This volume is the first complete critical edition of Peter of Auvergne’s Questiones super I-VII libros Politicorum. The Questiones was produced at the Faculty of Arts of Paris sometime between late 1291 and 1296 and is the earliest surviving commentary in question form on Aristotle’s Politics. As the introduction explains, the Questiones was philosophically innovative and became the most influential question-commentary on the Politics in the Middle Ages. The volume also includes a critical edition of an earlier oral report (reportatio) of Peter’s teaching on Books I-II and part of III which became the basis for those sections of the Questiones. This volume is of interest to scholars of medieval philosophy and the history of political thought and is a reference point for future research on the medieval reception of Aristotle’s Politics and medieval Aristotelian practical philosophy more broadly.
This chapter illustrates the fundamental divergence between the republican visions of Cicero and those of Niccolò Machiavelli. It demonstrates that Machiavelli does not share Cicero’s vision for a just commonwealth and should not be considered an heir to his strain of republican thought. The chapter also argues that Machiavelli moves further away from what would later become known as liberalism. He rejects the Ciceronian account of natural law, and his regime leaves no room for rights, consent, or the constitutional limitations on power that characterize Cicero’s thought. Machiavelli represents a failed challenge to the Ciceronian tradition. The chapter challenges long-standing accounts of Machiavelli’s place in the history of political thought.
‘The history of political thought and Marxism’ focuses on Marxism, which became the most global and scientific philosophy in the twentieth century. An important figure here is Karl Marx, the outcast from Prussian Trier that famously contributed to the science of historical materialism. Marx’s The Condition of the Working Class in England justified revolution through a philosophy that emerged from reading European history. Marx, along with Friedrich Engels, accepted that the progress of commerce by the end of the eighteenth century made European states more powerful than others in history. Marx’s contemporaries believed that the study of societies in every stage of history is vital in understanding the future.
‘The ‘Cambridge School’’ talks about the Cambridge School of the History of Political Thought, which rejected Marxist approaches for propagating bad history. Cambridge School’s story is very complex and is the product of John Pocock, Quentin Skinner, and John Dunn. The three scholars formulated their ideas about how the history of political thought should become a field in the 1960s. It is worth considering the history of political thought in Britain and Cambridge as a way to understand why Pocock, Skinner, and Dunn wanted to do things differently. The story of the three scholars is tied to the history of liberalism or the story of Britain as a liberal state.
‘Koselleck and conceptual history’ reviews how the study of the history of political thought ended up as the site of the Third Reich and the Holocaust. The question to ask is what had gone wrong with the German traditions of philology and lexicography that is associated with studies of the classical past? Systematic knowledge can be defined through foundational concepts. The disaster of modern history and the failure of historical sensibility in Germany can be used as new techniques to investigate how the past explained the sense of national and cultural failure. The project of ‘conceptual history’ was formulated in the 1950s by Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, and Reinhart Koselleck.
‘History and politics’ starts with the editorial print by James Sayers from December 1783, elaborating how the history of political thought can explain the print of a plump man riding an elephant with a human face, which caused the Indian Bill to be rejected by parliament. The history of political thought reveals a variety of perceptions of political projects. There is of course Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s infamous Contrat social in 1762, which is considered a call to rebellion and acknowledgment of human bondage. Rousseau’s words sent a warning to people in commercial societies that they are to repeat a cycle of war and rule by tyrannical Caesar figures.
‘Globality, morality, and the future’ recounts the 1960s research in the history of political thought, which was inspired by the writings of Leo Strauss, Michel Foucault, Reinhart Koselleck, and the Cambridge School authors. The reconstruction of the meaning of texts can be seen through the scholars’ ideological contexts and perspectives. Despite the rejection of Marxist categories for interrogating history and proletarian revolution, the world created by capitalism continues to be attacked for its endemic war and fanatical politics. Aspects of the history of political thought trained scholars to see the problems of contemporary society. The history of political thought allowed political actions to be charted and evaluated for success.
‘A History of Political Thought: A Very Short Introduction’ explores the core concerns and questions in the history of political thought, considering the field as a branch of political philosophy and political science. The approaches of core theorists, such as Reinhart Koselleck, Leo Strauss, Michel Foucault, and the so-called Cambridge School of Quentin Skinner and John Pocock are important to this topic. There is ongoing relevance for current politics which can be seen by assessing the current relationship between political history, theory, and action. There are some areas of political thinking that tend to draw on history because of the comparisons and contrasts that the past can offer to contemporary dilemmas.
‘Political philosophers and the history of political thought’ discusses the confidence in the 1950s that the ‘right’ system of politics, economy and society had been discovered and linked with a turn away from history and theory. Behavioralism, which was propagated by Heinz Eulau, David Easton, and other political scientists, demanded the analysis of politics through the assertion of claims that could be verified or refuted. Data analysis could test hypotheses and come up with irrefutable policy recommendations. Domestic and international liberalism are coupled with variants of pacific socialism or communitarianism. There are a number of renowned political theorists who turned into public intellectuals, such as Norberto Bobbio and Jürgen Habermass.
‘Definitions and justifications’ describes the history of political thought as a recent field of research. Historically, however, every society has formulated histories of political thought from the anodyne to the systematic. The past, where politics has been closely entwined with the worship of deities on whom the survival of a society depends, is also very relevant here. If national myths in culture justify combat or describe thwarted destinies in history, these beliefs will be reflected in the history of political thought. There is the perceived history of decline that can lead to the transformation of politics, which is manifested among nations that fell behind European states during the nineteenth century.