Political Philosophy Quotes

  1. “From these things it is evident, that the city belongs among the things that exist by nature, and that man is by nature a political animal” (Aristotle, The Politics, 1253a1–3).
  2. Authority implies an obedience in which men retain their freedom. Hannah Arendt
  3. Plato: The Republic. Book VII: “Say then, my friend, in what manner does tyranny arise?–that it has a democratic origin is evident. Clearly. And does not tyranny spring from democracy in the same manner as democracy from oligarchy–I mean, after a sort? How? The good which oligarchy proposed to itself and the means by which it was maintained was excess of wealth–am I not right? Yes. And the insatiable desire of wealth and the neglect of all other things for the sake of money-getting was also the ruin of oligarchy? True. And democracy has her own good, of which the insatiable desire brings her to dissolution? What good? Freedom, I replied; which, as they tell you in a democracy, is the glory of the State–and that therefore in a democracy alone will the freeman of nature deign to dwell. Yes; the saying is in everybody’s mouth. I was going to observe, that the insatiable desire of this and the neglect of other things introduces the change in democracy, which occasions a demand for tyranny.”
  4. Marx, Theses on Feuerbach: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”
  5. Karl Marx: “In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly  – only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its éntirety and society inscribe on its banner: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!” (Robert Tucker, Marx-Engels Reader, p. 531).
  6. Bureaucratic administration means fundamentally domination through knowledge. Max Weber
  7. The decisive reason for the advance of the bureaucratic organization has always been its purely technical superiority over any other form of organization. Max Weber
  8. “Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently” Rosa Luxemburg
  9. MAN is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  10. The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality
  11. In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face. George Orwell.
  12. ‘How can it be ‘mutually beneficial’ to sell at world market prices the raw materials that cost the underdeveloped countries immeasurable sweat and suffering, and to buy at world market prices the machinery produced in today’s big automated factories?’ — Che Guevara, 1965
  13. “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the wickedest of men will do the wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.” John Maynard Keynes
  14. “If the citizens themselves devote their life to matters of trade, the way will be opened to many vices. Since the foremost tendency of tradesmen is to make money greed is awakened in the hearts of the citizens through the pursuit of trade. The result is that everything in the city will become venal; good faith will be destroyed and the way opened to all kinds of trickery; each one will work only for his own profit, despising the public good; the cultivation of virtue will fail since honor, virtue’s reward, will be bestowed upon the rich. Thus, in such a city, civic life will necessarily be corrupted.” ST. THOMAS AQUINAS On Kingship (II, 3)
  15. First, they came for the communists but I was not a communist so I kept quiet. Then they came for the socialists and the trade unionists but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me. Martin Niemoller
  16. The more laws, the less justice. Cicero
  17. With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols for things. One will live. To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. Oscar Wilde, ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism,’ 1891
  18. I discovered that I was living out of a formula. Anonymous
  19. Fascism attempts to organize the proletarian masses without affecting the property structure which the masses strive to eliminate. Fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves. The masses have a right to change property relations; Fascism seeks to give them an expression while preserving property. Walter Benjamin
  20. Social existence today conceals the person. It is part of that 6-card poker: two cards face up: appearance and social status, 3 cards you hold: physicality, money, the heart of hearts. One card is on your forehead, and everyone can see it but you. Anonymous. 
  21. This generation born in war, born in the jail cells of the South, born at the Pentagon march, watches in disbelief as the country is paved over, malls replacing corn fields, synthetic food replacing corn, cash replacing value. What has become of us? Is the country brain dead? Is this what we have done with our freedom? Our greatest surviving value is greed. Is that what our legacy will be? What shall we tell the children? Occupy LA, Demonstration Poster. Broadway Downtown, 2011.
  22. “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.’ Dom Hélder Câmara
  23. “Self-awareness in contemporary society is directly connected with belonging to some collectivity: to an age group or vocational group, and ultimately to the nation. The divergence between individual and group that is now disappearing continues to show up among stunted individuals, criminals, and people who can assert themselves only by opposition to everything else.” Max Horkheimer: Feudal Lord, Customer, and Specialist.
  24. “Through Sade and Goya, the Western world received the possibility of transcending its reason in violence….”  Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization.
  25. “It began, I believe, in a late-20th-century event that transformed the world more profoundly than the collapse of communism: the world-wide collapse of white supremacy as a source of moral authority, political legitimacy and even sovereignty. This idea had organized the entire world, divided up its resources, imposed the nation-state system across the globe, and delivered the majority of the world’s population into servitude and oppression. After World War II, revolutions across the globe, from India to Algeria and from Indonesia to the American civil rights revolution, defeated the authority inherent in white supremacy, if not the idea itself. And this defeat exacted a price: the West was left stigmatized by its sins. Today, the white West–like Germany after the Nazi defeat–lives in a kind of secular penitence in which the slightest echo of past sins brings down withering condemnation. There is now a cloud over white skin where there once was unquestioned authority.” Shelby Steele: “White Guilt and the Western Past” (2007)
  26. “Our consumer and market economy is based on the idea that you can buy happiness. But be careful, because if you have no money to pay for something, then you’ll have lost your chance at happiness. Remember that only that which comes from our own efforts, from within, is not only the “cheapest” kind but also the best kind of happiness.” Erich Fromm
  27. “Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do…. They govern us in all we do, all we say, all we think: every effort we make to throw off our subjection, will serve but to demonstrate and confirm it.” Jeremy Bentham

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