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Cover Critiquing the Canon: Political Theory
Critiquing the Canon: Political Theory draws upon critical scholarship to bring together diverse ways of thinking about and critiquing key thinkers from the canon of political theory. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular thinker and their work, and encourages students to explore the limitations of the canon and ask important questions about whose views might be marginalized, ignored, or sidelined in the construction of ‘canonical’ thought. Pedagogical features include author tutorial videos and end-of-chapter questions to prompt students to develop their own voice and challenge dominant ideas.

Chapter

Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

26. Emma Goldman  

Ruth Kinna

This chapter examines resistance in Emma Goldman’s anarchism. It starts with an discussion of her reputation, especially with respect to her detachment from conventional political theory and her failure to investigate race as a category of oppression. The chapter contends that Goldman’s structure of resistance involves love with open eyes and the spirit of revolt. It then considers her understanding of political theory as a practice informed by experience, which she then deploys to develop her conceptions of power and emancipation, in particular her understanding of the relation between class power and women’s oppression. The chapter discusses slavery and slavishness to show how Goldman used rights to advocate resistance to domination. The chapter further explores how her acceptance of revolt highlighted the futility of struggles for inclusion.

Chapter

Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

6. Baruch Spinoza  

Caroline Williams

This chapter focuses on the major works of Baruch Spinoza as they impact upon politics, particularly the posthumously published Ethics (1677). This broadly philosophical work, composed over fifteen years, opens up many important ideas that are further developed in Spinoza’s two explicitly political works, Theologico-Political Treatise (1670) and the unfinished Political Treatise. The chapter explores some of the key ideas and concepts to be found in Ethics, including the concepts of nature, individuality, mind and body, imagination, and freedom. It then deepens the political ground of these concepts by addressing power and democracy. The chapter also advances Spinoza’s idea of the multitude and considers some of the political exclusions present in his political philosophy. While one may find limits in the perception of political equality, gender, and race in his works, Spinoza’s analysis of the relationship between the human condition and the natural world remains deeply prescient for many radical political thinkers reflecting on such themes today.

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Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

9. Jean-Jacques Rousseau  

Peter Hallward

This chapter evaluates some of the central tensions that characterize Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s egalitarian account of sovereignty. He formulates this account as the basis for a participatory ‘social contract’, meaning a voluntary form of association that aims to be both general enough to include the people as a whole, yet concentrated enough to command their government and to over-power the divisive influence of a wealthy elite. As he argued in his main political works, if it is sufficiently forceful, such a collective will can counteract the forms of inequality and servitude that have accompanied the historical rise of propertied and exploitative classes. Rousseau’s radical conception of mass power would soon inspire the most uncompromising sequences of the French Revolution. However, its emancipatory promise was also limited by its author’s sexism, his anachronism, and his failure to engage with some emerging forms of inequality and power, notably those associated with the rise of commerce, capitalism, and the transatlantic slave trade.

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Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

14. Friedrich Nietzsche  

Willow Verkerk

This chapter addresses many of Friedrich Nietzsche’s major works, with a concentration on his middle and later texts, to reflect on the problem of ‘the political’ in his oeuvre. It begins by identifying Nietzsche as a philosopher of culture whose perspectivist theory of knowledge challenges dualistic systems of truth. The chapter then explains Nietzsche’s concept of the will to power, with reference to how it functions at the level of the state and the individual, before presenting his critique of morality. It also examines Nietzsche’s difficult writings on equality and democracy and interrogates his positions on sex, race, and colonization. Finally, the chapter neither seeks to dismiss nor defend Nietzsche, but provides a foundation for understanding his philosophical concepts and methodologies.

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Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

33. Michel Foucault  

Paul Patton

This chapter examines Michel Foucault’s work on sexuality, power, and prisons. It also explores Foucault’s lectures on biopower, race, and government. This chapter discusses his analysis of discourses and truth before considering the concept of power that informed his approach to sexuality and prisons. Critical questions about this concept raised in his 1975–1976 lectures ‘Society Must Be Defended’ led to its eventual abandonment in favour of a concept of power as government. The chapter then discusses the ideas of biopower and race raised in the final chapter of The History of Sexuality before taking up his approach to liberal and neoliberal government in Security, Territory, Population (2007) and Birth of Biopolitics (2008) and the concept of power outlined in the light of this approach. The conclusion summarizes Foucault’s impact on thought and politics around sexuality and the wider impact of his work on power, biopower, and government.

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Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

5. Thomas Hobbes  

Signy Gutnick Allen

This chapter discusses the ideas of Thomas Hobbes, focusing on his account provided in Leviathan (1651). By emphasizing the importance of centralized state power underpinned by individuals’ consent, the Hobbesian approach to politics highlights a set of key questions. What does it mean to be a citizen? What are the grounds, nature, and limits of political authority and obligation? The chapter begins by outlining Hobbes’s presentation of the state of nature, natural right, and the laws of nature, linking his analysis to his materialist science. It then turns to Hobbes’s explanation of the origins of the state and explores his argument that the political relationship is fundamentally representative. The chapter also explains his understanding of sovereignty, as well as his theory of inalienable rights. Finally, it examines the possibility that this retained right is the seed of a right to rebel against the sovereign, before considering Hobbes’s legacy.

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25. Niccolò Machiavelli  

Yves Winter

This chapter explores the ideas behind Niccolò Machiavelli’s two major political works, Discourses on Livy and The Prince. It starts by explaining how Machiavelli’s reception and biography highlight a correlation between his activities as Secretary of the Florentine chancery and his later theoretical work. Machiavelli’s philosophical thought primarily focused on power and the state; whereaa, his theory of history introduced the concepts of virtù (virtue) and fortuna (fortune). The chapter also outlines Machiavelli’s understanding of republican freedom in line with the significance of the conflict between the few and the many. Finally, it raises issues of violence, conquest, and empire correlating to Machiavelli’s theories.

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32. John Rawls  

Maeve Mckeown

This chapter examines the significance of A Theory of Justice (1971) written by John Rawls in contemporary Anglo-American political philosophy. It examines the basic contours of Rawls’ theory and addresses the Rawlsian self in what he calls ‘the original position’. Feminists and critical race theorists disagree over the potential of self that Rawls proposed to generate a non-sexist, anti-racist society, and philosophers of disability highlight its ableist assumptions. The chapter looks at the idea of a Rawlsian society being governed by a ‘just basic structure’. It highlights three issues: (1) the ambiguity of the concept of a basic structure separate from individual behaviour and other institutions; (2) the concern that focusing on the basic structure fails to address power relations between groups; and (3) that it limits the scope of justice to the nation state. While acknowledging the profound contributions of Rawls, the chapter concludes that Rawlsian ideal theory is not the best approach from the perspective of feminist, anti-racist, and anti-ableist philosophy.

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17. Catharine Macaulay and Edmund Burke  

Alan Coffee

This chapter discusses the contrasting philosophies of Catharine Macaulay and Edmund Burke regarding the fundamental nature of political society and the approaches to take on reform. Macaulay’s philosophy revolves around the core ideal of freedom as independence from arbitrary control. Additionally, Macaulay’s work recognized that people’s beliefs are shaped by the social environment but could be manipulated by elites. On the other hand, Burke’s philosophical beliefs are organic, contextual, and pragmatic while addressing the complexity and range of social considerations and human motivations that contribute to a viable and productive state. However, Burke’s philosophy could be challenged as to whether he provides protection against possible abuse of power or not. The chapter also covers the weakness in their philosophical works while considering equal citizenship rights for women and minority social groups.

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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.

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Cover Critiquing the Canon: International Relations Theory

2. Hedley Bull  

Andrew Hurrell

Critiquing the Canon: International Relations Theory considers canonical ideas and thinkers within International Relations and locates them within their historical and geopolitical contexts. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular thinker, and encourages students to explore the limitations of the canon, supporting the decolonizing of our understanding. Pedagogical features include author tutorial videos and end-of-chapter questions to prompt students to develop their own voice and perspective on international relations.

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Cover Critiquing the Canon: International Relations Theory

3. Kenneth N. Waltz  

Joseph MacKay

Critiquing the Canon: International Relations Theory considers canonical ideas and thinkers within International Relations and locates them within their historical and geopolitical contexts. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular thinker, and encourages students to explore the limitations of the canon, supporting the decolonizing of our understanding. Pedagogical features include author tutorial videos and end-of-chapter questions to prompt students to develop their own voice and perspective on international relations.

Chapter

Cover Critiquing the Canon: International Relations Theory

4. Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye  

David L. Blaney

Critiquing the Canon: International Relations Theory considers canonical ideas and thinkers within International Relations and locates them within their historical and geopolitical contexts. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular thinker, and encourages students to explore the limitations of the canon, supporting the decolonizing of our understanding. Pedagogical features include author tutorial videos and end-of-chapter questions to prompt students to develop their own voice and perspective on international relations.

Chapter

Cover Critiquing the Canon: International Relations Theory

5. Martha Finnemore  

Arjun Chowdhury

Critiquing the Canon: International Relations Theory considers canonical ideas and thinkers within International Relations and locates them within their historical and geopolitical contexts. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular thinker, and encourages students to explore the limitations of the canon, supporting the decolonizing of our understanding. Pedagogical features include author tutorial videos and end-of-chapter questions to prompt students to develop their own voice and perspective on international relations.

Chapter

Cover Critiquing the Canon: International Relations Theory

6. Alexander Wendt  

Charlotte Epstein

Critiquing the Canon: International Relations Theory considers canonical ideas and thinkers within International Relations and locates them within their historical and geopolitical contexts. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular thinker, and encourages students to explore the limitations of the canon, supporting the decolonizing of our understanding. Pedagogical features include author tutorial videos and end-of-chapter questions to prompt students to develop their own voice and perspective on international relations.

Chapter

Cover Critiquing the Canon: Political Theory

1. Introduction  

Gemma Bird

Critiquing the Canon: Political Theory draws upon critical scholarship to bring together diverse ways of thinking about and critiquing key thinkers from the canon of political theory. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular thinker and their work, and encourages students to explore the limitations of the canon and ask important questions about whose views might be marginalized, ignored, or sidelined in the construction of ‘canonical’ thought. Pedagogical features include author tutorial videos and end-of-chapter questions to prompt students to develop their own voice and challenge dominant ideas.

Chapter

Cover Critiquing the Canon: Political Theory

2. Niccolò Machiavelli  

Christine Unrau

Critiquing the Canon: Political Theory draws upon critical scholarship to bring together diverse ways of thinking about and critiquing key thinkers from the canon of political theory. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular thinker and their work, and encourages students to explore the limitations of the canon and ask important questions about whose views might be marginalized, ignored, or sidelined in the construction of ‘canonical’ thought. Pedagogical features include author tutorial videos and end-of-chapter questions to prompt students to develop their own voice and challenge dominant ideas.

Chapter

Cover Critiquing the Canon: Political Theory

5. Karl Marx  

Sergio Bedoya Cortés

Critiquing the Canon: Political Theory draws upon critical scholarship to bring together diverse ways of thinking about and critiquing key thinkers from the canon of political theory. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular thinker and their work, and encourages students to explore the limitations of the canon and ask important questions about whose views might be marginalized, ignored, or sidelined in the construction of ‘canonical’ thought. Pedagogical features include author tutorial videos and end-of-chapter questions to prompt students to develop their own voice and challenge dominant ideas.

Chapter

Cover Critiquing the Canon: Political Theory

6. Hannah Arendt  

Sadiya Akram

Critiquing the Canon: Political Theory draws upon critical scholarship to bring together diverse ways of thinking about and critiquing key thinkers from the canon of political theory. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular thinker and their work, and encourages students to explore the limitations of the canon and ask important questions about whose views might be marginalized, ignored, or sidelined in the construction of ‘canonical’ thought. Pedagogical features include author tutorial videos and end-of-chapter questions to prompt students to develop their own voice and challenge dominant ideas.