Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Favorite (Material) Gift of the Holiday

Alan Ryan, On Politics (Norton/Liveright 2012). Ryan is among my favorite political historians and theorists. His two early books on property theory - Property (Minnesota 1987) and Property and Political Theory (Blackwell 1986) -  have been basic secondary sources in my Property Theory Seminar for many years.

Here is the publisher's overview of his new book:
Three decades in the making, one of the most ambitious and comprehensive histories of political philosophy in nearly a century. 
Both a history and an examination of human thought and behavior spanning three thousand years, On Politics thrillingly traces the origins of political philosophy from the ancient Greeks to Machiavelli in Book I and from Hobbes to the present age in Book II. Whether examining Lord Acton’s dictum that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” or explicating John Stuart Mill’s contention that it is “better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied,” Alan Ryan evokes the lives and minds of our greatest thinkers in a way that makes reading about them a transcendent experience. Whether writing about Plato or Augustine, de Toqueville or Thomas Jefferson, Ryan brings a wisdom to his text that illuminates John Dewey’s belief that the role of philosophy is less to see truth than to enhance experience. With this unparalleled tour de force, Ryan emerges in his own right as one of the most influential political philosophers of our time.
My only regret is that I haven't yet gotten Ryan's other brand new book (my, isn't he prolific?), The Making of Modern Liberalism (Princeton 2012). That regret will be remedied soon enough.

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