Western political thought

Western political thought


Q. Trace the evolution of Western political thought from ancient to contemporary period. (CSE 2020)

Analysis  and Demand of the question :

  1. The knowledge about the philosophy of prominent philosophers, since western political thought from ancient to contemporary time.

(Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Karl Marx, John Rawls)

  1. What are the philosophies/Theories of these philosophers ?
  2. How western political thought philosophies are changes one by one that give final conclusion.


Answer Model :

Introduction : A sort brief about what we are going to explain further in the body of the answer.

Body : Write the philosophy or ideology of the prominent scholars or philosophers One by one in details.

Conclusion : The centric idea of all the philosophy that we mentioned in the body.


Final Answer :

INTRODUCTION : The journey of western political thought from the ancient period to the contemporary period can be summarized as political thought which arose from idealism of Socrates and Plato, got transformed into realist thought with the coming of enlightenment by Machiavelli and utilitarianism by Bentham, and finally took a normative turn in the contemporary times with the rise of John Rawls. 


Plato the father of western political philosophy in ' his book ’Republic' gives his theory of state of which philosopher king is the lynchpin. As per Plato, ”Unless Philosophers are the rulers or rulers learn philosophy, there is not end to predicament of human life”. Apart from state, justice also formed a matter of debate in western political philosophy. For Plato, a just state is one in which every person performs their duty according to spiritual quality of their soul. Being an idealist, Plato argues that there is no difference between personal and political life.


Aristotle was another great thinker of western political thought and was greatest disciple and

critique of Plato. Unlike Plato he was a pragmatist, a conservative who believed in the philosophy of ’Golden Mean’. He also believed in the primacy of state and called man by nature a political animal. For Aristotle, state was the highest of all associations since it fulfilled all the needs a man which a family could not. For Aristotle, state comes into existence for the sake of life and continues for the sake of good life. It makes life of the man worth-living. Thus, through logical argument and teleological argument that it is destiny of human being to live in state, Aristotle tried to highlight the importance of state.

Machiavelli : Another very important thinker of western political thought who was standing at the gates of modernity was Machiavelli. In his book 'Prince', he gives prescription to ruler about statecraft. Machiavelli was the first thinker to argue for secularism i.e., separation of state and Church in politics. Thus, his philosophy marked a significant departure of western political thought from other system of thought as secularism was virtually unknown and couldn't even be imagined during those days. Machiavelli advised the prince to rule by iron hand and promote the supremacy of state laws over other laws. Machiavelli famously said, ”Covenants without swords are nothing but words”. Hence, he laid the foundation of sovereignty and absolute state the idea which was carried forward by Hobbes.


Hobbes was perhaps the foremost among all thinkers who recognized authority and power of state

in his book ’Leviathan’. Through resolutive composite methodology he first established that man is pleasure seeking and is averse to pain. Building on this he claimed human nature to be selfish, brutish, pleasure seeking and nasty. Later, through his social contract method where in the state of nature everyone agreed to give all their rights to the state except right to life, Hobbes gave his conception of state.


Later, Locke revised the idea of Hobbes and building on the idea that human nature is also

cooperative apart from being selfish Locke gave his conception of state. As per Locke, state was made

through social contract for the convenience of it being an arbiter in dispute, an institution of conflict

resolution. Locke argued that human formed state for the convenience of making laws which is accepted by everyone. Locke even argued that whenever state acts in arbitrary manner and confiscate the life and property of its subject in illegal manner people have right to overthrow the government. Thus, apart from right to life and liberty Locke also gave prominence to the right

to property of a human being.


Karl Marx : The idea of giving absolute power to state and claiming that state helps to preserve life and liberty of state was repudiated by Karl Marx another important landmark thinker in the western political philosophy. As per Marx, many of these previous thinkers were forwarding the interest of capitalist class by creating conducive conditions for capitalists to grow. For Marx, in every age there has been class contradictions and tussle between haves and have-nets. In the age of industrialization this contradiction is between bourgeoise capitalist class and proletariat working class. Hence, !

Marx prescribes communism, a classless and stateless . society for alleviating the contradiction of working class. The nature of capitalism itself changed after Marx I and particularly the Bolshevik Revolution. The idea I of welfare state gained prominence in the western I world after 2nd World War. But still the philosophy of utilitarianism by Bentham i.e., public policies are to : be designed in such a manner that it provides greatest ' happiness to greatest numbers was dominant.


John Rawls : It was in reaction to utilitarianism and side-lining of normative theory by positivist that John Rawls gave his theory of Justice. Rawls theory is another landmark for western political theory because apart from establishing the credibility of liberty and equality of opportunity over other idea, Rawls also gave difference principle which means public policy should be designed with idea of giving benefit to the worst off section of society. The underlying idea behind difference principle was

simple that a chain is as strong as its weakest link, therefore, those polices which give benefit to the most marginalized section of the society are best suited for social and national development.

CONCLUSION :  Thus, western political thought has travelled from idealism of Plato, to realism of Machiavelli to procedural rigorousness and emphasis on normative theory of Rawls.

Raj Singh

Hi There. I'm a professional Educator Cum Entrepreneur. Have done Technical as well as Professional Degree, Having Experience of 10 years as Educator and 8 Years of Entrepreneurship.

Comments Here