Political Theorists in Context

Political Theorists in Context

Political Theorists in Context

Political Theorists in Context

Synopsis

Focusing on the historical context in which political theorists have developed their thinking, this textbook provides an invaluable introduction to students of political thought. The authors address a series of canonical major thinkers in the context of three world-changing epochs: the English, French and Industrial revolutions. The theorists' ideas are assessed with reference to the politics of their time and show how they responded to, or interacted with, the political events and issues of their day.

Excerpt

Any society's capacity to endure and develop over time is dependent on its possession of power; that is, its ability to make its constituent elements - human and non-human resources - behave in such a way as to establish an ordered design. However, in every society, power is disseminated disproportionately among different social subgroups, and these groups - each with its own interpretation of the best ethical, economic and cultural mode of living for their society - use their share to try to shape the direction of social development in any number of diverse and often contrary directions. As a consequence, the order of every society is shaped by the push and pull of its contesting elements, each developing its own ideas as to how things should be ordered and engaging in strategic action towards their desired outcome. This is the 'stuff' of political life.

While the need for survival and the common desire for peaceful and sociable existence often calms the struggle and aims it towards consensus, social co-existence is inherently combative and conflict-prone. The factors that play a significant part in whether a society falls into destructive internal conflict or endures peaceably with its internal differences are often circumstantial, unforeseen environmental changes, and novel technological advances can unhinge social arrangements and set groups against each other. These historically contingent factors ensure that the particulars facing any given society at any given time are always unique. Different historical periods throw up different types of problems for people to deal with. For example, the major issues faced by the Aztecs upon meeting with Don Cortez are not issues which the Mexicans of today have to deal with, while the major issues of current times, such as the problems attending the production and potential use of nuclear weaponry, would not be meaningful to people of earlier times. Yet, despite the historical relativity of much politics, sets of issues revolving around the possession and use of power arise again and again, shaped into various guises by the particulars

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