320. General books on political science
Aristotle Politics, 350 B.C.
One of the greatest minds of antiquity, Aristotle, examines the relationship of individuals to the state. While he was heavily influenced by his teacher Plato’s Republic and Laws, he was also critical of some of Plato’s analyses. Aristotle is revered for the relevance of his political thought to all times, not just to Classical Greece. This perennial relevance makes it a good introduction to political thought.
“Man is by nature a political animal.” –Aristotle, Politics.
Bryan Caplan The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, 2007.
Economics professor Bryan Caplan argues that four popular misconceptions consistently lead American voters astray when it is time for elections. The four biases he highlights are an underestimation of the wisdom of markets, distrust of foreigners, undervaluing conservation of labor, and consistently believing the economy is going downhill. He says these beliefs also lead to faulty policy decisions among elected leaders. He concludes with suggestions for remedies to the situation.
“What happens if fully rational politicians compete for the support of irrational voters — specifically, voters with irrational beliefs about the effects of various policies? It is a recipe for mendacity.” –Bryan Caplan The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies.
Frances FitzGerald Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam, 1972.
In the years following the Vietnam War, Frances FitzGerald published this first history of Vietnam written by an American. In it, she shares her research on the country’s villages, religions, politics, and the effects of French colonialism. The American intervention in the Vietnam War is considered as well.
Thomas Fleming The Great Divide: The Conflict Between Washington and Jefferson that Defined a Nation, 2016.
Controversies over the role of the executive branch in the U.S. government are nothing new. In fact, the idyllic view most Americans have of the years after the Revolutionary War, as a time of harmony and common zeal, is a false one, as those years were rife with contention and turmoil. One of the biggest clashes of those early years was between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson over the role of the president. Historian Thomas Fleming explains their argument and how the differing ideas behind it continue to haunt us today.
Francis Fukuyama The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution, 2011.
The American philosopher and political economist, Frances Fukuyama, examines the history of political institutions, from our earliest ancestors through the French Revolution, in this first of two volumes on the subject. In it, he uses history, evolutionary biology, archeology, and economics to bring the subject into focus.
“Inflation via loose monetary policy is in effect a tax, but one that does not have to be legislated and that tends to hurt ordinary people more than elites with real rather than monetary assets.” –Francis Fukuyama The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution.
For more books on general political science, see Part 2.
For more information on the Further Reading series, see Further Reading: Start Here.