1. Introduction

Ceux qui, comme porte nostre usage, entreprenent d’une mesme leçon & pareille mesure de conduite, regenter plusieurs esprits de si diverses mesures & formes: ce n’est pas merveille, si en tout un peuple d’enfants, ils en rencontrent à peine deux ou trois, qui rapportent quelque juste fruit de leur discipline.

De l’institution des enfans, Montaigne

For more than a generation in the United States, and now increasingly in Europe, students have shown growing interest in the “tradition” of political theory. This particular literary practice is often said to be one of the guiding intellectual threads of the Western tradition as a whole. It is remarkable, therefore, that historically this “tradition” has had practically no professional practitioners. Its recent formation into an academic “discipline” appears to be a by-product of the modern aspiration to a “science of politics,” the tensions inherent in which required at one and the same time a rejection and an acknowledgment of past political thought.1 But institutional efforts to consolidate a field do not explain its popularity. Indeed, with the spirit of anti-politics so pervasive round the world, one is hard-pressed to understand the simultaneous intensification of curiosity about fundamental questions of politics. Yet, that is what the revival of political theory represents.


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