Political Science History Essay

There are different approaches in the political science literature to the study of the history of political doctrines. However, most authors present the history of political thought in chronological (temporal) terms, based on the usual periodization of history: the ancient world, the Middle Ages, new and modern times. In any approach, attention is drawn to the close connection of the political teachings of the past with the present. Knowledge of the past helps to better understand the present. It is no accident today, as early as in the 21st century, we continue to analyze texts of eminent thinkers of the past and even debate them. For example, in his book Open Society and Its Enemies, the eminent Austrian philosopher Karl Popper (1902-1994) argues with Plato about his “political agenda.” K. Popper notes that when he turns to the past, the problem he analyzes becomes the problem of the present.

Political thought goes back into history. It is associated with the fate of the ancient peoples of Egypt, Babylon, China, Greece, Persia, Rome, has been around for many centuries and has many distinctive features in different countries.

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All political theories reflect the real political relations of society. Therefore, political theories could emerge only with the formation of political life of society and the emergence of the state.

Political thought in its history goes through several stages.

Political ideas of the Ancient World

Historically, the first form of knowledge of politics was its religious and mythological interpretation. In the II-I millennia BC. The idea of ​​the divine origin of power and socio-political order prevailed. Different versions of the myth reflected possible options for the ordering and regulation of relevant social relations.

But already in the VIII-VI centuries. BC. There was a tendency to move from a religious-mythological to a more rational, “earthly” view of the world in general, of the state, the government, the law – in particular. Subsequently, this tendency came to fruition and took shape in the teachings of the Buddha in India, the Jewish prophets Jeremiah, Isaiah, and others in Palestine, the sages of the Sophists and philosophers in Greece, and the lawyers in Rome.

Over time, political views have a certain philosophical and ethical orientation. In Ancient China, the fundamental role in the history of political and ethical thought was played by the teachings of Confucius (551-479 BC), Confucianism, which became a kind of equivalent to religion. Confucius’s main work is Lunyu (Conversations and Judgments). Recognizing the divine and natural aspects of the origin of power, Confucius saw his main interest in arranging the lives of people, securing a wise and just order in the state. This order involves five types of relationships: the owner and subordinates, husband and wife, father and son, older and younger brothers, friends. The first four should have orders on the one hand, and complete subordination on the other. It is necessary to rule fairly and with inspiration, to obey – truthfully and sincerely. In friendship, the guiding principle should be mutual charity.

The main categories of Confucianism are the notions of “noble husband” (husband), “philanthropy” and “rules of ritual”. The noble men, headed by the ruler – the “son of the sky”, must rule the state, and the nobility of Confucius defines not the origin but the moral qualities and knowledge of the people.

The basis of Confucius’s political doctrine is the principle of virtue, humanity. When asked what humanity is, he replied: “Keep yourself respectful at home, respect your business, and treat others honestly.” The highest purpose of his code of ethics was to establish a just socio-political structure in society and the state. The social order of Confucius saw that everything was in place in society and everyone knew their rights and responsibilities. “The ruler must be the ruler, the servant the servant, the father the father, the son the son.”

In general, Confucius’ political ideas are aimed at achieving an internal link between the upper and lower classes of society and stabilizing governance. The regulation of political relations by virtue of virtue in the doctrine of Confucius sharply opposes the rule of law.

The Confucianists criticized the legists (supporters) – supporters of the direction of Chinese political thought IV. BC. The founder of Legism, Shang Yang (390-336 BC), believed that the calls for charity in Confucian style were chatter and that Confucians were parasites sitting on the neck of the people. Legislators have developed their own doctrine of the technique of exercising power, based on a rigid system of administrative orders. Legislators’ views of strict laws as the main means of government are linked to their understanding of the relationship between power and the masses: these relationships are irreconcilable on a “anyone” basis. “When a nation is stronger than its government, the state is weak; when the power is stronger than its people, the army is mighty. ” Only violent methods, according to the legists, can lead and maintain order in society.

While holding the post of Prime Minister (Qin Kingdom), Shan Yang has implemented a number of draconian reforms that have helped strengthen one-man power and military power. The purpose of the government, he believed, was to strengthen the power of the ruler and to carry out conquest campaigns against neighboring states, to seize their lands. People, however, are nothing more than a mere means to that end. If Confucianism regarded the state as a large family in which the ruler was a caring father, then the Legist people were a material from which to mold anything. Shang Yang advises the ruler to treat the subjects as the potter handles the clay; the people must be under constant control, under the fear of severe punishment, to do all that is dictated by the state.

In addition to Shang Yan, the views of the Legist were shared and developed by many prominent law school representatives. All of them, in various variations, argued for the need for strict laws as a means of governance. Thus, until the II. BC. The official state ideology in China combined both Confucianism and legalism. However, the advantage of Confucianism remained until the Sinhala Revolution of 1911-1913.

Of the numerous thinkers of Ancient Greece, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle occupy a special place in the development of political thought.
Socrates (469-399 BC) is an outstanding thinker who has left a deep mark on the development of political and legal thought. His two leading ideas are of particular importance. First, it is the principle of law: Socrates, in his attitude to the law, was a fundamental advocate of law. He identified legitimacy and justice and believed that virtue and justice should prevail in society, not power and coercion. The principle of legality Socrates used as the most important criterion for the classification and characteristics of forms of government and government. Yes, he called well-governed states with good laws Sparta and Crete, aristocratic moderate-oligarchic states – Thebes and Megara. Athena was treated negatively by the “extreme” democracy of Athens, which was steeped in self-interest and incompetent democratic government. Socrates called power based on the will of the people and state laws; power against the will of the people, which relies not on laws but on the arbitrariness of the ruler – by tyranny, to which he treated sharply negatively, as a regime of lawlessness, arbitrariness and violence.

Second, the principle of the supremacy of knowledge and intelligence in government; should know the right. This statement, which reflects Socrates’ ideal perceptions of the reasonably just foundations of the state, applies to all political forms: or deception – but those who can rule. ” The problem of political good is the problem of rational ordering of people’s behavior. According to Socrates, in order to achieve the perfection of social and political relations, it is necessary to rule the mind over the arbitrary will. That is, in the state should rule good people who know their business.

Plato (427-347 BC) is one of the foremost thinkers not only of antique, but of the whole history of philosophy and political doctrine. Plato’s political views are set out in the dialogues “State”, “Politics” and “Laws”. Plato is a student of Socrates, for eight years he followed Socrates literally on his heels and wrote down everything he heard from his teacher. After Socrates’ death, Plato traveled for 12 years, and on his return to Athens founded his own school, which was called the Academy, and lasted for almost a thousand years.

As an idealist philosopher, Plato devised ideal variants of the social system, in particular, the project of an ideal state. Plato believed that the ideal state should be in line with the nature of man, which contains three components: the intelligent, the fierce and the wanting. In an ideal state, the intelligent part corresponds to the layers of rulers, the fierce – the strata of warriors who desire – the strata of peasants and artisans. Each stratum is occupied with its own cause: rulers (philosophers and people of science) rule the state, its warriors protect it, peasants and artisans produce material goods.

In order to protect the rulers of the philosophers from all the low passions associated with owning a property, Plato insisted on their elimination for them, and also advocated the abolition of the rulers of an individual marriage and a monogamous family. Strict restrictions were also offered to the warriors – they should not have their own homes, land, they were not supposed to have a family institution, a community of wives was introduced, the offspring were brought up for education in the state.

There should be no change in an ideal state, because everything is arranged in the best way. The interests of the individual, the minority, the “part” should be subordinated to the interests of the majority and the “whole”. Man for the state, not the state for man is the credo of Plato’s political philosophy.
Outstanding scientists of the XX century. And Toynbee and K. Popper regarded the ideal state of Plato as a reactionary utopia of the totalitarian direction, because such a state envisaged total control of the state over man in all spheres of his life, including personal life. It was for the priority of the state to the detriment of the happiness of the individual that he criticized Plato and his disciple Aristotle, who owns a phrase that later became commonly known: “Plato is my friend, but the truth is more expensive.”

Plato created not only the doctrine of an ideal state, but also characterized other forms of government. He considered such political forms as timocracy, oligarchy and democracy imperfect. Timocracy – the power of powerful warriors – will always be inclined to fight, because war is a means of enriching individuals, and the passion for enrichment leads to public positions of the rich. Yes, timocracy can grow into an oligarchy. The oligarchy – the power of the rich few – eliminates the rule of the poor, splits society into two states – the rich and the poor, who will be in constant enmity. Winning poor people means moving to a democratic state system. According to Plato, democracy is the power of the people, a system that does not have proper governance; it is the power of the masses, the intersectionality that leads to the destruction of morality, the reign of arrogance, arbitrariness and shamelessness. In a democracy, many issues are resolved by lot, discussed in forums. And at the People’s Assembly everything is decided by a loud crowd controlled by smart demagogues, so democracy is not the power of the people, but the power of those under whose influence the people are. Democracy, therefore, is short-lived, and soon the crowd yields to the power of a one-man tyrant, and out of extreme freedom, Plato said, most cruel slavery arises. People get tired of the lack of order – a tyrant appears who tidies up but is deprived of his liberty.

In the Politics dialog, Plato highlights a number of political and legal issues. Yes, politics is a royal art that needs knowledge and ability to lead people. In the presence of the rulers of these abilities it is no longer important whether they rule according to laws or without them. In other countries where there are no true rulers, governance must be governed by laws written by knowledgeable people. Thus, the role of law in Plato’s scheme is ancillary.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) is the author of more than twenty political and philosophical works, the main of which is Politics. Aristotle’s creativity is regarded as the highest achievement of ancient political thought – he laid the foundations of political theory. Like Plato, Aristotle noted that every individual is characterized by unbridled passions and aspirations. However, if Plato believed that these passions could be overcome only by force, then Aristotle called for this to be achieved by the domination of reason over low instincts and through politics, the state. The state, Aristotle said, arises from the need for people to communicate, to help one another, to meet their common needs.

Having an idea of ​​justice and injustice, good and evil, truth and falsehood, people can live in a state of communication. The main thing in the country is the power that unites it and does not allow it to be divided into separate families. In the state, as in the family, someone has to govern, and someone to obey. States are different forms of organization of power.

The main task of political science, Aristotle saw in finding the most perfect form of government. After analyzing 158 known state structures, Aristotle developed a typology of forms of state system. Three criteria are the basis of typology:

  • quantitative – number of ruling persons (one, several, majority); Aristotle did not consider this criterion to be of prime importance, since any number of rulers could rule poorly;
  • qualitative – what goals are pursued, in whose interests the power is exercised: in the interests of all citizens of the state (in the general interest) or in the interests of the rulers (in the private interest);
  • property – rule rich or poor; the same goes with the quantitative criterion: the rule of the minority (rich) or majority (poor), so it does not play an independent role in the typology of the state system.

By these criteria, Aristotle divided all forms of government into “right” and “wrong.” Aristotle referred to the “right” forms: monarchy (rule of one, but for the common good), aristocracy (rule of the best people in the interests of all), politics (balanced rule of the majority selected for the common good). Aristotle considered polity the best form of the state, because it combines the principles of aristocracy (charity), oligarchy (wealth) and democracy (freedom). Politics is dominated by moderation, wealth is middle class, and power is middle class. Aristotle considered “wrong” forms of government: tyranny (unlimited rule of one in self-interest), oligarchy (rule of the few rich for his own good), democracy (rule of the vast majority, exercised in his own interests).

According to Aristotle, political rule is the rule of law, not of people: rulers, even the best, are prone to feelings and affect, but the law is a “balanced mind.” Aristotle does not differentiate between state and society. In his doctrine, as well as in the doctrine of Plato, there are totalitarian tendencies: the person is part of the state, personal interests are strictly subordinated to the common public good.

Thus, the political thought of antiquity is characterized by the following features:

  • the search for an ideal model of the state capable of ensuring justice and order;
  • interpretation of politics as a form of civilized existence of people, which presupposes the unity of the state, society and the individual;
  • lack of clear delineation of philosophy, ethics and politics, which led to the moralizing nature of the work of political issues.
  • Political teachings of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

In the 5th-16th centuries, that is, in the Middle Ages, philosophical and ethical concepts of politics in Western Europe were supplanted by the religious (Christian) concept. The central problem of political scholars of this period is the question: what power should be given priority – spiritual (church) or secular (state). The ideologues of the church argued that the power of the rulers came from the church, and the church received its authority directly from Christ; hence, Christian sovereigns are obliged to obey the head of the Christian church.

One of the founders of Christian political theory was Thomas Aquinas (Aquinas) (1225-1274). Aquinas argued that power is a divine law, it must bring good, good and good to people. However, the forms and means of attaining power, organizing it and exercising it may be unjust, contrary to the ideas of God. To the extent that the actions of the authorities depart from the will of God, they are so contrary to the interests of the church, so subjected are entitled to resist these actions.

An important point for lawyers is the development of Aquinas’ social theory of law. The main thesis in this theory is the eternity of the law as the embodiment of universal norms, the general principles of the divine mind that governs the universe. Eternal law exists in God, identical with it and exists in itself. All other laws are derived from eternal law and are associated with specific subordination relationships. Among these laws Aquinas refers to the natural law, which is a reflection of the eternal law in the human mind, in the mind of a thinking being. Since the fundamental principle of practical reason is good, then all that pertains to good, self-preservation, and the continuation of the human race is to the natural law. Specification of natural law is human law (positive law), the main purpose of which is power, the fear of urging people to avoid evil and to reach virtue.

At the beginning of the XVI century. almost all of Europe has been influenced by the Reformation, a religious and political movement against the Catholic Church. Martin Luther (1483-1546) initiated the Lutheran (Protestant) religion. Luther clearly distinguishes between the sphere of the evangelical, that is, the actual religious, and the sphere of law which is within the competence of the state. The system of Lutheran political views is highly controversial. On the one hand, Luther called on the masses to free themselves from political and ideological oppression on the part of the church, to give the secular institutions and the secular state the power and authority of the religious. On the other hand, the Lutheran system, religiously reformist, was not politically legal. Luther opposed the popular understanding of the Reformation as a struggle for social justice and gospel equality.

One of the most prominent political thinkers of the Renaissance was Italian Nicolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), the founder of secular political science. His views are outlined in the writings of “The Lord” (“Emperor”), “Thoughts on the First Decade of Titus Libya”, “The Art of War”. Machiavelli denied the theological notion of politics and the state, put the person with her interests at the center of the world outlook, regarded politics as an autonomous sphere of human activity, which has its own laws that do not conform to the norms of Christian morality. “Politics,” Machiavelli noted, “is the totality of the means necessary to reach, retain, and exercise power. Politics are relations with the authorities, which are conditioned by circumstances and depend on the people or power of the ruler, as well as on certain situations. ”

Machiavelli believed that the ruler should ensure the inseparability of political power in the state, concentrating it in his hands. The ruler must act as a guardian of the people without worrying about ethical standards. Machiavelli wrote: “If a ruler wants to retain power, he must learn to retreat from good”; and for the sake of preserving the unity of the state – to go against his own words: “A prudent ruler must not keep his promises, if such performance is harmful to him,” “A ruler must master the skill of deception and deception … enough gullible people who will willingly allow themselves to be deceived. ”

Machiavelli’s political concept is based on the idea of ​​creating a strong nation-state free from tyranny and aliens. To achieve state power, all means and methods, including neglect of morality, according to Machiavelli, are justified. That is why Machiavellianism is sometimes called a policy based on a cult of power, a disregard for moral standards, and aimed at succeeding at any cost. At the same time, Machiavelli’s slogan “purpose justifies the means” was not absolutized.

The thinker distinguished three forms of state: one-rule, the rule of the few, the rule of the whole people, and stated the types of power – monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. He considered best “mixed power” that would embody the best features of any kind of government. Machiavelli advocated control and balance in the functioning of the state mechanism.

However, Machiavelli’s most distinguished merit as a prominent policy theorist is the formulation of the subject matter and method of political science. The subject of this science, he considered power in all its manifestations, and the method – the direct observation of the facts: the behavior of leaders and the masses, their interaction. His works also provide a full list of methods used in modern political science: sociological, psychological, anthropological, etc. The name Machiavelli is associated with the completion of politics as an independent sphere of human activity.
Political teachings of modern times

One of the first theorists of the policy of early modern times is rightly considered the French thinker and jurist Jean Bodin (1530-1596). In his book Six Books on the Republic, he was the first to define sovereignty as the most important feature of the state – sovereignty of state power means a supreme, unlimited, indivisible power, independent of either the Pope, the Empire, or the class struggle. Boden, like Machiavelli, clearly separated politics from religion and morality. As an ideologue of French absolutism, he considered the main features of absolute power to be his infinity and indivisibility.

Long before Montesquieu, Boden drew attention to the influence of the environment on the way of life, temperament, psychological characteristics of people and forms of their coexistence, outlining their own geopolitical theory in the book “The Method of Easy Study of History.” Boden noted that the habit of contemplation was characteristic of the inhabitants of the south, which allowed them to discover the mysteries of nature, to establish the principles of mathematics, to grasp the essence of religion and celestial bodies. Middle-class residents come from laws, customs, administrative law, trade, eloquence and politics. The inhabitants of the north originated mechanics, guns, melting metals, printing. Inhabitants of the south are shady, more often resort to the fear of God, the inhabitants of the north appreciate physical strength, are prone to extortion, and middle-class people are guided by laws and justice.

Thomas Hobbs (1588-1679) – an English thinker who in his work “Leviathan, or Matter, Form and Authority of the Church and Civil State”, proclaimed the concept of social contract as the basis of power and social order. He regarded Hobbs as a community of people, an organization similar to the monster Leviathan; its link is the individual, the main motive behind the actions of which is selfishness, a creature greedy, timid and ambitious. As a result, the fatal inevitability of a “war of all against all” arises. However, the fear of death and the instinct of self-preservation dominate other passions. The threat of mutual annihilation drives people under the influence of the natural mind (that is, according to natural laws) to seek peace, to renounce natural law, that is, the right of all to all, to differentiate between rights and obligations, to conclude a social agreement on the formation of the state. People obey the monarch, voluntarily restricting their freedom in exchange for a law that guarantees them their own security. According to Hobbs, the absolute power of the state – the guarantor of peace and the implementation of natural laws, among which he particularly emphasized the requirement of equality before the law and the protection of private property.

John Locke (1632-1704) – English thinker, outlined his political views in the work “Two Treatises on Public Administration”. Locke is considered the founder of liberalism, he was the first to clearly divide the concept of “personality-society-state” and put personality above all else. From nature, in the natural state, all people are born free and equal in the right to life, liberty, property as a means of achieving freedom. A state founded by a social contract is bound to protect people’s lives, liberty and private property. However, unlike Hobbes, who has completely renounced natural rights in favor of the state, Locke’s triad of rights to life, liberty, and private property is inalienable from man. The state is subordinate to society, and society is to the individual.

An important place in Locke’s concept is the idea of ​​separation of powers from the state. In the opinion of Locke, the sovereign, that is, the bearer of the supreme power, is the people who have the right to transfer this power to the legislature. If the latter acts contrary to popular will, it must be replaced. That is, the people have the right to make a revolution that will establish a new power but does not liquidate the state. The activities of the state should be limited to the function of the justice, and in other spheres of human life it should not interfere.

Locke’s merit is also the promotion of the concept of the separation of state power into legislative, executive (which also performs judicial functions) and federal, which is in charge of interstate relations. In his opinion, this should prevent the oppressive use of power.

Charles Louis Montesquieu (1689-1755) is a prominent French thinker, one of the founders of bourgeois liberalism. The merit of Montesquieu is the comprehensive development of the theory of separation of powers, as well as the development of the problem of factors that determine the “image of government” (“spirit of law”).

Following Locke, Montesquieu has identified three branches of power: legislative, executive and judicial, each of which must be exercised by specific government bodies, which are independent of each other in the performance of their functions. In addition, the separation of powers entails the granting of special powers to limit and restrain one another when “one power stops another”. Montesquieu was the most consistent embodiment of these principles in England, where the legislature is the parliament, the executive is the king, the judiciary is the jury. The triad of power considered by him became the classic formula of constitutionalism for both New and Modern times.

The state, according to Montesquieu, emerges when a state of war that arises in society cannot be stopped without violence. However, a prerequisite for the formation of a state is the consent of all people to become its citizens. A social contract, according to the concept of Montesquieu, is not an agreement, but a transfer of power to the rulers by the people; the people only delegate their power. He can change the form of government without the consent of the rulers, if the rulers abuse the power and rule the tyrannical.

Montesquieu reveals the regularities of social life through the notion of the general spirit of the laws (hence the title of his main work – “On the Spirit of the Laws”). The problems of the form of government are solved in close connection with the theory of factors of social development. Moral and physical factors in their totality directly influence the nature and principles of different forms of government. Montesquieu was of particular importance to geographical factors. Yes, in the hot south, in order to get people to work, one must maintain the fear of punishment, and since heat consumes power, weakens people’s courage – despotism is often found there. The general spirit of the laws is also influenced by the soil (fertile – promotes subordination, fruitless – promotes freedom, people brave and militant); the size and location of the country (large states are prone to despotism); landscape (mountains and islands contribute to freedom because they prevent conquerors from entering the country); population, etc.


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