Social and Political Philosophy: A Contemporary Introduction

By John Christman | Go to book overview

Preface

This book is intended to serve two related purposes. The first is to provide a text that would be useful in general survey courses on contemporary political philosophy or as a companion text for more focused classes on related topics. The series in which this book appears is designed to provide mid-level undergraduate textbooks for students with some background in philosophy but new to this particular subject matter. With this in mind, this book contains an admittedly selective account of current trends in (for the most part) Anglo-American social and political philosophy over the last thirty years or so. The book is designed to serve as a main text but also could be paired with primary material from the authors discussed.

The second aim of the book is to provide a general rendering of that material for an audience outside of academia, though one with some familiarity with philosophical methods and topics. The general reader should not need any specialized background in the history of philosophy or political theory to benefit from this work, though a taste for abstract theorizing may well be a prerequisite.

The organizing principle of the book is to lay out in some detail the guiding paradigm of political philosophy which currently dominates the field - the ‘liberalism’ inherited from the European Enlightenment which undergirds the constitutional democracies of the modern West - and to discuss particular controversies within that paradigm. It then places that paradigm under scrutiny and raises deep questions about the methodology, fundamental value commitments, and philosophical presuppositions of that view. In this way, the book marks what I take to be a profound shift in political philosophy (and perhaps Anglo-American philosophy generally) toward asking fundamental questions about its own methods and bases. Questions about ‘mainstream’ philosophy from various quarters - from feminists, critical race theorists, post-modern theorists, and others - have caused many philosophers to rethink the standard techniques of philosophical analysis that have dominated philosophy (in the analytic tradition) since the seventeenth century. This book reflects the rumblings of that challenge by considering some of the

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