How does political theory evolve ?

At the very outset, we must understand as to how political theory emerges in any historical phase. For example, why did Plato advocate the idea of an Ideal State and the rule of the Philosopher-King? Why did he propound his Theory of Education? Why did Thomas Hobbes give his theory about the State of Nature and the Social Contract? Why did he favor the idea of an absolute sovereign? Similarly, one may ask the question as to why Marx criticized capitalism. Why did he plead for socialism and communism? Why did Gandhi condemn the Western industrial society and consumerism that it promoted?


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If we carefully consider all the questions, we will find that a political thinker does not write in a vacuum. He addresses himself to the basic concerns of his times. Every political theorist begins to fell agitated about certain maladies in the society in which he lives and wants to find out remedies for these maladies. Thus, Plato’s Ideal State in his response to the rotten state of Athens in which he lived. He came to the conclusion that all rulers in the Greek city states were corrupt and incompetent.

Therefore, he suggested the rule of the Philosopher king who would have reason dominant in him. He gave his theory of education to ensure that the future generations of Athens would have sound mind and sound body. Thomas Hobbes was worried at the violent and law-less conditions prevailing in sixteenth century England. He also saw the irrelevance of the theory of Divine Rights of Kings. Hence, he advocated the theory of social contract and favored the idea of an absolute sovereign who could defend people’s life, liberty and property.


Similarly, Karl Marx was full of anguish at the miserable conditions of the working class in nineteenth century Europe. This class was suffering intense exploitation under capitalism. Therefore, he urged this class to rise in revolt and overthrow the capitalist system. He believed that in the socialist society, this exploitation would come to an end. Likewise, Gandhi saw the de-humanizing impact of industrialization which, he thought, was also causing immense harm to physical nature. He also realized the ill-efforts of greed and consumerism that materialism promoted. Therefore, he advocated an humane political order based on truth and non-violence, a social order rooted in spiritualism and communitarianism and an economic order whose cardinal principles were bread-lab our and trusteeship.

The above illustrations make it clear that every political theorist addresses himself to certain key issues and problems that the society of his times is facing. In short, political theory in every epoch of history has been the response of the political thinker to the prevailing political and social conditions. In fact, one can go to the extent of saying that all major political theories have emerged in situations when societies were standing at the cross-roads of history and had to make hard-choices.

The era of globalization is undoubtedly a moment in history when societies have chosen (or have been forced to choose) a certain course for themselves whose consequences will be far-reaching. The question that must be considered and answered is: What will be the nature of political theory that will evolve in the era of globalization? How will political theorists respond to the phenomenon of globalization? What questions and concerns will be central to them? What impact will globalization have on state, society and the individual? What sort of local, national and international order (or disorder) will emerge as a consequence of liberalization, privatization and globalization?

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