All posts by Guðmundur Heiðar Frímannsson

Ulf Blossing, Gunn Imsen & Lejf Moos (eds.), The Nordic Education Model. ´A School for All´ Encounters Neo-Liberal Policy (Dordrecht: Springer, 2014)

The Nordic countries are a special case in the global context. In a world dominated by economic criteria for all things they seem to disprove that ideology. Their economies run smoothly and are efficient, the living standards are high and yet they sustain a welfare state that provides for some of the most important needs of any citizen, such as the need for medical care in case of serious sickness, the need for education to enable the citizens to function as well informed citizens in democracies, as knowledgeable employees in their jobs and as well balanced human beings.

Continue reading Ulf Blossing, Gunn Imsen & Lejf Moos (eds.), The Nordic Education Model. ´A School for All´ Encounters Neo-Liberal Policy (Dordrecht: Springer, 2014)

Jón Ólafsson (ed.), Lýðræðistilraunir. Ísland í hruni og endurreisn [Democratic experiments. Iceland in collapse and renaissance] (Reykjavík: Háskólaútgáfan, 2014)


The indications are that the costs are 44% of Iceland’s GDP, meaning that it is internationally the third costliest financial collapse ever (Luc Laeven og Fabian Valencia. 2013. Systemic Banking Crises Database. IMF Economic Review, 61, pp. 225-270). The series of events leading to the collapse and what has happened afterwards has had serious consequences for Icelandic society and government. The most obvious sign of these consequences is that trust levels within Icelandic society have declined. The banks enjoy least trust of all Icelandic institutions, as is to be expected, as only 10.2% of Icelanders said in October 2014, six years after the financial collapse, that they trust Icelandic banks (MMR Market and Media Research). Just 12.8% trust Alþingi, the Icelandic Parliament, according to the same source.


One of the consequences of the financial collapse was that in 2009 the Icelandic republic had the first left-wing government in its history, i.e. since it was established in 1944. This government had to deal with all the most serious consequences of the financial collapse. On top of that, it tried to engineer changes to important Icelandic social institutions like the fishing quota system, which has been controversial since its inception in 1983, and the Icelandic constitution. The reasons behind the changes to the quota system were based on justice and fair allocation of natural resources. The reasons behind changing the constitution were not as clear, but it seems to me that the best construal of them is that the attempt to change the constitution was a confidence-building measure, an attempt to reconstruct the most important legal document of the republic´s legal system and secure general trust in governmental institutions. According to the same survey firm as referred to above, the legal system as a whole enjoyed the trust of 28.9% last November, but in November 2013 the same measurement was 38.1% and in October 2009 the trust in the legal system as a whole in Iceland was 36.5%. There is no reason to read too deep a meaning into these measurements, but they are some indication that the preparation, writing and rejection of the draft constitution have not affected public trust in the legal system. Some may think that we can infer from this that the whole affair surrounding the drafting of a new constitution was in vain. But this may be too hasty.


What actually happened in this process? First, there were public protests against the sitting government ending in its fall in early 2009. Second, after the general election in 2009, the first left-wing government in the history of the Icelandic republic was established. The prime minister of that government had long been of the opinion that the constitution needed revision. Third, some general meetings were arranged early in 2009, trying to find out which were the most important values of Icelanders. The government organised a similar meeting in early 2010 to figure out those values that should govern the revision of the constitution. Fourth, the government established a committee gathering data and evaluating various ideas about such a revision, thus preparing the work of a constitutional assembly. Fifth, the government decided that an assembly should be elected by the general public to write a new constitution or revise parts of the existing one. Sixth, the election to the constitutional assembly was declared null and void by the Icelandic Supreme Court after a legal challenge. The government decided then to establish a constitutional committee with the same mission and the same individuals as voted onto the assembly. Seventh, the constitutional committee delivered in four months a draft of a new constitution. This draft was never assented to twice by the majority parliament with a general election in between, as it must do according to the rules laid down by the present constitution.


This book is a collection of essays in Icelandic about this whole process and other democratic experiments in Iceland’s recent years. It is written by two Icelandic authors and six international authorities on democracy and democratic developments. Jón Ólafsson edits the book and writes an introduction describing the development of the constitutional project and other democratic experiments in Iceland. James Fishkin analyses some of the processes that took place in the constitutional preparation and the drafting of the new one, and he evaluates to what extent deliberation and rational discussion were features of them. His conclusion is that neither the general meetings nor the constitutional committee reflected the general population and we should be careful about drawing any conclusion about the views of the meetings and the committee coinciding with the views of the population as a whole. He is also critical of the lack of rational discussion both in the preparations and the drafting of the new constitution.


Hélène Landemore examines the process of preparing and writing a new constitution in Iceland from an epistemological point of view. She is interested in: how the constitutional committee dealt with the problem of writing a constitution; and how it used “crowdsourcing”, meaning the competence and the intelligence of the general public, especially in writing the draft of the new constitution. She is critical of the role of experts in writing and editing the draft of the new constitution; she believes that the process had serious drawbacks, as she thinks that the general public and its representatives are capable of writing a constitution upon the condition that as many as possible take part in the process. She believes that the current Icelandic method for establishing a change to the present constitution or adopting a new one is too restrictive. Tom Ginsburg and Zachary Elkins approach the preparations and process of writing the draft of the new Icelandic constitution from a comparative point of view. They review various views of transparency in such a process, as well as the role of experts. They are, like the other experts writing in this book, favourable to the opening up of the process for preparing and writing a constitution and the government process in general, but they realise that there is no simple solution or simple recipe for a constitutional process, in Iceland or anywhere else. Thus, they ask the difficult question: If the new constitution was the result of a grassroots movement, why was it so easy to stop it in parliament? Why were those parties that opposed the new constitution elected as the new parliamentary majority in 2013? There is no simple answer to that question and there are two appendices to their article that are informative and interesting.


Paolo Spade and Giovanni Allegretti write about novelties in democracy or new initiatives in democracy, especially participatory financial budgeting as practised in a number of Brazilian cities. They explore the connection between these new initiatives and the new possibilities that have opened up on the net. They realise that these connections are complex and they can easily become counterproductive from the point of view of participation, if not used carefully. Democratic experiments in other places are drawn into the discussion such as Portugal, Germany and the United States, and in Reykjavík, Iceland. This is not directly relevant to the process around the constitution but the discussion broadens the picture of new initiatives in democracy. The last article is by Kristinn Már Ársælsson and is an overview of democratic initiatives in Iceland in the years 2009-2013, i.e. the years of the first left-wing government of the Icelandic republic. These include the preparation and the writing of the draft constitution, plus two national referenda on the Icesave agreements between the Icelandic government and the British and Dutch governments. These referenda were engineered by the refusal of the Icelandic president to sign two laws supported by the majority of parliament. In both cases the general public voted against these laws. These were the first national referenda since 1944, when it was decided to establish a republic. He also discusses the initiatives taken by the city council in Reykjavík.


All these articles are interesting, make important points and throw light on the events that have taken place in Iceland in the last five years. This is of particular value for a small society like Iceland, because very few people outside the country can understand what happens here and why. Icelandic scientists are a part of their own society and sometimes find it difficult to analyse what actually happens. The critical distance of foreign scientists can bring benefits.


This distance has its drawbacks too. This is clear from the discussion of the constitutional process. There is no attempt to relate it to the political culture in Iceland. What is most interesting about this process, which elected a constitutional assembly from members of the general public, is also a major break with the Icelandic tradition of politicians and legal experts discussing and drafting changes to the constitution. Part of this tradition is that all the major parties have had to agree to the changes put forward. Even though this is not literally true of all the changes proposed, it is true of most of them. This has guaranteed that the changes proposed and consented to in parliament before it is resolved, are consented too unchanged in the newly elected parliament. This threshold to changes to the constitution has not proved to be serious or impossible in the Icelandic context. Changes have regularly been made to the Icelandic constitution. It is not fashionable nowadays to take Icelandic political culture seriously, since its vices rather than its virtues have been more prominent in recent years, but it seems to me that one of the reasons working against the new constitution was that there were serious political disagreements about it. Pushing it through parliament would have been a serious break with the national consensus tradition. You may not think very much of this tradition, but it is an historical fact; besides, traditions in political cultures have to be reckoned with.

Hannele Niemi, Auli Toom and Arto Kallioniemi (eds.), Miracle of Education. The Principles and Practices of Teaching and Learning in Finnish Schools (Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, 2012)

It is difficult for societies, just like individuals, to stay in the same place for a long time: they either thrive or decay. The thrift or decay can have many forms and many causes, one of them being neglect of their children and education. In modern societies, this need to regenerate and renew is just as necessary as in any ancient society, but now we have a different way of dealing with it.

Modern societies have without exception developed an educational system to deal with the problem of upbringing and education of the young and to renew these societies. This simple fact tells us that division of labour in modern times requires that specialists in education need to work with children and adolescents to make them fit for the modernity that awaits them. The simple truths we could once learn at our mothers´ knees are not what modernity requires.

Any education and educational system must fulfil at least three functions: it must prepare the young for living in a society (and nowadays this means that they must learn to live in a democracy); it must prepare them for living in a capitalist economy (meaning that they must acquire skills suitable for that kind of economy enabling them to get a job that is such that somebody is willing to pay for the services provided or goods produced); and lastly education must prepare the young to live well, to live in families dealing with intimate relations, having their own families, to enjoy the course and direction their lives have taken and even have a feeling that there is a meaning within their lives. This is a tall order and I am not sure if there are many educational systems serving all these functions.

One of those that come close to it is certainly the Finnish educational system. In international comparative research Finnish students are among the best in whatever is measured: mathematical skills, scientific literacy, reading literacy. Among the member countries of OECD they nearly always come at the top. It also seems that there is widespread consensus among the Finns themselves about the educational system, which indicates that they believe that it serves them and their society well. It cannot be an aim of an educational system to come out on top in international comparative research, but if it serves its children and in general its society well and comes out on top in international comparison, then that is quite an achievement.


This book is about the Finnish educational system, its features, structure and principles. The authors emphasise many features of it that are interesting indeed in an international perspective. They describe a well-functioning system that aims to form well-rounded individuals, morally and emotionally mature, and well advanced cognitively. Yet the system is not competitively driven, there are no national exams that students have to complete at regular intervals, there is no national inspectorate of schools, and teachers are autonomous in their decisions about their methods in teaching within the limits set by each school and by the national curriculum. These features go against the grain, at least in the Anglo-Saxon context, because there the trend has been towards more accountability to the political authorities through increased testing, competition between schools and discriminating pay scales for teachers who achieve results.

In the light of their achievements in international comparisons, it is natural to ask if there is anything special that might explain the Finnish miracle. How do we account for it? For one, the Finns have emphasised equality in their school system and it shows in the results. Those who do best are similar from most of the countries measured, but what makes a difference for the Finns is that those who are weaker also do well, lifting the general score for Finland. It is also the case that differences between schools are negligent, account only for 8% of the variation in the scores. There is a gender gap in reading, girls doing better than boys by 55 points, the largest difference between girls and boys in all OECD countries. There is a difference between the two language groups, Finnish and Swedish, but those who speak Swedish in Finland do considerably better that Swedes in Sweden. The Finnish state only spends averagely on education, Finnish pupils get the third fewest lessons from the age of 7 to the age of 14, the average number of students per teacher in the OECD countries is 16 but 11.4 in Finland, and the average class size in Finland is 20.1 students, the sixth lowest. Teachers have to complete a master´s degree to get a qualification as a teacher; studying for a degree in teaching is very popular and the universities only accept 10-15% of those who apply. Teaching is a high-status profession in Finnish society. On the whole it seems that Finnish teachers are cautious in their approach to their teaching and trust the well-tested rather than the innovative, relying heavily, for example, on textbooks in the natural sciences.

This book is divided into four sections. The first is about the general frame within which the educational system as a whole operates in Finland. The second concentrates on special features of the whole system, such as the emphasis on equity and excellence and how evaluation is mostly used formatively, how the national curriculum is structured and the research orientation in teachers´ work. The third part is on the subjects taught in Finnish schools covering all of them, not just those that have been used in international comparisons. The last part is on future directions for the system, discussing drama education as a part of arts education in the future, ICT in schools, the links between public institutions e.g. museums and schools, and LUMA (the project to bring science to everyone). It is very interesting to see how carefully Finnish teachers planned the use of ICT, realising that the most important thing was to figure out how you want to use these new machines. It is also striking that the Finnish students, who are so skilled in scientific literacy, score very low on interest in the natural sciences and therefore it was decided to establish the LUMA project.


If you want to become acquainted with the Finnish system of education this book is a good place to start. It is a sympathetic approach and very informative. It also gives the reader a flavour of the strong and varied academic research tradition in education and teacher training in Finland.

Brian Lucey, Charles Larkin and Constantin Gurdgiev (eds.) What if Ireland defaults? (Dublin: Orpen Press, 2012)



There is a story to be told about this turn of events; both a general story about crises in the capitalist system, including this particular crisis, and also about how the crises have unfolded in particular countries. When I talk about crisis in this review I am not referring to the Euro crisis but to the banking crisis.


It is worth pointing out at the beginning of this review that it is a significant fact that a number of countries have avoided this crisis even though they have been affected by it as, I guess, every country in Europe at least has been. The Scandinavian countries, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland have been able to avoid this crisis and the same applies to Canada. Finland has adopted the Euro and is having problems because of it, but all the four Scandinavian countries had learnt their lesson from their banking crisis in the early 1990s and managed to avoid all the pitfalls in the time leading up to the banking collapse in the autumn 2008. The key issue seems to have been a close monitoring of their banking systems and a tough management of the system by the state. It seems to me that the role of the state is probably the most important issue in this crisis. In the decade leading up to 2008 it seems to have become an accepted orthodoxy that somehow the market system needed only a minimum of regulation and was self-perpetuating. If there is any fairly clear lesson to be learnt from this crisis it is that this orthodoxy is a myth. The state is the most important institution for a well-functioning market, not because the state should regulate every minute detail of the market, but because the state must put in place a good legal framework, close monitoring and the willingness of the institutions to use those powers supplied by the state to control the financial market.


The other option is to leave the financial system to its fate in the market, so that the banks and other financial institutions can collapse and become bankrupt like any other business. It is an interesting fact that no government in Europe or North-America was willing to do this. There are various reasons for this but the two most important ones seem to me to be:


(a) First, the risk of contagion, meaning that when one financial institution falls the confidence in the others falls sharply, so that a bank that is in no way insolvent can suddenly become so because people do not trust it any longer. This does not happen in other markets: If a building firm collapses other building firms are not in danger of collapsing and the same does seem to apply generally to the manufacturing industry. What is so special about banks? The reason why financial businesses are not in this position is because they rely so heavily on trust in their operations. A bank is not like a library where money is stacked on every shelf, because the money that you put into your account the bank lends to somebody else, who is willing to pay the interest the bank asks for. So at any time there is only a tiny portion in the bank of the money people have put into it. If there is a run on the bank, it cannot pay all the owners of current accounts their money, even if it is in perfect order. That is the basic reason why we need central banks, banks that lend to other banks, when for some reason or other their own money does not suffice.


(b) The second one seems to me to be the fact that banks have become so important for the everyday life of ordinary members of the public that no government can leave the bank system alone. The smooth running of the banking system has become a matter of security for the public and government is responsible for public security. If government is found wanting in public security this can easily lead to public unrest. This fact, that is, the centrality of the banking system in the life of the members of the modern public is usually overlooked when examining the financial crisis and its importance. 


This book explores what would happen if Ireland defaulted, did not pay any of its debts, only paid some, or paid most of them but not all. It seems to be the case that it will in all probability be impossible for the Irish state to pay all of its debt, because the Irish state decided to underwrite all of the debts of its banking system when it was grinding to a halt. This has had the consequence that public debt in Ireland is so large that it prevents the growth of the economy. Also, since Ireland decided to take up the Euro, it does not have the option of devaluing its own currency. So all roads to renewed profitability are paved with serious difficulties. This does not mean that it is impossible, but it will take a long time. The default of a sovereign state is not the same as the bankruptcy of a large business. It is much more complicated and serious, especially for the citizens of that state. All this is examined in this book.


The book is in four parts. The first part is general, where the authors explore research done on crises and contagion and there is a description of the problems facing Ireland and the possibilities the state has in its public finances. The second part consists of four essays on various aspects of the Irish financial crisis. It will probably have to restructure its debt and this will have to be selectively done; the public debt is analysed and it is discussed if the Irish state will be able to finance its public debt on the market when it returns there or whether the interest rate that the market requires will be unsustainable. One essay explores how Ireland´s problems are connected to the problems of the Euro. The third part collects five reflections on financial crises in other countries: Russia, Iceland, Argentina and New York. The fourth part is a collection of essays from various Irish perspectives on the debt and possible default of the Irish state.


This is an important book that deserves to be widely read. Every essay adds something to the panorama and at the end the reader is in a better position to evaluate the possibilities. The viewpoints are clearly expressed and well argued and even though acronyms are to be expected in this field of research they are kept to a minimum and should not prevent understanding of the issues. The arguments expressed here have relevance for many states in Europe at present.





Maurice Hamington and Maureen Sander-Staudt (eds.) Applying Care Ethics to Business (Dordrecht: Springer, 2011)

In her discussion she emphasised that women saw morality differently, were more occupied with their own situation, their relations to actual people around them, and how scholars and scientists should treat actual people in actual situations rather than just general rules for ethical reactions to events, persons, attitudes. This type of morality she called an ethic of care. In these thirty years since the publication of her book, care ethics have developed as a distinct view in ethics and might now even be counted as a major theory. Various authors have contributed to this development and if I should only name two, I think that Nel Noddings and Michael Slote should be mentioned.

Care ethics defines itself by starting with the fact that human beings are relational creatures meaning that they cannot develop and mature as human beings unless their relations to other human beings are normal. It is a moral fact of major importance that human beings are dependent beings and it is by and through their relations with other humans that they achieve moral maturity. Their moral sense develops as well by understanding the role of value of these relations and they become morally salient for it. This is not true just about female moral agents, but also about male moral agents.

It should come as no surprise that the central concept of this type of ethics, care, has already received various interpretations, and that the distinction between caring for and caring about has been clarified. It is fairly natural to expect that care ethics applies to intimate private life and it is easy to see how it can be broadened out to other areas, such as the health care system and education. Nodding has applied the care ethics to education convincingly and received support and wide following.

I admit that I have not been an enthusiastic supporter of this new trend in ethics. Care ethics seems naturally to flow into moral particularism, the idea that there are no general moral facts and hence no moral principles or moral laws; all we have is our moral sense, our ability to pick up moral characteristics in particular, embodied situations, and as our moral experience grows our moral sense becomes more skilled in discerning the moral characteristics. This seems to me to be implied by much of what is said about care ethics in this collection of essays. I do not want to doubt or argue for the merits of moral particularism, but if you want to believe it you must be prepared to argue for it, give good reasons for believing it. Much of what is said in these essays about other theories in ethics, such as consequentialism or deontology, is stereotyped with limited analysis and no feeling for the strengths of these theories. Sometimes it is as if it were an obvious truth that one should do away with general truths in ethics and limit oneself only to situational analyses and accept that there is no way to generalise about two situations where there are two different agents. But the fact that there are two agents in the same situation does not rule out the possibility that a general principle applies to both. It is also true to say that depriving you of all general principles makes it difficult if not impossible to decide in cases where limited goods have to be distributed among different agents. So there are serious questions to be asked about care ethics as it is laid out in these pages.

This does not preclude that there are many interesting analyses achieved here and a number of serious points about ethics in business. Applying care ethics in business is not the obvious choice from various ethical theories, it appears as a “Virginia Slim” ethic for women in business, as one of the authors puts it, not very promising and even a downright non-starter. But the authors succeed in arguing for a place for care ethics in thinking about ethics in business. It really is a serious contender for our attention in analysing and thinking about morality in the marketplace and its corporate agents. I think it is rightly pointed out that many influential theorists and politicians have believed that business and markets were somehow amoral, not constrained by the normal moral rules that we have to take into account in our everyday lives. But this is false. If anything should stare us in our face from the international tumult and collapse in global markets in 2008 and 2009, it is that markets and the corporate agents must act morally if markets are to be viable in the long run. This does not mean that it will be easy to affect this change in the players on the market because many of the largest ones, even though they had to accept large sums from public purses, still believe that they should go on as if nothing had happened.

The book is divided into four parts. The first part is called justice, distribution and economics and the papers address issues such as an overview of care ethic for organizations, an analysis of markets in terms of care ethics, a look at Adam Smith´s theory of the economy in terms of care ethic and an argument based on the care ethic for rejecting the free market. The second part is named corporate decision making and there are articles about stakeholder theory, the role of care ethics in corporate decision making and unintended consequences. The third part is about case studies and the authors discuss the enforcement of immigration in the workplace and care ethics, the possible role of care ethics in corporate competition and the exploitation of the homeless in TV series. The fourth and last part is about corporate culture and how the care ethic can contribute to the quality of that culture.

In many ways this is an interesting collection of articles, if for no other reason than that care ethic and business seem an unlikely match a priori. But the care ethic proves to be surprisingly resilient in the world of money, manhood and profits.

Garrett Barden and Tim Murphy. Law and Justice in Community (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)

The authors state at the beginning that they reject the idea that humans somehow are independent of each other and at some stage consent to becoming members of society; this is usually presented either as an actual historical fact or a conditional requirement on any public decision or as an idea of reason in Kant. The authors think of human beings as naturally social meaning that living in society comes naturally to humans and it is misleading or downright false to think that the primary fact about them is that they are separate individuals that at some stage decide to form a society. Society is part of human life from time immemorial and from the time that any human being is born she is a part of society; she would not stand a chance if she did not have a family to nurture her until she could provide for herself. A family is a social institution. From an evolutionary point of view many developed animals form groups where patterns of behaviour emerge from which human society may have developed. The point is that the question how or when human society was invented does not arise; human society was not invented, it is a basic, internal fact about human life.

One thing the authors discuss is the story behind Grágás (grey goose), the first written Icelandic law book. In 1117 the Icelandic parliament, Alþingi, decided that the law should be written down and published. Alþingi had been established in 930 and for nearly two centuries the laws were recited there during the weeks in late June when the parliament was sitting. It took three years to recite the laws in full so one third was recited every year; they were not all recited annually as it says on p. 1 in the book. Now the question is what is going on from the point of view of the law in this process from the settlement of Iceland in late ninth century AD, in 930 when the parliament was established, and the law recited until it was written down in the winter of 1117-1118? How should we account for this development of the law? The authors´ idea is that in any society there is something that might be called a living law which is not judge made law, positive law, in a sense state law, but the living law is the judgements and choices that people in any society make and become gradually accepted and approved in that society when they recur time and again. This process of gradually creating the living law is not formal in any sense, there is no formal debate or decree that establishes this law but it creates habits, practices, customs and mutual expectations that establish the jural relationships in that community. There is no sharp distinction between a legal realm and a moral realm. It is part of what the authors call “the communal law” or “the communal moral law” p. 3-4). So the living law is a moral tradition. Any moral tradition is such that some parts of it are implicit, others are explicit, and it is not possible to codify fully a moral tradition; there is no way that it is possible to write down all the moral rules and practices that make up a moral tradition. Historically the living law of any community is not written down, but it is a defining feature of the community and establishes entitlements which evolve through the interactions of people living together dealing with the jural demands that this imposes on them. Some of the entitlements may be written down when the communal sense of justice provides a basis for formulated law. Written laws can be either natural or conventional but according to these authors they are not understood as new laws imposed on the community, but are parts of the living law that emerges within the developing communal moral context. So the account to be given of Icelandic law until it was written down in 1117-18 is that at first it grew out of the concerns that the new environment in Iceland created, the judgements and choices of the inhabitants about their own lives and how they resolved their disputes, establishing mutual expectations, a sense of justice and jural relationships and social institutions like Alþingi. Ultimately this leads to the writing down of the law, but it does not mean that being written down created in any sense new laws, rather it was part of the living law of the community and had developed out of it.

This is a very interesting view of the origin of Grágás. I guess there may be differing opinions about how it squares with all the historical accounts that have been preserved about the development of Icelandic law until it was written down. But it is persuasive. This theory of the development of law is intended by the authors as a general account of how law develops and how various parts of the living law are related, so it should apply to any system of laws we care to examine at least in the European tradition. Their theory is also descriptive, it aims to explain law as a social phenomenon in terms of its function in human affairs. They avoid all normative assumptions in their theory. The third important feature of the theory argued for and applied in this book is a number of distinctions that are used throughout the book between the natural and the conventional, the internal and the external, the intrinsic and the extrinsic. I am not sure that the authors would be willing to call this a theory, but rather a method they use to figure out what is just.

The authors discuss many of the most important topics in modern jurisprudence such as justice, natural and conventional, ownership, law, force of law, natural law, justice and the trading order, to name some of them. There is no way in a short review to give the flavour of the analysis of these different issues but I want to mention one: justice and the trading order. This area is of great importance to modern societies and has been extensively analysed and theorised in various academic disciplines. One obvious question is whether there is anything to be gained from analysing the trading order from the Aristotelian perspective of the authors. The answer is yes; there is surprisingly much to be gained from doing so. The trading order is where reciprocal justice is the proper justice. The authors start by suggesting that “in the trading order free exchanges are reciprocally just.” (p. 91). They make another plausible assumption that it is only in the context of exchange and the trading order that reciprocal justice exists. The trading order exists only as a part of a wider, more complex social order and is constantly influenced by this wider order. Hence, there is no trading order governed only by reciprocal justice. The authors contend that if a trading order has developed one must first understand how it works to figure out what legislation is necessary. They also argue that it is a difficult question of fact whether the trading order can be centrally managed. It is the considered opinion of the authors that a trading order cannot be centrally managed. They are careful to point out that it does not follow from this that the trading order cannot cause all sorts of social problems that must be dealt with and that there are those who cannot sustain their lives by trading. The idea is that these are not problems of the trading order but must be dealt with by other means. The central idea of the trading order is that the two or more persons who want to trade must always be free not to for the exchange to be just. Any legislation and management, central or otherwise, of the trading order must respect this fact. It seems that any central management aiming to control correct the result of the innumerable exchanges of the trading order becomes problematic given these assumptions.

In modern political philosophy normative issues are contentious and important. Aristotelian political philosophy has not shied away from normative assumptions and issues. It is very informative to see the Aristotelian way of analysing political and jurisprudential problems working from different premises than is ordinarily done. This book is both radical and traditional and it is splendidly argued. It deserves to be widely read and to be influential.