Great Books on Political and Social Science

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Great Books

The list below identifies some political science and social science books that impacted my own upcoming book, and describes their impact. My book is titled, “Proposals for Separating Money and Politics”.

You can also view a complete list of the sources for my book in the bibliography.

You can click on a book’s name or image below to open a separate browser tab to read more about or even access the book. Newer books link you to a book dealer, but older books are in the public domain. Therefore, older books link you to a page for free on-line e-book access or download.

The book list appears below.

WRITINGS OF AMERICA’S FOUNDERS:

The Federalist Papers – Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote a series of articles supporting the new U.S. Constitution. This is the most authoritative description of the original intent of the Constitution’s authors.
The Anti-Federalist Papers – Many great American leaders, like Patrick Henry, George Mason, James Monroe, and Samuel Adams, opposed the U.S. Constitution. This book compiles many of the their writings and speeches.
The Adams-Jefferson Letters – After John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had both retired from the Presidency, their political opposition was behind them. Then they produced what is probably the most illuminating letters ever passed between America’s founders.
The Works of John Adams – This is a 10 volume collection of most everything John Adams ever wrote. It includes his “Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” along with his diary and numerous letters and articles.
A Summary View of the Rights of British America – Thomas Jefferson used British law to defend the rights of the British colonists in America. He argued against the British Parliament’s oppressive response to the Boston Tea Party as well as its right to legislate for the Thirteen Colonies.
Notes on the State of Virginia – Thomas Jefferson compiled data about Virginia’s natural resources and economy. He also expressed his beliefs in the separation of church and state, constitutional government, checks and balances, and individual liberty.
Journal of the Constitutional Convention, part I – James Madison had more influence over the writing of the U.S. Constitution than any other person. And in addition, he kept the only surviving first-hand record of its proceedings in this document.

BOOKS ABOUT THE POLITICAL VIEWS OF AMERICA’S FOUNDERS:

The Political Science of John Adams – Correa Moylan Walsh describes John Adams’ views regarding the long-term power balance promised by mixed government theory, as well as his descriptions of the eternal battle between rich (aristocrats) and poor (democrats).
The Changing Political Thought of John Adams – John R. Howe, Jr. traces John Adams’ political views from his early optimistic days to his later cynical days. He shows how young Adams’ high view of “natural” aristocracy gradually turned to distrust.
The Constitutional Principles of Thomas Jefferson – Caleb Patterson describes Jefferson’s vision of both the greatness of America’s system of government, and the pitfalls that lay ahead. He particularly points out Jefferson’s alarm regarding judicial interference and economic collectivism.
James Madison, a Biography in His Own Words – Merrill Peterson describes Madison’s involvement in the writing of the U.S. Constitution, as well as his Virginia Resolutions. He further describes how those Resolutions fed into the debates over States’ Rights that were resolved in the Civil War.

HISTORY BOOKS:

The Creation of the American Republic – This book started me on the quest that eventually led to my own book. Gordon S. Wood argues that the founding fathers were forced by dire circumstances to create an elective aristocracy and sell it to the people as “representative democracy”.
James Madison: a Life Reconsidered – Lynn Cheney provides an in-depth analysis of the life, mental processes, and political importance of James Madison. She also uncovers what may well have been the underlying cause of his physical illnesses.
John Adams – David McCullough portrays the life and times of John Adams. McCullough presents both the flaws and the greatness of Adams. This book provided the basis for an acclaimed TV documentary series, also named “John Adams”.
Federal Usurpation – Franklin Pierce examines America’s slow but constant transfer of state power to the federal government. He also shows how the state governments have likewise transferred power from cities and towns to themselves.
The Bible, ESV – This and all Protestant Bible translations contain 66 books written by an array of authors over more than a thousand years. Catholic translations are very similar but also contain 7 Apocryphal books plus additions to Esther and Daniel.
The Radicalism of the American Revolution – Gordon Wood describes the extreme changes wrought upon American society and eventually upon Western Civilization by America’s War for Independence.

ECONOMIC SCIENCE BOOKS:

The Outline of Sanity – G.K. Chesterton lays out his case for the concept of Distributism. He describes what he considers the major problems in the modern conceptions of both capitalism and socialism, and provides a third alternative.
The Political Economy of Inequality – Frank Ackerman and others, editors, provide an array of essays by various authors regarding various political and economic aspects of inequality in our modern society.
Power, Inc. – David Rothkopf describes the accumulation of unimaginable power in the hands of moneyed elites. This accumulation began slowly with the rise of kings in the late Middle Ages, but has accelerated breathlessly in recent times.

SOCIOLOGY BOOKS:

The Death and Life of Great American Cities – Jane Jacobs argues that modern urban renewal practices are actually destroying rather than renewing neighborhoods. She advocates for city policies to be determined between neighbors rather than by city bureaucrats.
The Quest for Community – Robert Nisbet argues that America’s national centralization of power has eroded public involvement in local voluntary organizations. He notes further that this is leading to alienation of individuals similar to totalitarian societies.
Bowling Alone – Robert D. Putnam analyzes the collapse of community associations across America over several decades, using charts of data. He shows that social bonds in local church and civic organizations have broken down, leaving people isolated.
What’s Wrong with the World? – G.K. Chesterton examines Western society and provides insightful clues to what is generally missing in our search for causes of our social ills. His says, “What is wrong is that we do not ask what is right….”.
Twilight of Authority – Robert Nisbet describes the centralization of power and the collectivism that are growing in Western Civilization. They have been growing ever since the Renaissance when the modern states emerged under kings through military force.
Journal – Henry David Thoreau maintained this journal of his thoughts and activities over several decades. It covers a broad range of subjects from the natural history of Concord, Massachusetts to his lofty notions of society and government.
Walden – Henry David Thoreau describes his social experiment, living in partial separation from civilization on Walden Pond. He describes his personal independence and self-reliance as well as his voyage of spiritual discovery.
Civil Disobedience – Henry David Thoreau argues that an individual should never allow government to overrule their conscience. People should do what is right regardless of the law and never allow government to force them to commit injustice.

EARLY AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE BOOKS:

The Genuine Principles of the Ancient Saxon, or English Constitution – “Demophilus” (most likely George Bryan) describes the ancient government of the Saxons in Britain. That government is believed to be the basis for the Magna Carta, and therefore, Britain’s Parliament, and to some extent, the U.S. Constitution.
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates 7th Debate Part II – Abraham Lincoln argued with great effect that America’s founders fully intended for slavery to be eradicated from the U.S. He used the wording of the U.S. Constitution to prove his point.
Common Sense – Thomas Paine challenged the authority of Britain’s government over the colonies. His plain language spoke to all Americans. He was the first writer to openly call for independence from Great Britain.

MODERN AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE BOOKS:

The Revolution – Congressman Ron Paul argues that the aims of the U.S. Constitution’s authors have been undermined by politicians. He advocates restoring individual liberties by replacing much of national power with state and local self-determination.
Community and the Politics of Place – Daniel Kemmis argues that Americans have lost the sense of the local community in which they live. He notes further that local citizens should have some control over the removal of natural resources from their community.
Freedom and Federalism – Felix Morley analyzes the collapse of states’ rights and builds a strong case for their return. He shows how, beginning with the American Civil War, the national government began crushing state sovereignty.
American Theories of Federalism – Walter H. Bennett describes many different views of federalism that have been held in America from colonial times down to the present. He shows how the U.S. Constitution has been re-interpreted as those views have changed.
Political Philosophy: Theories, Thinkers, and Concepts – Seymour Martin Lipset, editor, provides an array of essays written by many authors. These essays cover a wide range of subjects related to political science.
A Simple Government – Governor Mike Huckabee describes a system of American government stripped of much of its modern politically inspired baggage and far closer to that envisioned by America’s founders.
Toward a Functioning Federalism – David B. Walker argues that the separation of federal policy-making from state and local policy execution has produced a dysfunctional federalism. He goes on to describe a detailed array of dysfunctions in American federalism.

EARLY BRITISH POLITICAL SCIENCE BOOKS:

Second Treatise of Government – John Locke argued against monarchy and for a society based on natural rights. He also called for an individual’s right to government protection of his property, based upon the individual’s labor upon that property.
The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth – John Milton supported Oliver Cromwell’s “Commonwealth” and argued against re-establishing the British Monarchy. He believed a monarch would only produce a court full of intrigue and debauchery.
Discourses on Government – Algernon Sidney described and advocated for a republican form of government, where the people decide how they will be ruled. He argued that kings do not have a “divine right” to rule. Sidney was executed as a result.
The Commonwealth of Oceana -James Harrington described his utopian republic, in which a “natural aristocracy” rules for the good of the public. All offices are time-limited and filled by election, and land is distributed to all citizens.
Commentaries on the Laws of England in Four Books – Sir William Blackstone provided the most well-known description of the British government as it operated at the time of America’s founding. America’s founders were intimately familiar with these books.

LATER BRITISH POLITICAL SCIENCE BOOKS:

The Road to Serfdom – F.A. Hayek argued that socialism, the government takeover of the means of production, will always lead to terrors like Naziism (National Socialism). He said that socialism is a dream taught by would-be tyrants to the gullible.
On Liberty and the Subjection of Women – In “On Liberty”, John Stuart Mill argued that a majority can tyrannize a minority unless minority views are protected. In “The Subjection of Women’, he argued for equality of the genders.
The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke – A broad selection of speeches, articles, etc. by the one called the “Father of Conservatism”. As a member of Britain’s Parliament, Burke criticized Britain’s oppression of the American colonies.
Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth – David Hume described his ideal republic. In the process, he solved James Madison’s conundrum. Ancient wisdom said a large nation, such as the U.S., could only be controlled by a king, but Hume believed it could be a republic.
Considerations on Representative Government – John Stuart Mill argued that representative government is the ideal form. However, he preferred that representatives not legislate, but lead public debate and watch over the legislative and executive professionals.

ANCIENT POLITICAL SCIENCE BOOKS:

Republic – Plato delved into questions like “what is justice?”, “is the just person happier than the unjust person?” and “what is the relation of justice to happiness?”. It is here that Plato developed the concept of “Philosopher Kings”.
The Histories, Vol. I. – Polybius described the Roman Republic and argued that the liberty it afforded its people came from its mixed government of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. He traced this form of government back to Lycurgus of Sparta in Greece.
On the Commonwealth, vol. 1 – Marcus Tullius Cicero, master orator and defender of the Roman Republic, presented his views on republicanism. He argued that there is an indispensable connection between individual morality and moral government.
Politics – This is Aristotle’s classic work on political science, and has had a deep impact on Western Civilization in general. It covers such subjects as the relationship of political life to the city (polis) and the classification of governments.

OTHER POLITICAL SCIENCE BOOKS:

The Social Contract – The Swiss philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, wrote this classic work on social contract theory. It has influenced people from Thomas Jefferson to Karl Marx. Here he develops his famous concept of the “general will”.
The Spirit of Laws – The French philosopher, Montesquieu, covers a tremendous range of political topics. But his most famous topic is his clear description of the concept of the separation of powers. James Madison referred to that description in the U.S. Constitutional Convention.
Gandhi’s Political Philosophy, a Critical Examination – Bhikhu Parekh analyzes the political mind of Mahatma Gandhi, who used nonviolent resistance to gain India’s independence. Gandhi favored local community control over centralized power.
Democracy in America – Alexis de Tocqueville, a French statesman, described his travels through America in the 1830’s, and the results of American democracy that he observed. As examples, he observed the prevalence of equality and the self-governance of local communities.
Canadian Cities and Sovereignty Association – Jane Jacobs defends the Quebec sovereignty movement. here she applies Haldane’s Principle to show that governments do not grow big because they grow more complex. Rather, they grow more complex because they grow big.

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