Political Thought is the thought of the whole community.
Political Theory answers the questions like:
- Are all the individuals equal
- What comes first – ‘The State’ or ‘The Individual’?
- How does one justify violence employed by the state?
- Is the minority justified in dictating terms to the majority and vice
These four questions would be taken up to study the theories mentioned in this
project in the later chapters but only with respect to the contemporary world.
Political Theory as a Technique of Analysis
When Aristotle remarked that the individual is a political animal, he indicated
the primacy of politics and the fact that political thinking takes place at
various levels and in variety of ways. Political theory is used either to defend
or question the status quo. It is a way to analysis the present scenario and to
understand the loopholes and positive points in order to form a mechanism which
deals with the state for a step towards welfare state. Some commentators like
Goodwin emphasize the centrality of the power paradigm whereas others like
Talcott Parsons downgrade it, comparing it to money in modern politics which is
very true in case of contemporary world. Recent works by John Rawls and Robert
Nozick do not
1 A history of political thought Plato to Marx(book), Subrata Mukherjee and
Sushila Ramaswamy (Authors), Prentice Hall of India, New Delhi(Publishers),
February, 2007 (8th edition) page no.4
emphasize on ‘power’ at all.2 It is however interesting that Rawls talks about
justice, well- ordered society, stability and efficiency without any attempt to
speak about ‘Power’.
Political Theory as Conceptual Clarification
Political Theory helps to understand the concepts and terms used in a political
argument and analysis. For example: the meaning of freedom, equality, democracy,
justice, rights etc. these terms are used in daily routine and as well as in the
subject. An understanding to all these terms helps us to know the way they have
been employed and distinguished from one another, which would make the concepts
and issues involved easily
Political Theory as Formal Model Building
Few theories given by the Thinkers are of great importance and could be used as
a devise to formulate a model for social working and upliftment and thereby,
producing the product of welfare state. And many theories could be used for
formulation of foreign policies or economic policies. Political Theory can help
in a number of ways, e.g., Joseph Schumpeter’s Elitist Theory of Democracy was
based on the assumption that a human being takes his economic life more
seriously than the political one.
Political Theory as Theoretical Political Science
The emergence of political science in the twentieth century has led to some
political scientists to look upon political theory as a mere theoretical branch
of the discipline. It is more of an attempt made to understand the empirical
structure of the society and its impact on the individual surviving therein and
hence, the world on the greater scale.
Statement Of Problem
Analyze and compare Indian and Western Political Thought
- To enhance knowledge about Indian Political Thought
- To analyse Western Political Thought
- To Compare Indian and Western thoughts to see the similarities and
The method used for research work in the present project is the doctrinal method
of data collection.
Indian Political Thought
Ancient Indian Political Thought has been significantly represented by the
Vedas, the Upnishads, and the other religious writings. The Manusmriti along
with other Smritis, dealt with every political institution and the entire
panorama of human life vertically and horizontally. The vertical perspective led
to the concept of the state. The horizontal perspective led to the concept of
Dharma. Both these concepts were supported equally by philosophy and science.
One of the meaning of the term ‘Dharma’ is culture. Therefore, all the
characteristics of Indian culture are the characteristics of Dharma in India.
The fundamental characteristics of Indian Culture are: religious orientation,
spirituality, religious tolerance, synthetic spirit, adaptability, freedom of
thought, integral approach and most of all, unity in diversity. Dharma is
cultural organization and and spirituality. It has been equated
According to Sri Aurobindo, spirituality is the key to the Indian mind. STATE
According to Manu, the origin of the state is marked when the creatures were
dispersed in various directions out of fear from each other, the Lord created a
King for the protection of the whole creation. He gave the idea of state of
nature and the ruler being the religious figure. Kautilya is indeed one of the
earliest known political thinkers, economists, and king-makers. For Kautilya the
elements of sovereign state are the king, the minister, the country, the fort,
the treasury, the army and its ally, and the enemy.
Kautilya tells that wealth
and its security is dependent on peace and industry. The traditional six forms
of state policy are peace, war, neutrality, marching, alliance, and the double
policy of making peace with one and waging war against another.
Like Vedas and the Upanishads the Gita maintains identity between man, nature
and God. This identity in the form of Brahman is the basis of harmony,
integrality and justice in the individual, society and humanity. Ultimately God
is the material as well as the efficient cause of the universe. Both man and
Nature aim at realisation of divine values.
Gandhi said non-violence society will be stateless. Gandhi was opposed to the
state as it was neither natural, nor necessary institution.
He rejected the
state like a philosophical anarchist on the following grounds:
- The state is rooted in violence in concentrated and organized form. The
state is a soulless machine which can hardly be weaned from violence, to
which it owes its very existence.
- State’s coercive authority is destructive of individual’s freedom and
- In a non-violent society, state will be superfluous.
He stated “to me, political power is not an end but one of the means of aiding
people to better their condition in every department of life.” If national life
becomes as perfect as to become self-regulated, no representation is necessary.
There is thus a state of lightened anarchy. In such a state, everyone is his own
ruler. He rules himself in such a manner that he is never hindrance to his
neighbor. In the ideal state, therefore, there is no political power because
there is no state.”
Secondly, Gandhian society a stateless and classless society will be composed of
a number of self-contained and self regulated village communities. Every village
will have a panchayat, having full powers of administration and capable of
meeting all its essential needs to the extent of defending itself.3
Manu’s ruler is the religious figure and the subjects obey their ruler, however,
the ruler acts with justice in his state.
Favour Of High Castes
However, one great slur on Indian penology is the favouritism of the higher
castes and lack of justice towards the lower castes. Different types of
punishment were prescribed for the same offences. According to Manusmriti, a
kshatriya or a vaisya or shudra abusing or defaming a Brahmin was to be
respectively punished with the fine of 100 panas, 150 panas and with corporal
punishment while a Brahmin defaming a kshatriya, vaishya or shudra was to be
fined 50, 25 and 20 panas respectively or nothing in the last caste.4 In the
middle ages the social setup was divided in accordance to the religion and then
the castes in the religions. And
According to Dharmashatra a king has to dispense justice, being free from anger
and avarice and in accordance to law, even though be may lose the friendship of
person if his decision goes against the latter. According to Manusmriti, the
king, protecting his subject and meeting out punishment to those who deserve it,
performs every day sacrifices in which the fees are one hundred thousand cows.
Yajnavalkya also supports this view. Pointing out the duties of a king, Manu
maintains that king, when protecting his subjects against invasion, should not
run away from the battle. The kings who die fighting in battle go to heaven.
Western Political Thought
The earliest philosophers are Thales according to whom water was the origin of
the world, Anaximander (6th century BC) who maintained that the origin was the
Indefinite and Anaximenes (6th century BC) who maintained that air was the
source of the world.
Pythagoras maintained that the origin of the universe is Number. Reason, is
therefore the source of the world for mathematics is the subject of pure reason
apart from sense.
According to Heraclitus (5th century BC) sleep is better than life and death.
This reminds us of the Mandukya Upanishad which says that the soul becomes
prajna in deep sleep, consciousness solid, integrated and is full of bliss.
The Greek Political Thought
According to Barker, “Political thought begins with the Greeks. Its origin in
connected with the calm and clear rationalisation of Greek mind,”
According to Maxey, “It cannot be said about Hindu political thought, but the
extent of their influence upon the past and present, and possibly upon the
future, political life of India, no western mind is wholly competent to
Greece is called ‘a laboratory of political experiment’, due to the following
- Greece abounded with city-states
- Ancient Greece presented a picture of flux
- Greek outlook was rational
Greek Thinkers laid their main attention towards nature of the state and to man
as a political animal, man can realize himself only through membership of the
state. Greek thinkers discussed liberty, education and fundamental questions of
political obligations and revolution etc. They examined carefully the various
grounds on which different social classes based their claims to political
authority. They also tried to find out the ways by which government can be
Nature of City- State:
About 1500 B.C., Aryan nomads conquered the region
As military masters, the Aryan raiders settled down upon the pre-Hellenic social
order. The rivalry of kinsmen did not encourage voluntary unification. Hence,
separation became the very keynote of their behaviour. Greek state was a
community, a true commonwealth or republic.
A modern city like Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi or Chennai or New
York is a huge congregation of men living in a given area brought together
mainly due to economic needs. In such cities persons living in the same building
do not know one another. But in a Greek city state citizens used to share a
common life or purpose.
Institution of Slavery:
after the completion of the conquest, Aryan
conquerors became free citizens while the conquered aboriginal population was
reduced to the status of serfdom or slavery. No slave could be a part of a
public assembly, cast a vote, hold an office, appear in a court of law or enjoy
any privileges of membership in the body politic. Aristotle explicitly justifies
slavery as a necessary institution. Plato nowhere condemned it. As labour, it
was performed by slaves.
Plato has been generally regarded as the founder of
philosophical idealism by virtue of his conviction that there is a universal
idea in the world of eternal reality beyond the world of the senses. He was the
first to formulate and define political ideas within a larger framework of a
philosophical idea of Good.5
- Philosopher Ruler:
Plato’s head of the state was a philosopher ruler, who had the knowledge,
intellect and training to govern. According to him, ruling like any other
task requires skill and qualifications as its aim was general well being of
all. On Glaucon’s insistence, Socrates defined a philosopher as one who
loved wisdom, had passion for knowledge, was always curious and eager to
learn. Following Socrates, Plato believed that the Ideal was Real. A
philosopher by his grasp of the Idea of Good was best qualified to rule. A
philosopher should be devoid of any emotional ties and economic
considerations, which is elaborated in his Theory of Communism of Wives and
Property, dealt later in the chapter.
An Ideal State for Plato possessed the four cardinal virtues of
wisdom, courage, discipline and justice. It would have wisdom because its rulers
were persons of knowledge, courage because its warriors were brave,
self-discipline because of the harmony that pervaded the societal matrix due to
a common agreement as to who ought to rule.
- Theory of Three Classes:
Plato divided his State into three classes,
first being the Philosopher King, the second being, the auxiliaries and the
third stage were the workers who producers of the consumable goods. He also
discriminated among the upper two classes and lower class. The upper two
given a chance to education but the lower had no privilege to be educated and
they cannot participate in any public meetings.
- Community of Wives and Property:
Plato abolished private family and property among the guardian class, for
they encouraged nepotism, favouritism,
factionalism and other corrupt practices. Plato proposed strict regulation of
sexual intercourse, which was to be performed in the interest of the state by
ensuring that the best and fittest of the human stock was made available. The
philosopher ruler who decide on sexual unions.
According to Plato only a perfect type of education may create perfect state.
The political authority should be blended with broadest knowledge and culture
and the philosopher should be the embodiment of highest political virtue,
spirit, swiftness and strength. He should represent the knowledge in action. The
guardians must be given special training. The system of education outlined above
was meant to produce such a selfless ruling class.6
Aristotle has been regarded as the “Father of Political
Science” as he was the first to analyse critically and systematically, the then
existing constitutions and classify them. Aristotle regarded political science
as the master science. Plato was an idealist and radical, whereas Aristotle is
realist and a moderate.
3. Thomas Aquinas
- Origin of the State: Aristotle attempts at tracing it from two angles:
He first talks of family. To him family is an association of husband, wife,
children and slaves. They have no doubt a natural desire to continue their
race by leaving “behind them on image of themselves.” The union of families
with the purpose of aiming at something more then the supply of daily needs
makes a village. Similarly, when several villages come together to the
extent of making self-sufficient and continuing its existence for the sake
of good life, the state is born.
Man is a political animal by nature. He has an end to achieve good life-
physically, mentally and morally – since he is distinct from other beings by
virtue of his rational nature. His rationality drives him to form a state.
- Constitution of the State:
Aristotle, like Plato, gave three division of state.
They are citizens, middle class, and slaves. The citizens own land and enjoy
political rights. The middle class practices industry and commerce and enjoy
civil rights. The slaves have neither civil nor political rights
The realization of education is as old as knowledge itself. Aristotle who
realizes that end of the state is the good life of its citizens, says good
life can be attained with the help of education as well. So education must
be the monopoly of the state.
- Private Property:
Aristotle has a strong defense in favour of private
property system. Aristotle says that property is an instrument and a necessary
instrument to good life. He strongly pleads that the citizens must be owners of
property for such a status enables them to develop their personality and good
life. However, he proposes that each citizen should have that much of property
which enables him to live temperately.
- International Relations:
Aristotle is conscious that his state cannot exist alone; on the other hand
it should co-exist with other states while doing so war is inevitable.
However, he says that war is not the end of the state; on the
contrary it is only a means of peace and good life of the state. His aim is
internal and international peace.
By profession, Aquinas was a theologian rather than a philosopher. Indeed he
nowhere characterises himself as a philosopher, and the references to
philosophers found in his own work refer to pagans rather than Christians.
Nonetheless much of his work bears upon philosophical topics, and in this sense
may be characterized as philosophical. Aquinas' philosophical thought has
exerted enormous influence on subsequent Christian theology, especially that of
the Roman Catholic Church, extending to Western philosophy in general. Aquinas
stands as a vehicle and modifier of Aristotelianism, Augustinian Neoplatonism
and Proclean Neoplatonism.7
- Theory of Knowledge:
Thomas Aquinas was the first to recognize the fact
that Aristotelian intellectualism would be of great help for the study of
philosophy as well as theology. But the introduction of Aristotle's works
involved the solution of the disputed question of the relationship between
philosophy and theology. There are two different types of knowledge: sense
knowledge and intellectual knowledge. Sense experience is the beginning for all
of man's natural knowledge. It begins in the senses, and is completed in
Aquinas viewed theology, or the sacred doctrine, as a science,
the raw material data of which consists of written scripture and
the tradition of the Catholic Church. These sources of data were produced by the
self-revelation of God to individuals and groups of people throughout history.
Faith and reason, while distinct but related, are the two primary tools for
processing the data of
theology. Aquinas believed both were necessary — or, rather, that the confluence
of both was necessary — for one to obtain true knowledge of God. Aquinas blended
Greek philosophy and Christian doctrine by suggesting that rational thinking and
the study of nature, like revelation, were valid ways to understand truths
pertaining to God. According to Aquinas, God reveals himself through nature, so
to study nature is to study God. The ultimate goals of theology, in Aquinas’
mind, are to use reason to grasp the truth about God and to experience salvation
through that truth.
- Law and Justice:
According to Aquinas, there is a four fold classification of law: eternal,
natural, human and divine. The eternal law is the controlling plan of the
universe existing in the mind of God. Natural law is the participation of
ma, as a rational creature in the eternal law through which he distinguishes
between good and evil and seeks his true end. Human law is the application,
by human reason of the precepts of natural law to particular earthly
conditions. The Divine law is that through which the limitations and
imperfection of human reason are supplemented and man is infallible and
directed to super mundane end eternal blessedness; it is the ‘Law of Revealation’.
He believed political freedom could be created by
separating political powers into different branches, and he developed the
political theory of 'checks and balances' that became an important part of the
- His views on Law:
Montesquieu does not believe in abstract justice. He, however believes that
the basic principle of law and justice exist in nature. But he is of the
opinion that the teaching of nature are to be found “not in deduction from
assumption based on reason, but in the facts of history of the actual
working of political life.”
Man is governed by two different sets of law:
- Law established by God or Natural Laws.
- Laws made by man or Positive Laws:
- International Law: International Law arises out of the relation of one
state with other states.
- Political Law: Law governing the relation between the individuals and
the government is called political.
- Civil Law: The relations between the citizens of the same state are
regulated by civil law.9
- Separation of Powers: According to Montesquieu, separation of
governmental powers into executive, legislations and judicial organs is the
best guarantee for liberty.
Indian Political Thought V Western Political Thought
Greek philosophy started as a kind of naturalism as the
distinction between mind and matter was not clearly recognized that time, now
called Materialism by some philosophers with a scientific basis. But we must
note that a naturalism that does not distinguish between mind and matter has an
equal possibility of developing into materialism or spiritualism. Indians and
the Chinese worshipped elements of nature too. The Greek Gods were natural Gods
(like the early Indian Gods). The Water of Thales was considered God.
Hercaclitus said that reality is change and identified it with fire, which he
treated as God. Fire is one of the five elements of nature worshipped by the
Vedic people, is a part of most Indian marriages. And also the first lawgiver,
according to Hindu Mythology, ‘Manu’ is progenitor of Gods of the land.
Looking at life from a materialistic perspective, the West
felt the need to find a tool to unify its people, so was enunciated the concept
of Equality. In India, it is believed that there is an eternal consciousness in
man that is common to every individual, rich or poor. Man’s physical existence
is a result of his Karmas and Samskaras.Since every human being has a soul,
equality is an essential part of Indian philosophy.
In the early scriptures of both Ancient Greece and India, God
appears merely as the personification of atmospheric phenomenon. The life of the
early communities of herdsmen and of the agriculture community was chiefly
influenced by those elemental facts of Nature on which they depended: the
alternation of day and night; the visible signs of which
are sun, moon and stars; favourable or adverse weather conditions, thunderstroms
rain and drought.
These external phenomena, on which depended the prosperity and
often, indeed, the very fate of Man, could not be altered and directly modified
by primitive Man. The feeling that he was completely dependent on these outward
processes, therefore, rendered Man humble in the face of the uncontrollable
forces of Nature.
Prompted by a powerful instinct of self-preservation, however,
Man attempted to establish some sway over them by worshipping and placating the
mighty being which, he believed, were incorporated in atmospheric forces, by the
acknowledgment of their dominion, resigned submission to their authority and
perhaps the utilitarian desire to gain their assistance and favour by satisfying
and strengthening them by means of libations. It is this attitude, then, that we
invariably find underlying all primitive worship.
Another mode of divine worship practised in ancient Greece, and preserved also
for ages in India, is the veneration, allied however with fear, of powerful
beasts; and thus the Gods in animal form, the Greek Satyr, a combination of Man
and animal, have had their equivalents in Indian religions at all times; the
elephant-god, the snake gods and goddesses, the vulture-god, or the more
beneficent deities who assumed the shape of a bull, a cow or monkey; in the
main, symbols of wealth and fertility.
But while this conception of diety maintained its dominance over India, in the
West it was soon abandoned. For at the very period when the Sophistic outlook
was developing, that is about 500 B.C a single paramount principle was
postulated as ruling the Universe, at least by the more advanced Greek thinkers,
although the masses remained much longer content with an indiscriminate
diversity of Gods.
In the first place we must consider two different concepts of
Individuality: that of
India’s cosmic Philosophy and that of the anthropologically determined West. In
India, then the individual is always part and parcel of the Whole. Man, most
closely woven into the
Universal Cosmic network, is subject to precisely the same biological laws of
growth and decay as all other forms. According to India’s Cosmic outlook the
individual does not stand in splendid isolation; he is not the all powerful Man,
of ancient Greece.
The Indian Dharma be identified with none of the Western
concepts of duty.
For while it imposes on Man obligations towards non-human beings, it is by no
means akin to the Christian idea of obedience and humility towards Deity,
since Dharma prescribes not only the acknowledgment of obligations towards
higher, a supreme Being, but also towards lower beings, and this again not as a
mode of indirect worship of a creator. Dharma, moreover, is not only negative
obligation, in the guise of the restraints of duty, but is equally the
sustaining influence of right.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy was a passionate lover of liberty in all the
sphere of life like Voltaire, Montesquieu and Rousseau. He declared the
essential divinity of man as man. Man was by his nature and constitution,
‘eternally free’. To deny this freedom was an out rage upon his nature and a sin
against his maker.
- Chopra .J.K, Contemporary Political Thought, Book Enclave, Jaipur 2003
- Gandhi.G Madan, Political Theory and Thought, Daryaganj, New
- Jayapalan.N, Indian Political Thinkers, Mhera Offset Press, Delhi, 2000.
- Ramaswamy, Rama, Political Theory Ideas and Concepts, Daryaganj, New
- Sharma Urmila, Indian Political Thought, Delhi, 2006.
- Varma.V.P, Ancient and Medieval Indian Political Thought,Agra,2006.