The purpose of this book is to give an account of political thought since 1945. Its scope is confined to the "western" - in effect American and Euopean traditions. Within the range the book concerns itself with ideas claiming to be philosophic, social-scientific or ideological in character, and which deserve academic recognition. It is not concerned with popular influence or mass following: not all ideas described became "operational" in the period. There are two methods of exposition. Primarly there are chapters on seven major political thinkers. The aim of these chapters is to explain the thought of the writers as it is; there are subsidiary comments and criticism at the end of each chapter, and guides to further reading. The selection of the seven was made by the editors, after much discussion. The ultimate criterion was the need of students to know something about the ideas of the thinker. The editors then invited five scholars to contribute studies of the thinkers on the lines indicated.
The first chapter describes the ideas of some other political thinkers and in doing so tries to show what sort of debates were current, and thereby tries to "place" the chosen seven in the intellectual ambience of which they were part. The book is primarily historical or retrospective in intent. By chance, its period is that of the Cold War. Nevertheless, one of the experiences of the period was that of delayed recognition, apparent with Hayek, Oakeshott, Gramsci, Bobbio and others. Even now, therefore, some of the notions here expounded are maturing, and more should be heard of them yet.