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Enquiry Concerning Political Justice And Its Influence On Modern Morals And Happiness

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  92 Ratings  ·  11 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.
Penguin Classics
Published (first published 1793)
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Damian Lawrence
Dec 29, 2011 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
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
Sebastian Coe
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
William Godwin was way ahead of his time. He imagined a world when the men would not plow the fields, but that the plows would plow the fields by themselves. How close are we to that time?
Nan Baron
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 03, 2014 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
Ken Jones
Oct 16, 2015 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
Nov 19, 2012 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 24, 2008 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.
Craig Bolton
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Modern Morals and Happiness by William Godwin (1976)
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.
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  • Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism
  • Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality
  • Selected Writings
  • Past and Present
  • Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics
  • Selected Writings
  • First Principles
  • Reflections on Violence
  • The Russian Anarchists
  • The Limits of State Action
  • Free Market Fairness
  • Mutual Aid
  • An Essay on the Principle of Population
  • Marxism and the Oppression of Women: Toward a Unitary Theory
  • Outlines of Scepticism
  • God and the State
  • The Vindications: The Rights of Men and the Rights of Woman (2 in 1)
  • Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality
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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“Whenever government assumes to deliver us from the trouble of thinking for ourselves, the only consequences it produces are those of torpor and imbecility.” 3 likes
“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.” 2 likes
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