In this essay we will demonstrate that political science does not represent a single objective method of analyzing political issues. Rather, political science has existed from its inception as a debate between political philosophies as to how a political order should be constituted. It began as a debate between conservatives and liberals. More recently socialists have entered the academic arena to contest the principles of conservatism and liberalism and to offer a clear alternative.
Political science begins with Plato. Plato was an Athenian/Greek political philosopher who lived from 427-347 B.C. For political scientists, his major work is The Republic,1 wherein his ideas about the ideal state are discussed. Speaking through Socrates, Plato maintains that the only just political system is one ruled by a Philosopher-King, an individual who allows his reason to rule his passion. Because he is reasonable, a Philosopher-King will not act fanatically, savagely, or angrily, but in the best interest of the Republic. For Plato, the term justice means doing what one is best fitted to do. A reasonable person is the one best fitted to rule. A Philosopher-King, the most reasonable of men, is the person best qualified to run political affairs. The political structure of Plato's Republic is one ruled by elites--a small group of people who know best. This is precisely the political structure that present day conservatives believe in.
Aristotle, a student of Plato, was a political philosopher who lived from 384-322 B.C. Although he agreed that a republic ruled by elites was the ideal regime, Aristotle felt that in the real world this system was not attainable.2 The kind of person fitted to be a Philosopher-King is seldom born. Aristotle proposed an alternate political structure for the Greek city-state or polis. For Aristotle, the practicable regime was one that rested on the middle class, which he defined as neither the very rich nor the very poor. In his time the middle class consisted of farmers who owned their own land. It was in the interests of the middle class to have a moderate, orderly, regime that would serve the general population by protecting their property. The middle class "do not, like the poor, covet the goods of others. The best form of political society is one where power is vested in the middle class."3
conservative, liberal, and socialist politics -- a paradigm