Oxford has published a revised and expanded edition of Antony Black, A World History of Political Thought: Its Significance and Consequences. (It actually came out at the very end of 2016.) The volume is notable for taking various traditions that are often called “non-Western” completely seriously, and for its balanced, comparative observations. See more here or below.
This book examines the political thought of China, Greece, Israel, Rome, India, Iran, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and also early Christianity, from prehistory to c. 200 CE. Each of these had its own priorities, based on a religious and philosophical perspective. This led to different ideas about who should govern, how to govern, and what government was for.
In most cultures, sacred monarchy was the norm, but this ranged from absolute to conditional authority. ‘The people’ were recipients of royal (and divine) beneficence. Justice, the rule of law and meritocracy were generally regarded as fundamental. In Greece and Rome, democracy and liberty were born, while in Israel the polity was based on covenant and the law. Confucius taught humaneness, Mozi and Christianity taught universal love; Kautilya and the Chinese ‘Legalists’ believed in realpolitik and an authoritarian state. The conflict between might and right was resolved in many different ways.
Chinese, Greek and Indian thinkers reflected on the origin and purposes of the state. Status and class were embedded in Indian and Chinese thought, the nation in Israelite thought. The Stoics and Cicero, on the other hand, saw humanity as a single unit. Political philosophy, using logic, evidence and dialectic, was invented in China and Greece, statecraft in China and India, political science in Greece. Plato and Aristotle, followed by Polybius and Cicero, started ‘western’ political philosophy.
This book covers political philosophy, religious ideology, constitutional theory, social ethics, official and popular political culture.
Table of Contents
1. Early Communities and States
3. Mesopotamia, Assyria, Babylon
8. The Greeks
10. Greco-Roman Humanism
11. The Kingdom of Heaven and the Church of Christ
12. Topics: Similarities and Differences