Great Books on Political and Social Science

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political science and social science 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 this series of articles supporting the new U.S. Constitution. They are 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 both retired from the presidency, their political opposition was behind them. Then, they produced what may be 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. For example, it includes his “Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America”. Also, his diary along with numerous letters and articles are included.
A Summary View of the Rights of British America – Thomas Jefferson applied British law to defend the rights of the British colonists in America. For example, 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.

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. He also provides Adams’ descriptions of the eternal battle between the rich and the poor.
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. That is, young Adams’ high view of so-called “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 government and the pitfalls that lay ahead. In particular, he points out Jefferson’s alarm about judicial interference as well as economic collectivism.
James Madison, a Biography in His Own Words – Merrill Peterson describes Madison’s part in writing the U.S. Constitution, as well as his penning of the Virginia Resolutions. He further describes how those Resolutions fed into the debates over States’ Rights that led to 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 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. Incidentally, 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 – The Old Testament records the history of the ancient Hebrews, the forerunners of our modern Jews. The New Testament records the coming of Jesus Christ, as well as the founding of the Christian Church.
The Radicalism of the American Revolution – Gordon Wood describes the extreme changes wrought upon American society by America’s War for Independence. Moreover, he shows how those changes eventually affected Western Civilization as a whole.

ECONOMIC SCIENCE BOOKS:

The Outline of Sanity – G.K. Chesterton describes what he considers the major problems in modern capitalism and socialism. Then he provides a third alternative – his case for the concept of distributism.
The Political Economy of Inequality – This is an array of essays by various authors regarding numerous political and economic aspects of inequality in 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 is now accelerating.

EARLY SOCIOLOGY BOOKS:

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 lofty notions of society.
Walden – Henry David Thoreau describes a social experiment. That is, he lived 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. In other words, people should do what is right regardless of the law and never allow government to force them to commit injustice.
What’s Wrong with the World? – G.K. Chesterton examines Western society’s social ills and provides insightful clues to what is generally missing in such examinations. In conclusion, he says, “What is wrong is that we do not ask what is right….”.

MODERN 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. To the contrary, 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 that in totalitarian societies.
Bowling Alone – Robert D. Putnam analyzes the collapse of community associations across America over recent decades, using charts of data. In particular, he shows that social bonds in local church and civic organizations have broken down, leaving people isolated.
Twilight of Authority – Robert Nisbet describes the growth of collectivism and centralization of power in Western Civilization. They have been growing ever since the Renaissance when the modern states emerged under kings through military force.

EARLY AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE BOOKS:

Journal of the Constitutional Convention, part I – James Madison had more influence over the writing of the U.S. Constitution than any other person. In addition, he kept this only surviving first-hand record of its proceedings.
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 which lead to Britain’s Parliament and 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. Most important, 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. Also, 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. In particular, 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 connection with the local communities 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. Most important, he shows how the U.S. Constitution has been re-interpreted as those views have changed.
Political Philosophy: Theories, Thinkers, and Concepts – This is an array of essays written by many authors, covering 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, 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 system. Moreover, he describes a detailed array of dysfunctions in American federalism.

EARLY BRITISH POLITICAL SCIENCE BOOKS:

Second Treatise of Government – John Locke argued against monarchy and for citizens’ natural rights. He also called for an individual’s right to government protection of his property, based upon his 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. For example, 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. That is, the people should decide how they will be ruled. Also, he argued that kings do not have a “divine right” to rule. Subsequently, he was executed.
The Commonwealth of Oceana -James Harrington described a utopian republic, in which a “natural aristocracy” rules for the good of the public. And all government offices are time-limited and filled by popular election. Furthermore, all 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. Most important, America’s founders were intimately familiar with his books.

LATER BRITISH POLITICAL SCIENCE BOOKS:

The Road to Serfdom – F.A. Hayek argues 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. Similarly, in “The Subjection of Women’, he argued for equality of the genders.
The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke – This is 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 doing so, he solved a problem that perplexed James Madison. Ancient wisdom said a large nation, such as the U.S., could only be controlled by a king. But Hume showed how it could be a republic.
Considerations on Representative Government – John Stuart Mill argued that representative government is ideal. 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?”. Most important, it is here that Plato developed his famous concept of “Philosopher Kings”.
The Histories, Vol. I. – Polybius described the Roman Republic. In particular, he argued that the liberty it gave its people came from its mixed government of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. He also 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. In particular, he argued that there is an indispensable connection between individual morality and moral government.
Politics – This is Aristotle’s classic work on political science, which has had a deep impact on Western Civilization. In particular, it covers such subjects as the relationship of political life to the city as well as 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. Most important, it is here that he developed his famous concept of the “general will”.
The Spirit of Laws – The French philosopher, Montesquieu, covered a wide range of political topics here. In particular, it is here that he describes 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. Most important, 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. For example, 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. In particular, she applies Haldane’s Principle to show that governments do not grow big because they grow more complex. To the contrary, they grow more complex because they grow big.

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