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In this important volume Norberto Bobbio examines some of the central themes of political theory and presents a systematic exposition of his views. With great astuteness and profound scholarship, Bobbio unfolds the elements for a general theory of politics. Bobbioa s wide--ranging argument is focused on four themes: the distinction between the public and the private; the concept of civil society; differing conceptions of the state and differing ways of understanding the legitimacy of state power; and the relation between democracy and dictatorship. Bobbioa s discussion draws on a wealth of theoretical and historical material, from Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes and Locke to Marx, Weber, Habermas and Foucault. By analysing the development of different languages of politics in relation to changing social and historical contexts, Bobbio deepens our understanding of the concepts we use to describe and evaluate modern political systems.