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On Politics [Format Kindle]

Alan Ryan

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

In a work of astonishing scope and ambition, Alan Ryan, surveying the whole vast field, concisely charts the welter of conflicting positions and tracks the sometimes thrilling, sometimes catastrophic consequences of political thought (Stephen Greenblatt)

Ryan demonstrates vivacity throughout, and a tenacious grasp of the human meaning of everything that has transpired in political speculation from the ancients on through the threshold of our own dark age. I commend particularly his terse eloquence, his capacious erudition, and the judicious intensity with which he somehow allows his whole being to inform his vast scope and deep concern of our human limitations (Harold Bloom)

Présentation de l'éditeur

This is a book about the answers that historians, philosophers, theologians, practising politicians and would-be revolutionaries have given to one question:how should human beings best govern themselves? That question raises innumerable others: can we manage our own affairs at all? Should we even try? Many people in the past have thought that only some individuals were either able or entitled to practise self-government: Greeks, but not Persians; men, but not women; the better-off minority, but not the poor majority. Others have thought that few of us have any desire to govern ourselves, and that government is inevitably a matter of a competent elite managing an acquiescent mass.



Then, what do we mean by 'freedom' today, and is it the same freedom that people enjoyed, or strove for, in the past? Almost every modern government claims to be democratic; but is democracy really the best way of organising our political life? For almost two thousand years, educated opinion said not. Today, educated opinion says yes. In the modern west, do we actually live in democracies? They certainly do not resemble what the Athenians fought and died to preserve. It seems that there may be less agreement than we might think about how human beings can best govern themselves.



In this extraordinary book, more that thirty years in the making, Alan Ryan engages with the great thinkers of the past to explain their ideas with a lucidity which makes the book compelling reading. While acknowledging how much separates us from our intellectual forebears, he reminds us how often the ideas of long-dead or distant thinkers are more alive, and speak to us more vividly and immediately, than those of our contemporaries. At a time when we sometimes feel that the problems of the globe will simply overwhelm our ability to control them, he provides a peerless guide to the ways in which the problems of politics have been thought about by the greatest minds of our civilization.


Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1913 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 1060 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0871404656
  • Editeur : Allen Lane (9 novembre 2012)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00AN4C6KU
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°136.578 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires en ligne

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Amazon.com: 4.5 étoiles sur 5  31 commentaires
21 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Provides excellent context for current political environment 5 avril 2013
Par Stephen Mooney - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
I have a technical background, but have an interest in history. I found this book much more interesting and understandable than I expected. The book presents the thoughts and arguments of the best Western thinkers of the past 2,500 years. The author first sets each thinker in their historical context, then goes into their major thoughts and conclusions. What made this book rewarding for me is the realization that all modern political questions and arguments have been well thought out with great subtlety over the ages. The consensus agreements have changed greatly, but the questions are not new.

This book has greatly changed my perspective on "current events" in world politics. There are no simple answers in the book, but now I have a fantastic context in which to think about the day to day world politics.
14 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Sublime and Profound! 18 septembre 2013
Par Akhilesh Pillalamarri - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Other reviewers and numerous magazines and newspapers have given this book the excellent review it deserves. As such, I cannot do much more justice to it in my own review, but would like to touch upon some of the best aspects of this book.

There are some other books that are summaries on Political Thought but none are as good as this one. This book is really a dialogue between the author and the ideas of the thinkers presented within in a considered, nuanced,and subtle fashion. The author speculates on the merits and drawbacks of each of the ideas contained in the book without coming off as too strong or without seeming as though he is propagating one particular world view. The book has a unity to it that would not be possible if it were simply a collection of essays by different authors or even the same author; in short, it is held together by the question, which the author refers to again and again on what is the best way for people to organize themselves politically. Thankfully, the book is not teleological either, which allows various ideas to be considered in and of themselves instead of as points on the way to the present. In short, the book is not polemic. Nor is it overly esoteric (some thinkers such as Leo Strauss have a much more esoteric take on political thought), since it deals with the political organization of humanity, a topic that involves application in the form of practical and organizational questions, though these often derive from theory. In fact, it is interested to see two strands of political thinking highlighted in this book and their interplay with each other- one which derives specifics from a pre-conceived theory (Plato, Hobbes, Marx) and one which sets up some general maxims on the basis of observation (Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Tocqueville).

This book really contains two volumes. I found some aspects of each of these volumes more interesting than others. The first volume includes the expected- that is, Plato and Aristotle among some other Classical and Medieval thinkers. I would assume that most readers such as myself would have some knowledge of Plato and Aristotle and as such I personally found the sections of Medieval thought to be most interesting because, other than Augustine and Aquinas, much of it was new to me. The second volume was where the author truly shines. Many of the questions and issues posed by thinkers in the period between 1500-1900 are relevant to the present and were instrumental in thinking about how the modern state and political order have developed. I especially enjoyed his sections on Hobbes, counterrevolutionary thinkers (Burke for example), Tocqueville, Mill, Hegel (who is often not discussed through the lens of political theory), and 20th century anxieties and reactions to modernity and social trends. (I wish the author also included some more thinkers in their own chapters instead of talking about them through other chapters; for example, Hume and Kant but as the author himself notes, when undertaking such a large project, it is inevitable that one has to be selective. There is enough food for thought for the seriously thinker to do further research on his/her own).

Finally, this book contains some other strengths. The Economist has put them better than me, so I will quote it a couple of times in order to point out the things that make this book worth buying (copyrighted by the Economist and I claim no authorship):

(1) "Mr Ryan has devoted his life to studying political ideas...and he reminds us that politics is about fundamental philosophical issues rather than just horrible hacks calling each other poopy-heads. How can people run their collective affairs without sacrificing individual rights to collective order? What is the basis of the state's authority over its citizens? Should that authority be absolute or limited by constitutional checks and individual rights?"

(2) "It is also important that, as Mr Ryan puts it, "long-dead writers often speak to us with greater freshness and immediacy than our contemporaries." James Madison has the best advice for Egyptian liberals who want to prevent Muhammad Morsi from turning democracy into dictatorship. John Stuart Mill...has the best arguments against Michael Bloomberg and the "soft despotism" entailed in his soft-drink regulations...Mr Ryan's historical approach helps us at the very least to look at our problems from new angles, and at best to harness the help of history's sharpest minds in producing policies."

(3) "Mr Ryan's approach to political theory is thoroughly old-fashioned--and all the better for it. In recent years historians and political theorists have been busily undermining the Western canon--dissolving the great political theorists in their wider intellectual contexts or discovering seminal thinkers in the rest of the world...Mr Ryan is happy to put the greatness back in. He treats Hobbes and company as thinkers to be grappled with rather than historical figures to be contextualised."

These three quotes demonstrate why this book is such a pleasure to read, because it is deep and thoughtful yet immediate. This is a great book to have as a reference and a reminder especially when one cannot always go back and reread, say, Plato or Hobbes on a daily basis. My background does include Political Theory and I have read most of the thinkers in this book (in college before I got this book) but personally I think this book captures the essence of political thinking in a very informative and readable way. Furthermore, I believe a book like this is useful in providing unity and structure to the cannon of thinkers which if read individually could come across as disparate unless one has a volume such as this and/or a good knowledge of history, especially Western history. Finally,if a person does not have the chance or interest in reading the original works of the thinkers, then this book is a good alternative. This book represents a tradition of Western political thought that reached its highest form in the West over the past 500 years so one should not expect to find much non-Western thought in it, which is fine, since Western political thought evolved in its own manner in conversation among its various texts and thinkers while other civilizations's intellectual thought evolved in their own largely independent ways until recently. To summarize, this is perhaps one of the best books I have ever read, so I recommend it highly.
23 internautes sur 28 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Superb, engaging, beautifully written 23 décembre 2012
Par Nigel Warburton - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
This is a superb book, engaging and beautifully written. A delight. Few philosophers have the breadth and depth of understanding to make sense of the long history of political philosophy. Alan Ryan is exceptional in combining authority, a light touch, and a contagious enthusiasm for his subject. Highly recommended.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Tour-de-Force of Political History 16 avril 2013
Par Allan M. Lees - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
If like me you're interested in political history - and especially how we came by our modern forms of government - but don't have the time to read around the subject in depth then this is absolutely the perfect primer. Alan Ryan's very readable yet comprehensive gloss on nearly twenty-five hundred years of political thought is a great introduction to many of the works that shaped later thinking and action. I find books like this to be an invaluable road-map for later reading, so that anyone with interest in learning more knows just where to look. As I also happen to share the author's prejudices regarding Plato, for example, it was pleasant to have some old biases reinforced while having my eyes opened to things I'd not previously known, such as the political implications of Augustine's writings. For anyone who wants to understand how the great adventure of the American republic got its start nearly eighteen hundred years earlier, and why tyrannical systems inevitably implode, this is the place to start.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Politics for the open mind 25 octobre 2014
Par Phil J - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I just finished reading this two volume tome having started it over a year ago. This book is not about politics as in red versus blue. The book covers political thinking from ancient times to the present. I do not know when this book was published but I wish I could have read it when I was in my 20s or 30s and my mind was readily absorbing ideas. The names of the political thinkers presented by the author were familiar to me from high school history and college courses. (I am over 60 now.) The author's topics are fascinating. His sentence structure can be quite complex but it is worthwhile rereading certain sentences to understand his points. He presents each political thinker in historical perspective while occasionally subjecting such thinker to other times in history. If you enjoy history and complex ideas, give this book a try.
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