"Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought"

Michigan Law Authors
Areas of Interest
Publish Date
2017
Publication
The Oxford Handbook of Classics in Contemporary Political Theory
Publication Type
Book Chapter
Abstract

In The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, Quentin Skinner has three aims: creating a sort of reference book for hundreds of primary texts in multiple languages, illuminating a more general historical theme using late medieval and early modern political texts, and giving us a history of political thought with a genuinely historical character. Skinner allows us to see political theorists creatively wrestling with difficult political problems of their day, and attempting to solve them through their writing. Skinner’s critics, however, cannot shake the sense that placing these texts in historical contexts robs them of some of their profundity and value as works of political theory. This chapter examines some of Skinner’s treatments of particular authors, notes some difficulties with the book’s methods, and situates the debate around Foundations within the emergence of a self-conscious Cambridge School.

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