The Pure Theory of Politics

The Pure Theory of Politics

The Pure Theory of Politics

The Pure Theory of Politics


Every political situation is complex and original. The hasty mind, however, seizes upon some single feature because of which it assigns the given situation to a certain class of situations, previously formed, and in regard to which the mind has passed judgement once for all. Thus, for instance: 'The situation envisaged involves centralization; I am in general for (against) centralization: therefore my stand is as follows. . . .'

It seems inevitable that such work-saving procedure should be commonly resorted to: which implies a permanent demand for ideologies--taxonomic devices constituting wide classes and inspiring general judgements, allowing us in short to take a stand on problems we have not analysed.

The procedure outlined above gives no inkling as to the mode of appearance and the chances of development of a situation. Convenient as we may find it when we only want to assess, it is radically unsuitable if we wish to explain or foresee. We then need to investigate processes, and this cannot be a joint venture unless we use a common set of elementary concepts.

I gratefully remember the care taken by the teachers of my childhood to familiarize me with the simplest possible relations in each field, such as the attribute of the subject, the dependent variable, and so forth. The geometry master took me forward from the humble triangle; the chemistry master made sure that I grasped the combination H 0 before moving by degrees to the intricacies of the protein molecule; the law master began with Spondesne? . . .

The acquisition of such elementary notions was then, and surely is now, regarded as the indispensable first stage in any discipline.

We speak naturally of more or less 'advanced' study, implying that the most modest learner has travelled some way along the trunk road on which others have gone much further, and from which pioneering research branches out in various directions. This in turn implies that anyone who has been trained in a science holds the keys to any message conveyed by its leaders or researchers: he may find it very difficult to understand the message but there is no risk of his mistaking it, the notions are unambiguous--they have been chosen for that virtue.

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