Articles from 09/2012

7 September 2012

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)

Among the most original thinkers of the Renaissance is a brilliant and slightly tragic figure, Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527). Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, his name would be synonymous with deviousness, cruelty, and willfully destructive rationality; no thinker was ever so demonized or misunderstood than Machiavelli. The source of this misunderstanding is his most influential and widely read treatise on government, The Prince, a remarkably short book that attempts to lay out methods to secure and maintain political power.

His life spanned the greatest period of cultural achievement in Florence to its ultimate downfall. This period…Read

6 September 2012


Social contract theory, nearly as old as philosophy itself, is the view that persons’ moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement among them to form the society in which they live. Socrates uses something quite like a social contract argument to explain to Crito why he must remain in prison and accept the death penalty. However, social contract theory is rightly associated with modern moral and political theory and is given its first full exposition and defense by Thomas Hobbes. After Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are the best known proponents of…Read

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) Graeme Garrard observes the life of a paradoxical revolutionary hero

According to a popular legend the philosopher Immanuel Kant was so punctual that his neighbours would set their clocks by his daily constitutional. Allegedly, the only time he deviated from this rigid pattern was when he received a copy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s treatise on education, Emile (1762). The book so captivated him that he missed his afternoon walk for several days. Furthermore, the only piece of art that the austere Kant kept in his home was a portrait of Rousseau, which hung above…Read

Politics as Art of the Impossible: The Case for a Dreampolitik in the United States

A dominant movement in leftist politics has always embraced a sense of reality as opposed to dreams and imagination. The American sociologist Stephen Duncombe argues instead for a dream-politik, which, unlike reactionary populist fantasies, can activate the imagination with impossible dreams. They make it possible to think ‘out of the box’ and to wonder what an alternative world and a different attitude to life might be like.

In his day, Otto von Bismarck was known for the practice of realpolitik: a hard-headed and hard-hearted style of politics that eschewed ideals in favour of the advantageous…Read

Pussy Riot Sentenced To Two Years In Prison

The charges are of hooliganism that call for 7 years imprisonment for a 1-minute performance on February 21 in a priests-only section of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The investigator’s report claims religious hatred. The intention of the performance was to draw attention to the special relationship with President Putin and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church.


Pussy Riot is an anonymous Russian feminist performance art group formed in October 2011. Through a series of peaceful performances in highly visible…Read

Editorial By Tom McGuire

In democratic societies like New Zealand, it is taken for granted that every few years we get to participate in the elaborate ritual of deciding who will rule over us untial the decision process repeats itself. But it wasn’t always like this, and in many places is still not. Dictatorships, juntas, oneparty states and tribal fiefdoms are going strong, and collectively outnumber the world’s democracies. While immersed in a particular political system, it is hard to imagine how things could be any different. But go back several hundred years, and the change is phenomenal. Women…Read