Tuesday 11 October 2005

Political Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (David Miller, 2003)

I love the "Very Short Introduction" series put out by Oxford University Press. I've just finished reading the one on Political Philosophy. The topic sounds daunting but it's written in a very clear readable manner. The chapters covered are:

  • Why do we need political philosophy?
  • Political authority
  • Democracy
  • Freedom and the limits of government
  • Justice
  • Feminism and multiculturism
  • Nations, states and global justice

I found the last chapter on global justice particularly interesting. In contrast to cosmopolitanism, which is admittedly utopian, he outlines what I would consider a realistic vision of a world built on global justice:

"Political authority would rest primarily with nation-states, but they would collaborate to ensure that the costs and benefits of international cooperation were fairly distributed. Each political community would govern itself according to its own political traditions, and schemes of social justice would likewise vary somewhat from place to place. But everywhere human rights would be respected, and in cases where they were threatened, either by natural disasters such as drought or by oppressive regimes, other states would work together to ward off the threat. Some states would be richer than others; this would not be unjust provided that it resulted from political choice and cultural decisions rather than from economic exploitation. Some states would also be more democratic than others, but even those peoples who did not control their governors directly would identify with their government and feel that it represented their interests and values." (p130)

Sounds promising to me. I believe this vision has its roots in the political liberalism of John Rawls. Looks like it would be worth reading more about his ideas (e.g Original position).

I find books like these are very good at helping you test and strengthen your own opinions. I've been taking a closer look at where I stand on political issues and political philosophy gets right to the fundamentals.

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