The Modern Democratic State

The Modern Democratic State

The Modern Democratic State

The Modern Democratic State

Excerpt

What sort of inquiry is political theory? Is it part of history or a branch of philosophy? Is it, or ought it to be, a science in the ordinary sense of that term?

The title I have chosen for this book asserts that there is a theory of the modern state and implies that there is another theory of the medieval state, and so on. This implies an assumption about political theory which differs from the assumption implied in such titles as 'Political Theory' or 'The Philosophical Theory of the State', and such an assumption needs some preliminary justification.

The Status of the Social Sciences

But there is another consideration which makes this preliminary chapter necessary, and especially necessary at the present time. There is great difference of opinion nowadays about the status of political theory. That difference of opinion is partly due to a difference of opinion on a wider subject -- the status of all the social sciences. Ever since, in the seventeenth century, the applied mathematical sciences began to get that prestige which has gone on increasing steadily ever since, there have been those who have looked on physics as the model of all scientific inquiry. It is unfortunate that there is in English no word corresponding to the German Wissenschaft, which can be used for any systematic discipline; no phrase like Geisteswissenschaften which invites the inquiry whether such disciplines have not their own methods. In English 'science' and 'scientific' have come to mean 'the natural sciences' and their method. In consequence it is often assumed that the social sciences ought to be as like physics as possible, and that most political theory is based on an antiquated and hopeless method. There have been various attempts to construct a 'scientific' theory of the state. Hobbes tried it, Bentham tried . . .

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