In this lively and entertaining book, Terence Ball maintains that 'classic' works in political theory continue to speak to us only if they are periodically re-read and reinterpreted from alternative perspectives. That, the author contends, is how these works became classics, and why they are regarded as such. Ball suggests a way of reading that is both 'pluralist' and 'problem-driven'--pluralist in that there is no one right way to read a text, and problem-driven in that the reinterpretation is motivated by (...) problems that emerge while reading these texts. In addition, the subsequent readings and interpretations become more and more suffused with the interpretations of others. This tour de force, always entertaining and eclectic, focuses on the core problems surrounding many of the major thinkers. Was Machiavelli really amoral? Why did language matter so much to Hobbes--and why should it matter to us? Are the roots of the totalitarian state to be found in Rousseau? Were the utilitarians sexist in their view of the franchise? The author's aim is to show how a pluralist and problem-centered approach can shed new light on old and recent works in political theory, and on the controversies that continue over their meaning and significance. Written in a lively and accessible style, the book will provoke debate among students and scholars alike. (shrink)
Contemporary theories of justice fail to recognize that the concepts constitutive of our political practices ? including ?justice? itself? have historically mutable meanings. To recognize the fact of conceptual change entails an alteration in our understanding of justice between generations. Because there can be no transhistorical theory of justice, there can be no valid theory of intergenerational justice either ? especially where the generations in question are distant ones having very different understandings of justice. The upshot is that an earlier (...) generation cannot aspire to act justly toward a later distant generation whose members? understanding of justice differs radically from theirs. Conceptual change and incommensurability render the very idea of intergenerational justice incoherent. Even so, such radical relativism need not entail moral nihilism. (shrink)
Some sociological theories yield self-subverting or 'dangerous' knowledge. The functionalist theory of social deviance provides a case in point. The theory, first formulated by Durkheim, maintains that ostensibly anti-social deviants perform a number of socially indispensable functions. But what would happen if everyone knew this? They would cease to regard deviants as malefactors and would indeed come to esteem them as public benefactors. In that case, however, deviants could no longer perform their proper function. If they are to play the (...) part assigned to them by the theory, most people must remain unaware of their 'true' role in the drama of social life. This gives rise to the paradox of dangerous knowledge: The theory can be true only if its truths are not widely known; widespread ignorance is the precondition of its truth. But then, if its truths must not be publicly known, the theory is a piece of esoterica, not of science. I conclude by considering, and rejecting, several possible solutions to the 'dangerous knowledge' paradox. (shrink)
_ Ideals and Ideologies: A Reader_, 9/e, is a comprehensive compilation of original readings representing all of the major 'isms'.It offers students a generous sampling of key thinkers in different ideological traditions and places them in their historical and political contexts. Used on its own or with _Political Ideologies and the Democratic Ideal_, the title accounts for the different ways people use ideology and conveys the ongoing importance of ideas in politics.
The too-often unhappy 'marriage' of political theory and political science has long been a source of anguish for both partners. Should this troubled partnership be dissolved? Or might this marriage yet be saved? Ball answers the former question negatively and the latter affirmatively. Playing the part of therapist instead of theorist, he selectively recounts a number of episodes which estranged the partners and strained the marriage. And yet, he concludes that the conflicts were in hindsight more constructive than destructive, benefiting (...) both partners in heretofore unexpected ways and perhaps paving a path toward reconciliation and rapprochement. (shrink)