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Chapter

Cover Issues in Political Theory

5. Power  

David Owen

This chapter assesses power, a basic concept of political theory. In its most fundamental sense, power is a dispositional concept that refers to the capacity to affect some feature of the world and the capacity to produce effects with respect to those feature of the world. The concept of power is closely bound in social and political contexts to the concepts of freedom and responsibility. There are different modes of power: power to, power with, power over, and power of. The power of an agent typically depends on the context of power in which they are situated and on the relations in which they stand to other agents within broader social structures. Moreover, exercises of power are always mediated — and, indeed, we often distinguishes forms of social and political power in terms of prominent general media through which they are exercised. The chapter then considers the three-dimensional view of power.

Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

8. Aquinas  

Joseph Canning

This chapter examines St Thomas Aquinas' political ideas. Aquinas combined Aristotelian ideas with Christian concepts, distinguishing between the natural and supernatural orders, and attributing inherent validity to the natural order, including political life. His theory of law linked, through reason, the eternal law of God, natural law, human positive law, and divine law. According to Aquinas, government's justification was its purpose — securing the common good. He favoured limited monarchy in a mixed constitution. The chapter first provides a short biography of Aquinas before discussing his views on natural and supernatural orders, government, tyranny, and temporal and spiritual power. It concludes with an assessment of Aquinas' contribution to political thought in the area of just war theory.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Political Philosophy

Introduction  

This text explores the main questions of political philosophy and looks at some of the most influential answers, from the ancient Greeks to the present day. Each chapter takes on a particular question or controversy. The natural starting-point is political power, the right to command. The first chapter considers the question of what would happen in a ‘state of nature’ without government, while the second tackles the problem of political obligation. The third chapter is concerned with democracy, asking whether a state should be democratic, for example, or whether there is any rationale for preferring rule by the people to rule by an expert. The next two chapters deal with liberty and property. The text concludes by focusing on questions that have drawn greater attention in more recent decades, such as issues of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, immigration, global justice, and justice to future generations.

Chapter

Cover Introducing Political Philosophy

3. Hate Speech and Freedom of Expression  

William Abel, Elizabeth Kahn, Tom Parr, and Andrew Walton

This chapter assesses when, if ever, a state should restrict hate speech. Political disputes about this topic are part of broader disagreements about the limits of freedom of expression. The chapter makes a case for restricting hate speech when, and on the grounds that, it incites or makes more likely harm to particular members of society. It considers whether some familiar justifications for freedom of expression provide a persuasive case against this view, exploring arguments that appeal to autonomy, individual interests in expression, and the dangers of granting the state regulatory power. None of these justifications supports the protection of hate speech. The chapter then sketches the kinds of hate speech legislation that these arguments justify.

Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

33. Foucault  

Paul Patton

This chapter examines Michel Foucault's approach to the history of systems of thought, which relied upon a distinctive concept of discourse he defined in terms of rules governing the production of statements in a given empirical field at a given time. The study of these rules formed the basis of Foucault's archaeology of knowledge. The chapter first considers Foucault's conception of philosophy as the critique of the present before explaining how his criticism combined archaeological and genealogical methods of writing history and operated along three distinct methodological axes corresponding to knowledge, power, and ethics. It then describes Foucault's archaeological approach to the study of systems of thought or discourse, along with his historical approach to truth. It also discusses Foucault's theory of freedom, his views on the nature and tasks of government, and his ideas about subjectivity in relation to care for the self.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Political Philosophy

Introduction  

This text explores the main questions of political philosophy and looks at some of the most influential answers, from the ancient Greeks to the present day. Each chapter takes on a particular question or controversy. The natural starting point is political power, the right to command. The first chapter considers the question of what would happen in a ‘state of nature’ without government, while the second tackles the problem of political obligation. The third chapter is concerned with democracy, asking whether a state should be democratic, for example, or whether there is any rationale for preferring rule by the people to rule by an expert. The next two chapters deal with liberty and property. The text concludes by focusing on questions that have drawn greater attention in more recent decades, such as issues of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, immigration, global justice, and justice to future generations.