Unit-3 The Need For Political Theory

This Unit concerns itself with the need for political theory.

Discuss any two usages of political theory.

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Learning Pundits Content Team

Written on Apr 16, 2019 5:31:42 PM

Usually, courses in political theory offer a detailed and elaborate study of books or particular political philosophies, from Plato to contemporary times, from a historical perspective. These books are studied for their normative statements about the desirability of certain types of institutions, governments and laws, which are usually accompanied by rational arguments. The classics are portrayed as timeless in quality, permanent in relevance and universal in their significance. In the course of analysing texts from a historical perspective, it is important to see how a particular idea or concept has evolved in the course of time; and the different meanings and interpretations it has been subjected to. It is for this reason that Wolin rightly describes the history of political theory as marked by both continuity and innovation. The emergence of political science in the twentieth century has led some political scientists to look upon political theory as a mere theoretical branch of the discipline.

An attempt is made to integrate empirical observations with a systematic explanation of one’s everyday experiences in the world. This view dispenses with the normative content of traditional political theory. Though mere explanation adequate. Any attempt to formulate a political theory free of normative elements would inherently fail.

Political theory helps to understand the concepts and terms used in a political argument and analysis: like the meaning of freedom, equality, democracy, justice and rights. These terms are not only frequently used in daily conversation, but also in political theory discourse. An understanding of these terms is important for it helps one to know the way these terms have been employed, the shifts in their definition and their usage in a structure of argument. Many, like Weldon stress on the need to scrutinise concepts in ordinary pre-theoretical language. Analyses of concepts also reveal the ideological commitment of a speaker or/and writer. Liberals define freedom as implying choice, absence of restraints while socialists like freedom with equality. Aristotle’s remarks that the individual is a political animal indicates the primacy of politics and the fact that political thinking takes place at various levels and in a variety of ways. The political in such a view not only becomes all pervasive, but the highest kind of activity. Politics symbolises a collective public life wherein people create institutions that regulate their common life.

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