The Principle of Duty is an important book. In the preface to the 1997 edition (the edition being reissued by Faber Finds) David Selbourne states his aim to be, 'to address the oldest traditions and propositions of political philosophy as well as the most modern of our anxieties, so that, by means of a restatement of civic principles rooted in the Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman worlds, we might begin to rediscover the conditions for living together in our tormented age.' In short, The Principle of Duty argues that limits must be set to selfish individual entitlement if a free social order is to be preserved. Amplified a little in David Selbourne's own words, ' a leading theme in my book ...is that, just as the citizen owes obligations to himself or herself, to his or her fellows, and to the civic order to which he or she belongs, so the civic order owes obligations, political, economic, social, educational and cultural in the widest sense, to the citizen.'
A careful reading of that makes it clear this book politically is neither to the left or to the right, indeed, to quote David Selbourne again, 'my civic objections to market-driven notions (especially those which lead to the dispersal of public goods by ''privatisation'') provoked much of the ''right'', while my invocation of civic duty alienated some on the ''left''.' More positively, however, it was widely praised across the political gamut.
Publisher: Faber & Faber