Why should we study political theory?

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Political theory has value in that it provides a framework to answer tough political questions. It allows one to compare different types of governments such as governments and dictatorships and how these governments respond to internal and external issues they face. Political theorists also allow one to think about a government's relationship to the people—how much government is needed and at what point does government become a burden to people's individual will. Political theorists also examine the responsibilities people have to the government, if any. Some theorists argue that the state is greater than individuals, while some argue that individual self-interest is above the needs of the state. Political theorists also examine a government's priorities. This is important when thinking about how much a government decides to budget towards defense, social welfare, and maintaining its infrastructure.

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Defenders of the study of political theory would point to several reasons why it should be studied. One is that political theory deals on one level with ideal types. In other words, political theorists think seriously about the ways in which society can best be organized to achieve justice, liberty, and other desirable ends. No society can be perfect, of course, but thinking about the theoretical underpinnings of a political society can help us focus on what is important in society. Another related reason is that political theorists think and write about the proper goals of government. This is a question that is easily translated into real-world politics. If, for example, you think economic equality is a goal that should be fostered by a good government, then you might support policies and politicians that aim to bring about this end. If you think that protecting liberty is the main purpose of government, as some political theorists have argued, then you may oppose such measures, even if they can be justified on humanitarian grounds. In short, political theory engages with timeless questions about the proper relation between people and government as well as with each other. It forces us to think about power, authority, morality, and liberty (among other things) and the ways these concepts shape real-world government. 

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