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by Sheldon S. Wolin

Download Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought - Expanded Edition eBook
ISBN:
0691126275
Author:
Sheldon S. Wolin
Category:
Home Improvement & Design
Language:
English
Publisher:
Princeton University Press; Expanded edition (January 29, 2006)
Pages:
792 pages
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1266 kb
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1109 kb
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1215 kb
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Sheldon Wolin's Politics and Vision inspired and instructed two generations of political theorists after its appearance in 1960.

Sheldon Wolin's Politics and Vision inspired and instructed two generations of political theorists after its appearance in 1960. The new chapters, which show how thinkers have grappled with the immense possibilities and dangers of modern power, are themselves a major theoretical statement

Sheldon Wolin's Politics and Vision inspired and instructed two . Substantially expanded for republication in 2004. Of course, this is perhaps the foremost book on political theory of the last fifty years - basically required reading for anyone with claims to being a political philosopher or interpreter.

Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought is a work of political theory by Princeton Emeritus Professor Sheldon S. Wolin.

Politics and Vision book. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read

Politics and Vision book. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. The new chapters, which show how thinkers have grappled with the immense possibilities and dangers of modern power, are themselves a major theoretical statement

Sheldon Wolin's Politics and Vision inspired and instructed two generations of political theorists after its appearance in 1960. In lucid and compelling prose, Sheldon Wolin offers original, subtle, and often surprising interpretations of political theorists from Plato to Rawls

Sheldon Wolin's Politics and Vision inspired and instructed two generations of political theorists after its appearance in 1960. In lucid and compelling prose, Sheldon Wolin offers original, subtle, and often surprising interpretations of political theorists from Plato to Rawls

Sheldon Wolin'sPolitics and Visioninspired and instructed two generations of political theorists after its appearance in 1960

Sheldon Wolin'sPolitics and Visioninspired and instructed two generations of political theorists after its appearance in 1960. The new chapters, which show how thinkers have grappled with the immense possibilities and dangers of modern power, are themselves a major theoretical statement.

Wolin, Sheldon S. Publication date. Books for People with Print Disabilities. Internet Archive Books.

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. This new edition retains intact the original ten chapters about political thinkers from Plato to Mill, and adds seven chapters about theorists from Marx and Nietzsche to Rawls and the postmodernists. 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 new 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.

In the new chapters, Wolin displays all the energy and flair, the command of detail and of grand historical developments, that he brought to this story forty years ago. This is a work of immense talent and intense thought, an intellectual achievement that will endure.

  • unmasked
“The source of every crime, is some defect of the understanding; or some error in reasoning; or some sudden force of the passions. Defect in the understanding is ignorance; in reasoning, erroneous opinion.”
- Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

“For by Art is created that great LEVIATHAN called a COMMON-WEALTH, or STATE, (in latine CIVITAS) which is but an Artificiall Man; though of greater stature and strength than the Naturall, for whose protection and defence it was intended; and in which, the Soveraignty is an Artificiall Soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body;”
-Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

If you could create a nation, "by art," how would you constitute the government? What principles would you base it on? Would you promote the common good, or the good of an elite? Which do you think is better, enlightened self government, or dictatorship? How would you promote stability and deal with those who didn't agree and would not be accommodated?

How is our nation constituted? Do you think you know?

I picked up Sheldon Wolin's, "Politics and Vision," on the recommendation of Chris Hedges, that modern Jeremiah, that implacable critic of runaway Capitalism. Hedges called the book a masterpiece. It may be that. I can say without reservation that I was enlightened. What I got from my reading of the book was an appreciation for the sweep of the development of political theory, which did not, like Athena, spring full grown, but advanced in comprehensible steps from the prehistoric, "state of nature," (man in the wild) to civilization (in its various forms of government).

Wolin starts with Plato in ancient Greece and moves through the great theorists and philosophers, from Aristotle, Augustine, Machiavelli, Calvin, Hobbes, Rousseau, Nietzsche, Marx to John Dewey and many others. What Wolin shows us is how the ideas and theories represent novel ways of looking at the management of groups of people as unified political entities, cities, states, nations, and superpowers. In the words of the theorists themselves, Wolin explores how these entities are constituted and governed, and how in each, the benefits and responsibilities of membership play out. In what way are citizens required to participate? In what way are dissident members to be controlled and coerced? How are the powerful to be appeased and the poor managed?

Humans arose from the state of nature, where they were in animalistic competition with each other, to ever more complex levels of organization. Each step was an innovation. The first group to develop cross-familial cooperation and form into tribes had an advantage over those that did not. Questions of governance arose immediately. Who was part of the group? Who ruled? How was labor and how was reward apportioned? How was the common good identified? Wolin has combed through countless texts in search of the ebb and flow of political ideas.

In all of his exegesis, Wolin holds up the yardstick of democracy and searches for the popular will and the common good in each of the theories. For instance, he finds in the rejection of papal rule by the Reformation the seeds for democratic action writ small. Where Catholic diocese had once looked to Rome for guidance, the now scattered protestant communities found themselves no less in need of organizational government, and so introduced popular sovereignty into the management of their churches.

Wolin also wrestles with the issue of power in each of the theories. Machiavelli's innovation in the field was the stripping away of all religious and cultural ambiguities and reducing the problems of governance to a systematic application of power and manipulation by the Prince (and in his later writings a republican elite).

The paradox of a liberal government is that though everyone starts in the same place (in theory, and certainly not in the case of slaves and their descendants) over time inequities emerge and broaden as proven in Thomas Pickety's book, "Capital in the 21st Century." This leads inevitably to the more fortunate preying on the less fortunate. To address this inequity that becomes oppression, government is often cast in the role of redistributor, taking from one group and giving to another. The injustice of this course is atomized in the Libertarian view that any taking is wrong. Since those that have the most are most often those in power, economic rebalancing is declared anathema, the Common Good a myth (or at best a naïve concept).

The true value of "Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought," to me is how it elucidates the methods and modalities of those who would rule. All the theories cast, "the masses," as a problem to be solved, or as unformed clay to be molded, or as sheep to be led, by those in the know, led by the man behind the curtain, so to speak.

In exposing, "the man behind," Wolin has meticulously described the evolution, construction and appearance of, "the curtain." Which was the necessary preparation for our mind to be able to grasp the enormity and horror of his revelation. The curtain is power.

It is clear to me that the evolution of power is just that, evolutionary. The random mutations, which allowed Leviathan to evolve from a crude conglomeration to a smooth corporate entity, to an invisible and potent, "Superpower," were no more crafted than those that engendered the descent of the species. However arduously the political theorists have striven to describe it and to map its past, none could have extrapolated its future.

It is no wonder that the, "imperial CEO," is immune from prosecution. These are the invisible oligarchs, the Mandarins, the, "Super," villains, the men (and they are mostly men) behind the curtain. I ask, what is a man who would benefit from the common wealth but refuse to contribute to it, who would take and not give, who would amass a fortune he could never spend just to wield power over his fellows? I would call him a menace to society. Yet, those who are raised to this ethic are as much victims as the rest. The poison in the oligarchy is invisible and not understandable by either its masters nor its slaves. It moves inexorably as a macrocosmic manifestation and externalization of Human Nature. Leviathan rampant and rampaging is s***ting in his nest.

Politics and Vision is a search for true democracy in the annals of history and political theory up to the present day, but Wolin's conclusions are not heartening.

Democracy is not, as often conceived, a form of government. This is the stunning implication of Sheldon Wolin's seminal work of political theory , To Wolin, Democracy is instead, "...a moment of experience, a crystallized response to deeply felt grievances or needs on the part of those whose main preoccupation - demanding of time and energy - is to scratch out a decent existence." Democracy has never been a form of government where the, "people," ruled. In all of history, not even barring the Athenians, some form of elite has always ruled by divine right, or law, or power. "Democracy is an ephemeral phenomenon rather than a settled system."

Highly recommended.
  • Akir
Sheldon Wolin died in October of 2015, recognized as one of the most perceptive scholars of ‘Our Times’.
This work is a classic in the history of western thought but in the concluding section Wolin turned his field of Political Science back into a meaningful inquire of what is happening to democracy in the age of Corporate Capitalism and his findings were that Democracy and Capitalism were incompatible as governmental power and authority was being transformed from its role of promoting the mythical ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ into an integrated adjunct of international corporate authority with the political class holding little concern for the citizenry but obliged to their benefactors. Traditional governmental functions were being privatized but their former functions were being transformed into servants of corporate needs.

It would have been grand if Sheldon Wolin had lingered on for a while to have his words on what he did predict. He took the view that corporate power and political power were becoming so closely intertwined in the United States, and the public so apathetic, that genuine participatory democracy was at best remote possibility expressed in rare “fugitive” expressions of the popular will.

On the two-party system and the drift to the right of both:
“As the Republican party grew more stridently and intolerantly ideological, the Democratic party conceded that the Republicans had succeeded in conservatizing the electorate, thereby setting the ideological parameters for the politics of the new millennium. The Democratic leadership all but abandoned its critical, reform-minded constituencies to embrace the ideology of the end of ideology.
Its leaders, in the name of centrism, pursued an opportunistic politics of appealing first to the right, then to the left, but always to corporate donors. Unlike the Republican party, which, when in the minority, vigorously played the role of an opposition party— criticizing and offering a genuine alternative— the Democrats were ineffectual at both. The weakening of the two-party system as a check on power was one manifestation of a general weakening of institutions intended to limit or balance power.” (All this before 2016)

Wolin developed two descriptive concepts. “Superpower” for America and “Inverted Totalitarianism” for its political-economic system but they have not found their way into popular jargon but well worth the time reading the last sections in his textbook to see how accurately they describe the world we have seen forming in contemporary times; or see his 2008 publication Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.
The encouraging note in his work is that democracy can survive at the local and lower levels where people have not give up on government and are knowledgeable about their needs, and the politicians do not require a fortune to serve. Start with a school board as some seem to be doing.
The Princeton university press brought this edition out as a classic publication and a tribute to him – well deserved.
  • GawelleN
Of course, this is perhaps the foremost book on political theory of the last fifty years - basically required reading for anyone with claims to being a political philosopher or interpreter. It is an examination of the nature of political thinking and its connectedness and importance with regard to economics, religion, and the broader society from the time of Plato to the Bush II administration.

This expanded version of the book consists of seventeen somewhat independent chapters devoted to leading political thinkers, such as Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Marx, Nietzsche, and to such concepts as liberalism, community, democracy, and totalitarianism. Given the nature of the subjects the reading is slow going, though quite informative. There does seem to be a certain amount of needless repetition, even within chapters, and the overall affect is more one of fragmentation than of a unifying thread. For most, undoubtedly multiple readings would be required for full assimilation.

There will be no attempt here to offer any sort of critique of the substance of the book - a large project to be sure. There is an interesting chapter that dissects the political writings of John Rawls, the leading political theorist of the late twentieth century. The impact of Superpower and corporate dominance on the possibilities for democratic action in the current era is explored. It is clear that the notion of what is political is ever-changing and is not without its complexities.
  • Ndlaitha
After having read only 10-percent -- Plato, Aristotle and the Romans on political theory and practice -- I find myself entranced by Sheldon Wolin's depth and breadth of understanding. Informative, insightful and inspiring.