The programmes of political parties and movements are attempts to formulate policies or guidelines in relation to social change. Social philosophy concerns the fundamental issues on which those programmes divide.
This introductory work gives an account of several highly influential systems of social philosophy - systems which serve as the landmarks by reference to which modern discussions still orientate themselves. The description of various stages in the history of social philosophy is set within an account of its changing social environment - from feudalism and the philosophy of Aquinas to the rise of the working class and socialism. The book confines itself to the Western tradition and one could say that it charts the rise and fall of the free market as the central institution and the key to the understanding of society.