What do they believe?
May 10, 2009 6:52 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations on readings about what is the purpose of government - preferably from all areas of the spectrum: reactionary, conservative, libertarian, socialist, communist, liberal, radical. Ideally I'm looking for the fundamental/foundational documents for each doctrine as opposed to filtered, watered down versions. Thanks!
posted by Leezie to Law & Government (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Federalist Papers
posted by brookeb at 7:12 PM on May 10, 2009

The Federalist Papers would be a good start for essays on the purpose of government in America. If you've got an iPhone or iTouch you can get an app with a ton of U.S. historical documents.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:14 PM on May 10, 2009

If you're interested in more than ideology, Paul Light's writings on the purpose of government contain a tremendous amount of insight and nuance and are some of the best out there, IMO.
posted by aquafortis at 7:19 PM on May 10, 2009

The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk is pretty good.
posted by jquinby at 7:24 PM on May 10, 2009

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
posted by Houstonian at 7:30 PM on May 10, 2009

Plato, The Republic.
Engels/Marx, The Communist Manifesto.
Rousseau, The Social Contract.
Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws.
posted by Houstonian at 7:50 PM on May 10, 2009

Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy.
posted by Houstonian at 7:53 PM on May 10, 2009

The Communist Manifesto on the nature of society, and V.I. Lenin's The State And Revolution on the nature of Government.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:55 PM on May 10, 2009

John Locke.
posted by zoinks at 9:06 PM on May 10, 2009

Oh I should mention that what you really want from Locke is the second treatise on government.
posted by zoinks at 9:09 PM on May 10, 2009

Anarchy, State and Utopia: the argument for minimalist government from libertarian first principles.
posted by ewiar at 10:05 PM on May 10, 2009

Rawlsian liberalism: A Theory of Justice
posted by ewiar at 10:06 PM on May 10, 2009

Also please to be checking out Plato's "Crito" and "The Apology" about the trail, conviction and death of Socrates. It's a little tricky to figure out where the state theory is in that, but once you do it hits you like a ton of bricks. (Hint: Socrates commits suicide...long before he drinks the hemlock.)
posted by greekphilosophy at 8:33 AM on May 11, 2009

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