1st Edition

How to Rule? The Arts of Government from Antiquity to the Present

By Grant Duncan Copyright 2022
    276 Pages
    by Routledge

    276 Pages
    by Routledge

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    A guide through history for those perplexed about the fate of democracy and the government of diverse societies. In war and in peace, amid disruptive change and during reconstruction, a government of people and events will always be called for. But in this age of anxiety and uncertainty, people on the left and the right are losing confidence in governments, elections and politicians. Many ask whether democracy has failed, and ponder alternatives. Knowing how to govern, and how to be governed, are necessary for solving collectively our pressing social and ecological problems.

    This book rediscovers diverse models of government, including the successful statecraft and drastic mistakes of past rulers and their advisers. From ancient to modern times, what methods of government have arisen and succeeded, or what were their fatal flaws? What ethical and political ideas informed the rulers and the ruled? How have states dealt with unexpected calamities or with cultural and religious differences? And what kept things (more or less) running smoothly? Amid rapid change and political dissent, it’s timely to re-examine the ideas and practices that governed large populations and guided their rulers. In an age of political distrust, disruptive populism and global crises, we need to rearm ourselves with knowledge of history and diverse political ideas to better address contemporary problems.

    This book will appeal to students in political theory, political history, or history of government and public policy.

    1.The arts of government 2. Enduring ideas 3. The great empires: Rome, Persia and China 4. Ruling by the book: monotheism and government 5. Rulers of no fixed abode 6. Metastatic imperialism: global colonial rule 7. Things made from people: republics, representatives, revolutions 8. Let’s get organised: civil administration 9. Ends and limits of government: the twentieth century 10. Conclusion


    Grant Duncan is a university teacher, political theorist and media commentator living in Auckland, New Zealand, and working at Massey University. (www.grantduncan.com)

    "Duncan captures well the nature of shifts between monarchies and republics in both revolutionary and reformist ways, as he does the changing nature of states in the contexts of the evolutions of civilisations and revolts by citizens. His views on connections, communities, and communication are very intriguing, claiming that despite many idealistic expectations, social media are not a modern equivalent of the speakers' corner, but rather tools of "disempowerment and oppression".

    What makes Duncan's book still more captivating is his reflection on very fundamental questions, like: if accepting a language (its grammar and logic) is accepting a certain culture of rules and, by extension, governance, what is the real impact of the current Twitter culture on political imagination? If every time needs its specific answers, is leadership a question defined universally by a moral code, or it is first and foremost about what society may need at a given time?  

    Days after putting How to Rule? The Arts of Government from Antiquity to the Present away, these and many other questions leave the reader wondering, which, among many possible reasons, is the best one upon which to recommend the book wholeheartedly, and to await the sequel eagerly."

    - Ania Skrzypek, FEPS director for Research and Training for the Progressive Post, Autumn 2021