The best political science books

10 authors have picked their favorite books about political science and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Spinoza on Learning to Live Together

James is one of our best Spinoza scholars, and she writes with a clarity and urgency not often found in history of philosophy literature. This is a broad study that covers a lot of ground in just over two hundred pages, with a particular emphasis on how Spinoza envisions political and social life. They are mostly previously published essays, but they all hang together under the theme of how we, as rational and passionate beings, can live together democratically, cooperatively, and in peace. An excellent contribution to envisioning Spinoza as an important moral and political thinker.

Spinoza on Learning to Live Together

By Susan James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spinoza on Learning to Live Together as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Philosophising, as Spinoza conceives it, is the project of learning to live joyfully. Yet this is also a matter of learning to live together, and the surest manifestation of philosophical insight is the capacity to sustain a harmonious way of life. Here, Susan James defends this overall interpretation of Spinoza's philosophy and explores its bearing on contemporary philosophical debates around issues such as religious toleration, putting our knowledge to work, and
the environmental crisis.

Part I focuses on Spinoza's epistemology. Philosophical understanding empowers us by giving us access to truths about ourselves and the world, and by motivating us to…

Who am I?

I have immersed myself in the study of seventeenth-century philosophy for almost forty years. Over that time, I have become particularly devoted to Spinoza. This is because, first, I think he got it all pretty much right; his views on religion, on human nature, and especially on what it is to lead a good life have always struck me as correct and relevant. You can be a Spinozist today, three and a half centuries after his death, and it would make perfect sense. Second, Spinoza is endlessly fascinating. I find that every time I read him⎯and I’ve been reading and re-reading him for a long time now⎯it gets more difficult. Just when you think you know him, there are always new questions that arise and new puzzles to solve.


I wrote...

Book cover of Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die

What is my book about?

In 1656, after being excommunicated from Amsterdam’s Portuguese-Jewish community for “abominable heresies” and “monstrous deeds,” the young Bento (Baruch) de Spinoza abandoned his family’s import business to dedicate his life to philosophy. He soon became notorious across Europe for his views on God, free will, the Bible, and miracles, as well as for his critique of organized religion and his uncompromising defense of freedom of thought and expression. Yet the radicalism of Spinoza’s views has long obscured the fact that his primary reason for turning to philosophy was to answer one of our most urgent questions: How can we lead a good life and enjoy happiness in a world without a providential God?

In this book, I discuss Spinoza’s ideas in the context of his life and times and show how his work can provide us today with a guide to living one’s best life.

Potentia

By Sandra Leonie Field,

Book cover of Potentia: Hobbes and Spinoza on Power and Popular Politics

It is impossible to read Spinoza and not think often of Thomas Hobbes. Spinoza read Hobbes’s works and was clearly influenced by the English philosopher both in his account of human nature and, especially, in his political thinking. This is, as far as I know, the first book devoted explicitly to the two thinkers together. Field’s focus is on the political, and she does a beautiful job of analyzing and distinguishing different conceptions of ‘power’ (both in the individual and in the group), as well as illuminating similarities and contrasts between these two of the most important early modern thinkers on politics and the state.

Potentia

By Sandra Leonie Field,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Potentia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We live in an age of growing dissatisfaction with the standard operations of representative democracy. The solution, according to a long radical democratic tradition, is the unmediated power of the people. Mass plebiscites and mass protest movements are celebrated as the quintessential expression of popular power, and this power promises to transcend ordinary institutional politics. But the outcomes of mass political phenomena can be just as disappointing as the
ordinary politics they sought to overcome, breeding skepticism about democratic politics in all its forms.

Potentia argues that the very meaning of popular power needs to be rethought. It offers a…

Who am I?

I have immersed myself in the study of seventeenth-century philosophy for almost forty years. Over that time, I have become particularly devoted to Spinoza. This is because, first, I think he got it all pretty much right; his views on religion, on human nature, and especially on what it is to lead a good life have always struck me as correct and relevant. You can be a Spinozist today, three and a half centuries after his death, and it would make perfect sense. Second, Spinoza is endlessly fascinating. I find that every time I read him⎯and I’ve been reading and re-reading him for a long time now⎯it gets more difficult. Just when you think you know him, there are always new questions that arise and new puzzles to solve.


I wrote...

Book cover of Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die

What is my book about?

In 1656, after being excommunicated from Amsterdam’s Portuguese-Jewish community for “abominable heresies” and “monstrous deeds,” the young Bento (Baruch) de Spinoza abandoned his family’s import business to dedicate his life to philosophy. He soon became notorious across Europe for his views on God, free will, the Bible, and miracles, as well as for his critique of organized religion and his uncompromising defense of freedom of thought and expression. Yet the radicalism of Spinoza’s views has long obscured the fact that his primary reason for turning to philosophy was to answer one of our most urgent questions: How can we lead a good life and enjoy happiness in a world without a providential God?

In this book, I discuss Spinoza’s ideas in the context of his life and times and show how his work can provide us today with a guide to living one’s best life.

Book cover of The Tyranny of the Ideal: Justice in a Diverse Society

This book challenges the notion that we should rely on the ideal as a guidepost. Set aside whether we could decide on an ideal; Gaus, a philosopher, makes a four-part argument against pursuing it. First, how could we contemplate the incomprehensible number of possible institutional, legal, and organizational configurations? We couldn’t. Second, the components of those configurations interact, resulting in a rugged landscape: the path to the ideal would not be entirely uphill, that is, it would require sacrifices. Hence, the book’s title. Third, owing to the interactions among choices, we cannot evaluate collective well-being in alternative configurations with any accuracy. What hubris to assume that we could. And finally, the landscape responds to our positioning, as we adapt our physical, organizational, and institutional (both formal and invisible) environments, we alter what we can achieve and what we desire.

The Tyranny of the Ideal

By Gerald Gaus,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tyranny of the Ideal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his provocative new book, The Tyranny of the Ideal, Gerald Gaus lays out a vision for how we should theorize about justice in a diverse society. Gaus shows how free and equal people, faced with intractable struggles and irreconcilable conflicts, might share a common moral life shaped by a just framework. He argues that if we are to take diversity seriously and if moral inquiry is sincere about shaping the world, then the pursuit of idealized and perfect theories of justice-essentially, the entire production of theories of justice that has dominated political philosophy for the past forty years-needs to…


Who am I?

I’m a professor at The University of Michigan, external faculty at The Santa Fe Institute, and an editor of Collective Intelligence. As a theorist, I build mathematical and computational models and frameworks. My research explores the functional contributions of diversity – different ways of thinking and seeing – on group performance, a topic I explore in my book The Difference. Recently, I’ve become interested in how to build ensembles of markets, democracies, hierarchies, self-organized communities, or algorithms so that societies prosper. That agenda drives the books I have chosen for this list.


I wrote...

The Model Thinker: What You Need to Know to Make Data Work for You

By Scott E. Page,

Book cover of The Model Thinker: What You Need to Know to Make Data Work for You

What is my book about?

This book contains descriptions and applications of two dozen models to improve the reader’s abilities to reason, explain, design, communicate, act, predict, and explore the world. I often describe the book, and the free online course on which it is based, as like a trip to a museum. Each model, like a museum exhibit, provides a lens on the world, and, though the model can be appreciated and contemplated in isolation, the most profound learning comes from applying multiple models to a context or problem such as inequality or the spread of a pathogen. Many model thinkers better grasp the complexity of our social world and are more likely to proceed with humility and a willingness to learn.

Book cover of Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine

If you want to know what motivated ordinary British colonists to pick up a musket, spear, or sword and take on the most powerful military in the world, read Thomas Paine’s essays Common Sense and The Crisis. Common Sense was the ideological underpinning of the movement toward independence. Paine’s experiences with the Continental Army during the dark days of late 1776 inspired The Crisis, and Washington ordered it read to the troops to encourage them to stay by the Colors for one last great gamble at Trenton. In my research, I found that the average American soldier truly believed in the cause of Independence; that belief has much to do with the writings of Thomas Paine.

Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine

By Thomas Paine,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A special gift edition of one of the most important and influential documents in our nation's history-featured in Lin-Manuel Miranda's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Hamilton: An American Musical-stylishly packaged for twenty-first-century readers. According to John Adams, "Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain." With Common Sense, Thomas Paine energized colonial support for the armed rebellion that would make the American experiment a reality, using common sense to argue for colonial independence. Today, this cornerstone of the American Revolution has once again been rediscovered by ardent fans of…

Who am I?

While I grew up in New Jersey, the “Crossroads of the Revolution,” with a passion for history, I was ignorant to the amount of fighting that happened in my home state. My decision to write coincided with a renewed interest in the American Revolution: when I realized how many stories of the Revolution remained untold, the die was cast. My passion for history, love for soldiering, wartime experiences, and understanding of tactics and terrain came together to produce something special. Now I can often be found, map, compass, and notebook in hand, prowling a Revolutionary battlefield so I can better tell the story of those who were there.


I wrote...

A Nest of Hornets

By Robert Krenzel,

Book cover of A Nest of Hornets

What is my book about?

Winter, 1777. After the American victories at Trenton and Princeton, the British have withdrawn to a handful of overcrowded positions in Northeastern New Jersey. In order to feed their men and horses the British must venture into the countryside to seize supplies, but the Continental troops and Jersey Militia challenge every British foray. One British officer describes the experience of walking into an American ambush as stumbling into “a nest of hornets.” Gideon Hawke and Ruth Munroe find themselves in the middle of this fighting. Not only must they battle the British, but it appears someone in the American camp is feeding information to the enemy. Will they find the spy before his efforts cost Gideon and his men their lives?

Book cover of On Compromise and Rotten Compromises

This book explores the expedients of political negotiations and compromises—when should we (not) negotiate with evil people or regimes or those we can’t trust? It explores some of the most controversial negotiations in history (Munich, Yalta, Arab-Israel peace negotiations) and provides both vivid stories and good philosophical standards for trying to do the best one can in problematic settings. How can we make things better when things are already bad? How can we distinguish good acts and bad acts and well-meaning actors in tough situations, and necessary, if painful, political compromises? Major historical events provide guidance even for everyday negotiations.

On Compromise and Rotten Compromises

By Avishai Margalit,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Compromise and Rotten Compromises as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When is political compromise acceptable--and when is it fundamentally rotten, something we should never accept, come what may? What if a rotten compromise is politically necessary? Compromise is a great political virtue, especially for the sake of peace. But, as Avishai Margalit argues, there are moral limits to acceptable compromise even for peace. But just what are those limits? At what point does peace secured with compromise become unjust? Focusing attention on vitally important questions that have received surprisingly little attention, Margalit argues that we should be concerned not only with what makes a just war, but also with what…

Who am I?

I am one of the founders of the American dispute resolution field and have taught negotiation, legal ethics, mediation, alternative dispute resolution and international dispute resolution for 40 years in over 25 countries on every continent. I have mediated, negotiated or arbitrated hundreds of cases. I am a law professor who has taught legal ethics since it was required post-Watergate for all law students. As a negotiation teacher and practitioner, I have seen the effects of deceit and dishonorable negotiations in law and diplomacy and peace seeking and I have also seen what can happen when people treat each other fairly to reach better outcomes for problems than they could achieve on their own.


I wrote...

What's Fair: Ethics for Negotiators

By Carrie J. Menkel-Meadow (editor), Michael Wheeler (editor),

Book cover of What's Fair: Ethics for Negotiators

What is my book about?

This book collects the best articles in law, business, politics, psychology, and ethics to provide an overview of philosophical, personal, and moral concerns in negotiating ethically. It also addresses specific and practical issues of strategy, tactics, information sharing, deception, uses of power, relationships and the social impacts of particular negotiations, and the ethics of compromise itself. The book addresses issues of how we should approach each other when we need someone else to accomplish something and what we owe to others who are not at the bargaining table.

Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History

By Immanuel Kant, David L. Colclasure (translator),

Book cover of Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History

Immanuel Kant is often seen as a pure philosopher, one who was interested in abstract principles. He was that, but his essays on "Perpetual Peace" and especially his essay "Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Perspective" are literally the best things I have ever read, and have so much resonance for us today.

Democracies tend not to go to war as much as dictatorships because the people are likely to be the ones who are killed on the battlefield. In Kant’s time Frederick the Great was able to go to war whenever he wanted. Today, Vladimir Putin can go to war without asking anyone and the people, and Russian conscripts too – suffer the consequences. Kant’s experience of living in a militarised state governed by a single man is eerily relevant today. Reading this thinker tells as much about contemporary politics as it teaches us about 18th…

Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History

By Immanuel Kant, David L. Colclasure (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Immanuel Kant's views on politics, peace, and history have lost none of their relevance since their publication more than two centuries ago. This volume contains a comprehensive collection of Kant's writings on international relations theory and political philosophy, superbly translated and accompanied by stimulating essays.
Pauline Kleingeld provides a lucid introduction to the main themes of the volume, and three essays by distinguished contributors follow: Jeremy Waldron on Kant's theory of the state; Michael W. Doyle on the implications of Kant's political theory for his theory of international relations; and Allen W. Wood on Kant's philosophical approach to history and…

Who am I?

"Why don’t they want to have their own country?” I asked this question as I was 12 years old and we were watching the results of the Quebec independence referendums coming in. The Quebecois nationalists had lost- and lost big. And I wanted to know why. I grew up in a political family but none of the adults were able to give me an answer. So, I began to do research on my own. Being a bit of an obsessive, my interest in referendums took me to Oxford University, and as a professor I have specialised in direct democracy. I have advised the US State Department and the British Foreign Office on referendums around the world – and written several books on democracy. 


I wrote...

Referendums and Ethnic Conflict

By Matt Qvortrup,

Book cover of Referendums and Ethnic Conflict

What is my book about?

At the time of writing President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has proposed a referendum on Ukraine’s status. At the same time, so-called separatists in areas occupied by Russia are planning a vote on their status. These are timely examples of how direct democracy and nationalism collide. What are we to make of this. Can referendums be used to resolve ethnic tensions? And, if so, how? Although referendums have been used for centuries to settle ethnonational conflicts, there has yet been no systematic study or generalized theory concerning their effectiveness.

Referendums and Ethnic Conflict fills the gap with a comparative and empirical analysis of all the referendums held on ethnic and national issues from the French Revolution to the 2020 referendum on independence in Bougainville (currently a part of Papua New Guinea).

Aristotle's Politics

By Aristotle, Carnes Lord (translator),

Book cover of Aristotle's Politics

Reading Aristotle is easier than you might think. Even those who are not able to read him in the original Greek cannot fail to be enamoured by his enthusiasm. What is so fascinating about Aristotle’s Politika (in English normally translated as The Politics) is the way this enormously erudite man got carried away babbling and digressing in his lectures. Aristotle, simply, could not help but tell his students about a certain Hippodamus (“the son of Eryphon”). This 5th Century BC Athenian was, “the first man not engaged in politics to speak on the subject of the best Constitution,” and, according to Aristotle, this first philosopher of politics, was, “somewhat eccentric in his general mode of life owing to his desire for distinction [he] lived fussily, with a quantity of hair and expensive ornaments and a quantity of cheap clothes – not only in winter but also in the…

Aristotle's Politics

By Aristotle, Carnes Lord (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Aristotle's Politics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the fundamental works of Western political thought, Aristotle's masterwork is the first systematic treatise on the science of politics. For almost three decades, Carnes Lord's justly acclaimed translation has served as the standard English edition. Widely regarded as the most faithful to both the original Greek and Aristotle's distinctive style, it is also written in clear, contemporary English. This new edition of the Politics retains and adds to Lord's already extensive notes, clarifying the flow of Aristotle's argument and identifying literary and historical references. A glossary defines key terms in Aristotle's philosophical-political vocabulary. Lord has made revisions to…

Who am I?

"Why don’t they want to have their own country?” I asked this question as I was 12 years old and we were watching the results of the Quebec independence referendums coming in. The Quebecois nationalists had lost- and lost big. And I wanted to know why. I grew up in a political family but none of the adults were able to give me an answer. So, I began to do research on my own. Being a bit of an obsessive, my interest in referendums took me to Oxford University, and as a professor I have specialised in direct democracy. I have advised the US State Department and the British Foreign Office on referendums around the world – and written several books on democracy. 


I wrote...

Referendums and Ethnic Conflict

By Matt Qvortrup,

Book cover of Referendums and Ethnic Conflict

What is my book about?

At the time of writing President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has proposed a referendum on Ukraine’s status. At the same time, so-called separatists in areas occupied by Russia are planning a vote on their status. These are timely examples of how direct democracy and nationalism collide. What are we to make of this. Can referendums be used to resolve ethnic tensions? And, if so, how? Although referendums have been used for centuries to settle ethnonational conflicts, there has yet been no systematic study or generalized theory concerning their effectiveness.

Referendums and Ethnic Conflict fills the gap with a comparative and empirical analysis of all the referendums held on ethnic and national issues from the French Revolution to the 2020 referendum on independence in Bougainville (currently a part of Papua New Guinea).

The Seduction of Unreason

By Richard Wolin,

Book cover of The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism, Second Edition

A strong case can be made that Richard Wolin got the jump on the rest of us with respect to appreciating the continued relevance of the Nietzsche-inspired intellectual far right. The first edition of Seduction of Unreason was published in 2004, 14 years before I published my book. I’m humbled by the fact that it took me so long to wake up to the fact that what was dangerous about Nietzsche in the 20th century remains dangerous today.

The Seduction of Unreason

By Richard Wolin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Seduction of Unreason as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ever since the shocking revelations of the fascist ties of Martin Heidegger and Paul de Man, postmodernism has been haunted by the specter of a compromised past. In this intellectual genealogy of the postmodern spirit, Richard Wolin shows that postmodernism's infatuation with fascism has been extensive and widespread. He questions postmodernism's claim to have inherited the mantle of the Left, suggesting instead that it has long been enamored with the opposite end of the political spectrum. Wolin reveals how, during in the 1930s, C. G. Jung, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Georges Bataille, and Maurice Blanchot were seduced by fascism's promise of political…

Who am I?

I’m a political theorist recently retired from the University of Toronto. Around fall 2014, I became aware that a hyper-energetic, well-educated intelligentsia was trying to move heaven and earth to make fascism intellectually respectable again. I resolved to educate myself about these scary characters. I was truly alarmed, and wrote my book to convey my alarm to fellow citizens who hadn’t yet woken up to the threat. Sure enough, within a couple of years, Richard Spencer rose to media stardom; and one of the first things that Trump did after being elected in November of 2016 was to decide that a crypto-fascist Steve Bannon was worthy of a senior position in the White House. 


I wrote...

Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right

By Ronald Beiner,

Book cover of Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right

What is my book about?

In Dangerous Minds, I trace the deepest philosophical roots of such right-wing ideologues as Richard Spencer, Aleksandr Dugin, and Steve Bannon to the writings of Nietzsche and Heidegger—and specifically to the aspects of their thought that express revulsion for the liberal-democratic view of life. Beiner contends that Nietzsche's hatred and critique of bourgeois, egalitarian societies has engendered new disciples on the populist right who threaten to overturn the modern liberal consensus. Heidegger thoroughly rejected the moral and political values that arose during the Enlightenment and came to power in the wake of the French Revolution. Understanding Heideggerian dissatisfaction with modernity, and how it functions as a philosophical magnet for those most profoundly alienated from the reigning liberal-democratic order, should give us insight into the return of the far right.

Leviathan

By Thomas Hobbes,

Book cover of Leviathan

Hobbes’ attention to the meaning of words and his prose make this book well worth reading. If you find the beginning of Part I hard going, leaf through it and slow down as you come to last chapters of that first part of the book. Those and Part II are particularly engaging and make one think about the meaning of liberty, the nature of obedience, and the extent to which we are obliged to obey the state. Hobbes has interesting things to say about mercy and forgiveness, which might not be expected given the way he tends to be a caricatured. Another good book to read for oneself.

Leviathan

By Thomas Hobbes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Leviathan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short'

Written during the chaos of the English Civil War, Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan asks how, in a world of violence and horror, can we stop ourselves from descending into anarchy? Hobbes' case for a 'common-wealth' under a powerful sovereign - or 'Leviathan' - to enforce security and the rule of law, shocked his contemporaries, and his book was publicly burnt for sedition the moment it was published. But his penetrating work of political philosophy opened up questions about the nature of statecraft and society that influenced governments across the world.

Edited…


Who am I?

I have had the privilege to teach the history of political theory from Plato to today for decades and to discuss texts such as the five I mentioned with very gifted students. No matter how often I return to such works, I always find something new in them and it is a pleasure to see how students learn to love reading for themselves what can be daunting works, once they overcome the fear of opening the great works and the initial challenge of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century prose.


I wrote...

Wollstonecraft: Philosophy, Passion, and Politics

By Sylvana Tomaselli,

Book cover of Wollstonecraft: Philosophy, Passion, and Politics

What is my book about?

Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, first published in 1792, is a work of enduring relevance in women’s rights advocacy. However, as Sylvana Tomaselli shows, a full understanding of Wollstonecraft’s thought is possible only through a more comprehensive appreciation of Wollstonecraft herself, as a philosopher and moralist who deftly tackled major social and political issues and the arguments of such figures as Edmund Burke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Adam Smith. Reading Wollstonecraft through the lens of the politics and culture of her own time, this book restores her to her rightful place as a major eighteenth-century thinker, reminding us why her work still resonates today.

Plain, Honest Men

By Richard Beeman,

Book cover of Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution

Even after stripping away the mythology that has persistently surrounded it, the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 remains one of the most remarkable events in political history. There are, unsurprisingly, many books that tell its tale, but in my judgment Plain, Honest Men is the best of them, both because it is the most comprehensive and because it does the best job of giving the reader a real sense of what it was like to be there. Beeman’s Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor does something similar for the independence movement.

Plain, Honest Men

By Richard Beeman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Plain, Honest Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I’m a political theorist at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. I spent the first fifteen years or so of my career working on the Scottish and French Enlightenments (Adam Smith, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire), but in recent years I’ve been drawn more and more to the American founding. In addition to Fears of a Setting Sun, I’m also the author of The Constitution’s Penman: Gouverneur Morris and the Creation of America’s Basic Charter, which explores the constitutional vision of the immensely colorful individual who—unbeknownst to most Americans—wrote the US Constitution.


I wrote...

Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America's Founders

By Dennis C. Rasmussen,

Book cover of Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America's Founders

What is my book about?

My book tells the surprising story of how George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson came to despair for the future of the nation they had created.

Americans seldom deify their Founding Fathers any longer, but they do still tend to venerate the Constitution and the republican government that the founders created. Strikingly, the founders themselves were far less confident in what they had wrought, particularly by the end of their lives. In fact, most of them came to deem America’s constitutional experiment an utter failure that was unlikely to last beyond their own generation. Fears of a Setting Sun is the first book to tell the fascinating and too-little-known story of the founders’ disillusionment.

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