Bobbio's wide-ranging argument is focused on four themes: the distinction between the public and the private; the concept of civil society; differing conceptions of the state and differing ways of understanding the legitimacy of state power; and the relation between democracy and dictatorship. Bobbio's discussion draws on a wealth of theoretical and historical material, from Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes and Locke to Marx, Weber, Habermas and Foucault. By analysing the development of different languages of politics in relation to changing social and historical contexts, Bobbio deepens our understanding of the concepts we use to describe and evaluate modern political systems.
Part I: The great dichotomy: public/private:.
The evaluative use of the great dichotomy.
The second meeting of the dichotomy.
Part II: Civil Society:.
The various meanings.
The Marxian interpretation.
The Hegelian system.
The natural law tradition.
Civil society as civilised society.
The current debate.
Part III: State, Power and Government:.
Towards the study of the state.
The name and the thing.
The state and power.
The foundation of power.
State and law.
The forms of government.
Forms of state.
The end of the state.
Part IV: Democracy and Dictatorship:.
Democracy in the theory of governmental forms.
The descriptive use.
The evaluative use.
The historical use.
Representative democracy and direct democracy.
Political democracy and social democracy.
Formal democracy and substantive democracy.