The term Political Theory is composed of two words ‘Politics’ and ‘Theory’. Politics means the study of politics whereby theory is anything from a plan to a piece of abstract knowledge. In academic discourse, however, a theory is an explanatory proposition, an idea or set of ideas that in some way seeks to impose order or meaning upon phenomena. Political theory involves analytical study of ideas and doctrines that have been central to political thought (Heywood, 2004). This paper seeks to discuss the meaning of political theory.
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Political Philosophy is concerned with how the world ought to be rather than with how we see it now. In short this area of study is defined based on what is experienced rather than on theory. What political goals, is it reasonable and correct to follow? The meanig of this is to be leally employed to pursue such reasonable and main purpose. In short these are the impotant questions Political Philosophy tries to answer. Political philosophers have discussed them from antiquity to recent times, that is why the sound knowledge of the history of political thought isindispensable for political theorists. (Druwe ulrich)
Political theory is concerned with ethical or normative questions, such as ‘Why should I obey the state?’, ‘How rewards should be distributed?’ and ‘What should be the limits of individual liberty?’ This traditional approach is primarily interested in examining views by great thinkers, justify them and find out their sources and the intellectual context in which they worked. Political theory has attempted to understand better the behavior of actors like voters, politicians, lobbyists and bureaucrats, and has spawned ‘rational choice,’ ‘public choice’ and ‘social choice’ schools of thought. Heywood, 2004
Political theory examines questions of this kind and systematically clarifies the meaning of concepts such as freedom, equality, democracy, secularism 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. It looks at whether existing definitions are adequate and how existing institutions (government, bureaucracy) and policy practices must be modified to become more democratic in a systematic manner.
Political theory probes the significance of principles such as rule of law, separation of powers, judicial review, etc. This is done by examining the arguments advanced by different thinkers in defense of these concepts. Besides examining arguments, political theorists also reflect upon the current political experiences and point out trends and possibilities for the future.
The role of Political theory is to analyze the political concepts, understand them and criticize them through the use of the four tools: concepts, models, theories and paradigms.
Concept is a general idea or mental construct in which an attempt is made to draw out meaning from an otherwise infinitely complex reality, for example; equality, presidency, political party, etc. It helps to make sense of the world by serving as a tool through which political developments are explained, analyzed, disapproved, and classifying of objects by recognizing that they have similar forms or properties. For example we must attempt to understand the political parties in Malawi since the colonial period to date. What we have seen, heard and experienced has acted as a building block for our knowledge Dr. E B Muluzi introduced starter pack fertilizer to famers but hunger still continued but Prof. Bingu Wa Muthalika analyzed what was in the past and introduced fertilizer subsidy, it worked and it put Malawi on the world map as a food self-sufficient. Therefore Concepts serve as building blocks of human knowledge.
Model is an analytical tool through which meaning can be imposed upon a massive disorganized collection of facts , simplification of reality and merely a device for drawing out understanding but not reliable knowledge in themselves ,following and explaining Easton’s systems model we see that people mean people who form political parties and their parties in estimate figures then inputs are manifestos which are made to convince voters to elect them into government and the gate keepers are mechanisms put in place to protect the government of the day like law enforcers. The government is the political party that has been elected into power by the people. Outputs are the developments that are unfold from their manifestos in order to fulfill their promises they made during campaign period.
A model can also be defined as a representation of empirical data that aims to advance understanding by highlighting significant relationships and interactions among variables. Models are built around a number of concepts to aptly resemble the original object without necessarily becoming its copy.
Theory is a reliable explanation, comprehensive, consistent and systematic prediction of relationships among specific variables. It is usually used interchangeably with model and may be explained by a series of models. A theory attempts to present a full explanation and prediction of future events while a model attempts to accurately reflect reality. The objective of political theory is to train citizens to think rationally about political questions and assess correctly the political events of our time. Human beings are unique in two respects: they possess reason and the ability to reflect on their activities. In addition to that they also have the ability 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 the society should be governed. Is the government needed? What form of government is best for us? Is our freedom limited by the law? What social contract is there between the state and its citizens? What about citizen to citizen?
Paradigm is an intellectual framework comprising interrelated values, theories and assumptions, within which search for knowledge is conducted. It consists of a set of principles that structure the process of intellectual inquiry.
Political theory helps us in critical thinking, evaluation and understanding of ideas. As a human being we are able to enlarge our knowledge because it is through the study of political theory where we get building blocks of our knowledge. It also helps us to understand and evaluate manifestos of political parties in order to make informed decision and make a good choice during any election, in addition to that politicians are able to make decisions for their parties so that they can be voted into power in any election and they can be able to make a good government. Political theory’s objective is to analyze and explain political ideas and concepts rather than advance any particular beliefs or interpretations like what political philosophy does. In this context, political theory will mean an explanatory proposition, an idea or set of ideas that seeks to explain matters in politics. In all political theory involves the analytical study of ideas and doctrines that have been central to political thought (Heywood 2004).
Heywood, A.(2004) Political Ideologies: An introduction. 3rd ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Heywood, A.(2004) Political Theory: An Introduction. 3rd ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Druwe Ulrich (1995)politische 2nd ed Neuried https: ioenline. Microsoft.com./# ieslice.