A History of Western Political Thought

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A History of Western Political Thought is an energetic and lucid account of the most important political thinkers and the enduring themes of the last two and a half millennia. Written with students of the history of political thought in mind, the book:
* traces the development of political thought from Ancient Greece to the late twentieth century
* focuses on individual thinkers and texts
* includes 40 biographies of key political thinkers
* offers original views of theorists and highlights those which may have been unjustly neglected
* develops the wider themes of political thought and the relations between thinkers over time.
 

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A history of Western political thought

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This self-avowedly "old-fashioned...ac-count of great texts" begins with the Greeks and closes with modern reactions to liberalism; Hegel and Marx; "irrationalists" Pareto, Michels, LeBon, Freud, and ... Read full review

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Simply the best book available on Political Thought. Naturally, it is most felicitous when utilised in association with a particular style of teaching political thought: that is, taking each text and thinker by themselves and only afterwards comparing them to each other. The alternative, which suits this book less, is to deal with the subject concept by concept. I prefer the former approach and this book is ideal for it (though even practitioners of the latter would do well to recommend this book also).
It takes the form of dozens of fairly self-contained essays. All are very good, though some are excellent. Highlights are Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, the Enlightenment, Liberalism in Maturity and Decline and Fascism; however, even the least striking performances are better than their peers elsewhere.
I have never agreed with the idea that political thought should be approached with the lowest common denominator in mind and with simplicity in place of elegance. The weak students, at whom the latter is aimed, won't care enough to benefit and the strong students are actively harmed or turned off. Better to treat the subject with the intricacy, mystery and excitement to which it naturally tends. McClelland harnesses this better than anyone else. His essays are a pleasure to read: the breadth and power of his analysis is striking, and yet he delivers it with a subtlety and even humility that makes it thoroughly engaging for the reader. Lastly, like all great essay writers, he occasions a wonderful turn of phrase.
Ignore Roberts and Sutch, Heywood and all the others. They are certainly cheaper and (almost damningly) "more accessible." However, the short-term gain will be a medium and long-term loss.
The highest accolade that can be accorded this book is simply that when students come to me perplexed by what they have read and heard elsewhere, I direct them to McClelland and the problems are immediately cleared up. He has managed the balance between complexity and brevity with a skill unmatched elsewhere.
 

Contents

THE GUARDIANS OF THE STATE AND JUSTICE
33
Romans and Roman Catholics
74
MARSILIUS OF PADUIA
172
THE MODERNITY OF THE MODERN STATE
279
THE POLITICS OF ENLIGHTENMENT
297
ENLIGHTENMENT AND GOVERNMENT THROUGH
315
JEFFERSON CREVECOEUR
339
HUIME AND BUIRKE
401
THE ROUISSEAUIIST VERSION
517
HERDER
623
THE ELITIST CRITIQUE OF DEMOCRACY PARETO AND MICHELS
637
SIGMUIND FREUIDS GROUP
683
Notes
795
51
799
Copyright

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About the author (1996)

J. S. McClelland is Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Nottingham. He has held visiting posts at the University of Indiana at Bloomington and Sacramental State University, California. His previous publications include The French Right: From De Maistre to Maurras and The Crowd: From Plato to Canetti.

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