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Arendt, Hannah, , . Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy
1982, University of Chicago Press.
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Publisher’s Note: Hannah Arendt’s last philosophical work was an intended three-part project entitled The Life of the Mind. Unfortunately, Arendt lived to complete only the first two parts, Thinking and Willing. Of the third, Judging, only the title page, with epigraphs from Cato and Goethe, was found after her death. As the titles suggest, Arendt conceived of her work as roughly parallel to the three Critiques of Immanuel Kant. In fact, while she began work on The Life of the Mind, Arendt lectured on “Kant’s Political Philosophy,” using the Critique of Judgment as her main text. The present volume brings Arendt’s notes for these lectures together with other of her texts on the topic of judging and provides important clues to the likely direction of Arendt’s thinking in this area.

Comment: This book provides a good overview of Arendt’s perspective on Kant’s political philosophy. Previous knowledge on Kant is needed.

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Broad, Jacqueline, , Karen Green. A History of Women’s Political Thought in Europe, 1400–1700
2009, Cambridge University Press
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Karen Green

Publisher’s Note: This ground-breaking book surveys the history of women’s political thought in Europe from the late medieval period to the early modern era. The authors examine women’s ideas about topics such as the basis of political authority, the best form of political organisation, justifications of obedience and resistance, and concepts of liberty, toleration, sociability, equality, and self-preservation. Women’s ideas concerning relations between the sexes are discussed in tandem with their broader political outlooks; and the authors demonstrate that the development of a distinctively sexual politics is reflected in women’s critiques of marriage, the double standard, and women’s exclusion from government. Women writers are also shown to be indebted to the ancient idea of political virtue, and to be acutely aware of being part of a long tradition of female political commentary. This work will be of tremendous interest to political philosophers, historians of ideas, and feminist scholars alike.

Comment: Offers an overview of women’s works advocating for the spiritual and political equality of women and men from Christine de Pizan’s Book of the City of Ladies to Mary Astell’s Serious Proposal to the Ladies. Embeds these works within the wider traditions of political philosophy and in particular debates about virtue, liberty, religious toleration, equality, and good government.

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Butler, Judith, , Athena Athanasiou. The Political Promise of the Performative
2013, In: Dispossession: The Performative in the Political. London: Polity. 140-148.
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Summary: In this conversation Butler and Athanasiou explore the parameters of the public performance of political dissent. They discuss instances of political protest that link up to Butler and Athanasiou’s shared sense of performativity. For the two of them, performativity is the aspect of our social life that manifests surprise, challenge and urgency through the human body. This makes the performative an especially effective instrument against the disparity, dispossession and desperation the better part of humanity is forced to endure.

Comment: This text is best used as a further or specialised reading in classes on political dissent and subversion of social norms. It can inspire interesting discussions on ways to express dissent and protest, and can be very useful in discussions of politically involved art.

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Chambers, Clare, , Phil Parvin. Teach Yourself Political Philosophy: A Complete Introduction
2012, Hodder & Stoughton.
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Publisher’s Note: Written by Phil Parvin and Clare Chambers, who are current political philosophy lecturers and leading researchers, Political Philosophy – The Essentials is designed to give you everything you need to succeed, all in one place. It covers the key areas that students are expected to be confident in, outlining the basics in clear jargon-free English, and then providing added-value features like summaries of key thinkers, and even lists of questions you might be asked in your seminar or exam. The book’s structure follows that of most university courses on political philosophy, by looking at the essential concepts within political philosophy (freedom, equality, power, democracy, rights, the state, political obligation), and then looking at the ways in which political philosophers have used these fundamental concepts in order to tackle a range of normative political questions such as whether the state has a responsibility to alleviate inequalities, and what interest liberal and democratic states should take in the cultural or religious beliefs of citizens.

Comment: ‘Phil Parvin and Clare Chambers have produced a state of the art textbook, which provides students with a comprehensive and bang up-to-date introduction to contemporary political philosophy. Topics are introduced in a clear and eminently readable fashion, using accessible real world examples whilst drawing on sophisticated scholarly literature. There is no comparable book which covers such a wide range of topics in such a student-friendly manner.’ (Dr Daniel Butt, Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Bristol.)‘A lively, accessible and engaging read. Comprehensive and well organized, it provides an updated account of key concepts in contemporary political philosophy, and highlights their relevance to political life in the 21st century. A valuable book for anyone taking their first steps in the world of political philosophy, or anyone who seeks to understand the normative challenges faced by our society today.’ (Dr Avia Pasternak, Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Essex.)‘Written in a clear and accessible style, it is an engaging introduction for those who are new to political philosophy and wish to think through some of its most important questions. In addition to offering outlines of key arguments, each chapter also contains a summary of main concepts, self-test questions, a wonderful selection of quotations and some attention-grabbing ‘nuggets” (Dr Zosia Stemplowska, University Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Oxford)

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Finlayson, Lorna, , . The Political is Political: Conformity and the Illusion of Dissent in Contemporary Political Philosophy
2015, London: Rowman and Littlefield International
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by: Emily Dyson

Publisher’s Note: Nobody should really have to point out that political philosophy is political. Yet in this highly original and provocative book Lorna Finlayson argues that in fact it is necessary to do so. Offering a critique of mainstream liberal political philosophy through close, critical engagement with a series of specific debates and arguments, Finlayson analyzes the way in which apparently neutral methodological devices such as ‘charitable interpretation’ and ‘constructive criticism’ function so as to protect against challenges to the status quo.
At each stage, Finlayson demonstrates that political philosophy is suffering from a complex process of ‘depoliticization.’ Even in cases where it appears that the dominant framework of liberal political philosophy is being strongly challenged – as, for example, in the case of the ‘realist’ critique of ‘ideal theory’ – this book argues that the debate is set up in such a way as to impose strict limits on the kind of dissent that is possible. Only by dragging these hidden presuppositions into the foreground can we arrive at a clear-eyed appreciation of such debates, and perhaps look beyond the artificially constricted landscape in which they seek to confine us.

Comment: Good further or advanced reading on the methodology of political philosophy, and an incredibly illuminating critical complement to a Rawls-heavy syllabus. Finlayson provides an interesting and challenging critique of liberal presuppositions that are widespread in political philosophy. Individual chapters would also make very good further or advanced reading in their own right, especially the chapters on Rawls, the norm of philosophical charity, speech acts and silencing, and political realism.

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Hampton, Jean, , . Political Philosophy
1996, Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
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Publisher’s Note: Political philosophy, perhaps even more than other branches of philosophy, calls for constant renewal to reflect not just re-readings of the tradition but also the demands of current events. In this lively and readable survey, Jean Hampton has created a text for our time that does justice both to the great traditions of the field and to the newest developments. In a marvelous feat of synthesis, she links the classical tradition, the giants of the modern period, the dominant topics of the twentieth century, and the new questions and concerns that are just beginning to rewrite contemporary political philosophy.Hampton presents these traditions in an engaging and accessible manner, adding to them her own views and encouraging readers to critically examine a range of ideas and to reach their own conclusions. Of particular interest are the discussions of the contemporary liberalism-communitarianism debates, the revival of interest in issues of citizenship and nationality, and the way in which feminist concerns are integrated into all these discussions. Political Philosophy is the most modern text on the topic now available, the ideal guide to what is going on in the field. It will be welcomed by scholars and students in philosophy and political science, and it will serve as an introduction for readers from outside these fields.

Comment: Many of the chapters would make for good introductory readings to standard topics in political philosophy, including: social contract theories, political authority, distributive justice, liberalism vs communitarianism, nationalism.

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Lafont, Christina, , . Alternative Visions of a New Global Order: What Should Cosmopolitans Hope For?
2008, Ethics and Global Politics (1).
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Abstract: In this essay, I analyze the cosmopolitan project for a new international order that Habermas has articulated in recent publications. I argue that his presentation of the project oscillates between two models. The first is a very ambitious model for a future international order geared to fulfill the peace and human rights goals of the UN Charter. The second is a minimalist model, in which the obligation to protect human rights by the international community is circumscribed to the negative duty of preventing wars of aggression and massive human rights violations due to armed conflicts such as ethnic cleansing or genocide. According to this model, any more ambitious goals should be left to a global domestic politics, which would have to come about through negotiated compromises among domesticated major powers at the transnational level. I defend the ambitious model by arguing that there is no basis for drawing a normatively significant distinction between massive human rights violations due to armed conflicts and those due to regulations of the global economic order. I conclude that the cosmopolitan goals of the Habermasian project can only be achieved if the principles of transnational justice recognized by the international community are ambitious enough to cover economic justice.

Comment: This article addresses topics that may be covered by a wide variety of courses. Lafont addresses both a Rawlsian and a Habermasian theory of global justice and international law, making this a good text to supplement a course that covers institutional proposals for global justice and fulfilling other cosmopolitan obligations.

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Mendus, Susan, , . Politics and Morality
2009, Polity.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Publisher’s Note: Public disenchantment with politics has become a key feature of the world in which we live. Politicians are increasingly viewed with suspicion and distrust, and electoral turnout in many modern democracies continues to fall. But are we right to display such contempt towards our elected representatives? Can politicians be morally good or is politics destined to involve dirty hands or the loss of integrity, as many modern philosophers claim? In this book, Susan Mendus seeks to address these important questions to assess whether this apparent tension between morality and politics is real and, if so, why.

Beginning with an account of integrity as involving a willingness to stand by ones most fundamental moral commitments, the author discusses three reasons for thinking that politics undermines integrity and is incompatible with morality. These are: the relationship between politics and utilitarian calculation; the possibility that the realm of politics is a separate realm of value; and the difficulty of reconciling the demands of different social roles. She concludes that, in the modern world, we all risk losing our integrity. To that extent, we are all politicians. Moreover, we have reason to be glad that politicians are not always morally good.

Written with verve and clarity, this book provides students and general readers an accessible guide to the philosophical debates about the complex relationship between politics and morality in the contemporary world.

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O’Neill, Onora, , . The public use of reason
1986, Political Theory 14 (4):523-551.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by:

Abstract: LIBERALS OFTEN THINK diversity of belief and its expression should be tolerated in order to respect either individuals or reason and truth themselves. Because they are agnostic about the good for man, they hold that liberty for each to pursue his or her conception of the good in “self-regarding” matters is required, and that practices of toleration are important aspects of this liberty. They also often advocate practices of toleration as means by which reasoned and true beliefs can come to prevail over false beliefs. Each line of thought justifies practices of toleration as means to something which is seen both as logically independent and as of more fundamental value. These familiar lines of thought are not the only possible liberal vindication of toleration. In Kant’s writings toleration is not a derivative value, to be established only when the value of true and reasoned belief and of liberty in self-regarding matters has been established. His arguments for toleration of what he terms “the public use of reason” presuppose neither antecedently given standards of rationality nor that any class of self-regarding individual actions is of special importance. For Kant the importance of (some sorts of) toleration is connected with the very grounding of reason, and so in particular with the grounding of practical reason. His arguments suggest that liberal political thinking can vindicate practices of toleration without commitment either to a strong form of individualism or to the view that we can distinguish “self-regarding” acts, and without claiming that reasoning either has a “transcendent” vindication or is groundless. The themes of toleration and of the grounding of reason are brought together in many Kantian texts. The most important is the Critique of Pure Reason, in particular the section of the Doctrine of Method called “The Discipline of Pure Reason in Respect of its Polemical Employment.” I The same connection is stressed in many other places, including scattered passages in the Second and Third Critiques, in the Logic, and in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone. A number of shorter essays, including “What Is Enlightenment?” (1784), “What Is Orientation in Thinking?” (1786), “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose” (1784), “The Conflict of the Faculties” (1798), “On the Common Saying ‘This may be True in Theory, but it does not Apply in Practice’ ” (1795), and “Perpetual Peace” (1795),2 appear at first to have much to say about toleration, including the political aspects of toleration, and little about the grounding of reason. Yet here too the themes are often interwoven. The close connections between the short political essays and the central critical writings suggest not only that the essays are part of Kant’s systematic philosophy, and not marginal or occasional pieces, but also perhaps that the entire critical enterprise has a certain political character. If this is the case, it is no accident that the guiding metaphors of The Critique of Pure Reason are political metaphors. If the discussion of reason itself is to proceed in terms of conflicts whose battlefields and strife are scenes of defeat and victory that will give way to a lasting peace only when we have established through legislation such courts, tribunals, and judges as can weigh the issue and give verdict, then it is perhaps not surprising that Kant links his discussions of politics very closely to larger issues about the powers and limits of human reason. However, this is a large and for present purposes somewhat tangential issue.3 The more immediate concern is to see how Kantian arguments link toleration to the very grounding of reason.

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Robeyns, Ingrid, , . Ideal Theory in Theory and Practice
2008, Social Theory and Practice 34 (3):341-362.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Jojanneke Vanderveen

Abstract: In recent year a growing number of political philosophers have expressed worries about the nature of ideal theory and its dominance in the literature on social justice. Differently, in the post-Rawlsian literature on theories of justice, most of the work done by mainstream political theorists and philosophers is part of what is known as ‘ideal theory’.

Comment: Very influential article about the use of idealizations in theories of justice, and about the use of partial theories of justice. Cited a lot. Very good resource in a justice class.

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Stemplowska, Zofia, , . What’s Ideal about Ideal Theory?
2008, Social Theory and Practice 34(3): 319-340.
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Introduction: One of the main tasks that occupies political theorists, and arouses intense debate among them, is the construction of theories—so-called ideal theories—that share a common characteristic: much of what they say offers no immediate or workable solutions to any of the problems our societies face. This feature is not one that theorists strive to achieve but nor can it be described as an accidental one: these theories are constructed in the full knowledge that, whatever else they may offer, much of what they say will not be immediately applicable to the urgent problems of policy and institutional design. Since this may seem puzzling, and has been subjected to severe criticism, the main task of this paper is to ask what is the point of ideal theory and to show the nature of its value. I will also argue that, while the debate over the point of ideal theory can be productive, it will only be so if we avoid treating ideal and nonideal theories as rival approaches to political theory.

Comment: Does a good job of defending ideal theory from prominent criticisms and setting out an account of ideal and non-ideal theory in which they complement one another. Would work as a main text for a lecture or seminar developing the ideal/non-ideal theme, or as further reading for anyone writing about it.

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Valentini, Laura, , . Ideal Vs. Non-Ideal Theory: A Conceptual Map
2012, Philosophy Compass 7(9): 654-664.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by: Jojanneke Vanderveen

Abstract: This article provides a conceptual map of the debate on ideal and non-ideal theory. It argues that this debate encompasses a number of different questions, which have not been kept sufficiently separate in the literature. In particular, the article distinguishes between the following three interpretations of the ‘ideal vs. non-ideal theory’ contrast: (i) full compliance vs. partial compliance theory; (ii) utopian vs. realistic theory; (iii) end-state vs. transitional theory. The article advances critical reflections on each of these sub-debates, and highlights areas for future research in the field.

Comment: Useful overview article of the ideal vs non-ideal theory debate. Lays out the territory and major concerns and offers several helpful distinctions. Would work as either a good main text for a lecture or seminar on this topic or as further reading for anyone working on it.

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Wolf, Susan, , . Two levels of pluralism
1992, Ethics 102 (4):785-798.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Jojanneke Vanderveen

Abstract: Pluralism in ethics, as I understand it, is the view that there is an irreducible plurality of values or principles that are relevant to moral judgment. While the utilitarian says that all morally significant con- siderations can be reduced to quantities of pleasure and pain, and the Kantian says that all moraljudgment can be reduced to a single principle having to do with respect for rationality and the bearers of rationality, the pluralist insists that morality is not at the fundamental level so simple. Moreover, as many use the term, and as I shall use it in this essay, the pluralist believes that the plurality of morally significant values is not subject to a complete rational ordering. Thus, it is held that no principle or decision procedure exists that can guarantee a unique and determinate answer to every moral question involving a choice among different fundamental moral values or principles. My aim in this article is not to argue for the truth of ethical pluralism but, rather, to explore some implications of its truth, or even of the self-conscious recognition of the possibility of its truth. Specifically, I shall argue that pluralism, or, indeed, even the possibility of pluralism, has implications for the way we understand issues concerning moral objectivity and moral relativism, as well as implications for the positions we take on them. I shall begin by sketching a common pattern of thought about these issues.

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