If you are interested in a classical education, you should go back to the classic political books to gain a true understanding of the subject matter. Even tho there are many different suggestions for classical political books on the web, we want to show you our list of 7 great political books you should read for a classical education.
Choosing and Buying an Edition of the Classic Political Books
As with all classical books, there are a wide range of editions available at prices ranging from the distinctly budget to expensive and ornate versions. In choosing an edition, it is not the esthetics of a book that should sway a reader, but its contents. Here are a few issues to consider.
Many of the classic political books were written in languages other than English. If this is the case, it is important to choose a translation that is both accurate and comfortable to read.
There are broadly two types of translation: literal translation, in which the translator converts the language almost word for word; and On the other hand, other translators try to a greater extent to translate meaning, which means which is best will depend upon the objectives of the reader.
Introductory Material: A good quality introduction always adds value to the reading of a political classic. A good introduction will not only give the reader additional information about the book; a good introduction will also help to put the political work into its historical and philosophical context.
Notes: A good edition will also provide some notes. Notes may be provided as footnotes or at the end of the book, preference will depend entirely on the reader. Good notes, however, will see that specific terms of reference and important historical issues are not missed.
Classic Political Books – A Classical Political Reading List
In obtaining a classical education in politics, the list provided is by no means comprehensive. The list of classical political books will, however, give the political student a good all-round account of the subject from the classical perspective.
The Republic: This is often seen as one of the earliest of the political classics. In this book, Plato sets out the basis of an “idealized” society, based upon the values of virtue and goodness. The book takes the form of a conversation between Socrates and three others throughout the work. The Republic considers a wide range of political issues, from the role of the military to that of education.
The Politics: Following on from Plato, Aristotle wrote The Politics, another political classic of the ancient world. In the Politics, Aristotle considers issues as wide in range as the merits of differing forms of government within the Greek world and the concepts of slavery and citizenship. The broad range of subjects covered in The Politics ensures that the reader never has the chance to become bored with the book. The book is, however, a serious one and requires a considerable level of concentration to read.
The Prince: The Prince is a political classic of the Renaissance world, and at less than 100 pages, it is also one of the shortest. Machiavelli, the man who gave his name to the term “Machiavellian” to describe certain political methods, wrote this small book as a piece of advice to the ruler Lorenzo De Medici in 1513. Despite the short length of the book, it covers a lot of issues, such as the key questions facing a ruler, such as, “is it better to be loved or feared?” and whether to choose between citizen armies or mercenaries.
The Social Contract: This is an intrusting work published by Rousseau in 1762. Rousseau rejects the classical idea that any one man or set of men has the natural right to exert authority over another. Instead, Rousseau argues that there is a pact or “social contract” between the state and its citizens, and that this social contract forms the basis of power within a society.
The Rights of Man: Paine published The Rights of Man in 1790. The book is seen as a vindication and support of the American and French revolutions. The book may be seen as systematically critical of the British political system of the time.
The Communist Manifesto: Published by Marx and Engels in 1848, this book outlines the basic principles of one of the most controversial political systems tried and tested in the following centuries.
On Liberty: The book outlines one of the fundamental political principles of the last century. Here, Mill in his 1859 volume, sets out the principals for the system of libertarianism, the concept that each should be free to pursue their own goals, so long as they do not cause “harm” to others.