The Foundations of Political Theory

The Foundations of Political Theory

The Foundations of Political Theory

The Foundations of Political Theory

Excerpt

The student of politics asks why he should prefer one kind of political organization to another. He wants to know what a political organization should aim at, and by what criteria he is to judge its ends, its methods, and its achievements. He enquires, too, why he should obey, and if there are ever occasions when he should not. These are not 'improper questions', and they will continue to be asked. Political theory must produce guidance on how to deal with them, or perish. That is not to say that it must be able to provide a simple and clear answer, and only one answer, to every practical problem. But it is to say that political theory must show how we should go about their solution, what is the nature of an orderly proceeding in the matter, what considerations ought to be in our minds, what--in short--are its foundations.

This is, then, to deny the view that political science can only describe behaviour without attempting its systematic appraisal, or that the search for unifying concepts or basic principles for general guidance is mistaken and unprofitable. Yet that view is just what there is a growing tendency in recent years to adopt. Were it to become widespread political theory would destroy itself: it would lose its interest to the lay mind and much of its claim to educational usefulness. That it may not be alone in running this risk is suggested by some remarks of the Regius Professor of Modern History, who is reported as having said, in his recent inaugural lecture at Oxford, that classical scholars had killed the classics and that, unless we take heed, there is a danger that philosophers may kill philosophy, philologists literature, and historians history.

But what follows here is only an introductory essay. It is not an attempt at a comprehensive structure. I am concerned with suggesting why, as I think, guiding principles should be sought, and in what manner they should be sought, not with their application over the whole subject. With these wider developments, which belong more exclusively to political science and . . .

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