12 Best Books About Politics Update 05/2022

Books About Politics

A list of books can’t cover all of the best political books in the world, but it can give you a good place to start. This is a list of some of the most important books in the history of political theory, as well as a look at intersectionality and politics, and a look at some of the most important issues that we talk about in our political debate today.

I think this list will be a good place to start for people who want to learn more about political history and better understand some of the most important political theories and concepts. Making a comprehensive list of the best political books would be a huge and maybe impossible task.

The Republic by Plato

The Republic by Plato

Plato wrote the Republic around 375 BCE. It is a dialogue between Socrates and Plato. It’s Plato’s opinion that those who have the most knowledge, like philosophers like him, should be the ones who rule the people. Plato thinks that those with the most knowledge will be the most fair and efficient leaders. This text was written before the time when “democracy” was first put into words as a political concept. Plato’s idea of a republic led by philosophers isn’t used in many modern states. Because it was important for western politics at the time, however, it was important for western politics. People in other parts of the world, like Confucius, were also thinking about “beneficial hierarchy” at the same time, writing about it in China around the same time. Much later, philosophers would call this kind of thinking “benevolent dictatorship” or “benevolent tyranny,” but we’ll get to that idea later on in this lesson.

The Social Contract by Jean-Jacque Rosseau

People in France thought about the social contract when Jean-Jacque Rosseau wrote this essay about it in 1762. The main idea of his “social contract” is that laws are only valid if the people agree with them. This idea puts the will of the people above the authority of the government, which was very different from how France was run at the time. People thought that the French monarch was a gift from God in the time of Rosseau, so they could make laws without consulting the people. Rather, they often backed laws that served an elite few. To help start the French Revolution and other changes in government, Rosseau wrote a radical treatise called “The Radical Treatise.”

A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft

In 1792, this was one of the first political texts for women. Wollstonecraft says that women should have the same basic rights as men. She says that women have a right to be educated, and she makes the case by saying that because women are the moral compass for society and the people who will raise the next generation, it makes sense for them to be properly educated. Because this text was written during the French Revolution, it’s important that she talked about freedom and rights in this way. So because there was a lot of talk about “liberté, égalité, fraternité” in France at the time, this message of women’s equality was actually well-received in its time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t done politically, but the text was important for later suffragettes and feminists to read and learn from.

The United States Constitution

The main idea of the United States Constitution is that people have “unalienable rights,” which is different from the idea that human rights are given to people by the state. The founding fathers of the United States, on the other hand, thought it was very important to limit the power of the state.

In addition to being used to set up the government, the Constitution also lays out the rights of the people of the United States. As a text, it can’t be ignored as an important piece of political history and theory, even though most people think of it as just a legal document.

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

When the Communist League asked Karl Marx and Frederick Engels to write a political text, they did so in 1848. It looks at the limits of a capitalist society and the capitalist “way of making things.” It says that capitalism will eventually be “forced out” and replaced by socialism. When this manifesto was first written, it was not very well known. As social democrat parties started to form in Europe in the 1870s, this book became an important one. Later, when the Soviet Union was formed in 1917, it was used as a foundational text.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass

For a while, Frederick Douglass was a slave in Maryland. He was in his early 20s. His escape to freedom in New York in 1838 led him to become a leader in the fight against slavery. When he was alive, he was well-known for his antislavery speeches and writing. He wrote three memoirs, which are all together in this book, which also includes famous speeches like “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July.” His political writings have a big impact on both the abolitionist movement and the women’s rights movement. Some people don’t know that he was fighting for women’s suffrage until he died.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

If you want to read a must-read list of political books, you can’t leave out Orwell. This is the first book on the list. First, Animal Farm, an allegorical novella that was written in 1945. During the story, farm animals rebel against their owner in order to build a free and equal utopia. As a result, after they overthrow their farmer ruler, an angry pig takes over the farm and runs it. They live worse under this pig than they did before.

When George Orwell, a British writer and democratic socialist, wrote this book in response to the 1917 Russian Revolution and Stalinism’s “reign of terror,” it was written as an allusion, but it wasn’t clear at first.

1984 by George Orwell

Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 is the other piece of fiction on this list that isn’t true. It was written in 1949 and looks back at what we might live like in the future. In this story, we see a future where society is ruled by surveillance, lies, propaganda, and a supreme leader with a “cult of personality,” but this isn’t what the story is about. Orwell based his fictional government on the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union, and he was writing in response to the politics of the time when he was writing about the government.

Most recently, though, 1984 made it to the top of the Amazon best-seller list again in January 2017, when then Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway used the phrase “alternative facts” to describe Sean Spicer’s blatant lies. This phrase is very Orwellian.

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

At that time, Baldwin was only in his 20s. He wrote the essays that make up Notes of a Native Son in the 1940s and 1950s. The essays are important reading for anyone interested in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as Baldwin’s book The Fire Next Time, which became a national bestseller in 1963. Notes of a Native Son, on the other hand, is a good book for understanding the Jim Crow era and the start of the Civil Rights Movement, which Baldwin is a big part of.

These are the topics that Baldwin talks about in this book: protest novels, art in a revolution, rent in Harlem, the paternalism of white progressives, his time living in France as a Black expatriate, and the social changes taking place in the United States during this time.

Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa by Cesar Chavez

In this book, Cesar Chavez talks about his life as a Mexican American activist for civil rights and the labor unions. Because he led a boycott of supermarkets and big businesses, Chavez is a very important figure in the 20th-century workers’ rights movement in the United States. From 1965 to 1970, Chavez led a non-violent protest movement of mostly Latinx and Filipino workers. He also called for a national boycott of grapes grown outside of the United Farm Workers Union, which led to a collective bargaining agreement for the union.

Unfortunately, labor and worker issues are still a big problem in the world today. This was even more true during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to understand today’s worker movements, you need to know about the story of Chavez and the movement he led.

The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central Eastern Europe by Václav Havel

A Czechoslovakian writer and philosopher named Václav Havel wrote this text in 1979. In 1993, he became the first President of the Czech Republic, which was then called the Czech Republic. The text is critical of the communist regime that was in charge of the Czech state at the time. It was first published by underground grassroots organizers who spread it in secret to avoid Soviet censors. He says that totalitarian regimes, like the one he was living in, make people who aren’t like them become dissidents. His main point was that people always have power, even in oppressive situations. This was very different from the cynicism that was common in Eastern Europe at the time. After it was published in secret, this text became a key part of the revolution that would follow.

Women, Race, and Class by Angela Y. Davis

Angela Davis, a political activist and an academic, wrote this book in 1981. It is a feminist Marxist look at the history of the United States from the time of the slave trade to when slavery was abolished. It also looks at the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s. Davis talks about how racism and class biases have kept feminist political agendas from meeting their full goals. If you want to learn about intersectionality, this book is a good place to start.

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