This book addresses itself to social and political theory as represented by classical and contemporary writers. Our aim was to come as close as we could to including substantial and representative selections from the most important writers in the Western tradition. Size constraints made it impossible to include everyone and everything deserving of inclusion, and while we have left much out, we hope that we have not omitted anything essential.
Inevitably, we found alternative ways, each with merit, to organize our selections. We hope readers will share our sense that the early modern and modern writers fit nicely in a structure in which they address equality, liberty, or authority (variously conceived). Anarchists, for example, strive for liberty and equality, but their attention is directly focused on authority, which they reject. Robert Nozick is concerned with liberty while R. G. Cohen`s criticism of him is based on the need for equality, but we placed Cohen`s criticism after
Nozick`s in the section on liberty. So the presence of an author in a section on liberty, equality, or authority does not necessarily mean that that author defends that idea but rather that he or she is predominantly concerned with it.
There are numerous ways to construct a course using this book. We have tried to include a fair number of important but less frequently anthologized writers. In some cases our selections form a unit (e.g., Burke, Paine, Wollstonecraft, Mill, Berlin, Taylor; Nozick, Cohen).