The Primacy of the Political

A History of Political Thought from the Greeks to the French and American Revolutions

Dick Howard

Columbia University Press

The Primacy of the Political

Google Preview

Pub Date: September 2010

ISBN: 9780231135955

416 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $37.00£29.00

Pub Date: September 2010

ISBN: 9780231135948

416 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $110.00£85.00

Pub Date: September 2010

ISBN: 9780231509756

416 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $36.99£29.00

The Primacy of the Political

A History of Political Thought from the Greeks to the French and American Revolutions

Dick Howard

Columbia University Press

The conflict between politics and antipolitics has replayed throughout Western history and philosophical thought. From the beginning, Plato's quest for absolute certainty led him to denounce democracy, an anti-political position challenged by Aristotle. In his wide-ranging narrative, Dick Howard puts this dilemma into fresh perspective, proving our contemporary political problems are not as unique as we think.

Howard begins with democracy in ancient Greece and the rise and fall of republican politics in Rome. In the wake of Rome's collapse, political thought searched for a new medium, and the conflict between politics and antipolitics reemerged through the contrasting theories of Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas. During the Renaissance and Reformation, the emergence of the modern individual again transformed the terrain of the political. Even so, politics vs. antipolitics dominated the period, frustrating even Machiavelli, who sought to reconceptualize the nature of political thought. Hobbes and Locke, theorists of the social contract, then reenacted the conflict, which Rousseau sought (in vain) to overcome. Adam Smith and the growth of modern economic liberalism, the radicalism of the French revolution, and the conservative reaction of Edmund Burke subsequently marked the triumph of antipolitics, while the American Revolution momentarily offered the potential for a renewal of politics. Taken together, these historical examples, viewed through the prism of philosophy, reveal the roots of today's political climate and the trajectory of battles yet to come.
The analytical distinction of plurality, diversity, and unity is a good way to think about the common themes of these political thinkers in different social and historical contexts. Explaining several texts across different periods is a daunting task, and Dick Howard should be commended for the work he has done. R. Claire Snyder-Hall, George Mason University
The book gives a very clear and readable introduction to the whole history of political ideas. Hauke Brunkhorst, Perspectives on Politics
I would recommend his book for the serious reader of history who wants to have a comprehensive picture of political thought. Monica Greenwell Janzen, Essays in Philosophy
A Note to the Reader
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Democracy and the Renewal of Political Thought
1. The Rise and Fall of Athenian Democracy
2. The Rise and Fall of Roman Republicanism
3. The Conflict of the Sacred and the Secular
4. Facing the Challenge of Modernity
5. Modern Individualism and Political Obligation
6. The End of Political Philosophy?
Conclusion: Elements for a Democratic Renewal
Notes
Glossary
Index

Read >excerpt from The Primacy of the Political. (pdf)

About the Author

Dick Howard is distinguished professor of philosophy at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. He is the author of numerous books in French and English, including The Specter of Democracy: What Marx and Marxists Haven't Understood and Why, From Marx to Kant, Defining the Political, and The Birth of American Political Thought.