Introduction and Philosophical Background

  • Norman P. Barry


The past decade has seen an important revival in political philosophy of a traditional kind where that means the intellectual discussion of substantive political principles and the critical appraisal of those normative social policies which are said to be derived from them. This is a fundamental change from the preceding era which was characterised by the notion that political philosophy was no different from any other branch of philosophy in that it was essentially an analytical activity concerned with the meaning, derived from ordinary language, of the traditional political concepts such as law, the state, sovereignty, justice and liberty. Philosophy, as a second-order discipline, had nothing to say about the substantial issues of politics and was incompetent to decide between conflicting value systems. In its extreme form, logical positivism, not only was it maintained that the universal desirability of certain ethical and political principles could not be logically demonstrated but also that principles had no special relevance to policy issues that occurred even within a particular community which might have a considerable degree of consensus over basic values.1 All the various types of this school of thought agreed on one fundamental proposition—that philosophy is concerned with analysis only, it leaves the political world exactly as it is.


Political Philosophy Economic Science Social Philosophy Phenomenal World Personal Liberty 
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  1. 1.
    This approach is exemplified in T. D. Weldon, The Vocabulary of Politics, London, 1953.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    The theme was celebrated in D. Bell, The End of Ideology, New York, 1962.Google Scholar
  3. 11.
    Translated as Principles of Economics, edited by James Dingwall and Bert F. Hoselitz, Glencoe, Ill., 1950.Google Scholar
  4. 19.
    Menger’s methodological work, first published in 1883, has been translated as Problems of Economics and Sociology. Translation by F. J. Nock, edited by Louis Schneider, Urbana, Illinois, 1963.Google Scholar
  5. 38.
    H. L. A. Hart, The Concept of Law, Oxford, 1961, pp. 92–3.Google Scholar

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© Norman P. Barry 1979

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  • Norman P. Barry

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