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Chapter

Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

1. Introduction  

Simon Choat and Manjeet Ramgotra

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the study of political thought. It examines political thought as a specific way of understanding and analysing politics, highlighting some recent debates and developments, including the development of comparative political thought. In doing so, it also reflects on the meaning of ‘politics’ itself. The chapter then looks at why and how one might study the history of political thought, exploring different approaches and discussing a range of methodological and interpretative issues. It considers who should be studied and, in particular, explores calls to decolonize political thought. Ultimately, the chapter demonstrates that political thought can be understood and studied in a variety of ways and shows why it is important to include voices that have been excluded or silenced.

Book

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 Global Politics

3. Traditional Theories in Global Politics  

This chapter examines traditional theories in global politics. Although much of the explicit theorizing about international politics did not begin until the twentieth century, both liberalism and realism have drawn on long-standing ideas in the history of political thought to address basic problems of international order. So too has the English School which, while encompassing aspects of both liberalism and realism, has focused much more attention on the social character of international or global relations, elaborating in particular the notion of international society and its normative underpinnings. While most theorizing has been carried out largely, but not exclusively, on the basis of Western philosophical ideas, a new Chinese school of moral realism draws from ancient Chinese thought. Ultimately, both liberalism and realism have been modified over the years with competing strands developing within them, so neither can be taken as a single body of 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

10. Machiavelli  

Joseph V. Femia

This chapter examines Niccolò Machiavelli's contribution to political thought. It first provides a short biography of Machiavelli before discussing the main perspectives on Machiavelli and the reasons for their divergence. It then considers the historical and intellectual context that helped to shape Machiavelli's thinking, asking how the Renaissance differed from the Middle Ages, the extent to which Machiavelli was a man of the Renaissance, and why the Italian scene stimulated creative thought about politics. The chapter also explores Machiavelli's most innovative ideas: his rejection of metaphysics and teleology, whether of the Christian or aristotelian variety; his empirical and historical approach to the study of political affairs; and his anti-utopianism and belief in ‘reason of state’.

Chapter

Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

31. W.E.B. Du Bois  

Elvira Basevich

This chapter discusses W.E.B. Du Bois’s political thought and strategies for political advocacy which primarily focus on the politics of race, colonialism, gender, and labour. It also explains the key concepts in Du Bois’s criticism of how the white supremacist ideology shaped modern societies to create the colour line and to exclude members of vulnerable groups. These concepts include the doctrine of racialism, double consciousness, and Pan-Africanism. The chapter recognizes Du Bois’s contributions to Black feminist thought and American labour politics, which inspired major social justice movements in the twentieth century. Thus, Du Bois’s political thought shored up the contradictions in the liberal principles of freedom and equality for all.