Lec 1: General Outline and methods

Lec 1: General Outline and methods


Hello and welcome friends. I welcome you all to this course on Introduction
to Political Theory. Today, we are going to discuss the general
outline of introduction theory, its methods and approaches, and what are the key features
of political theory. We will have one more lecture on the introduction
to political theory. It is a part of the introduction to the course. Here, we are going to focus more about the
ideology and theory, the debate between the two and then, we will conclude the next lecture. Today in this lecture, we will discuss a general
outline of political theory, its method, approaches, key features and why do we need political
theory. We will discuss about these in this lecture. Now, as you know political theory is a discipline
immersed in a context, when there was a demand or a requirement to not just explain, or describe
what is happening but also, to move away from more philosophical or normative concerns. In political theory, we will come to this
point throughout this course, when we will discuss many concepts, ideas, terms which
are essentially, contested. That means, there are many interpretations
of such terms and concepts. So, when we will discuss those terms and concepts,
we will come again to this question of normative versus descriptive distinction in political
theory. One of the approaches in political theory
is not just to explain, but also, to provide the possible answer to some of the contemporary
challenges and predicaments of social and political life. So, in the realm of normative, philosophical
concerns on the one hand, but also, in the real political problem or challenges on the
other. In that sense, the understanding of political
theory is very essential and it develops to understand or explain the social reality,
and to provide tools to collectively, think or arrive at a solution which would be a way
forward from conflicting relationship or conflicting relation in the realm of politics. Let’s start with the introduction of it. Political theory as a discipline is an endeavor
to theorize, critique and also, to provide solutions to the normative, practical challenges
predicaments and organization of political action in the past and present that we inhabit. So, the task of political theory as a discipline
is to theorize. That means, to make sense of, to explain,
to interpret the social events or the social and political issues or challenges and not
just to provide the theory of it. But also, it enables us to critique some of
the social status or status quo and it provides alternatives which should be more just, desirable
so that we make our life more human. Besides, theorizing the social, political
event, the task of political theory is also, to provide critique. For example, we can think of Marxism or Feminism
as a critique to the existing status quo in the society or polity, to make it more egalitarian,
inclusive and just. Thus, the theory provide not just a kind of
theorization, interpretation or explanation, but also, a critique to the social, political
status quo and the alternative for a better future, an egalitarian and a just society. So, the inner or inherent tension in political
theory is the normative concern on the one hand, and the practical challenges and predicaments
on the other. Thus, in any society, whether it is in the
past or future, the political theorist tries to provide a kind of theory or explanation,
or critique to the normative as well as to the political challenges that is normative
would be like what ought to do? What should be done? And, what ought to be done? And, the practical real concern is about what
is the challenge? What is the actual reality? Political theorists tend to travel in both
these practical concerns on the one hand and the normative, moral, political judgments
on the other. It tries to provide the better solution for
such normative, practical challenges and predicaments. Now, political theory is also intimately,
connected with the matters related to the political. That is, the political in political theory
deals with the matter that is related to political. And, political in itself is very challenging,
complex and multi-layered phenomena. It transcends the limits of time and space. So, it cannot be just, when we talk about
political. We cannot reduce the political merely, to
the state or to its institutions, administration or constitution. The sphere of politics transcend different
space and time, and we are all in a way shaped by the political development or political
challenges, or political discourses, that is happening all around us. Whether we like it or not, political is something,
which we are all engaged consciously, or unconsciously. We all participate in it. There is no way, we can remain indifferent
to the issue of the political. So, in the words of one of the greatest political
theorists, Aristotle, that man is zoon politikan (Refer Time: 07:54). That means, man is by nature a political animal. Thus, the question of the political and the
matters related to the political is something, which theory deals with. We have to make a distinction between theory
and thought, and theory and philosophy. All these disciplines like political theory,
political thought, and political philosophy deals with political or with politics, but
their approaches, engagement with the political is different. Here, the political theory tries to as I was
saying in the beginning, not just help us in explaining or interpreting the political
event, or theorizing any event or any reality, but also, it provides the critique and possible
alternatives to make the world more just, egalitarian and so on and so forth. I will come to this question of political
again, when we will discuss political theory and political ideology as well as in the later
part of this lecture. But here, we need to understand the expansion
or the vastness of this term, and also, the complexities that is involved herewith. It cut across both the private life of the
individual and citizen and the public life of the nation and the state, and in both the
realms, especially, when we take the example of feminism, we understand the family too
as the realm of politics. Patriarchy, gender etc. How it is consolidated in the realm of family,
in the society and also reflected in the state and so on. Thus, the political in that sense, cut across
the boundary of private and public, national and international, state and institutions
on the one hand, and society, culture etc. on the other. Political theory as a discipline deals with
the issue of politics and that is why, political theory is a multiple, multi-layered engagement
with the issue of politics and it is very difficult and challenging to reduce it to
any one set of core ideas or beliefs or approaches and methods in political theory that we will
discuss. However, in terms of traditions, methods and
approaches it varies. As I was saying, that the subject of study
in political theory is matters, that is, related to politics which is itself a very dynamic,
complex and multi-layered phenomenon which cut across different spheres of our individual
and collective existence. Now, when political theory engaged with this
vast sphere of individual and collective life, it necessarily, requires and it is the characteristic
of political theory, that in terms of its tradition, method and approaches, it varies. But its major concerns are some of the followings
like the nature of state and politics in any society. So, it deals with the question of state, its
nature, secular state or a theocratic state, moral state. What are its features? That is a democratic state and so on and so
forth. The question of freedom, equality and justice
are some of the terms, we are going to discuss in this course and we will come to it in the
next lecture. I will give you the brief outline of this
course as well after discussing the relationship between theory and ideology. Some of the major concerns, despite of its
varieties of approaches, concerns and methods, traditions and political theories are nature
of a state, and politics in any society in the sense of freedom, equality and justice,
the idea of democracy, secularism and religious way of life, rights, obligation, and public
good etc. There can be as many subjects, as it is related
or those subjects are related to the question of or phenomenon or political. And a political is a bit complex, in-determinant
or dynamic phenomenon. And, as I was explaining that it cut across
various disciplines or various boundaries. Therefore, political theory deals with all
those subjects, that is, related to or connected to this phenomenon called the political. It is interdisciplinary in nature and there
is no one dominant or exclusive method of analysis in political theory. There is no one singular, dominant and exclusive
method, and approaches in political theory. So, you have a kind of inter-disciplinarity
in the very nature of political theory. It is both normative and explanatory in nature,
as I was saying, that it deals with the normative question of ought to and what we should be
doing, how we are ought to behave in our interpersonal relationships and also, in our relationship
with the state and its institutions. So, it deals with the normative concerns and
normative questions, and that is not exactly about how we are actually governing or behaving
in our interpersonal relationships, or in our relationship with the state. But, how we are ought to behave in our interpersonal
relationships or in our relationship with the state or society, or community. It is both normative and explanatory in nature. Political theory, although, accused of normative
thinking with little or no relevance to the practical lives of the individual and society,
it does engage with the practical challenges and provide tools, resources for not only
explaining the various predicaments and challenges of social and political life, but also, for
forming better judgments about the same. Now, let me explain this point, that is, there
is a criticism leveled against the political theorists or those who are engaged with political
theory. The criticism is that they are excessively,
obsessed with the normative concern which has very little or no relevance in the practical
life of individuals and society. So, why should we bother about what ought
to be done and what we should do. We are bothered about the practical problems. Here, we also need to recall, political science
is about the art of possible and it is a pragmatic science where we deal with the achievable
that is pragmatically, possible. Whereas in philosophy or in political theory,
especially, in its normative obsession, there was an era and a charge was leveled against
the political theorists, that they were excessively, obsessed with the normative concerns and questions
which had very little or no relevance in the actual, pragmatic, practical life of individuals
and society. So, why we should study political theory? But contrary to that I will argue on it, as
we proceed in this course. We will come to know that political theory
is not just about normative concern or a normative question. But, it also, deals with the pragmatic questions,
issues and it provides not just solutions to those pragmatic issues or pragmatic concerns,
but also, it enable us to develop sound judgment about some of the major contentious issues
in the politics and society. For example, whether there should be ban on
burkha or whether some temples should be open for the women. How can we make this society more just? Should we justify, affirmative action or reservation
to make the society more egalitarian? These are some of the contentious issues before
any society or a polity. Now, as an individual to develop our own judgements
on these issues, we not just require the contemporary, opinionated kind of understanding of these
issues, but to understand the larger and deeper, inherent, and normative concerns associated
with these issues. For example, whether the temple should be
open for the women or not cannot be explained, through the perspective given by ritualistic
or any kind of traditionalist argument, where they believe, it is the practice that women
should not enter the temple. But, if we believe that there should be gender
justice or women’s equality and empowerment, and women do have the right to and not just
a kind of charity, or we enabling or empowering them, but as an individual in a secular state
that recognizes individuals with certain fundamental rights, then women do have the right to enter
into the temple. So, through this example, I am trying to make
it clear that political theory enables us to not just make sense of the political challenges
and the political predicaments, but also, it develops a more sound judgement about the
contentious issues. Most of the issues related to political are
always by nature contentious. And, they are to avoid normative concerns
and normative issues. They are simply not a desirable way to make
society more egalitarian, equal, just, and accommodative, and prosperous. One of the central issue in political theory
is to govern the collective life or public life
or the common life of a community in a given territory. Now, in political theory, there is a shift
from a kind of territorially, traditionally or culturally defined notion of political
theories, say, western political theory, or Indian political theory to a kind of global
discipline of political theory. So, political theory in a way help in the
reassertion of the validity of normative concerns, normative questions in the contentious relationships
or discourses about the matters which are related to the political. Therefore, our understanding or engagement
with political theory will help us to solve these problems amicably, through debates and
discussions, but also, it enable us to have better judgements about some of these issues. Broadly speaking, political theory can be
understood in relation to at least three things. One is the academic discipline like political
science, history, political thought, or philosophy on the one hand. So, we have a kind of academic discipline
like political science, history, or political thought, and philosophy. Political theorists intimately, connects with
these disciplines and derive a number of terminologies, concepts, ideas, methods and approaches from
these disciplines. The second is the real, practical world. And all the political theorists have to engage
with the real and the practical world too. They cannot engage with the issues related
to political by merely, contemplating or speculating about it. They need to engage with the real, practical
world that surround them and makes the theory more relevant. So, the other relation of political theory
besides, academic discipline of political science and history of political thought and
philosophy is to connect with the real, practical world. And finally, the most recent and contemporary
development in political theory is to make a connection between the canonical, political
theories on the one hand. The term canonical political theory, I will
explain in a moment. On the other hand, the contemporary developments
in the subject are feminism, critical theory, cultural studies, media studies, and environmental
studies, etc. In political theory, as I was explaining that
the political is by nature a dynamic phenomenon or it is a multi-layered, complex phenomenon. And it needs to be understood that there will
be varieties of methods and approaches. There cannot be one singular, dominant, or
hegemonic and universally, accepted method or approach in political theory. So, within political theory, we have different
traditions and these traditions are also, guided by ideology. There is a kind of connection with theory
to ideology which we will discuss in the next lecture. Relatively, political theory as a discipline,
also, has some kind of established canonical texts or theories and also, then it is the
new development. Now, the task of political theory in the contemporary
time is to make a connection or a relationship between the canonical political theory which
starts from Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau on the one hand, along with the newer
developments, that is happening in the political theory, such as feminism, critical theory,
cultural studies, media studies, and environmental studies. Now, that gives us a sense of its major icons. From Plato and Aristotle in the classical
period to Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and to more contemporary theorists like Hannah
Arendt, John Rawls, Michel Foucault and Habermas etc. Thus, political theory is in that sense, an
evolutionary discipline and it has its own dynamics as it study a phenomenon which is
equally dynamic and ever changing. Now to make sense of or to theorize that ever
changing phenomenon, political theory also, evolves and acquires new tools and approaches
to interpret, critique, and provide alternatives to some of the practical, political challenges. It becomes very challenging to identify the
core or fundamentals of political theory. So what is the basic or core political theory? What is the essential or political theory’s
most challenging task? It has come a long way from its excessive
obsession with the normative questions to engage with empirical questions and predicaments,
as I was explaining before. No longer, political theory, as we see in
philosophy to a great extent deals with it. Also, there is a new development in it but
political theory, no longer engages only with the normative concern, approach of a contemplative
or a speculative thinker or a theorist. It has come a long way from that kind of obsession
to make it a more pragmatic, practical discipline, by engaging with the empirical questions and
predicaments a society or a community is facing and the theorizing it. However, there is no complete disowning of
the normative concerns of political theory, too. It is the very basis of any kind of possible
interpretation. So, we cannot simply do away with the normative
issues or concerns, while explaining or critiquing existing social, political status quo. Now, that gives us a sense of the relevance
of normative concerns or questions. At the same time, it is the responsibility
of the theorists to engage with the real, practical predicaments. And, there is that shift in the political
theory, as I was saying from its canonical existence to more contemporary approaches
in political theory like new studies as I was explaining about critical theory, feminism,
cultural studies, environmental studies and so on. Thus, liberal, critical, and post-structuralist
theorists have all responded to the new challenges and developments in social and political landscape. There is a move beyond the singularity and
unitary, that is, we are all understood as individual carrying certain rights within
a singular, defined national territory and to a more pluralistic, diverse and agnostic
conception of state and politics. This is something, which political theories
and political theorists tries to engage with, that is from a more singularity or a unitary
kind of approach, to recognizing and accepting a more pluralistic, diverse, and agnostic
conception of state and politics in any society. Both the liberal, critical and also, the post-structuralist
theorists are responding to some of these new challenges and developments in the political
arena. So, this move is from a singular, unitary
approach to a more pluralistic or an agnostic conception of a state and politics. Many may see this as a kind of failure of
political theory. They did not want to revisit the timeless
classics, such as Plato or Aristotle, or Hobbes and Locke to reassert the value of philosophy,
whereas, many see it as a desirable and necessary development. There is also this debate that political theory
failed to properly or adequately, explain the real, contentious social and political
life. And, the reason for that is, we are fragmented
in many case studies or contextual studies. It is hard to generalize for
a large society or statement which will enable us to explain other society. Thus, one of the defining features of political
theory, if we make a distinction between Indian politics and political theory, or American
politics or British politics, the task of political theory is to give us concepts and
tools through which we can explain not just a particular society like Indian or British,
but also, it is equally applicable in explaining or interpreting politics in other societies. The concepts of democracy, secularism, freedom,
equality and justice are something, which we can use to explain the politics in many
societies and across the societies as well. Thus, it transcends the limits of the context
and territory in search of that kind of generalized, comprehensive statement and theory. Many scholars have argued that we need to
revisit and reassert the value of philosophy or history of political thought to make the
political theory a grand, global subject or a discipline. However, many others see these developments
from singularity or unitary to a more plural, agnostic conception of a state and politics
is not just desirable, but also, a necessary development to make sense of the real, practical
world. This shift or evolution, or move from a singular,
unitary to a more plural and diverse approach to politics and society, reflects the dynamic
and ever changing nature of the political. Political is not something, rigid or aesthetic,
it keeps changing the landscape. And therefore, the political theorists should
approach new methods, new approaches to interpret such changes or dynamism. However, there is also, contentious interpretation
of the role of political theory and its approaches as seen in contemporary times. However, besides, the major challenge before
the contemporary political theorist is to move beyond the normative and help to explain
the realities in a particular context. But it must also transcend that context and
maintain a degree of generality that defines the theory from same thought or Indian politics,
or politics in any other society. The challenge for any contemporary political
theorist is thus, to move away from the normative concern to a discipline, which helps explain
the context, and also, it must transcend that context and maintain a degree of generality,
which can be used to explain other societies and politics in other communities or state,
or society. Broadly speaking, if we look at the kinds
of theory, we can figure out three kinds of political theory. One is explanatory. So, political theory is explanatory in nature,
it emphasizes on how there can be different explanations of a particular reality, or particular
event, or particular phenomenon, or a social and political issue. Here, we can take the example of the rise
of capitalism and its explanation from different theorists within the discipline of political
theory. Like Marxism on the one hand, says that the
particular kind of social relations of production leads to development of productive forces. And, it explains the rise of capitalism in
relation to capital and labour forces in a free market economy. So, that is one kind of explanation to the
rise and growth of capitalism in modern world. However, this same phenomenon, the rise of
capitalism is explained differently by Max Weber who believed that capitalism emerged
because of the changes in the cultural domain, which was the result of transformations in
the religion of some societies, especially, the Christian society. For Weber, the protestant ethics within Christianity
emphasized on the worldly criticism and disciplined work, necessary for the accumulation of capital
and efficient labour force that was conducive for the rise of capitalism. So, political theory is a discipline which
is explanatory in nature. It explains the social and political phenomenon. And, that explanation can be different as
we have seen through the examples of Marxism and Max Weberian explanation of the rise of
capitalism in the modern world. The second kind of theory is or can be understood
as a normative political theory which deals with the normative questions or normative
concerns, as we have been discussing. It engages with the questions like how a society
and politics ought to be governed, or ought to be ruled, what ought to be the rule on
which a society can be governed. So, largely, it deals with the questions,
which is normative in nature rather than something, which is actual or real. For example, it deals with the question of
how a society ought to be and not how a society or politics is actually, governed or really
governed in any given point of time. Although, it does not disregard the importance
of emotions, rhetoric and use of power in decision-making processes, yet it emphasizes
on the logical as well as the normative arguments to arrive at a good solution to the problem
of political organization and practices. Thus, the political organizations and the
practices in any society lead to some kind of tensions, conflicts, contestations among
different groups. In that kind of conflicts, tensions and contestations,
how we should resolve those? That we can do by participating in the political
process, political organizations and political parties. Some of these parties represent certain ideologies
and we should take our position on that. In this process and political organizations,
there is the role of emotions, rhetoric and also the power. But political theory also, emphasize on the
logical as well as the normative arguments, to provide solutions to some of these conflicts
and tensions in any society. So, the normative and the logical part of
political theory enable us to make a society better than it is to achieve the possible. And not just then merely, interpret or explain
the society and its polity, but also, help in its transformation, to make it more just,
inclusive, and egalitarian. And some of the political developments, if
we see, for example the Ambedkarites movement, or feminist movement, or environmental movement,
or groups and associations fighting for environmental justice and so on. They are not just trying to explain the actual
functioning of the polity in our society, but also, they help us to transform the current
state of our existence and our society. It is both explanatory and transformative
in nature because of its normative and logical basis. Now, the third kind of political theory can
be understood as a kind of contemplative exercise, where it is contemplative in the sense of
reflective and speculative in the nature. And, that contemplation and reflection gives
us deeper meaning to any social reality, which is not naturally, available to a participant
or even to the observer of politics. It is an expertise of the theorist or political
students engaged in the discipline of political theory to go beyond the happenings to decipher,
reflect on the deeper underlying structures that governs the politics or political processes
in any society. And, that requires a degree of reflection
and contemplation as well. Therefore, political theory has a nature,
an element of contemplation and speculation. So, political theory is contemplative in nature. It is an intensely, contemplative exercise
into the common or general conditions of human-beings over a period of time and political theorists
make such inquiries at different and specific stages of human lives to understand their
various issues and problems. This was particularly, the stand of ancient
political thinkers who wanted to know about the prevalent conditions of human lives in
their times. Hannah Arendt in contemporary times, also,
believed that political theory cannot be concentrated or reduced only to explanatory or normative
understanding of it. But also, it needs to have a contemplative
aspect or contemplative understanding to know the world in which we human beings live in
and to know the conditions and overall direction of human lives much better. Thus, to understand the underlying structures
that govern the political processes, political developments, political organizations in a
society or polity, we need to include the contemplative or the speculative aspects of
political theory as well beyond the normative and explanatory nature of it. If you look at now, the history of political
theory, in order to understand the emergence and development of political theory, we need
to revisit this debate in early decades of twentieth century between the logical positivism
and philosophy. Philosophy is a kind of discipline which deals
with the question of how to lead a good life and political scientist will tell you to create
a good polity. So, good life is possible only in a good polity
and how to create a good polity, maintains a good polity is a collective exercise. And how to do that deals with the question
of state and citizens participation in the politics. So, those are some of the questions and concerns
for the political philosophers. Now, logical positivism challenged or criticized
such kind of engagement with the question that is related to what ought to be, rather
than what actually is? Logical positivism believed in the empirical
science and undervalued the focus on the metaphysical contemplative thinking as it was being exercised
among the political philosophers or the thinkers and theorists as well. Logical positivism influenced political science
to do away with the traditional questions of political philosophy and made efforts to
establish rather a ‘science’ of politics. It inquires to provide truths about the real
world, as it exists in a scientific and empirical manner. So, the origin of political theorists can
also be traced in this logical positivism and philosophy debate in early decades of
20th century, which influenced greatly the political scientists and the behaviorisms,
post-behaviorism, structuralism, and post-structuralism, throughout the 20th century. It was the outcome of such debates to make
the political inquiry more scientific, objective, value free or non free. So, a political theory is a discipline different
from political philosophy or political thought which makes use of some concepts and terms
to explain the political functioning, the political process and organizations in society
in a more empirical, objective and scientific manner away from the metaphysical, contemplative
exercise of the previous times. Political theory is an exercise or enterprise
in that direction. It is also intimately, connected with the
history of political thought and thinking. And, there was a kind of overlap or borrowing
from the traditions of political philosophy and political thought, when this discipline
of political theory was evolving. In that sense, it is very intimately connected
with the discipline of political thought and thinking. In that way, the thinkers, texts, terms or
concepts that we often discuss in political theory and we will see this, when we will
move on to discuss different concepts, deal with many thinkers, texts and these texts
and thinkers are part of the larger history of political thought and political thinking. A number of texts and terms or concepts that
we often discuss in political theory are by and large, derived from the relatively, well
established traditions of political thought and philosophy. According to John Dunn, in order to understand
the history of political theory, we need to understand the three following questions. One, what is the subject matter of the history
of political theory? What are the methods of analysis or approaches
to study that period of history? And, how can one understand the significance
of the history intellectually? Now, these three questions, we will discuss,
one by one is about the subject matter, second is about the method and approaches and third
is about the intellectual significance of the history of political thought. John Dunn is someone who believed in the role
of history of political thought and doing political theory by engaging with the political
thinkers of the past, to make sense of or better explain and provide alternative to
some of the contemporary challenges and predicaments. So, if we discuss, the subject matter that
we find, the core subject matters of political theory are relatively, well established canon
of works. These relatively, well established canons
of works are some of the terms, concepts, and some thinkers which we will discuss. We vary, we may differ with their interpretations
or there are varieties of interpretations on the meaning or the interpretations of these
texts. However, there is a kind of consensus, relatively,
common acceptance of some texts as starting from Plato to John Rawls. The most recent example in 20th century is
Michel Foucault or Hannah Arendt. There is a kind of well-established tradition
of works or thinkers that we will deal with, when we will discuss political theory. So, from Plato and Aristotle in the 5th and
4th century BC, to Cicero in the 1st century BC Rome, to Augustine and Aquinas in the middle
ages, to Machiavelli of Italian city republics, to Bodin, Grotius, Hobbes, Locke Rousseau,
Montesquieu, Hume, Adam Smith, Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Lenin. These are some of the well-established canonical
works in political theory. And, they do not share many of their assumptions
or approaches to politics, or the solution or alternative that they provide. But, in their discussion in the discipline
of political theory, these are works or thinkers which we will come to discuss again and again,
as we will discuss some of the themes. We will discuss these in this course as relatively,
well established canonical works in the discipline of political theory. And, these canonical works emphasized on the
period of history and its significance, and not on the causal explanation through which
the particular history came into existence. Thus, the history is very significant in terms
of understanding the political theory and its role in explaining, interpreting or providing
alternatives to the contemporary challenges. Now, if you look at the methods of analysis
in political theory, there are numerous methods, and approaches to the study of history of
political theory. We can discuss some of them like Quentin Skinner
who drew attention to the validity of historical character of the text. He focused on the purpose of author and his
intentions behind writing any text. So, the text, in Skinner’s kind of engagement
with the history of political theory is the intellectual product of the author. However, he emphasized that the historical
character, author’s intention, and the context of the texts were fundamental in understanding
any text. Thus, the historical context, characters and
the author’s intentions are valuable sources to understand the text or any historical classical
text. Contrary to this approach to the history of
political theory, we have thinkers like C.B Macpherson, who gave less importance to the
historical character of the text and instead, he focused more on the historical context
in which a text was written. That means, according to thinkers like C.B
Macpherson, the context played a greater role in determining the intention, the approaches,
the articulation of the author. So, more than the historical character and
author’s intentions, they focused more on the historical contexts in which that text
was written. In other words, he gave more attention to
the social, political, and economic contexts of the author. For example, Hobbes, when he was writing the
Leviathan, more than the text and his intentions, the prevailing situation of England of that
time was the better guide to understand that text and to understand the individualism that
Hobbes was talking about which Macpherson defined as possessive individualism. In contrast to these two approaches to the
history of political theory, we have a third approach which focuses on the historical characters
of the text with massive indifference, that means, they gave very less value to the historical
characters or the contexts of these texts. And, they are more open, flexible and accommodative
to interpret these texts in the light of contemporary requirements or challenges. So, other than these three approaches, the
increasing growth of conceptual or intellectual historians uses certain terms or ideas to
understand, examine, and explore the historical political process in any society, in a particular
temporality. So, that is the major development in contemporary
political theory, and also, a move beyond the excessive reliance on the western thinkers,
to include Indian, Chinese, African, or Arab thinkers in order to make this discipline
or political theory a global discipline. Now, if we come to the third question to understand
the history of political theory, it refers to understand the significance of history. The significance of history is not only to
help us understand these thinkers and their influences in the past, but also, how it could
be relevant for making sense of interpreting them in our present. These thinkers especially, according to John
Dunn are relevant in explaining our modern contemporary challenges and predicaments,
perhaps when they were writing. Thus, these canonical texts or thinkers are
perhaps a better guide to make sense of our contemporary challenges and predicaments. And their lies the significance of reading
Plato after they have written 2000 years or someone who wrote in medieval times are still
relevant like Machiavelli, Aquinas etc. Their significance lies in the fact that they
are relevant in explaining our contemporary times as well. If we look at the key features of political
theory, we find that the political theory is a combination of philosophical analysis
of principles and empirical understandings of political processes and structures. On the one hand, it deals with the normative
questions and concerns, but also, it engages with the empirical understanding of political
processes and structures in any society. So, no longer, political theory is merely,
a contemplative exercise. It deals with the actual, real problem in
any society. But while doing so, it uses the normative
philosophical framework to engage with them. In that sense, it is both a normative and
a descriptive one. It is also intrinsically, a hermeneutic and
critical enterprise. Political theory is a hermeneutic exercise. Hermeneutics is a science of interpretation. And political theory constantly, tries to
interpret or explain the social and political phenomenon, the challenges, contentious issues
of our politics and society. It does so continuously, without reflecting
and interpreting them. One cannot arrive at any theory or any judgment. Thus, the hermeneutic part of political theory
is very intensive and it is the very basis. It is thus, intrinsically, connected to the
hermetic exercise on the one hand, and the critical enterprise on the other hand. The critical enterprise comes from its ability
to not just understand and make sense of the present or the contemporary, or the real or
the actual, but also, it provide alternatives or challenges to some of the oppressive processes
or practices in our contemporary times. And, that is how, society moves from one stage
to the next, from a more oppressive society, to a more open or free and a prosperous just
society. Political theorists plays a very crucial role
in making any society from being an authoritarian, absolutist monarchy, to a modern, free, open,
democratic societies that we live in. That does not mean we are not facing many
challenges, but these challenges and to make sense of those challenges and provide alternatives
to those challenges requires a kind of critical engagement with some of these political theorists. We will come to discuss it, when we will discuss
(Refer Time: 55:59) many other critical theorists on some of the questions like public sphere,
civil society, etc. Political theory, emphasized on a rational
argument, that means, the conclusion of any argument is based on reason. However, this is not to say that philosophers
completely ignore emotions, instincts, and rhetoric in their theoretical inquiries. As, I have already discussed, that they do
take into account these emotions, rhetoric, and intuitions, but they also move beyond
the assumptions based on them in order to understand any event or phenomenon logically,
in a rational manner. Thus, it is prior to find the truth objectively
through the use of reason or logic, and it then focuses on assumptions and presumptions
of our beliefs, actions and practices before arriving at any reasonable or rational argument. So, the argumentation of political theory
is developed by also, taking into account the beliefs, practices or actions of any individual
or collective subjects, but it at the same time, examines the assumptions and pre-assumptions
of such practices and actions to develop an argument which can help us to understand not
just the society in which a political theorist is engaged with, but also, to explain other
societies. That gives a degree of generality to political
theory. Finally, it cannot be merely, speculative. It must not transcend the empirical world. The lived experience of people as studied
by social scientists should be considered and not to be ignored. So, they are also, part of the society and
his surrounding does influence their engagement, reflection, argumentations and so on. Political theorists cannot isolate or keep
himself or herself aloof from his/her society and other societies to develop any theory. Thus, they need to take into account the social,
political realities and these social, political reality keeps on changing. And therefore, the discipline of political
theory keeps on changing and as I was saying, the contemporary challenge is to reconcile
between the canonical established traditions of political theory on the one hand, and the
newer developments in the discipline of political theory in terms of media studies, critical
studies, feminism or environmental studies on the other. It is the result of this continuous engagement
with the newer or ever changing reality in social and political life. Finally, this point, I will again discuss
it in our next lecture. That is about why do we need a political theory? First, the world of political is indeterminate,
complex and layered. So, there are multiple layers in the political
world, political structures and the processes. It is partly cooperative too. So, in the political world, we cooperate to
maintain some order, harmony, and peace to bring about prosperity. But this structure and processes is also,
partly conflictual in nature. Political theory, help us understand and explain
the partly cooperative, partially conflictual nature of political arena which is indeterminate,
ever changing, complex and multi-layered. And therefore, to understand or interpret
it, we need political theory. Second, concepts and terms in political theory
are essentially contested concepts. So, as we will discuss in this course, some
of the theories like democracy, freedom, equality, justice, there are multiple interpretations
and often contradictory interpretations of these terms. Now, how to make sense of these terms which
is essentially contested. So, in the name of national security, freedom,
nationalism, we will see two parties and sets of actors often coming to a very different
and altogether opposite interpretations of the political events or political participation. Thus, political theory, explain us how a concept
is related to the different, and also how it is different from other concepts. Like when we discuss, concepts like freedom,
equality and justice, how these concepts are interconnected, and also different from each
other. Similarly, how each of these concepts are
also, essentially contested in a sense of their multiple theorizations or interpretations,
which we will discuss. Political theory enables us to understand
these multiple interpretations or essentially contested nature of these concepts that help
us also to understand the partly cooperative or conflictual arena of the political. Political theory is necessary, to understand
and analyze various national, global issues and events, it makes efficient use of case
studies and examples to explain the political realities of past and contemporary times. So, through case study, to contextual studies,
to historicizing one’s enquiry, it tries to explain or interpret the social and political
events in the past or in the present in any given society. Finally, it prioritized the reason which develops
human mind and it encourages us to think and make rational arguments. It also, helps us understand not only the
complexities of the politics, but also, provide the resources for making a sound judgment
on any contentious, social and political issue. So, the major contribution of political theory
is to provide us the tool to not just provide a critique to the status quo, but also, it
enable us to have a better or sound judgment on any matter, that is related to politics
which is essentially, contested or contentious. Political theory, help us in making sound
judgment about any contentious issue of society and politics. This is all for today’s lecture. In the next lecture, we are going to discuss
the relationship between political theory and political ideology, and why there are
so many differences of approaches, methods and traditions within the discipline of political
theory. And finally, we will again revisit this question
of political theory and why do we need it? I will give you a brief outline of the syllabus
of this course and also, we are going to discuss some of the themes that are part of our syllabus. For this lecture today, you can refer to some
of these books like John Hoffman and Paul Graham’s, Introduction to Political Theory. John S. Dryzek, Honig and Phillips’s edited
The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory. And also, Catriona McKinnon’s, Issues in
Political Theory, then Norman P. Barry’s, An Introduction to Modern Political Theory. Rajeev Bhargav and Ashok Acharya’s book
Political Theory: An Introduction is also very helpful to understand some of the themes
and also, what we have discussed today, and many other topics in our syllabus. And then, John Dunn’s, The History of Political
Theory and other Essays, and Gerald Gaus and Chandran Kukatha’s Handbook of Political
Theory. These are some of the texts which you can
refer to for the topics, which I have covered in this lecture. Thank you for listening. Thanks.

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