In this volume one of the leading political theorists of our time addresses what he believes is the major task of political theory: showing human beings how they have good reason to act in the historical situation in which they find themselves. Dunn argues that humans today depend more abjectly and extensively than ever before on the capacity of some of our number for skillful political action. There are many reasons for this dependence: closely linked nuclear-threat and financial systems, massive trade flows that sustain or imperil the well-being of all modern populations, and the awesome scale of the unintended ecological effects of human production. Why has modern political theory failed to relate these factors systematically to one another and to provide people with adequate reasons for action? To answer this twin query, Dunn brilliantly deploys the resources of the historical development of Western political thinking, in counterpoint with some of the main lessons of international political economy.
The concluding essay reasserts that the classical virtue of prudence has a central place in contemporary politics. The conditions of modern politics, it maintains, require the exercise of prudence not merely by political, military, and economic leaders, but also by the populace at large. Overall, this selection of Dunn's most influential work of the past decade reflects his remarkable range of interestsincluding Locke's ideological importance, the nature of trust in politics, rights, liberty, responsibility at a national level, postcolonial African politics, and political community. The book will be required reading for students from a variety of disciplines.
Originally published in 1990.
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