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Philosophy Political Philosophy
Keith Hyams, Igor Shoikhedbrod
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 December 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0091


Political philosophy is that branch of philosophy concerned with political morality and associated concepts. Dominant themes include justice, equality, liberty, democracy, rights, the distribution of resources, and political authority. This entry focuses on contemporary discussions and debates in political philosophy.

General Overviews

Several overviews provide accessible introductions to contemporary debates in political philosophy. The widely used introduction by Kymlicka 2001 examines various debates from the perspectives of different traditions. Swift 2006 deals more concretely with some of the leading topics in contemporary political thought such as social justice, liberty, equality, and democracy. Wolff 2006 provides a key overview to debates about political rule, distributive justice, and liberty. The introduction by Miller 2003 gives a very brief overview of the field. Simmons 2007 also gives a very clear introduction to political philosophy.

  • Kymlicka, Will. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    An introduction to some of the leading schools of thought in contemporary political philosophy, most notably, liberalism, libertarianism, Marxism, communitarianism, as well as feminism. This introduction will be of particular use to senior undergraduate students, as well as graduate students, who may already have some basic knowledge of the field.

  • Miller, David. Political Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    Miller introduces the field by posing a series of provocative questions, such as the possibility of living together without politics, the extent to which the market should be regulated instead of eliminated, and the future prospects of multicultural politics and global governance.

  • Simmons, A. J. Political Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    A very clear introduction that brings to the fore issues of political authority and organization, including the author’s own take on these issues.

  • Swift, A. Political Philosophy: A Beginner’s Guide for Students and Politicians. Cambridge, MA: Polity, 2006.

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    An accessible introduction to the most pertinent themes in contemporary political philosophy, including social justice, liberty, equality, community, and democracy. The book is geared specifically for undergraduate students.

  • Wolff, J. An Introduction to Political Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2006.

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    A very good overview of various debates associated with political rule, distributional justice, and the place of liberty.

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