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Politics: A Very Short Introduction

(Very Short Introductions)

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  522 ratings  ·  43 reviews
In A Very Short Introduction to Politics, Kenneth Minogue begins with a discussion of issues arising from a historical account of politics, and goes on to offer chapters dealing with the Ancient Greeks and the idea of citizenship; Roman law; medieval Christianity and individualism; freedom since Machiavelli and Hobbes; the challenge of ideologies; democracy, oligarchy, and ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published 2000 by Oxford University Press (first published 1995)
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3.45  · 
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Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Governments wishing to claim credit for all good things, an oppositions wishing to dispense blame for all bad things, have colluded in spreading the idea that all things, good and bad, are caused by political policies."
- Kenneth Minogue, Politics: VSI


Vol N° 8 of Oxford's Very Short Introductins series, Politics, is a well-written if slightly in the woods VSI. As someone who got their masters in public policy, there wasn't anything really new here, but what Minogue writes, he writes with wit and
Manik Sukoco
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the first time that I read a book from the "Very Short Introductions" of the Oxford University Press and it sure made up for what it promised. A very well introduction on that abstract concept called politics.
Because it was such a small book, only 110 small pages, I expected a quick read, a snack for the hungry reader, something that you read in one zip. But that turned out to be a mistake. This is not an American style book, which tent to be somewhat gentler to the reader, but the Engli
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
The word political has many uses. One refers to pandering to voters. For example, we often hear someone decry an action as, "just a political move", meaning something done to appeal to voters, or we hear that something is "politically correct"; designed not to offend voters. These uses of the word as an insult are not addressed here. Kenneth Minogue is interested in the most basic meaning of politics, as a practice.

I've always thought of politics as the contest for power. Minogue tells us that i
Jafar Isbarov
May 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-english
"...What is universally moral may be fatal to a specific culture."

Kenneth Minogue is totally frank in his political opinions - that is rare. But I have right not to care about opinions of the author if I am reading an introductory book, don't I?

First part of the book is an attempt to give an idea of political history. Second part is blend of random essays on politics adjusted for kindergarten and written by Shakespeare. Ending is, as author says, "an example of political theory, an argument like
Ahmad Sharabiani
Politics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #8), Kenneth Minogue

In A Very Short Introduction to Politics, Kenneth Minogue begins with a discussion of issues arising from a historical account of politics, and goes on to offer chapters dealing with the Ancient Greeks and the idea of citizenship; Roman law; medieval Christianity and individualism; freedom since Machiavelli and Hobbes; the challenge of ideologies; democracy, oligarchy, and bureaucracy; power and order in modern so
Jul 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
While he gives a nice overview of a lot of different aspects of politics both concerning history and the actual underlying procedures, thoughts and processes, the author does a very poor job concealing his own opinions and in general has a very biased approach to different political ideas and theories. I would have expected more objectivity from a "Very short introduction"
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
The four stars are mainly for Chapter 8 onwards. The book just got better and better towards the end and finished so strong. I am glad I read till the end.

"In an egalitarian world, everyone is equal, except perhaps the managers of equality."
My favorite quote from the book.
Decent book, difficult to get through as it feels as if 500 pages worth of information has been condensed into 120 pages.

I did however like several parts of the book. Especially how political systems were structured in Ancient Greece and in the Roman Empire, both which I intend to read more about.

In summary, this is a great book for anyone looking for an outline of how to tackle the huge subject of politics.
Billie Pritchett
Feb 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics
Here's a quote from Kenneth Minoque's book:
[P:]olitics in the modern world has
generally been the activity of dealing with the business of a civil association, the state, which provided the formal framework within which individuals could produce and consume, associate socially with each other, worship or not worship, and express themselves in art. Politics was strictly defined by its limits, and the limit was what was necessary for this complex civilization to work.
This is a pretty nice, astute q
Daniel Wright
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics-and-ir, vsi
While being an intriguing and provocative essay on modern democracy, this book is not really what it says on the cover, namely, an introduction to the academic discipline of political science - it isn't. I understand the word 'politics' to have nothing to do with democracy except incidentally; it is rather the study of the affairs of the polis. Minogue, exuberant as he is, barely touches on the idea.
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think everyone should read this brilliant introduction to the political arena. Minogue does a wonderful job portraying the development of politics from ancient Greece to the 20th century.
Andrew Brown
Jul 05, 2018 rated it liked it
I had intended to read this in advance of this (past) year's OU module, but hadn't got more than a few pages in. So I ended up picking it up after finishing the course.

It covered similar material to my module, but took a slightly different tack: most interestingly in differentiating between "Political Doctrine" and "Ideology" - a most interesting point that will inform my thinking. I was less convinced by the conclusion drawn on the direction of Politics/politics in the future, and felt this was
Declan Waters
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A review of politics as an academic subject does feel like it needs an update (this edition from 1995), and a review of non-western politics. A very clear 'western' view of politics which made it easier to follow and understand, but left me thinking half the world was being ignored by calling it 'despotic'. The author does explain why, but it feels like a justification of a decision rather than a academic one.

That said Minogue knows politics, its history and development and presents this is 13 s
Jeff ChavaOne
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Politics: A Very Short Introduction is a classic text in my opinion, as it is a general topic, by a great publisher, and so thus its ideas are widespread. The text spends time on despotism, the Greeks, and the modern philosophers, in relation to the state, sovereignty, and social contracts; popularized by Hobbes. It goes over the basics in a cool way.
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
The history and context around Greek and Roman politics was interesting, but it was heavier reading than I expected for an introduction-type book, and it could really do with an update. It feels weird to read about politics without references to the internet.
Jessica O'hanlon
Jun 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
An unbalanced 'introduction' which is weighted towards the author's right-wing views.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Didn't find it that good, but it was better than some of the other books of this series, so it deserves some praise.
Sep 25, 2010 rated it liked it
In this Very Short Introduction, Minogue begins by trying to pin down what we mean by the word politics, and compares it to what (in his view) it isn't: despotism. He then proceeds to explore the history of politics, starting with the ancient Greeks and Romans and moving on through medieval politics and the influence of Christianity, all the way to the present day.

He covers the practice of politics: how it is experienced, the difference between the State and society, the role of the individual,
Feb 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Kenneth Minogue gives a good, almost balanced introduction to the huge concept: Politics, though his own classical liberal views are rarely far from the surface. Minogue makes adequate mention of theorists opposed to his own views, such as Karl Marx, but makes sure to politely belittle them in favour of small government approaches. You will also find little to no mention of non-western politics in this book, as Minogue seems to think the non-western world is/was nothing but despots, which are no ...more
C. Varn
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book will surely produce a highly polarized response as late Australian conservative Kenneth Minogue’s politics would have been highly polarizing in his studies. Minogue essentially traces the Anglo-European understanding of politics as a development from classical traditions. It should be read with that bias in mine: it is Eurocentric, but erudite. Minogue makes good points about the “anti-political” nature of both “ideology” and “despotism” but he also special pleads and “No True Scotsman ...more
David Roberts
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
The book I read to research this post was Politics A Very Short Introduction by Kenneth Minogue which is a very good book which I bought from kindle. This book is part of a series of around 300 books where an expert writes around 150 pages on a topic as an introduction to that subject. I have reviewed quite a lot of books from the series. This book looks at politics in quite a general way and much of it contrasts democracies with dictatorships. Folk like us living in democracies take it for gran ...more
M. Ashraf
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: vsi
This is maybe my favorite of the series so far...
It really holds the name very short unlike the other ones I read, and it is really good.
We start from non-politics 'Despotism' to politics in Classical Greeks and Romans to the Modern State. Between conservatives, liberals, socialists, left and right... between theory, ideology and practice... it is quite the overview!

A great power, as many statesmen have said, has no friends, merely interests, and interests change.

Parties seek to win elections,
Adolphus Writer
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Insightful. Broad in his discussion of what politics is and is not. Made it clear that politics, however distasteful, is preferable to the alternative: despotism. Politics balances diverse, often contradictory interests in an equitable way during any given time in history. He also stated the obvious: freedom and democracy trickled down to all because a few overthrew the old despots to enjoy their own freedoms.

Professor Minogue ends the book on a low note: history saw the rise from despotism and
Amr Ezzat
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
Certainly Minnogue's approach used to write this Politics introduction is what I most admire. It wisely started from a brief explanation of the despotism issue, then moved on to the Greek political life and how we later inherited political practice from the Romans and their crucial 'auctoritas' concept.

It pretty much took this 'evolutionary' approach until the description of the modern State formation history in Europe. The explanation given to the reader afterwards about political experiences
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Gems like this are what make this an above-average book. Keep this in mind when (for example) watching Star Trek, and hearing Spock say "logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

"Slogans such as 'the personal is the political' are proposals for action disguised as truths about the world. The meaning of such slogans is often obscure, but they contain sleeping implications which may awaken in new circumstances and demand policies which affront other cherishe
Benjamin Julian
Jan 03, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is at times an okey-dokey justification for some of politics, sometimes an explication of its failings, and sometimes an exposition of the author's opinions. You'd have guessed by the title of the book that it would be more objective. However, his opinions seem to me for the most part to be sensible, and the last chapter was even quite insightful. Of course, for a natural science advocate, it hurts to see the study of politics called "political science", and even more explicit analogie ...more
Chris Rhatigan
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Sure, Minogue's biased as hell, but this is one of the best books about politics that I've read. In particular, he does an excellent job defining what politics is, how political thought has developed, and how people's expectations about what politicians should and shouldn't do have changed. The conclusion is a conservative rant, but the rest of the book is electrifying for anyone with a passing interest in politics.
Luke Marusiak
Nov 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perfect summary of the history of politics

This introduction cuts through the abstractions and presents an understanding of politics through history. it entertains but, at the end when discussing the totalitarian consequence of the West's current political course; it provides needed outrage!
Oct 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A good introduction, indeed,but were it not for the beautiful lament all over the book, especially in the last chapter, it would've been a 3-star, instead of a 5-star book.
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
couldn't recall anything from reading this...
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Political theorist who was Emeritus Professor of Political Science and Honorary Fellow at the London School of Economics.

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“Their [realists'] concern is that utopian aspirations towards a new peaceful world order will simply absolutize conflicts and make them more intractable. National interests are in some degree negotiable; rights, in principle, are not. International organizations such as the United Nations have not been conspicuously successful in bringing peace, and it is likely that the states of the world would become extremely nervous of any move to give the UN the overwhelming power needed to do this.” 3 likes
“It is said that the price of freedom is vigilance, and an important form of vigilance is attention to political rhetoric, which often reveals how things are going.” 2 likes
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