NCERT Textbook - Political Theory: An Introduction Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

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Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - Political Theory: An Introduction Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


Equality
Equality
1
2020-21
Page 2


Equality
Equality
1
2020-21
Introduction
Political Theory
2
Political Theory
Human beings are unique in two respects: they possess reason and
the ability to reflect on their actions. They also have the capacity to
use language and communicate with each other. Unlike other species,
they can express their innermost thoughts and desires; they can
share their ideas and discuss what they consider to be good and
desirable. Political theory has its roots in the twin aspects of the
human self. It analyses certain basic questions such as how should
society be organised? Why do we need government? What is the best
form of government? Does law limit our freedom? What does the
state owe its citizens? What do we owe each other as citizens?
Political theory examines questions of this kind and
systematically thinks about the values that inform political life —
values such as freedom, equality and justice. It explains the meaning
and significance of these and other related concepts. It clarifies the
existing definitions of these concepts by focusing on some major
political thinkers of the past and present. It also examines the extent
to which freedom or equality are actually present in the institutions
that we participate in, everyday life such as schools, shops, buses
or trains or government offices. At an advanced level, it looks at
whether existing definitions are adequate and how existing
institutions (government, bureaucracy) and policy practices must
be modified to become more democratic. The objective of political
theory is to train citizens to think rationally about political questions
and assess the political events of our time.
In this chapter, we will examine what is meant by politics and
political theory and why we should study it.
1.1 WHAT IS POLITICS?
You would have noticed that people have different ideas
about what politics is. Political leaders, and persons
who contest elections and hold political office, may argue
that it is a kind of public service. Some others associate
politics with manipulation and intrigue undertaken to
pursue ambitions and satisfy wants. A few think of
politics as what politicians do. If they see politicians
defecting from parties, making false promises and tall
LET’S DEBATE
“ ”
What is Politics.
2020-21
Page 3


Equality
Equality
1
2020-21
Introduction
Political Theory
2
Political Theory
Human beings are unique in two respects: they possess reason and
the ability to reflect on their actions. They also have the capacity to
use language and communicate with each other. Unlike other species,
they can express their innermost thoughts and desires; they can
share their ideas and discuss what they consider to be good and
desirable. Political theory has its roots in the twin aspects of the
human self. It analyses certain basic questions such as how should
society be organised? Why do we need government? What is the best
form of government? Does law limit our freedom? What does the
state owe its citizens? What do we owe each other as citizens?
Political theory examines questions of this kind and
systematically thinks about the values that inform political life —
values such as freedom, equality and justice. It explains the meaning
and significance of these and other related concepts. It clarifies the
existing definitions of these concepts by focusing on some major
political thinkers of the past and present. It also examines the extent
to which freedom or equality are actually present in the institutions
that we participate in, everyday life such as schools, shops, buses
or trains or government offices. At an advanced level, it looks at
whether existing definitions are adequate and how existing
institutions (government, bureaucracy) and policy practices must
be modified to become more democratic. The objective of political
theory is to train citizens to think rationally about political questions
and assess the political events of our time.
In this chapter, we will examine what is meant by politics and
political theory and why we should study it.
1.1 WHAT IS POLITICS?
You would have noticed that people have different ideas
about what politics is. Political leaders, and persons
who contest elections and hold political office, may argue
that it is a kind of public service. Some others associate
politics with manipulation and intrigue undertaken to
pursue ambitions and satisfy wants. A few think of
politics as what politicians do. If they see politicians
defecting from parties, making false promises and tall
LET’S DEBATE
“ ”
What is Politics.
2020-21
Introduction
Political Theory
Political Theory
3
claims, manipulating different sections, pursuing personal or group
interests ruthlessly and in worst cases stooping to crime, they link
politics with ‘scams’. So prevalent is this way of thinking that when
we see people in different walks of life trying to promote their interests
by any means possible, we say they are playing politics.   If we see
a cricketer manipulating to stay in the team, or a fellow student
trying to use his father’s position, or a colleague in office mindlessly
agreeing with the boss, we say he or she is playing ‘dirty’ politics.
Disillusioned by such pursuits of selfishness we
despair of politics. We say, “I am not interested
in politics” or “I am going to stay away from
politics”. It is not only ordinary people who
despair of politics; even businessmen and
entrepreneurs routinely blame politics for their
woes even as they benefit from and fund various
political parties. Cinema stars also complain of
politics though they seem to be adept at the game
once they join it.
We are thus confronted with conflicting
images of politics. Is politics an undesirable
activity that we should stay away from and get
rid off? Or, is it a worthwhile activity which we
must engage with in order to make a better world?
It is unfortunate that politics has come to be
associated with the pursuit of self-interest by
any and every method. We need to realise that
politics is an important and integral part of any society. Mahatma
Gandhi once observed that politics envelops us like the coils of a
snake and there is no other way out but to wrestle with it. No society
can exist without some form of political organisation and collective
decision making. A society that wants to sustain itself needs to
take into account the multiple needs and interests of its members.
A number of social institutions such as the family, tribes and
economic institutions, have emerged to help people fulfil their needs
and aspirations. Such institutions help us find ways of living together
acknowledging our obligations to each other. Among such
institutions, governments play an important part. How governments
You must retire from politics at
once! Your activities are having a
bad influence on him. He thinks
he can get away with lying and
cheating.
R. K. Laxman in the Times of India
2020-21
Page 4


Equality
Equality
1
2020-21
Introduction
Political Theory
2
Political Theory
Human beings are unique in two respects: they possess reason and
the ability to reflect on their actions. They also have the capacity to
use language and communicate with each other. Unlike other species,
they can express their innermost thoughts and desires; they can
share their ideas and discuss what they consider to be good and
desirable. Political theory has its roots in the twin aspects of the
human self. It analyses certain basic questions such as how should
society be organised? Why do we need government? What is the best
form of government? Does law limit our freedom? What does the
state owe its citizens? What do we owe each other as citizens?
Political theory examines questions of this kind and
systematically thinks about the values that inform political life —
values such as freedom, equality and justice. It explains the meaning
and significance of these and other related concepts. It clarifies the
existing definitions of these concepts by focusing on some major
political thinkers of the past and present. It also examines the extent
to which freedom or equality are actually present in the institutions
that we participate in, everyday life such as schools, shops, buses
or trains or government offices. At an advanced level, it looks at
whether existing definitions are adequate and how existing
institutions (government, bureaucracy) and policy practices must
be modified to become more democratic. The objective of political
theory is to train citizens to think rationally about political questions
and assess the political events of our time.
In this chapter, we will examine what is meant by politics and
political theory and why we should study it.
1.1 WHAT IS POLITICS?
You would have noticed that people have different ideas
about what politics is. Political leaders, and persons
who contest elections and hold political office, may argue
that it is a kind of public service. Some others associate
politics with manipulation and intrigue undertaken to
pursue ambitions and satisfy wants. A few think of
politics as what politicians do. If they see politicians
defecting from parties, making false promises and tall
LET’S DEBATE
“ ”
What is Politics.
2020-21
Introduction
Political Theory
Political Theory
3
claims, manipulating different sections, pursuing personal or group
interests ruthlessly and in worst cases stooping to crime, they link
politics with ‘scams’. So prevalent is this way of thinking that when
we see people in different walks of life trying to promote their interests
by any means possible, we say they are playing politics.   If we see
a cricketer manipulating to stay in the team, or a fellow student
trying to use his father’s position, or a colleague in office mindlessly
agreeing with the boss, we say he or she is playing ‘dirty’ politics.
Disillusioned by such pursuits of selfishness we
despair of politics. We say, “I am not interested
in politics” or “I am going to stay away from
politics”. It is not only ordinary people who
despair of politics; even businessmen and
entrepreneurs routinely blame politics for their
woes even as they benefit from and fund various
political parties. Cinema stars also complain of
politics though they seem to be adept at the game
once they join it.
We are thus confronted with conflicting
images of politics. Is politics an undesirable
activity that we should stay away from and get
rid off? Or, is it a worthwhile activity which we
must engage with in order to make a better world?
It is unfortunate that politics has come to be
associated with the pursuit of self-interest by
any and every method. We need to realise that
politics is an important and integral part of any society. Mahatma
Gandhi once observed that politics envelops us like the coils of a
snake and there is no other way out but to wrestle with it. No society
can exist without some form of political organisation and collective
decision making. A society that wants to sustain itself needs to
take into account the multiple needs and interests of its members.
A number of social institutions such as the family, tribes and
economic institutions, have emerged to help people fulfil their needs
and aspirations. Such institutions help us find ways of living together
acknowledging our obligations to each other. Among such
institutions, governments play an important part. How governments
You must retire from politics at
once! Your activities are having a
bad influence on him. He thinks
he can get away with lying and
cheating.
R. K. Laxman in the Times of India
2020-21
Introduction
Political Theory
4
Political Theory
are formed and how they function is thus an
important focus of politics.
But politics is not confined to the affairs of
government. In fact what governments do is
relevant because it affects the lives of the
people in many different ways. We see that
governments determine our economic policy and foreign policy and
educational policy. These policies can help to improve the lives of
people but an inefficient or corrupt government can also endanger
people’s lives and security. If the government in power allows any
conflicts to become violent, markets close down and schools are
shut. These disrupt our lives; we cannot buy things that we may
need urgently; those who are sick cannot reach the hospital; even
the school schedule gets affected, syllabi cannot be completed and
we may have to take extra coaching for the exams and pay tuition
fees. If, on the other hand, the government makes policies to increase
literacy and employment, we may get an opportunity to go to a
good school and get a decent job.
Since the actions of the government affect us deeply, we take a
lively interest in what governments do. We form associations and
organise campaigns to articulate our demands. We negotiate with
others and try to shape the goals that governments pursue.  When
we disagree with the policies of the government, we protest and
organise demonstrations to persuade the government to change
the existing laws. We passionately debate the actions of our
representatives and discuss whether corruption has increased or
decreased. We ask whether corruption can be rooted out; whether
reservations for specific groups are just or not. We try to understand
why some parties and leaders win
elections. In this way we look for the
rationale underlying the prevalent chaos
and decay, and aspire to create a better
world.
To sum up, politics arises from the
fact that we have different visions of what
is just and desirable for us and our
How does politics
influence our daily life?
Analyse a day’s events
in your life.
LET’S DO IT
Do
Read the newspaper. What are
the issues dominating the
headlines? Do you think they
have any relevance for you?
2020-21
Page 5


Equality
Equality
1
2020-21
Introduction
Political Theory
2
Political Theory
Human beings are unique in two respects: they possess reason and
the ability to reflect on their actions. They also have the capacity to
use language and communicate with each other. Unlike other species,
they can express their innermost thoughts and desires; they can
share their ideas and discuss what they consider to be good and
desirable. Political theory has its roots in the twin aspects of the
human self. It analyses certain basic questions such as how should
society be organised? Why do we need government? What is the best
form of government? Does law limit our freedom? What does the
state owe its citizens? What do we owe each other as citizens?
Political theory examines questions of this kind and
systematically thinks about the values that inform political life —
values such as freedom, equality and justice. It explains the meaning
and significance of these and other related concepts. It clarifies the
existing definitions of these concepts by focusing on some major
political thinkers of the past and present. It also examines the extent
to which freedom or equality are actually present in the institutions
that we participate in, everyday life such as schools, shops, buses
or trains or government offices. At an advanced level, it looks at
whether existing definitions are adequate and how existing
institutions (government, bureaucracy) and policy practices must
be modified to become more democratic. The objective of political
theory is to train citizens to think rationally about political questions
and assess the political events of our time.
In this chapter, we will examine what is meant by politics and
political theory and why we should study it.
1.1 WHAT IS POLITICS?
You would have noticed that people have different ideas
about what politics is. Political leaders, and persons
who contest elections and hold political office, may argue
that it is a kind of public service. Some others associate
politics with manipulation and intrigue undertaken to
pursue ambitions and satisfy wants. A few think of
politics as what politicians do. If they see politicians
defecting from parties, making false promises and tall
LET’S DEBATE
“ ”
What is Politics.
2020-21
Introduction
Political Theory
Political Theory
3
claims, manipulating different sections, pursuing personal or group
interests ruthlessly and in worst cases stooping to crime, they link
politics with ‘scams’. So prevalent is this way of thinking that when
we see people in different walks of life trying to promote their interests
by any means possible, we say they are playing politics.   If we see
a cricketer manipulating to stay in the team, or a fellow student
trying to use his father’s position, or a colleague in office mindlessly
agreeing with the boss, we say he or she is playing ‘dirty’ politics.
Disillusioned by such pursuits of selfishness we
despair of politics. We say, “I am not interested
in politics” or “I am going to stay away from
politics”. It is not only ordinary people who
despair of politics; even businessmen and
entrepreneurs routinely blame politics for their
woes even as they benefit from and fund various
political parties. Cinema stars also complain of
politics though they seem to be adept at the game
once they join it.
We are thus confronted with conflicting
images of politics. Is politics an undesirable
activity that we should stay away from and get
rid off? Or, is it a worthwhile activity which we
must engage with in order to make a better world?
It is unfortunate that politics has come to be
associated with the pursuit of self-interest by
any and every method. We need to realise that
politics is an important and integral part of any society. Mahatma
Gandhi once observed that politics envelops us like the coils of a
snake and there is no other way out but to wrestle with it. No society
can exist without some form of political organisation and collective
decision making. A society that wants to sustain itself needs to
take into account the multiple needs and interests of its members.
A number of social institutions such as the family, tribes and
economic institutions, have emerged to help people fulfil their needs
and aspirations. Such institutions help us find ways of living together
acknowledging our obligations to each other. Among such
institutions, governments play an important part. How governments
You must retire from politics at
once! Your activities are having a
bad influence on him. He thinks
he can get away with lying and
cheating.
R. K. Laxman in the Times of India
2020-21
Introduction
Political Theory
4
Political Theory
are formed and how they function is thus an
important focus of politics.
But politics is not confined to the affairs of
government. In fact what governments do is
relevant because it affects the lives of the
people in many different ways. We see that
governments determine our economic policy and foreign policy and
educational policy. These policies can help to improve the lives of
people but an inefficient or corrupt government can also endanger
people’s lives and security. If the government in power allows any
conflicts to become violent, markets close down and schools are
shut. These disrupt our lives; we cannot buy things that we may
need urgently; those who are sick cannot reach the hospital; even
the school schedule gets affected, syllabi cannot be completed and
we may have to take extra coaching for the exams and pay tuition
fees. If, on the other hand, the government makes policies to increase
literacy and employment, we may get an opportunity to go to a
good school and get a decent job.
Since the actions of the government affect us deeply, we take a
lively interest in what governments do. We form associations and
organise campaigns to articulate our demands. We negotiate with
others and try to shape the goals that governments pursue.  When
we disagree with the policies of the government, we protest and
organise demonstrations to persuade the government to change
the existing laws. We passionately debate the actions of our
representatives and discuss whether corruption has increased or
decreased. We ask whether corruption can be rooted out; whether
reservations for specific groups are just or not. We try to understand
why some parties and leaders win
elections. In this way we look for the
rationale underlying the prevalent chaos
and decay, and aspire to create a better
world.
To sum up, politics arises from the
fact that we have different visions of what
is just and desirable for us and our
How does politics
influence our daily life?
Analyse a day’s events
in your life.
LET’S DO IT
Do
Read the newspaper. What are
the issues dominating the
headlines? Do you think they
have any relevance for you?
2020-21
Introduction
Political Theory
Political Theory
5
society. It involves the multiple negotiations
that go on in society through which collective
decisions are made. At one level, it involves what
governments do and how they relate to the
aspirations of the people; at another level, it
involves how people struggle and influence decision
making. People may be said to engage in political
activity whenever they negotiate with each other
and take part in collective activities which are
designed to promote social development and help
to resolve common problems.
1.2 WHAT DO WE STUDY IN POLITICAL THEORY?
If we look around us what we see would be movement, development
and change. But if we look deeper we would also see certain values
and principles that have inspired people and guided policies. Ideals
like democracy, freedom or equality for instance. Different countries
may try to protect such values by enshrining them in their constitutions
as is the case with the American and Indian constitutions.
These documents did not just emerge overnight; they are built
upon the ideas and principles debated almost since the time
of Kautilya, Aristotle to Jean Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Mahatma
Gandhi and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. As far back as the fifth century
B.C., Plato and Aristotle discussed with their students whether
monarchy or democracy was better. In modern times, Rousseau first
argued for freedom as a fundamental right of humankind. Karl Marx
argued that equality was as crucial as freedom. Closer home, Mahatma
Gandhi discussed the meaning of genuine freedom or swaraj in his
book Hind Swaraj. Dr. Ambedkar vigorously argued that the
scheduled castes must be considered a minority,
and as such, must receive special protection.
These ideas find their place in the Indian
Constitution; our Preamble enshrines freedom
and equality; the chapter on Rights in the Indian
Constitution abolishes untouchability in any
form; Gandhian principles find a place in
Directive Principles.
LET’S DEBATE
“ ”
Should  students
participate in politics?.
Write a short note on any of
the political thinkers
mentioned in the chapter. [50
words]
2020-21
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