Hume's Politics provides a comprehensive examination of David Hume's political theory, and is the first book to focus on Hume's monumental History of England as the key to his distinctly political ideas. Andrew Sabl argues that conventions of authority are the main building blocks of Humean politics, and explores how the History addresses political change and disequilibrium through a dynamic treatment of coordination problems. Dynamic coordination, as employed in Hume's work, explains how conventions of political authority arise, change, adapt to new social and economic conditions, improve or decay, and die. Sabl shows how Humean constitutional conservatism need not hinder--and may in fact facilitate--change and improvement in economic, social, and cultural life. He also identifies how Humean liberalism can offer a systematic alternative to neo-Kantian approaches to politics and liberal theory.
At once scholarly and accessibly written, Hume's Politics builds bridges between political theory and political science. It treats issues of concern to both fields, including the prehistory of political coordination, the obstacles that must be overcome in order for citizens to see themselves as sharing common political interests, the close and counterintuitive relationship between governmental authority and civic allegiance, the strategic ethics of political crisis and constitutional change, and the ways in which the biases and injustices endemic to executive power can be corrected by legislative contestation and debate.
Andrew Sabl is professor of public policy and political science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Ruling Passions: Political Offices and Democratic Ethics (Princeton).
"Andrew Sabl has written an exceptionally fine overview of David Hume's History of England. . . . The History into which Hume poured such brilliance remains an undiscovered continent. . . . But with Sabl's full-length study, we can say that it has finally been mapped."--David Walsh, Perspectives on Politics
"David Hume's History of England, a long-neglected classic of political philosophy, has recently become the object of serious study by political theorists. Hume's Politics, one of the best books on Hume published in recent years, shows convincingly how much political theorists and political scientists have to learn from Hume's masterpiece."--Thomas W. Merrill, Review of Politics
"[E]xtraordinarily painstaking and erudite study of [Hume's History] in its six-volume entirety."--Political Theory
"Sabl extracts from Hume's neglected History a wide-ranging and powerful work of political theory--the theory of dynamic coordination--pointing out that the tools with which to state it explicitly and abstractly as a theory were not invented until two centuries later. He refers of course to game theory, and to Schelling's clarification of coordination and the focal point phenomenon. Sabl's work is a persuasive, revealing, and masterful synthesis."--Randall Calvert, Washington University in St. Louis
"This remarkable book restores David Hume's political thought to its rightful place at the center of political theory and connects Hume to central themes in contemporary political analysis. Sabl does justice to the details of Hume's account without ever losing the thread of the main arguments. A magnificent achievement."--William A. Galston, Brookings Institution
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1 Coordination and Convention 21
Chapter 2 Coordinating Interests: The Liberalism of Enlargement 43
Chapter 3 Convention and Allegiance 90
Chapter 4 Crown and Charter: Fundamental Conventions as Principles of Authority 121
Chapter 5 Leadership and Constitutional Crises 157
Chapter 6 Vertical Inequality and the Extortion of Liberty 188
Chapter 7 What Touches All: Equality, Parliamentarism, and Contested Authority 207
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Andrew Sabl: