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Enquiry Concerning Political Justice And Its Influence On Modern Morals And Happiness (Penguin Classics)

3.53  ·  Rating Details  ·  64 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
To his contemporaries, Godwin was simply "the philosopher", and this title is a statement of rational anarchism, its ideas echoing through Kropotkin's mutual aid and Marx's vision of the post-revolutionary paradise.
Published (first published 1793)
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Damian Lawrence
Dec 29, 2011 Damian Lawrence is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I've had this one on the shelf for years, but something tells me that, in this day and age, it's an interesting time to finally crack it open. Here's the opening excerpt from the introduction by editor, Dr. Isaac Kramnick:

"Every political philosophy has its prophet and sacred text. For liberalism it is Locke and The Second Treatise on Civil Government; for democracy it is Rousseau and his Social Contract; for conservatism Burke and the Reflections on the Revolution in France; for socialism Marx
Ken Jones
Oct 16, 2015 Ken Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant work!

One of the finest minds and most celebrated political thinkers of his time, when he published this book in 1793. And, it's simply a most enjoyable, quite refreshing read.

Most of his comments and observations in late-Eighteenth Century England are relevant to what we see about us today in America. And arguably a good deal more so!

His anarchist principles have never been sufficiently understood or tested over the last 222 years.

It's about time they were, right here in this country
William Godwin is a name that nowadays receives more mention in relation to his famous wife, daughter and son-in-law than any personal merit, and yet with the republication of this book it is not hard to see that he is a philosophical and literary giant in his own right. His ideas rebel against the moral decay of man (something as prevalent today as it was in his) and while I cannot help but feel the apparent naïveté in much of his writing, I also cannot deny the sheer magnetism and optimism tha ...more
Nan Baron
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Dec 20, 2015 Suzammah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
He's a wordy bugger. Some interesting ideas here, many have gone on to bigger and better things. Justice and equality are his main focus but his views on the state and education were particularly worthy of further thought. That the world will be perfect once we've all sat around and thought about it a bit better is a rather unconvincing notion; whilst the 20th Century may have been written by arm-chair socialists, Godwin was an 18th Century mild-mannered anarcho-pacifist. Kroptkin next, of cours ...more
Feb 23, 2013 Malcolm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a tough-going tome, but if you're interested in some of the more radical political theorists and theories of the late eighteenth century, or even just in anything related to the Godwin-Shelley family, then it's well worth a go. Godwin was a huge influence on Percy Shelley through the early/middle period of his life.
Mar 26, 2008 Bari rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When I was fourteen I thought I was an anarchist. This book convinced me how boring anarchism is. Anarchy is better in small doses and with no 5 dollar words. Interesting thing though, William Godwin is Mary Shelly's Dad.
David Gross
There’s ſomething ſort of funny about reading eighteenth century literature, but ſo far I'm enjoying this ahead-of-its-time and inſightful take on political philoſophy and ethics.
Craig J.
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Modern Morals and Happiness by William Godwin (1976)
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  • Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism
  • Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality
  • Reflections on Violence
  • Selected Writings
  • The Russian Anarchists
  • Selected Writings
  • Past and Present
  • An Essay on the Principle of Population
  • Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics
  • Mutual Aid
  • The Limits of State Action
  • Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality
  • The Russian Revolution/Leninism or Marxism?
  • Empire of Capital
  • Free Market Fairness
  • Godless Morality: Keeping Religion Out of Ethics
  • God and the State
  • Living Without God: New Directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, and the Undecided
in 1756, William Godwin was born in England, the son and grandson of strait-laced Calvinist ministers. Strictly-raised Godwin followed in paternal footsteps, becoming a minister by age 22. His reading of atheist d'Holbach and others caused him to lose both his belief in the doctrine of eternal damnation, and his ministerial position. Through further reading, Godwin gradually became godless. He pro ...more
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“if admiration were not generally deemed the exclusive property of the rich, and contempt the constant lackey of poverty, the love of gain would cease to be an universal problem.” 1 likes
“Add to this the species of government which prevails over nine tenths of the globe, which is despotism: a government, as Locke justly observes, altogether "vile and miserable," and "more to be deprecated than anarchy itself."(2*) Certainly every man who takes a dispassionate survey of this picture will feel himself inclined to pause respecting the necessity of the havoc which is thus made of his species, and to question whether the established methods for protecting mankind against the caprices of each other are the best that can be devised. He will be at a loss which of the two to pronounce most worthy of regret, the misery that is inflicted, or the depravity by which it is produced. If this be the unalterable allotment of our nature, the eminence of our rational faculties must be considered as rather an abortion than a substantial benefit; and we shall not fail to lament that, while in some respects we are elevated above the brutes, we are in so many important ones destined for ever to remain their inferiors.” 1 likes
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