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Thomas Paine and the Idea of Human Rights

$35.99 (C)

  • Date Published: August 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107514256

$ 35.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • Thomas Paine is a legendary Anglo-American political icon: a passionate, plain-speaking, relentlessly controversial, revolutionary campaigner, whose writings captured the zeitgeist of the two most significant political events of the eighteenth century, the American and French Revolutions. Though widely acknowledged by historians as one of the most important and influential pamphleteers, rhetoricians, polemicists and political actors of his age, the philosophical content of his writing has nevertheless been almost entirely ignored. This book takes Paine's political philosophy seriously. It explores his views concerning a number of perennial issues in modern political thought including the grounds for, and limits to, political obligation; the nature of representative democracy; the justification for private property ownership; international relations; and the relationship between secular liberalism and religion. It shows that Paine offers a historically and philosophically distinct account of liberalism and a theory of human rights that is a progenitor of our own.

    • Guides students and researchers through Paine's essays and pamphlets demonstrating their theoretical complexity and political interest
    • Combines an interest in the history of ideas and contemporary political philosophy by demonstrating the relevance of past writing to current political and philosophical problems
    • Situates Paine in the liberal tradition showing how he is the progenitor of our modern understanding of human rights
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "A superb reconstruction of Paine's thought. Dr Lamb draws on a wide range of sources, including pamphlets and correspondence, to show the coherence of Paine's beliefs. Paine's profound commitment to the moral equality of free individuals inspired his liberal theory of human rights. Lamb's book combines meticulous historical research with rigorous analytic arguments."
    Mark Bevir, University of California, Berkeley

    'In his outstanding study of Paine’s reflections on moral, political, economic, international, and religious matters, Robert Lamb sets out to demonstrate both the continued relevance and the philosophical coherence of this underrated eighteenth-century thinker.' Clement Fatovic, The Review of Politics

    ‘Robert Lamb’s new monograph dramatically reverses the methods standardly used by British historians of political thought. … His contribution to current efforts to rouse the history of political thought in Britain from its dogmatic contextualist doldrums are what makes this book most valuable’. Michael Frazer, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

    ‘Lamb’s account brilliantly illuminates the historical distinctiveness and fundamental ambiguity of a revolutionary age that transformed the technologies of power and political obligation’. Peter Onuf, American Political Thought

    ‘For his coverage of Paine’s opinions in careful expository prose, Lamb has achieved a great deal and deserves a wide readership’. Samuel Moyn, Contemporary Political Theory

    ‘Lamb has written a book that will be admired by everyone interested in contemporary political philosophy and in need of historical encouragement for their liberalism’. Richard Whatmore, History of Political Thought

    See more reviews

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107514256
    • length: 229 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 152 x 12 mm
    • weight: 0.35kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Paine as political philosopher: interpretation and understanding
    2. Political obligation, human rights and the moral universe
    3. Rights of democratic inclusion and the virtues of citizenship
    4. Private property, the natural inheritance and rights to welfare
    5. Cosmopolitanism and the rights of nations
    6. Religion, creation and liberalism

  • Author

    Robert Lamb, University of Exeter
    Robert Lamb is Associate Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Exeter. His research is focused on the history of political thought and its methodology as well as contemporary political theory. He is the co-editor of Selected Political Writings of John Thelwall (with Corinna Wagner, 2009) and his work has been published in various international journals, including The Journal of Politics, The Review of Politics, History of Political Thought, the Journal of the History of Ideas, Law and Philosophy, the European Journal of Political Theory and History of the Human Sciences.

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