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Women, Political Philosophy and Politics

Liz Sperling


This new book explores the interface between political philosophy and politics, looking at the effects of philosophical traditions on the contemporary relationship between women and politics.

Analysing key concepts in political philosophy, the author illustrates how common ideas - entrenched in the development of political thought and practice - have become almost intractable 'truths' that continue to differentiate between the sexes in politics.

Liz Sperling looks in detail at the works of Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Mill, Marx, Rawls and Nozick, considering general themes to which they have all contributed - such as the state of nature, the state, markets, citizenship and representation. The focus then turns to the specific contributions of the philosophers that continue to influence the association of women to politics. These include an analysis of Greek classicists' establishment of andocracy, Rousseau's treatise on education for citizenship, and nineteenth-century ideas of equality.

In conclusion, the themes demonstrated throughout are drawn together to show how they translate into contemporary policy on women in politics. Offering an original insight into the ways in which political thought influences political practice, this will be essential reading in a key area of politics, philosophy and women's studies.

Key Features

  • Explores the interface between political philosophy and practical politics
  • Covers key political philosophers over time - Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Mill, Marx, Rawls, Nozick
  • Uniquely examines the effects of traditional philosophy on the contemporary relationship between women and politics


Preface and Acknowledgements
Chapter 1: Women, Political Philosophy and Politics: Theory and Practice in Conflict?
Chapter 2: The State of Nature and the Origins of the Exclusionary State
Chapter 3: The State that Ends at the Front Door
Chapter 4: Citizenship and Representation: A Case of Protective Custody?
Chapter 5: Plato and Aristotle: Androcracy Incarnate
Chapter 6: Hobbes and Locke: Divine Right of Contract Man
Chapter 7: Rousseau: Education for the Common Good
Chapter 8: Mill, Marx and Engels: Equality and the Common Man
Chapter 9: Rawls and Nozick: Justice and Masculinised Politics
Chapter 10: Never Decreasing Circles: The Legacy of Political Philosophy

About the Author

Senior Lecturer in Politics at Liverpool John Moores University.


Sperling's motivating thought, that understanding the philosophical past can help empower women to take a greater part in the politics of the future, is surely a sound one ... Sperling's approach challenges us to find ways of dealing with an issue that is important for the future life not only of political philosophy, but maybe also of the planet and its inhabitants.
- Times Higher Education supplement, 31/05/02
An ambitious volume, a compact but sweeping survey of major figures in the history of political philosophy on the question of women's role in politics and society ... The book is intelligent and well written ... Sperling offers a compendium of major concepts in political theory and their authors, demonstrating the sources, both ancient and modern, of the exclusion of women from citizenship and political legitimacy.
- Political Studies, vol. 50 no. 3, August 2002