About the Books
Book I : What is Political Theory
and Why do We Need it?
Book II :Political Traditions
Book III :Understanding the State
Book IV :Power, Authority and
Book V :Rights, Equality, Liberty
Book VI :Democracy
Book VII :Political Ideologies
Book VIII : Contemporary Issues
Block I which is the introductory block of the present course, there are five
units dealing with the basic of the discipline of political science. Political
science is principally the study of politics but I like most of the notions of
the discipline, there is no unanimity amongst scholars regarding the meaning,
content and scope of politics. Different scholars have viewed it from different
perspectives and have defined it accordingly. Some have noted it from a
state-centric perspective, while some
others have defined it from the standpoint of power. A basic understanding of politics from
different dimensions is given in Unit I. Different scholars and thinkers of
political science have attempted to theorise the different components of
politics in their own ways. Thus, we
have deliberations on the nature and functions of the state from several
perspectives. Some have considered it as a hindrance to individuals freedom;
some have viewed it as a necessary evil; some again have dubbed
it as an instrument of class domination, while still
other believe it to be the march of God on mankind. This is,
however, only an illustration of how politics could
be theorised. Theorising the Political
is in Unit 2. Why the study of politics requires
theories, that is, the need
theory - that issue has
been taken up in Unit 3. As has been mentioned earlier, political theories help
to focus our attention to sharpen our understanding
of different issues of politics. The broad contours of political theory, conceptions of political theory -these
have been dealt with in Unit 4. More discussions on concepts, political arguments and conceptual analysis have
been taken up in the final unit of this Block that is, in Unit 5.
Understanding the Political
Theorising the Political
The Need for Political Theory
Conceptions of Political Theory
Political Argument and Conceptual
present block concerns itself with political traditions. As you are perhaps
aware. political theorising and practice draw heavily from traditions of
politics. Accordingly. this block devotes itself to a disscusion of five major
political traditions. These are:
(Unit 6), Confucian (Unit 7), Arab-Islamic (Unit 8), Greek-Roman (Unit 9)
and Western: Liberal and Marxist (Unit 10).
comprehensive study of these traditions will facilitate a better understanding
of the politics of different cultures and societies that you may read about in
the other curses. It will also help you in grasping the various strands of
classical, modern and cotemporary political theory.
Indian Political Traditions
The Confucian Tradition
Arabic-Islamic Political Traditions
Greek and Roman Traditions
Western: Liberal and Marxist
impact of behaviouralism on political theory led to a period immediately after
the war when social science lost interest in the state. This phase is now over
and there is a return of scholarly concern with the state. Infact, the state
remains one of the major theoretical and practical concerns of political
like most of the concepts of political science, state is also hard to define.
Some consider it as the highest of all human associations, while some others
view it as one of the several associations. Some try to look at the state from
the standpoint of functions it carries out, while some others view it as the repository
of violence and coercion.
of the different ways of looking at the state, there is some unanimity with
regard to the elements constituting the state. These elements are population,
territory, government and sovereignty, although international recognition has
also been regarded an element by many. These different elements and different
theories about the nature of the state have been discussed in Unit 11.
which is an indispensable element of the state, has been analysed from different
angles by different theorists. Political science is concerned with why people
remain subservient to the state, how the state performs its functions, how it
has been able to receive obedience from the citizens and so on. Herein, comes
the issue of legitimate power which the state holds along with the authority to
exercise coercion. Sovereignty, it is argued rests upon either force or consent
or a combination of force and consent. Thus, there have been different
dimensions of sovereignty which have been discussed in Unit 12.
is said to have certain characteristics like absoluteness, universality,
permanence and indivisibility which make it imperative for the citizens to obey
the state. These features, absoluteness and indivisibility in particular, have
come under attack in recent years. But notwithstanding these criticisms,
sovereignty is regarded as one of the essential characteristics of the state.
the process of globalisation and the associated growth of economic interests
have created conflicts of authority between economic associations and the
governments. The Pluralists argue that at such a time, the doctrine of absolute
and unlimited authority of the state seems dangerous and undesirable. All these
different aspects of sovereignty have been discussed in Unit 12.
stated earlier, political theorisation has seen the return of the state as an
area of theoretical concern since the late 1960s. But at the same time, it
should be mentioned that the way the state was sought to be conceptualisation
at this moment marked a radical departure from traditional conceptualisation of
the state. The state has been seen as situated in the field of political
contestation. This perspective rather than treating the state as autonomous
focused on the limits which social movements impose upon the state. This, again
has generated interest in civil society.
of civil society at this juncture was greatly influenced by the state as the
'political constitution of civil society'. Contemporary political theory has
also been greatly influenced by Gramsci who had conceptualised the works of
Foucault, who conceptualised the state as made up of bits of power located
meanings of civil society and the various theoretical traditions associated
with civil society have been discussed in Unit 13. Civil Society which may be
viewed as a space outside the domain of the state and can interrogate the
state, has an obvious sweet and sour relation with the state. At the same time,
the theoretical distinction between civil society and community should also be
maintained although in reality, the two are difficult to segregate. In this
respect, the relation between democracy and a strong, viable civil society also
becomes important. All these relations - relation of civil society with the
state, democracy and community, along with the features of civil society have
been discussed in Unit 13.
and Nature of the State
Civil Society and Community
is a pervasive word in our everyday discourse. It is a word we use often
without giving it much thought. But when we do think about it, we find it a
difficult concept to comprehend. Concepts of power are diverse and apparently
divergent. Moreover, there are several words like force, authority, control
which we very often use in our day-to-day vocabulary in place of power without
much thinking about their exact connotation.
meaning of the concept of power and the distinction between power and other
related themes have been discussed in Unit 14. Like other concepts of political
science, power has been viewed by different political theorists from different
perspectives. The most important of these theories, namely the
liberal-democratic and the marxian, have been also discussed in Unit 14.
this block, the issue of legitimacy has been mentioned while discussing the
sovereign power of the state. Power, coercion, no doubt, are elements in the
state's aresenal, but a state's right to rule or to receive obedience from the
people does not depend upon crude exercise of power or the blatant use of
coercion. Infact, such an exercise weakens the base of the state. Herein comes
the relevance of authority, which is the legitimised exercise of power. This
legitimacy, that is, the authority of the state over the people, may be based
upon several elements.
Weber, the noted German sociologist classifies the bases of authority into
three, rational-legal, traditional and charismatic. The meaning of authority,
the distinction between power and authority, the Weberian classification of
authority, the implication of authority - all these have also been discussed in
has been mentioned earlier, authority basically means legitimate use of power.
This inter-relation between authority and legitimacy and their connection with
political obligation are the focal themes of Unit IS. The issue of political
obligation - why people render habitual obedience to the state - has been a
major issue of theoretical debate and discussion in political science. Earlier,
political obligation was discussed from a divine standpoint. During the 17th
century, this came under attack mainly from the Contractarians. Montesquieu
challenged this individualist framework of the Contractarians, while a
completely different approach was presented by Karl Marx. These have all been
discussed in Unit 15.
discussing legitimacy, the Weberian analysis cannot be ignored. Although the
Weberian classification of legitimacy has been discussed in Unit 14, Unit IS
also touches upon the issue along with a critique of it as developed by David
Beetham, on the one hand, and Jurgen Habermas, on the other.
discussion of legitimacy is, thus, essential for knowing how power is exercised
by the state over people at large and why people render political obligation to
the state. But, at the same time, it should be noted that on occasions, this
legitimised power exercised by the state breaks down, or/in other words, there
emerge revolutionary situations.
in politics, refers to a total change in a political system, which not only
vastly alters the distribution of power in the society, but results in major
changes in the whole social structure. More often than not, revolution is
associated with a violent overthrow of one ruling class by another which leads
the mobilized masses against the existing system.
twin aspects of political obligation and political revolution have been
discussed in Unit 16. The characteristics of political obligation and the
different theories of political obligation have been analysed in the first part
of the unit, while the second part deals with the nature and amplification of
revolution, characteristics of a revolution, different traditional theories of
revolution and theorisation of revolution in more
Power and Authority
Political Obligation and Revolution
term 'Citizenship' is in the vocabulary of political science from the time of
settled human community. It defines those who are, and who are not members of a
common society. Citizenship has manifestly a political connotation, yet
questions arise out of its practice, which show that an appreciation of only
the political dimension is insufficient for a proper understanding of it. The
issue of who can practise citizenship and on what terms is not only a matter of
the legal scope of citizenship, but also a matter of the non-political
capacities of citizens which derive from the social resources they command and
to which they have access.
is, thus, a notion which attracts different analyses and multiple viewpoints.
The meaning, origin and the development of the idea of citizenship through the
classical period to the modern times has been discussed in Unit 17. The rights
paradigm of citizenship as developed in the liberal political tradition has
been counterpoised by the philosophy of Multi-Culturalism, on the one hand,
with its emphasis on minority group rights and Civic Republicanism, with its
emphasis on duties, on the other. All these debates along with a redefinition
of citizenship, from the Gandhian, Marxian and Feminist perspectives have been
discussed in Unit 17.
liberty and justice, are three values which are greatly emphasised in political
theory. The ideal of equality, one of the three cries of the French Revolution,
has treaded a long path and has come to be established in modern societies, in
two forms. One is the equality of democratic citizenship and the other is the
equality of condition. Equality of democratic citizenship is principally
associated with the equal enjoyment of certain basic rights like the right of
freedom of expression, freedom of religion, of faith, the right to vote and
stand for office, right not to suffer imprisonment at the hands of the state
without due process of law etc. Beyond this equality of democratic citizenship,
the ideal of equality encompasses something further. The gap between the
life-prospects of the best-off and the worst-off individuals in terms of any
index of well-being is enormous. The Egalitarians argue that it would be a
morally better state of affairs, if everyone enjoyed the same level of social
and economic benefits. This may be called the equality of condition.
'equality' has been viewed from different perspectives, interpreted from
different philosophical traditions, debated as to whether inequality, in
certain respects, is better than equality, co-related with liberty and so on.
All these aspects have been mentioned in Unit 18.
which is another ideal of the French Revolution is also a widely discussed
ideal in political science. Liberalism, has an obvious emphasis on liberty and
was explained in a particular manner by Locke, which is called the 'negative'
view of liberty. Since then, it has also crossed a long path and has been
established in the 20th century as a positive 'view' of liberty
through the writings of John Stuart Mill, T.H. Green and others.
20th century has, however, seen different interpretations of
liberty. There is the noted work of Isaih Berlin, where he tried to reconcile
the 'negative' and 'positive' views of liberty. There is also the libertarian
these various aspects with respect to liberty have been discussed in Unit 19.
The Marxist critique of freedom which is based on a critique of capitalist
economic system has also been discussed in Unit 19.
last unit (Unit 20) of Block 5 discusses another important ideal called
justice. Justice is primarily a normative concept, integrally connected with
'liberty' and 'equality'. To begin with, justice is multi-dimensional in
character. Like the other ideals, it can not only be analysed from different
perspectives with different over- riding philosophical principles; the meaning
of justice also changes with the passage of time.
can be distributive, procedural, harmonizing or social. All these aspects have
been discussed in Unit 20. A discussion on John Rawls has been dealt with
is popularly known as government by the people. Historically, the idea of
democracy has evolved through the ages, as people have struggled against
authoritarian forces and sought to snatch power from them. The three units 21,
22 and 23 comprising this Block, seek to clarify the meaning of democracy and
its different forms. As a form of direct people's rule, direct democracy has
been In existence in Ancient Greece; and
its virtues are even now extolled, and attempts are made, even now-to bring in
a degree of direct people's participation in governance.
of the largeness of state, today, it is not feasible to practise direct
democracy. Instead, we have everywhere indirect or representative democracy
whereby people elect their representatives who rule in the name of the people.
There has been a consistent criticism of representative democracy under
conditions of capitalism. The argument has been that in a class-divided
society, capitalism facilitates rule of the owners of means of production - the
capitalists. So, capitalist democracy is a contradiction in terms. Democracy
can not be real in a capitalist system, real democracy is possible only under
conditions of socialism. People can be real rulers when the means of production
are socialised and are not concentrated in few hands. This aspect of socialism
- democracy relationship has been explained at the end in unit 23.
after reading this Block (6), you will be able to appreciate the meaning of
democracy and the different forms of democracy.
have been some major ideologies that have influenced the discipline of
political science. Four such ideologies have been discussed in this Block.
Individualism forms one of the important kernels in liberal philosophical
tradition. Classical liberalism dating back to the 17th century
considers individuals to be the primary unit of society and is concerned about
individual rights ignoring the society at large. Liberal political thought
views the individual as an end in itself and this 'atomistic' view of the individual
pervades throughout the liberal political tradition.
liberal individualism has taken a curious turn in the late 20th
century, when it has c.ome under attack from a
different viewpoint called 'Communitarianism. John Rawls' A Theory of Justice (1971) reviews
the contractarian method of analysis and places the individual at the heart of
this analysis. Michael Sandel's Liberalism
and the Limits of Justice (1982) criticises Rawlsian liberal
individualism from what is called a communitarian standpoint, where primacy is
accorded to society. All these dimensions of individualism and the
communitarian critique of individualism have been discussed in Unit 24.
against individualism, we have totalitarianism which aims at a total
transformation of societies. Totalitarianism is historically linked with
Italian fascism and Mussolini's rise to power, and the Nazi philosophy of
Hitler in Germany Nazism as promoting totalitarian rule and a totalitarian
concept of society, is fundamentally opposed to the pluralism of democracy. The
features of fascism, the ideological strands and social bases of fascism have
all been discussed in Unit 25. What the condition of the state and society was
in Italy and Germany under the personal dictatorship of Mussolini and Hitler
respectively has also been discussed in Unit 25.
of the most influential ideologies
of political science, namely. Marxism has been discussed in Unit 26. Marxism
which is also called Scientific Socialism, Orthodox Marxism, or what is
associated with Karl Marx and Frederick Engels embarked upon a materialist
interpretation of history and presented a teleological theory in which ideas of
class struggle and of the primacy of the economy playa major explanatory role.
the final unit (Unit 27) of this Block, the influential ideology of Gandhism
has been taken up. Gandhism, unlike other ideologies, was not developed in an
academic setting, but in the midst of actual political struggles. Although
there were certain key elements in Gandhism like
Satyagraha, Swaraj or Non-Violence, it must be remembered that there occurred
certain shifts in Gandhian political ideology in the face of certain actual
events. In this unit, different aspects of Gandhian political ideology have
(Dharma, Swaraj, Sarvodaya and Satyagraba)
Block is the last one in this new course on political theory. However, this
does not make it any less important. The block deals with certain vital issues
of our times such as the interface of the State and Globalisation (Unit 28),
Secularism (Unit 29), Development (Unit 30) and the Disadvantaged and
Affirmative Action (Unit 31).
will notice as a student of the IGNOU's Bachelor's Degree Programme that the
issues dealt with in this block are common to a number
of courses offered by the discipline of Political Science as well as other
social science disciplines. This should indicate to you the importance of these
and Affirmative Action
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