The chapter introduces students to the theory of political science. The chapter also examines different aspects of the political nature of the country and human beings. We also highlight the different political theories given by the great philosophers and the relevance of the theories in modern times.
Political theory analyses the basic questions like; How a country must be organised, why do we need a government or what do we owe to each other as citizens.
What is Political Theory?
Political theory is concerned with the ideas and principles that systematically shape the constitution, governments, and social life. Certain values and principles, such as democracy, freedom, and equality, have inspired people and guided policies.
The origins of these values and words need to be understood rationally and political theory helps us in that respect. Political theory explains what freedom, equality, justice, democracy, secularism, and other concepts mean.
Why do we study Political Theory?
Different countries, such as America and India have tried to protect their fundamental values by enshrining them in their constitutions. The values such as equality, freedom, dignity, justice, peace etc have been influenced by the ideas of philosophers such as Kautilya, Aristotle, Jean Jacques Rousseau, John Locke, Karl Marx among other prominent ones.
Although Rousseau, Marx, and Gandhi were not politicians, their ideas influenced generations of politicians around the world. It thus becomes necessary that we have a sound understanding of these political terms.
Political theorists study the foundations of modern polity and also consider our current political experiences to identify trends and future possibilities.
Who influenced the values of the Indian constitution?
The constitution of India is based on ideas and principles that have been debated since the time of Kautilya. Political thinkers and activists such as MK Gandhi, B.R. Ambedkar has shaped the pillars of the Indian constitution.
Relevance of Political Theories in India
India is free and independent, but questions regarding freedom and equality have not ceased to crop up. We can broadly find the relevance of modern political thought in India as it concerns with the following:
Firstly, the issues concerning freedom, equality and democracy arise in many areas of social life and they are being implemented in different sectors at different phases. E.g: Equality may exist in the political sphere in the form of equal rights but it may not exist to the same extent in the social and economic spheres.
Secondly, though freedom is guaranteed in our Constitution, we encounter new interpretations all the time. E.g: The right to life has been interpreted by the courts to include the right to livelihood. The Right to information has been granted to a new law. The fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution have been amended and expanded over time through judicial interpretations and government policies which are designed to address new problems.
Thirdly, as our world changes, we may discover new dimensions of freedom as well as new threats to freedom. E.g: global communications technology is making it easier for activists to network with one another across the world for protecting tribal cultures or forests. But it also enables terrorists and criminals to network. As a result, questions are raised regarding how much freedom should be given to people using the net.
Putting Political Theory To Practice
The only aspect focused on the political theory is that which deals with the origins, meanings and significance of the political ideas that we are familiar with such as freedom, equality, citizenship, justice, development, nationalism and secularism. Various political theorists have provided diverse definitions of freedom or equality and you may find the distinct definition of equality or freedom or justice.
Political theorists clarify the meaning of political concepts by looking at how they are understood and used in ordinary language. They also debate and examine the diverse meanings and opinions in a systematic manner.
This is because terms like equality concern our relationships with other human beings rather than with things. Human beings, unlike things, have opinions on issues like equality.
Example: People often jump the queue in shops or doctor’s waiting rooms or government offices. Some people cannot have access to these shops and other goods and services because of monetary constraints.
Thus, our idea of equality is quite complex, also the reason behind the many definitions is because the meaning of equality is dependent on the context.
As in the case of equality and other subjects such as Freedom, Citizenship, Rights, Justice, Development, Equality, Nationalism and Secularism; the political theorists engage with everyday opinions, debate possible meanings and thrash out policy options.
Why should we study Political Theory?
Firstly, political theory is relevant for all the above target groups. As high school students, we may choose one of the above professions in the future and so indirectly it is relevant for us even now.
Secondly, we are all going to be citizens entitled to vote and decide other issues. To act responsibly, it is helpful to have a basic knowledge of the political ideas and institutions that shape the world we live in.
Thirdly, freedom, equality and secularism are not abstract issues in our lives. We daily encounter discrimination of various sorts in families, schools, colleges, shopping malls and so on. Political theory encourages us to examine our ideas and feelings about political things.
Finally, as students, we enjoy debates and elocution competitions. We have opinions about what is right or wrong, just or unjust but do not know whether they are reasonable or not.
Political theory exposes us to systematic thinking on justice or equality so that we can polish our opinions and argue in an informed manner and for the sake of common interests.