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


Introduction
Political Theory
Political Theory
1
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 2


Introduction
Political Theory
Political Theory
1
© NCERT
not to be republished
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 these twin aspects of the
human self. It analyzes certain basic questions such as how should
society be organized? 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
meanings 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 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 correctly 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
“What is Politics”.
LET’S DEBATE
“ ”
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 3


Introduction
Political Theory
Political Theory
1
© NCERT
not to be republished
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 these twin aspects of the
human self. It analyzes certain basic questions such as how should
society be organized? 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
meanings 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 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 correctly 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
“What is Politics”.
LET’S DEBATE
“ ”
© NCERT
not to be republished
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 that “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 realize 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 organization 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 fulfill their needs
and aspirations. Such institutions help us find ways of living together
and 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
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 4


Introduction
Political Theory
Political Theory
1
© NCERT
not to be republished
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 these twin aspects of the
human self. It analyzes certain basic questions such as how should
society be organized? 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
meanings 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 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 correctly 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
“What is Politics”.
LET’S DEBATE
“ ”
© NCERT
not to be republished
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 that “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 realize 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 organization 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 fulfill their needs
and aspirations. Such institutions help us find ways of living together
and 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
© NCERT
not to be republished
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 caste
and communal conflicts to occur, markets close down and schools
are shut. This disrupts 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
organize 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
organize demonstration to persuade our governments 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
How does politics
influence our daily life?
Analyze a days events in
your life.
LET’S DO IT
D o
Read the newspaper. What
are the issues dominating the
headlines? Do you think they
have any relevance for you?
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 5


Introduction
Political Theory
Political Theory
1
© NCERT
not to be republished
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 these twin aspects of the
human self. It analyzes certain basic questions such as how should
society be organized? 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
meanings 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 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 correctly 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
“What is Politics”.
LET’S DEBATE
“ ”
© NCERT
not to be republished
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 that “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 realize 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 organization 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 fulfill their needs
and aspirations. Such institutions help us find ways of living together
and 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
© NCERT
not to be republished
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 caste
and communal conflicts to occur, markets close down and schools
are shut. This disrupts 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
organize 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
organize demonstration to persuade our governments 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
How does politics
influence our daily life?
Analyze a days events in
your life.
LET’S DO IT
D o
Read the newspaper. What
are the issues dominating the
headlines? Do you think they
have any relevance for you?
© NCERT
not to be republished
Introduction
Political Theory
Political Theory
5
is just and desirable for us and our 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 movements, 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, Gandhi
and Ambedkar. As far back as fifth century BC, 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, Gandhi discussed the
meaning of genuine freedom or swaraj in his book Hind Swaraj.
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 rights chapter abolishes untouchability in
any form; Gandhian principles find a place in
Directive Principles.
“Should  students
participate in politics?”.
LET’S DEBATE
“ ”
Write a short note on any of
the political thinkers
mentioned in the chapter. [50
words]
© NCERT
not to be republished
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