What is Political Thought?
Political thought is the description of the political ideas of a host of political philosophers from beginning to end. It is the sum-total of ideas on matters relating to politics, state, and government as expressed by the thinkers. It is historical in nature because it is described as history. It analyses, examines, and evaluates issues of universal concern and perennial interest even though each political theorist responds to a particular political reality. The interest is necessary for a close link between the political process, institutions, events, and actors. Usually, political theory flourishes in times of crises which act as a stimulus though it is not necessary that all crises lead to political theorizing.
Political thought is the description, analysis, expression, and evaluation of the philosophies of the philosophers of a political tradition. It is a tradition in so far as it comes to us as a body of thought. It is the sum-total of what stays on and an accumulation of what is changed and what continues. It is what keeps responding to our circumstances. What becomes outdated is not part of the tradition.
Political thought attempts to identify values and norms, making them an inseparable part of a particular political trend. If we wish to identify its magic themes, Western political thought evolves and revolves around values such as liberty and libertarian, democracy and democratic tradition, equality and egalitarianism. Political thought, as it has existed and or exists in India, seeks to establish ethical/moral values in politics, spiritualism, cooperative living, and the like.
Political thought is primarily the study of the state. It studies society insofar as society influences the state as political and social life, though independent, are interdependent. Similarly, it focuses on economic institutions and processes insofar as it influences the political order and process. It also considers ethical questions, for ultimately, it is concerned with a just and good political order.
Political Thought is the intellectual foundation of Political Science. It is the sum or study of all the political ideas of Political Thinkers that have been developed over time. The ideas related to politics, state, and government as expressed by the thinkers in their writings. Political Thought has to learn, understand, explore, and inquire about politics. Thus, Political Thought discusses all the questions which challenge the then-existing political system. Hence, Political Thought represents the ideas of those particular thinkers and places from which period he belongs.
Western Political Thought – Origin
Political thought begins when there is an awareness of the possibility of attaining alternative political arrangements from the present. Ever since organized life began with the invention of agriculture, different forms of political organizations began. Predominantly this form was the monarchy, but the Ancient Greek Civilization was marked by a remarkable variety of political forms, reflected by Aristotle’s study of 158 constitutions and elaboration of the different typologies of political systems. For the prevalence of vast diversity and debate, western political thought begins with the Greeks and continues till the present.
Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome are generally considered the birthplace of Western Civilization. There were also differences in terms of Western over the period. In ancient times western was associated with Ancient Greece and Rome. In the medieval period, Christianity has grown its influence throughout Europe. So, Western Civilization is also strongly associated with Christianity and Europe. In the modern era, western culture has been heavily influenced by the renaissance, enlightenment, and Industrial and Scientific Revolutions in the 15th and 20th centuries. In the contemporary period, we relate the term western to all the first world (developed) countries where western civilization has already spread, like Europe, Australia, most American countries, and Canada. Thus, in western political thought, we study the ideas of political thinkers from these countries.
Classification of Political Thought
We broadly classify political thought into three categories;
- Classical Political Thought
- Medieval Political Thought
- Modern Political Thought
Classical Political Thought: In this classical tradition, we will find the writings of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. It was a time when Political Thought was emerging as Political Philosophy. Reason, Logic, Virtue, Knowledge, and Good are the ideas we found in these thinkers’ writings.
Medieval Political Thought: During this time, Christianity played a dominant role all over Europe. At the same time, Roman Empire also came into power, and to a specific extent, pop was influencing the court activity of the empire. Religion was associated with politics. Religion Church of Pop had a prime role in the affairs of the state. This period was also called the dark ages due to this prevailing situation. St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine were prominent thinkers of this period.
Modern Political Thought: Before the 15th century, political thought structure was reshaping. The Roman Empire constantly clashed with the Church or Pop due to increased corruption in the Church. This intense situation in Europe was followed by the Reform Movements and Renaissance to bring change. The emergence of thinkers like Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Mill, Hegel, and Marx from the 15th century onward has expressed the political ideal of Realism. Machiavelli presented a realistic view of society. There is no doubt he was considered the first modern political thinker.
Must Read – Difference between Political Thought and Political Philosophy
Five Features of the Political Thought
a) Exposition of ideas, values, and proposals for influencing policy, changing it, and revising it drastically for the total break and a new beginning. The entire classical tradition of western political thought provides a wide variety dealing with the above propositions.
b) Political Theory deals with political structure and institutions like the theories of the state, division of power, legal frameworks, various forms of representation, and links with other social sciences.
c) Political Philosophy in the normative quest for what should be rather than what is in an extensive macro framework.
d) Political thought is a crucial component of the discipline of political science, providing it with the basic concepts and tools with which other sub-areas of the discipline are intrinsically linked.
e) Comparative studies of different political theories originating and expanding with different civilizations like western political thought and Indian or Chinese political thought.
Political thought is a historical narrative, descriptive to a large extent. Though political thought is historical in its approach, it is also, at the same time, observational, empirical, operational, comparative, and scientific. Political theory deals with the concepts and ideas of a particular thinker. Its mode of inquiry is comparative and explanatory.
Relevance of Political Thought
- It express the political views and ideas of the particular time.
- It Provides the primary framework for Political Theories.
- It deals with the significant contradictions and Dimensions of the Political Process.
- It helps to understand the current problems of the political system.
Political thought may be understood as the description of the political ideas of a host of political philosophers from the ancient Greeks if we are trying to know what it is in the West. It is the sum-total of the ideas as matters relating to politics, state, and government as expressed by thinkers from time to time. It is the narration of the thought of the political theorists. As in the West, it is a history, a tradition, and a culture. It is not the entire political science because it refuses to reject its historical basis. It is essentially historical, logical, ideological, evaluation, and methodological.
Western political thought is rich in its contents. It has helped in stating the utility of political institutions and political procedures to be followed. It has given the traditional western values such as democracy, nationalism, liberty, justice, and above all, the two parallel pillars—idealism and realism, on which rest the major frameworks of political theory within which most theorists operate.
Western political theory is objective, illuminative, ethical, and educative. Wolin concludes, “… since the history of political philosophy is… an intellectual development wherein successive thinkers have added new dimensions to the analysis and understanding of politics, an enquiry into that development is not so much a venture into antiquarianism as a form of political educational development wherein successive thinkers have added new dimensions to the analysis and understanding of politics, an enquiry into that development is not so much a venture into antiquarianism as a form of political education.”