Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought (Princeton Classics)
Sheldon S. Wolin
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Politics and Vision is a landmark work by one of the great thinkers of the twentieth century. This is a significantly expanded edition of one of the greatest works of modern political theory. Sheldon Wolin's Politics and Vision inspired and instructed two generations of political theorists after its appearance in 1960. Substantially expanded for republication in 2004, it is both a sweeping survey of Western political thought and a powerful account of contemporary predicaments of power and democracy. In lucid and compelling prose, Sheldon Wolin offers original, subtle, and often surprising interpretations of political theorists from Plato to Rawls. Situating them historically while sounding their depths, he critically engages their diverse accounts of politics, theory, power, justice, citizenship, and institutions. The new chapters, which show how thinkers have grappled with the immense possibilities and dangers of modern power, are themselves a major theoretical statement. They culminate in Wolin's remarkable argument that the United States has invented a new political form, "inverted totalitarianism," in which economic rather than political power is dangerously dominant. In this expanded edition, the book that helped to define political theory in the late twentieth century should energize, enlighten, and provoke generations of scholars to come.
Wolin originally wrote Politics and Vision to challenge the idea that political analysis should consist simply of the neutral observation of objective reality. He argues that political thinkers must also rely on creative vision. Wolin shows that great theorists have been driven to shape politics to some vision of the Good that lies outside the existing political order. As he tells it, the history of theory is thus, in part, the story of changing assumptions about the Good.
Acclaimed as a tour de force when it was first published, and a major scholarly event when the expanded edition appeared, Politics and Vision will instruct, inspire, and provoke for generations to come.
of the ﬁrst political repercussions of Protestantism, Catholicism had claimed to be more congenial to the requirements of civil society. In one sense this claim was profoundly true. Under the government of the Church the believer had been accustomed to the patterns of “civil” behavior enforced by church discipline, and was therefore prepared for the life of civil society. Once this is recognized it is easy to see that the emphatic insistence of the early Reformers on an almost unqualiﬁed
knowledge, thrives on a common mentality. In these matters Hobbes was hopelessly classical, Luther ominously modern. CHAPTER SEVEN ••• Machiavelli: Politics and the Economy of Violence This is the question ﬁnally at stake in any genuinely moral situation: What shall the agent be? What sort of character shall he assume? —John Dewey I. The Autonomy of Political Theory The impact of the Reformation on the Western European countries had resulted in a signiﬁcant alliance, although not always on a
power.33 Now in Plato’s general philosophy, true knowledge exhibited certain general characteristics, and these exerted a profound inﬂuence over the categories which he attached to political thought. These characteristics were summed up in his conception of the nature of the true model: “Whenever the maker of anything looks to that which is unchanging and uses a model of that description in fashioning the form and quality of his work, all that he thus accomplishes must be good. If he looks to
with the importance of Superpower I have devoted the new chapters to the different massive power formations identiﬁed by Marx, Nietzsche, and Weber and then realized in the totalizing systems of the twentieth and twentyﬁrst centuries. I shall suggest that towards the end of the old millennium and the beginning of the new, a “break” occurred in the evolution of power signifying the passage from modern power to postmodern power. The twentieth century might be characterized as the high tide of
towards interest as the basis of politics was further registered in a changing conception of virtue. Friendship (amicitia) was purged of the disinterestedness ascribed to it by Aristotle and made to accord with the group politics described earlier. The extent to which the idea of friendship was converted into an instrument of political strategy is apparent in Cicero’s effort to patch up his differences with Crassus; his letter of friendship, he wrote, should be considered as a treaty ( foedus).38