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Cover Political Thinkers

Edited by David Boucher and Paul Kelly

Political Thinkers is an introduction to Western political thought. This third edition provides an introduction to the canon of great theorists, from Socrates and the Sophists to contemporary thinkers such as John Rawls and Hannah Arendt. Each chapter begins with a chapter guide, a biographical sketch of the thinker, a list of their key texts, and their key ideas. Scholastic commentary enables readers to understand the social and political contexts that inspired political thinkers. This edition features two new chapters on Arendt, one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century, and Hugo Grotius, whose work on just war continues to inform international law today. Following an introduction, the work is structured into five sections.

Chapter

Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

19. Hannah Arendt  

Kei Hiruta

This chapter covers the life and work of political theorist Hannah Arendt. It explains Arendt’s theory of totalitarianism alongside her central arguments and idiosyncratic methodology. The chapter then examines her theory of revolution which distinguished liberation as the overthrow of an old oppressive regime and revolution as the establishment of a new order of freedom. The chapter also examines Arendt’s attempt to offer a new political theory attuned to the post-totalitarian present, exploring the key concepts of action, speech, natality, plurality, freedom, and politics. It discusses criticisms of Arendt’s theories related to her cultural biases and racial prejudices and considers the ambivalence of her legacy of feminist theory.

Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

1. Introduction  

David Boucher and Paul Kelly

This volume introduces a canon of major political thinkers from ancient Greece to the present, including Socrates and the Sophists, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine of Hippo, Hugo Grotius, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Hannah Arendt, John Rawls, and Michel Foucault. The text focuses on the ways that these thinkers have shaped the intellectual architecture of our modern conceptions of the scope of politics and its place in social life. This introductory chapter discusses the origins of the study of political thought as a distinct activity and describes four sets of considerations that shape approaches to the study of political thought and help answer the question of why we should study it. It also analyses the problem of so-called perennial questions and the attempt to explain and defend what it is that makes a book a ‘classic’ text.

Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

29. Arendt  

Justine Lacroix

This chapter examines a number of key concepts in Hannah Arendt's work, with particular emphasis on how they have influenced contemporary thought about the meaning of human rights. It begins with a discussion of Arendt's claim that totalitarianism amounts to a destruction of the political domain and a denial of the human condition itself; this in turn had occurred only because human rights had lost all validity. It then considers Arendt's formula of the ‘right to have rights’ and how it opens the way to a ‘political’ conception of human rights founded on the defence of republican institutions and public-spiritedness. It shows that this ‘political’ interpretation of human rights is itself based on an underlying understanding of the human condition as marked by natality, liberty, plurality and action, The chapter concludes by reflecting on the so-called ‘right to humanity’.