How are we to understand past political thinkers? Is it a matter simply of reading their texts again and again? Do we have to relate past texts of political thought to the contexts in which ideas were composed and in which the aims of past thinkers were formulated? Or should past political theories be deconstructed so as to uncover t what their authors maintain, but what the texts reveal? In this book, theories of interpreting past political thinkers are examined and the interpretive methods of a range of theories are reviewed, including those of Hegel, Marx, Oakeshott, Collingwood, the Cambridge School, Foucault, Derrida and Gadamer. The application of these theories of interpretation to table modern political theorists, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Bentham, Mill, Nietzsche and Beauvoir is then used as a way of understanding modern political thought and of assessing interpretive theories of past political thought. The result is a book which sees the history of modern political thought as more than a procession of political theories but rather as a reflection on the meaning of past political thought and its interpretation. It provides a way of reading the history of modern political thought, in which the question of interpretation matters both for understanding how we interpret the past but also for considering what it means to undertake political thinking.
Gary Browning is Professor of Political Philosophy at Oxford Brookes University and Associate Dean of Research and Knowledge Exchange in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. He has served on the Executive of the Political Studies Association and is a member of the Council of the Hegel Society of Great Britain. He has published a number of books in political thought and related fields, such as Plato and Hegel: Two Modes of Philosophising about Politics (Routledge, 2012), Dialogues with Contemporary Political Theorists (co-edited with R. Prokhovnik and M. Dimova- Cookson, Palgrave, 2012), and Global Theory from Kant to Hardt and Negri (Palgrave, 2011).