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What is the nature and scope of political theory?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is also useful to look the definitions of "theory" and "politics."

Theory is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an idea or set of ideas that is intended to explain facts or events.”

Politics is defined by Merriam-Webster as “activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government or getting and keeping power in a government.”

In brief, putting these two definitions together tells us that a political theory is a set of ideas about getting and keeping power in a government.

Although most people express a great deal of frustration with the workings of politics, there is no denying that it has a significant impact on many areas in our lives.

One of the most interesting aspects of politics is the wide variety of theories that exist in countries like the United States, where people have a significant degree of political freedom. We are all familiar with the two dominant parties, Republican and Democratic. Each of these parties has their own set of principles, or theories, that guide their approach to government. But the United States also has many smaller parties, such as the Libertarian, Communist, Socialist, Green, and even Nazi parties. Each of these parties espouses their own theories, which differ significantly.

Why are there so many different political theories? One might think that after so many centuries, civilized nations might have reached some sort of consensus regarding the best way to govern a country. The answer lies partly in the great variety of cultural traditions among different peoples. In the United States, for example, there is a history of individual effort and self-determination, which was made possible by our westward expansion in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This led to the adoption of relatively conservative political ideas that valued personal effort above governmental control. We still see the effects of conservative political theory in America when compared to most other countries.

However, events can also shape political theory. The rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1920’s was an outgrowth of the after-effect of World War I on the German economy. As their people suffered under the rules of the Treaty of Versailles, German leaders were able to create the impression that they had been victimized by their own Jewish population. Paranoia made it possible to institute a new political theory (Fascism) by making false promises to a desperate citizenry.

So, the scope and nature of any political theory is often dependent on the culture involved and the historical and cultural context in which the theory is operating.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In order to define the nature and scope of political theory, one must understand all three terms.

Political theory refers to the characteristics which define the orientation of thinking of a group or nation. 

Nature refers to the phenomenon which causes and regulates the characteristics; it is the tendency of something.

Scope refers to the relevant attributes of a specific subject matter or area.

Nature of political theory refers to the phenomenon which defines the characteristics by which a group or nation thinks. This examines what circumstances impact the characteristics of the thinking of a group. For example, one studying the Holocaust would pay specific attention to Hitler and his ideologies. Given that he was the main person behind the persecution of the Jewish people, one would need to look at Hitler's nature and the impact of his nature on the German people's thought.

Scope of political theory refers to only the things which are associated with the thinking of a group. For example, one would not examine the ideologies of Sir Isaac Newton in regards to the Holocaust. This investigation is out of the scope of the Holocaust.

Zac Egs | Student

"What is the nature and scope of political theory?"


The nature of political theory is double insofar as politics is double and politics is double since we have the people and the nation, two very different entities that represent two different ideals : respectively liberty and order. Political theory is a mathematical use of philosophy and religion. Political theory has been created in order to justify the abuses of many politicians. Today we have two major forces : first we have capitalism (accumulation of wealth, exchange, free trade, liberty of prices, open concurrence and so forth...) and then communism (centralisation of political power and then destruction of the "Kapital" like Marx said). Political theory is at the same time a conundrum and a crucible.

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Have a congenial day !

Yours faithfully,

Zac Goubantini-Servant (@ZacEgs)

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