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Contribution to Book
Appendix to Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy
Prehistory Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (2017)
  • Karl Widerquist
  • Grant McCall, Tulane University of Louisiana

This is an early version of the appendix to the book: Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (left online for reference). Please download the published version for free online at this link:

Book abstract: Why do political philosophers write so much about prehistory but do such little research on it? The state of nature, the origin of property, the genesis of government, and the primordial nature of war and inequality are perennial favourite topics in political philosophy, but their use is often ambiguous. Are these merely illustrative examples? If so, what do they illustrate? If not, what claims to they make about prehistory. Does the best available evidence from the fields of archaeology and anthropology support or conflict with those claims? This book presents an anthropological critique of philosophy, examining political theories to show how—despite significant equivocation—the most influential justifications of government and of private property rely on the seldom-questioned empirical premise that everyone in a society with a government and/or a private property rights system is better off than anyone could be in a society without those institutions. It presents convincing evidence that much of what we think we know about stateless peoples comes not from scientific investigation, but from the imagination of philosophers.
This version of the appendix is an early draft. It is not exactly the same as the published version. I post it here to get feedback from my friends and colleagues. If you want to cite or quote it, please check the published version and point all references to that version:
Karl Widerquist and Grant S. McCall. Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, January 2017
  • Social Contract,
  • Contractarianism,
  • Contractualism,
  • Property Rights,
  • Libertarianism,
  • Propertarianism,
  • Inequality,
  • Freedom,
  • Hobbes,
  • Locke,
  • Rousseau,
  • Property,
  • Proviso,
  • Lockean proviso,
  • State of nature
Publication Date
Edinburgh University Press
Citation Information
Karl Widerquist and Grant McCall. "Appendix to Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy" EdinburghPrehistory Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (2017)
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