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Introduction to Contemporary Political Theory

Introduction to Contemporary Political Theory

First Edition

December 2003 | 189 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
`This text provides an up to date account of how things currently stand in political philosophy, and will provide an excellent introduction for students from any background. It gives a lucid and careful account of the central controversies and sites of disagreement in political theory over the last thirty years and rather than sacrifice theoretical sophistication and nuance for the sake of clarity and accessibility, it admirably achieves both' -

Catriona McKinnon, University of York

This comprehensive textbook provides a complete and accessible introduction to the main theorists and issues in contemporary political theory today.

The text is organized into two major parts. The first, Contemporary Liberal Theory, outlines four distinct liberal theories of justice to introduce the work of Rawls, Nozick, Gauthier and Dworkin. The second, Alternative Traditions, introduces the theorists and themes associated with four key areas of contemporary debate: communitarianism, multiculturalism, deliberative democracy and feminism.

By giving students questions for consideration and using applied examples throughout, the text illustrates the practical relevance of contemporary theoretical debates to everyday issues in policy and politics.

The result is an essential overview of all the main traditions, issues and positions in political theory today that will serve as an invaluable resource for all students of contemporary political theory, political ideas and political philosophy.

Colin Farrelly is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Introduction to Contemporary Political Theory will complement Contemporary Political Theory: A Reader edited by Colin Farrelly and also published by SAGE Publications.

Rawls and Justice as Fairness

The Original Position

Equal Opportunity

Cohen's Egalitarian Critique

The Principles that Apply to Individuals

Who are the Least Advantaged?

Beitz on Global Justice

A Political Conception of Justice

Nozick and the Entitlement Theory of Justice

The State: Is it Necessary?

Wilt Chamberlain and the Entitlement Theory

The Principle of Initial Acquisition

The Principle of Rectification

Conclusion: Self Ownership and Private Property

Gauthier and Justice as Mutual Advantage

Hobbes and the State of Nature

Gauthier and the Compliance Problem

What is a Rational Bargain?

The Limits of Justice as Mutual Advantage

Dworkin on Equality

Dworkin on Equality of Resources

Welfare Reform and the Basic Income Proposal

Political Equality and Democracy

Against Luck Egalitarianism


Deontological Liberalism and the Unencumbered Self

State Neutrality

Walzer on Complex Equality

Miller on Nationalism


Introduction: The Politics of Recognition

Kymlicka and the Rights of National Minorities

Polyethnic Rights

Barry Against Multiculturalism

Deliberative Democracy
Introduction: The Importance of Democracy

Moving Beyond the Aggregated Model of Democracy

How Substantive are the Principles of Democracy

Retaining the Critical Edge of Deliberative Democracy

Critically Assessing the Ideal of Deliberative Democracy


Liberal Feminism

The Public/Private Dichotomy

The Politics of Difference



This book gives an admirably lucid and careful account of the central controversies and sites of disagreement in political theory over the last thirty years; it does not sacrifice theoretical sophistication and nuance for the sake of clarity and accessibility, but rather achieves both. The book provides an up to date account of how things stand currently in political philosophy, and will provide an excellent introduction for students from any background. Reading this book will also greatly benefit anyone interested in how the most important contemporary political philosophers and theorists have approached the question of how we ought to live together.

Dr Catriona McKinnon, Lecturer in Political Philosophy, University of York.

Colin Farrelly has gathered together in one volume several of the key texts that have shaped recent developments in political

theory. The editor's introductions to each section make the readings themselves more accessible to students who are new

to the subject by locating them in a broader context. They also also provide helfpul outlines of some of the other major

theoretical contributions to the schools of thought that are covered. The structure of the book refelcts that of many courses

offering surveys of recent debates between liberals and their critics. It is an excellent teaching resource.

Shane O'Neill, Professor of Political Theory (and Head of the School of Politics and International Studies), Queen's University, Belfast.

Useful for information on the state. Could be used to introduced the modern theory to compare to classical

Miss Mary Frances Forry
Social Sciences, West College Scotland
March 25, 2015

Though limited mostly with liberal thinkers, a good reading material for the beginners of political thought.

Dr Hakan Ongur
Department of Political Science, TOBB University of Economic & Tech
December 27, 2013

Really useful introductions. Very approachable for UG students.

Dr Clare Woodford
Dept of Politics & Int'l Relations, Southampton University
September 21, 2012

This book, together with Farrely's Reader, is really, really wonderful stuff for any introductory course for 2nd year students or higher. If I could redesign our present course on Contemporary Political Theory, I'd almost certainly adopt this text.

Professor Marcel Wissenburg
Department of Political Science, Radboud University Nijmegen
May 31, 2011

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ISBN: 9780761949084

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