Required Reading — the Best Political Books

Every week I like to bring you a fresh blog about great books. Not just good books, not just books I like, but a definitive list of all the great books that you should have read in college. If you want a well rounded education, learning not just facts and figures and dates and names, but the stories behind the facts, then these are the books you want to start with for a solid foundation.

The Prince is still ahead of its time after 500 years, photo by  Stifts- och landsbiblioteket i Skara

The Prince is still ahead of its time after 500 years, photo by Stifts- och landsbiblioteket i Skara

This week I want to look at books about politics. If you want to learn how the political machine functions, or if you want to compare todays policies and politicians to those of years past, here’s where you should begin.

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli – This treatise is one of the most important works ever in the realm of political philosophy. The subject matter is sharp, mostly justifying how barbaric acts by rulers (like princes) can be justified in pursuit of glory. Published in the 1500s, the truly remarkable aspect of this book is how it has remained so accurate over the centuries.

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx – Since the advent of books, there have been few with as much political impact on the world stage as this one. Marx crafted a document outlining a new form of government, and a perfect new society for it to govern. Time has shown that the practice of communism is far different than the theory, but it’s still a fascinating theory.

The Republic by Plato – Dating all the way back to 300 BC, this is a dialogue between philosophers as they debate the heady topics of the role of government and man, and what justice really means.

Two Treatises of Government by John Locke – He had to publish this anonymously in 1689, but his ideas made people take notice. He knocks down all the beliefs associated with a patriarchal society, and then gives reasons why society should be based on natural law, human rights, and governmental contract with its citizens.

The Social Contract (or, Principles of Political Right) by Jean Jacques Rousseau – This 1762 theorizes about the optimal systemof government, how it responds to its citizens, and how important the individual is to the overall population.

The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine – In 1791 Paine outlined what he believed were the inalienable rights of all men. Furthermore, he puts forward the idea that when any government does not protect and care for its citizens, the citizens have a right to revolt and overthrow that government. It was so controversial at the time Paine was tried (in absentia) and found guilty by the British government.

Did I miss your favorite? As always, hit me up with some comments and let me know what books you think are Required Reading.

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