Who are the key authors and what are the key books in the liberal, conservative, libertarian and radical traditions? The National Association of Scholars is designing a project to examine how political theory is conveyed in the American undergraduate curriculum. To that end we need to compile lists of works that (A) unambiguously represent different strands of political theory, (B) are widely recognized, and (C) are plausible material for undergraduate courses. We are interested in contemporary books as well as older works, but nothing published before 1750. Our goal is to compile lists of ten books in each category that all sides would agree are a fair sample of these political traditions.
Jacobs lists a number of potential problems with the request. But the most significant problem with the intended task is "nothing published before 1750." Both the liberal and libertarian traditions would seem to need, at a minimum, Locke (one can make arguments about Hobbes), else one has to explain where certain ideas enter into the intellectual milieu by focusing on some lesser exponent of the same tradition.
The list of suggestions is also maddening:
John Rawls, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, J. S. Mill, J.-J. Rousseau, Howard Zinn, Robert Nozick, Ayn Rand, Russell Kirk, Paulo Freire, C. Wright Mills, Ludwig von Mises, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Oakeshott, Eric Voegelin, Albert Jay Nock, Reinhold Niebuhr, Charles Reich, Herbert Marcuse, Angela Davis, Alasdair MacIntyre, William F. Buckley, Barbara Ehrenreich, Milton Friedman, Murray Rothbard, John Kenneth Galbraith, Charles Taylor, F.A. Hayek...Who is missing?
There are a few people on this list who appear not to belong: I'm sure Barbara Ehrenreich's work is interesting, but I'm not sure how one justifies mentioning her in the same breath with Smith and Rousseau, if only because they have had several centuries in which to exert a substantial influence on the way we look at the world.
Further, am I to assume that all the Marxists on the list count as "radicals" and not under some other heading? Because then Angela Davis and Karl Marx are on the same list, however different their concerns and interests. Or does "radical" function as a catch-all term?
Also, do the liberals or the conservatives get Reinhold Niebuhr? I think I could make a case either way.