My interest in political theory goes back to high school when I was introduced to the social contract theorists Locke and Rousseau. I devoured political philosophy. I also read Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Marx and Smith. I could go on and on. But I was drawn to the Social Contract theorists because they established simple rules to measure society. It was a concept that matched my ideological world view. Politics came down to a few simple principles. Everything was measured against these principles.
Locke was simple to understand. But I never fully accepted his ideas. They seemed antiquated. Rousseau was different. His Social Contract was relativistic. It was sophistic. Almost post-modern. It was impossible to pin down the General Will. This allowed future generations to use his theories to justify terrible injustices. But I felt there was some truth in this theory.
Political theory was abandoned for political science in the twentieth century. The process had begun in the nineteenth century. John Stuart Mill is known for his work On Liberty, but he was a devoted Utilitarian. The Utilitarian theory favored economics and led to the approach of politics as a science.
Maybe it is wrong for me to discount twentieth century political theory. Two new social contract theorists emerged in the twentieth century. But social contract theory in the Enlightenment made efforts to understand the origins of society. Unfortunately, they were limited in their knowledge of the distant past. They were limited in their knowledge of primitive societies although Locke made efforts to learn some. But Rawls and Nozick never incorporated developments in anthropology, archaeology or history into their theories. They treated social origins as a thought experiment. So, I was always disappointed.
On the other hand, the work of political scientists like Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama are insightful. But they approach politics as scientists rather than theorists. There is no philosophy in their writings. I admit there is an acceptance of the superiority of liberal democracy. Yet there is rarely a defense of our institutions. Instead, they accept the moral superiority of liberalism and democracy.
This blog seeks to establish a new political theory or philosophy. A post-modern political theory must have differences from the Social Contract theories of the Enlightenment. In the past, political theorists sought to understand the proper behavior of the government or the state. The emergence of democracy changes our perspective. No longer is the government an institution entirely detached from the people. Today the people have extraordinary influence on the institution of the state. So, the question is reversed. How should we behave in a democracy? What is our obligation for proper governance? How do we govern effectively?
These questions demand a revision of political theory to understand our place in governance. My first nine blogs on political theory will sketch a rough outline before delving deeper into the subject matter. The next few posts will explore the following topics: Power, Institutions, Identity, Customs, Elites, Alienation, Freedom, Ethics and Responsibility.
I do not expect to fully answer these topics in a single post. I do not want to fully answer everything yet. But I will provide a rough outline that will set the stage for future discussions. I welcome others to engage with me and join in the discussion. This is my journey. This is my quest to unravel the Democracy Paradox.
jmk, carmel, Indiana, email@example.com