The Value of the History of Political Philosophy

Terence Ball

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


To ask, "What is the worth or value of the history of political philosophy?" is a rather complicated question with many competing answers. The answer(s) one gives depends to a very large degree on the approach one takes or the "school" of interpretation to which one belongs. Some answer that there are "perennial questions" and "timeless truths" to be found in classic works of political philosophy that speak to us still. Others answer that such study reveals the roots or origins of present-day political movements such as communism and fascism. This article considers the possibility that the history of political philosophy and its scholarly study are without value. After dispatching this rather philistine view, it shows how various approaches to interpretation assign very different value to the study of the history of political philosophy. These approaches include the "perennial problems," Marxism, "ideological origins," feminism, Straussian approach, postmodernism, and the Cambridge School.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191728365
ISBN (Print)9780199238804
StatePublished - Sep 2 2011


  • Cambridge school
  • Feminism
  • History
  • Ideological origins
  • Marxism
  • Perennial problems
  • Political philosophy
  • Postmodernism
  • Straussian approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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