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The Moral Foundations of Politics (Open Yale Courses) [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Ian Shapiro

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4. September 2012 Open Yale Courses
When do governments merit our allegiance, and when should they be denied it? Ian Shapiro explores this most enduring of political dilemmas in this innovative and engaging book. Building on his highly popular Yale courses, Professor Shapiro evaluates the main contending accounts of the sources of political legitimacy. Starting with theorists of the Enlightenment, he examines the arguments put forward by utilitarians, Marxists, and theorists of the social contract. Next he turns to the anti-Enlightenment tradition that stretches from Edmund Burke to contemporary post-modernists. In the last part of the book Shapiro examines partisans and critics of democracy from Plato's time until our own. He concludes with an assessment of democracy's strengths and limitations as the font of political legitimacy. The book offers a lucid and accessible introduction to urgent ongoing conversations about the sources of political allegiance.

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"'In The Moral Foundations of Politics, Shapiro reaffirms his place as one of the very clearest and most resolute, and most solidly grounded, practitioners in the political theory field in this generation.' (Adolph Reed, Jr., New School for Social Research) 'Blending sophisticated political science (including insightful rational choice calculations) with clarity that makes the book's subject accessible to neophytes, Professor Shapiro distills centuries of political theory into a slender volume.' (Harvard Law Review) 'A deeply valuable book at many levels. Shapiro shows an almost unique ability to combine the broad sweep with the telling detail or precise insight - just what a book of this sort needs.' (Jennifer Hochschild, Harvard University)"


When do governments merit our allegiance, and when should they be denied it? Ian Shapiro investigates this political dilemma, evaluating answers that have been proposed in the utilitarian, Marxist, social contract, anti-Enlightenment and democratic traditions. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch .

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4.0 von 5 Sternen A Fair and Fairly Standard Analysis 30. Januar 2004
Von The Independent Review - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
"As Ian Shapiro makes clear in the preface, his Moral Foundations of Politics grew out a lecture course of the same name that he has been offering at Yale University since the early 1980s. The central question in both the course and the book is, `What kind of government is morally legitimate and why?' Different theories of the sources of political legitimacy in Western political thought from the Enlightenment down to the present are canvassed in the book's six central chapters. The presentation is fair -- and fairly standard -- though Shapiro has his own views on these theories, which he does not attempt to hide.
"Chapters 2 and 3 constitute a clear and concise overview of utilitarianism, conceived of as a political philosophy. For classical utilitarianism (that is, Jeremy Bentham's version), government's main purpose is to create a stable framework within which people can pursue their own self-interest. Bentham's apparent attachment to small government, however, never went very deep. Like many nineteenth-century reformers, he had enormous confidence in the power of science, informed by the Principle of Utility, to guide public policy. This attitude would seem to license government intervention potentially in a wide range of human affairs. For example, Shapiro notes that classical utilitarianism, together with the principle of diminishing marginal utility, appears to justify substantial redistribution of wealth. (I say `appears to justify' because in fact it does not. For a clear refutation of this standard utilitarian justification of redistribution, see David Schmidtz, `Diminishing Marginal Utility and Egalitarian Redistribution,' Journal of Value Inquiry 34 [spring 2000]: 263-72.) Bentham accepted this idea, although he believed the redistributive impulse had to be tempered by a consideration of the incentive effects of confiscatory tax rates. The modern preoccupation with figuring out the tax rate that will strike the appropriate balance between efficiency and `equity' seems to have its roots here (as does the benevolent-dictator model of government)....
"Following the two chapters on utilitarianism are chapters on Marx and on social contract theory. Shapiro stresses Marx's commitment to the Enlightenment project of applying the scientific method to the study of human behavior, which issued in Marx's theory of history (Historical Materialism) and his political economy. Marx does not develop his ethical ideas in any detail, and Shapiro must twist the old communist's arm to get him to speak to normative issues in general and to the question of political legitimacy that frames the book in particular. Although Marx presents his theory of exploitation as purely descriptive, Shapiro interprets it in a moralized way so that the labor theory of value takes on normative significance. On that reading, the labor theory is a variant of the Lockean idea that people are entitled to the fruits of their labor and that exploitation occurs to the extent that they are denied it. As Shapiro notes, Marx rejects this sort of moralizing, but whatever its difficulties, this way of thinking has undeniable appeal to those sympathetic to the Marxian world view. As to the question of political legitimacy, Marx famously maintained that beliefs about legitimacy are in some manner illusory and that the state is destined to wither away anyway with the advent of communism. This position does not prevent Shapiro from finding in Marx's writings a conception of freedom that can serve as a basis for evaluating political and economic institutions. Though his exposition of Marxism and its difficulties is generally fair and accurate, Shapiro has to distort or depart from what Marx actually said to a greater or lesser extent to get him to speak to the concerns that frame Moral Foundations. This treatment may be justified by the enormous influence that Marx has had on Western political thought and practice....
"Chapters 7 and 8 deal with anti-Enlightenment thought and democracy, respectively. The former is a wide-ranging discussion of critics of the Enlightenment project from Burke to postmodernism to communitarianism. The exposition of these views is fair and the criticisms measured. The chapter on democracy opens with a discussion of the tension between academic criticism and mistrust of democracy and its nonnegotiable status as a touchstone of political legitimacy. Shapiro details the standard complaints against democracy, ranging from its cavalier attitude toward the truth to its alleged irrationality (Arrow's theorem) to the pathologies uncovered by public choice. Despite these problems, Shapiro defends democracy, essentially on the grounds that the defects are not fatal and can be mitigated significantly by standard left-of-center reform measures (for example, campaign finance reform)....
"A recurring theme in the first five chapters is what Shapiro calls the `workmanship ideal' in both epistemology and politics. In early Enlightenment epistemology, certainty and thus knowledge are to be found in one's understanding of what one makes. (Thus, God knows the descriptive and prescriptive laws of nature because He created them.) Because ethics, politics, and the human sciences generally concern what human beings make or do, they had a much higher epistemological standing in the early Enlightenment than they do now and indeed than they did in the later Enlightenment, which was dominated by a fallibilist conception of science and reason associated most famously with Hume. This workmanship ideal gets imported into political philosophy in different ways, starting with Locke's labor theory of property acquisition....
"The intended audience of this book is not completely clear. Shapiro offers an introductory treatment of the topic and for the most part breaks no new ground. The book could be used perhaps in an introductory course on the subject, though professors often have misgivings about teaching someone else's course, which is what they would be doing if they used Shapiro's book as their primary text. If a nonspecialist were seeking a relatively brief and straightforward overview of the topic described in the title, however, The Moral Foundations of Political Thought might be warmly recommended."
Excerpted from a review by N. Scott Arnold in "The Independent Review," Winter 2004.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Buy this 13. August 2005
Von T. Bachman - Veröffentlicht auf
I have to say in all honesty that of the hundreds of political science books I've read in my life, this little number is one of the best.

Shapiro is so fair, so sharp, so insightful, so spot on with his evaluations, and amazingly, so concise and thorough at the same time, that I think it is a shame this book hasn't made a bigger splash. It manages at the same time to be a great introduction to the great political philosophies AND a profound meditation and evaluation of, and critique on, each.

I know I sound like a sap raving over this thing, but let me just include one more comment. This will sound a bit weird, but here goes.

I found Shapiro's last chapter on democracy really, really moving. I've never really felt that way before reading a book about politics, and I can't really do his discussion justice here. I should just mention that among other things, he raises the question of how solid the traditional rationale for democracy really is, resting as it does on the absolute knowledge claims of early enlightenment thinkers. He points to Popperian epistemology, or fallibilism, as a surer basis for it, and then from there goes on to flesh out a series of arguments vindicating democracy's current status as, really, the sole legitimate political arrangement. These include explanations of how democracy institutionalizes truth detection mechanisms, how those mechanisms operate and why they are so important to human welfare, and ventures to suggest a few improvements to our current set-up for consideration. I'm going to order his book on democratic theory next.

Really a brilliant little book.

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Great Acompaniment to Open Yale Course 9. Juli 2013
Von Lauren - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
I purchased this book in connection with the Open Yale Course taught by Professor Shapiro online. You can watch the entire course for free at I have taken political philosophy courses before, but this was the first APPLIED political philosophy course I'd taken, which combines Enlightenment scholars with more modern scholars. He's a great lecturer, and uses the Socratic method with his students, so the class was very engaging and often focused on modern issues. The book was a great way to review his lectures and gain exposure to other modern philosophers. I also thought that his own theory of democratic justice was very useful in tying together and attempting to make sense of the tensions and weaknesses in other philosophers' works. As someone who teaches both Constitutional Law and Family Law, I found that his book and course were great philosophical foundations for both of those classes and plan to integrate many of his approaches into my own teaching.
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