimited and imperialistic in character.
For Minogue, there seems to be a natural desire on the part of political actors to simplify collective life and reduce its unpredictability by asserting greater control over whatever marginal factors might interfere with or deflect them from their goals. So politics -- individually and corporately -- becomes a grasping for ever greater power and/or preventing others from gaining the upper hand. Such political "realism" calls to mind the temptation in the Garden: "You shall be as God, knowing [determining] good and evil." Perhaps a good alternate title for this book would be "The Despotic Temptation."
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And parties may reduce to two, but need each other to survive.