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BPSC-101: Understanding Political Theory

BPSC-101: Understanding Political Theory

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2021-22

If you are looking for BPSC-101 IGNOU Solved Assignment solution for the subject Understanding Political Theory, you have come to the right place. BPSC-101 solution on this page applies to 2021-22 session students studying in BAPSH courses of IGNOU.

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Assignment Code: BPSC-101/ASST/TMA/2021-22

Course Code: BPSC-101

Assignment Name: Understanding Political Theory

Year: 2021-2022

Verification Status: Verified by Professor

There are three Sections in the Assignment. You have to answer all questions in the Sections.


Assignment – I


Answer the following in about 500 words each. Each answer carries 20 marks.


Q1. Discuss the revival of Political theory.

Ans) The revival of political theory: In the 1930s, political theory began studying the history of ideas with the purpose of defending liberal democratic theory in opposition to the totalitarian tenets of communism, fascism, and Nazism. Laswell tried to establish a scientific political theory with the eventual purpose of controlling human behaviour, furthering the aims and direction given by Merriam. Unlike the classical tradition, scientific political theory describes rather than prescribes. Political theory in the traditional sense was alive in the works of Arendt, Theodore Adorno, Marcuse, and Leo Strauss. Their views diametrically differed from the broad ideas within American political science for they believed in liberal democracy, science, and historical progress. All of them reject political messianism and utopianism in politics. Arendt focussed mainly on the uniqueness and responsibility of the human being, with which she initiates her criticism in behaviouralist. She contended that the behavioural search for uniformities in human nature has only contributed towards stereotyping the human being.

Strauss reaffirms the importance of classical political theory to remedy the crisis of modern times. He does not agree with the proposition that all political theory is ideological in nature mirroring a given socio-economic interest, for most political thinkers are motivated by the possibility of discerning the principles of the right order in social existence. A political philosopher must be primarily interested in truth. Past philosophies are studied with an eye on coherence and consistency. The authors of the classics in political theory are superior because they were geniuses and measured in their writings. Strauss scrutinises the methods and purposes of the ‘new’ political science and concludes that it was defective when compared with classical political theory, particularly that of Aristotle.

For Aristotle, a political philosopher or a political scientist must be impartial, for he possesses a more comprehensive and clearer understanding of human ends. Political science and political philosophy are identical, because science consisting of theoretical and practical aspects is identical with philosophy. Aristotle’s political science also evaluates political things, defends autonomy of prudence in practical matters and views political action as essentially ethical. These premises Behaviouralist denies, for it separates political philosophy from political science and substitutes the distinction between theoretical and practical sciences. It perceives applied sciences to be derived from theoretical sciences, but not in the same manner as the classical tradition visualises.

Behaviouralist like positivism is disastrous, for it denies knowledge regarding ultimate principles. Their bankruptcy is evident, for they seem helpless, unable to distinguish the right from the wrong, the just from the unjust in view of the rise of totalitarianism. Strauss counters Easton’s charge of historicism by alleging that the new science is responsible for the decline in political theory, for it pointed to and abetted the general political crisis of the West because of its overall neglect of normative issues. Vogelin regards political science and political theory as inseparable and that one is not possible without the other. Political theory is not ideology, utopia, or scientific methodology, but an experiential science of the right order at both the level of the individual and society. It must dissect critically and empirically the problem of order. Theory is not just any opining about human existence in society, it rather is an attempt at formulating the meaning of existence by explicating the content of a definitive class of experiences. Its argument is not arbitrary but derives its validity from the aggregate of experiences to which it must permanently refer for empirical control.


Q2. Explain what is state.

Ans) There are various forms of the state, which differ from one another in important ways. The Greek city-state is clearly different from the modern nation-state, which has dominated world politics since the French Revolution. The contemporary liberal-democratic state, which exists in Britain and Western Europe, is different from the fascist-type state of Hitler or Mussolini. It is also different from the state, which existed in the former USSR and in Introducing Political Theory Eastern Europe. The purpose is to show how each form distinguishes itself from the other and what the significance of such distinction is.

State: Differences on Account of Political Institutions/ Social Context

States differ in terms of their political institutions as well as in terms of the social context within which they are situated and which they try to maintain. So, while the liberal-democratic state is characterised by representative institutions such as a parliament and an independent judiciary, the leader controls the fascist state. With respect to the social context, the crucial contrast is between Western and Soviet type systems in so far as the former are embedded in a society which is organized according to the principles of a capitalist economy, while in the latter case the productive resources of society are owned and controlled by the state. In each case, therefore, the state is differently structured, operates in a social framework of a very different kind, and this affects and influences to a large extent the nature of the state and the purposes, which it serves. There are different forms of the state, but whatever form one has in mind, the state as such is not a monolithic block. To start with, the state is not the same as the government. It is rather a complex of various elements of which the government is only one. In a Western-type liberal-democratic state, those who form the government are indeed with the state power.

Ralph Miliband’s Views on the State

The first, but by no means the only element of the state apparatus, is the government. The second is the administrative element, the civil service, or the bureaucracy. This administrative executive is, in liberal-democratic systems, supposed to be neutral, carrying out the orders of politicians who are in power. In fact, however, the bureaucracy may well have its own authority and dispose of its own power. Third, in Miliband’s list come the military and the police, the ‘order-maintaining’ or the repressive arm of the state; fourth, the judiciary. In any constitutional system, the judiciary is supposed to be independent of the holders of government power; it can act as a check on them. Fifth, element is the local government. In some federal systems, these units have considerable independence from the central government, controlling their own sphere of power, where the government is constitutionally debarred from interfering.

Various Forms of State

Modern state is identified as the nation state. The state has come to acquire its present character through a historical process that extends to thousands of years. It is interplay of various factors like religion, kinship, war, property, political consciousness, and technological advances. In the process of historical evolution of state, there have been following forms – Tribal State, Oriental Empire, Greek City State, Roman World Empire, Feudal State, and the Modern Nation State. The Modern Nation state arose after the Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648. It led to the emergence of a territorial state consolidating political authority within a particular territory excluding domestic from external. The separation of territory into distinct states each with their own national spirit paved the way for establishment of Modern Nation State along with the rise of international law, legal equality of states and modern theory of sovereignty. American and French revolutions further contributed to the emergence of nation states.



Assignment – II


Answer the following in about 250 words each. Each answer carries 10 marks.


Q3. Write a note on modern Liberalism/Welfarism.

Ans) The problem brought a new change in society, the uprising of the working class. In the 20th century the rising working-class questioned classical liberalism and its core argument to support negative liberty, i.e., laissez-faire market. Laissez-faire individualism encouraged capitalist economy, and consequently, the working class was deprived of its due share. A new form of liberalism came up – Modern Liberalism, also known as welfarism. Thinkers of this strand of liberalism believed that government must remove obstacles that stand in the way of individual freedom. The main exponent of this statement was T.H. Green. According to him, excessive power of government might have constituted the greatest obstacle to freedom in an earlier era, but by the middle of the 19th century these powers had been greatly reduced or mitigated. Now, there were different kinds of hindrances, such as poverty, disease, discrimination, and ignorance that could be overcome only with positive assistance of government.

From the late nineteenth century onwards, however, a form of social liberalism emerged which looked more favourably on welfare reform and economic management. It became the characteristic theme of modern or twentieth-century liberalism. It is best illustrated in the views of John Stuart Mill, besides those of Kant, Green, and Hobhouse. In very distinct ways modern liberalism establishes an affirmative relationship between liberty and human progress. The modern liberal believes the man to be a ‘progressive being’ with unlimited potential for self-development; one which does not jeopardize a similar potential in others. This approach lays down and justifies the value of distributive justice and experiments such as the welfare state. Modern liberalism exhibits a more sympathetic attitude towards the state. It is also known as welfarism.


Q4. What do you understand by Dictatorship of the Proletariat? Elaborate.

Ans) The proletariat revolution will lead to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is also known as the socialist state. The state apparatus created by the bourgeois to oppress the proletariat will be taken over by the proletariat themselves. Now, the table will be turned, and the proletariat will use the state apparatus against the bourgeois. The bourgeois will try to stage a counterrevolution to restore the old system and so, the coercive institutions of the state are needed to restrain the bourgeois. The state has always been the instrument of oppression. The dominant class to oppress the dependent class has created the state. It is a class instrument. The state protects and serves the interests of its creator, which is the property-owning class. This class has always been in a minority, whether it is the masters or the feudal lords or the capitalists. Thus, a minority has been oppressing a majority viz., the slaves or the peasants or the proletariat through the coercive organs of the state.

According to Marx, all states have been dictatorships and so the socialist state is no exception. It is also a dictatorship. The state has always been used by one class to suppress the other class. In the socialist state, the proletariat class will use the coercive organs of the state such as the army, the police, prison, judicial system etc., against the bourgeois class. Marx argues that if democracy means the rule of the majority, then the proletariat state is the most democratic state, because for the first time in the annals of history, power comes into the hands of the majority. Before the proletariat state, power has always been in the hands of the minority. So, if majority rule is the criterion, then only the proletariat state can be called a democratic state.


Q5. What is Conservatism? Explain with reference to the views of Oakshot.

Ans) The doctrine of conservatism is based on traditional institutions and practices. As a concept, conservatism gives more importance to what is historically inherited instead of what is abstract and ideal. Conservatives believe in an organic view of society, meaning that society is not a loose collection of individuals but a living organism comprising of closely connected, interdependent members. Conservatives also argue that the government is a Conservative servant in the sense that it should serve the existing ways of life and the political class should not attempt to change them. There is a vital difference between Conservatism and a reactionary outlook as a reactionary favour’s restoration of a previous political and social order which has become outmoded. Conservatism seeks to preserve tradition and, in a way, wants to preserve what one has rather than to seek something which one does not have. Prominent conservative thinker, Michael Oakeshott said that to be a conservative means ‘to prefer familiar to unknown, actual to possible, limited to unbounded, near to distant, convenient to perfect’.

Conservatives believe that human beings are imperfect and combined with unforeseen consequences of an action, it becomes difficult to assess whether any change will be for the better or otherwise. That is why; they try to resist change in the existing order. Change is resisted until it becomes inevitable. According to Oakeshott, the ideological style of politics is a confused style, for ideology in the rationalist scheme, as he thinks, is merely an abridgement, an index. So, Oakeshott’s answer is that the only style, one should adopt and pursue, is the traditional one. Political activity, Oakeshott affirms, cannot spring but from the existing traditions of behaviour and the form that it takes is the amendment of existing arrangements by exploring and pursuing what is implied in them. All activity, for him, therefore, is traditional in nature.

Assignment - III


Answer the following in about 100 words each. Each answer carries 6 marks.


Q6. Write a note on Ecological Feminism.

Ans) Ecological feminism is also known as ecofeminism where oppression of women and domination of nature are connected and mutually reinforcing. Thus, they should be addressed collectively– this philosophical stand unites ecofeminists across the spectrum. In the late 20th century, ecological feminism emerged with the intersection of environmental and feminist theories. Ecofeminists argue that patriarchy manifests itself in society through the dualistic structures of hierarchy: culture vs. nature, male vs. female, matter vs. spirit, white vs. non-white, etc. The established system of patriarchal oppression not just reinforces itself through the imposition of these binaries, according to ecofeminists, it even makes them sacred using science as well as religion as its tools. Thus, if these dualities continue to exist as an indispensable constituent of any societal structure, they will help patriarchy to flourish. On these grounds, ecofeminists defy the division of culture into any hierarchical binaries. This methodology, by the virtue of its emphasis upon the strength of such diversities is a feminist approach, linking ideas of environment with that of feminism.


Q7. Examine Jacques Derrida’s views on Postmodernism.

Ans) Jacques Derrida’s views on Postmodernism: The term deconstruction was first used by him in his book Of Grammatology, and it unprecedentedly questioned assumptions of the Western philosophical tradition and also more broadly, Western culture. Derrida called his challenge to the assumptions of Western culture as deconstruction. He refused to provide a clear and concrete definition of what deconstruction means and described his own writings as a series of ongoing attempts to figure that out. As he writes:

“All my essays are an attempt to have it out with this formidable question”.

The term deconstruction has been used by his followers and others beyond the specific context in which Derrida employs it and has consistently been misconstrued as an assault against all forms of reasoning. A deep examination of Derrida’s texts reveals that deconstruction is an active movement which, by chasing meaning to its aporias, seeks to demonstrate its dependence on that irreducible alterity which refuses to further passage. However, essentially, it is a particular mode of philosophical and literary analysis of reading texts to reveal conflicts, silences, contradictions, and fissures.


Q8. Distinguish between procedural and substantive democracy.

Ans) Democracy could be well understood by two different views – procedural (minimalist) and substantive. The procedural dimension merely focuses on procedures or means in place to attain democracy. It argues that regular competitive elections based on universal adult franchise and plural political participation would produce a democratically elected government. In his 1942 book, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Joseph Schumpeter has said that democracy is “institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote”. However, people are perceived as passive beyond electoral participation in minimalist view and thus are governed by their representatives.

Substantive democracy tries to overcome the shortcomings of procedural view arguing that social and economic differences could hamper people’s participation in the democratic process. It focuses on outcomes like social equality instead of ends in order to truly work for the governed. In a sense, it talks about ‘common good’ rather than benefit of limited individuals. The rights of marginalized sections like women and the poor are protected through redistributive justice so that conditions can be created through state intervention for their participation in political process. Various political scientists like John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill have contributed to the emergence of this view.


Q9. Examine the issue of representation in democracy.

Ans) Representative democracy, also known as indirect democracy, is a type of democracy founded on the principle of elected persons representing a group of people, in contrast to direct democracy. The issues of representation in democracy included following reasons. Nearly all modern Western-style democracies function as some type of representative democracy; for example, the United Kingdom (a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy), India (a federal parliamentary republic), France (a unitary semi-presidential republic), and the United States (a federal presidential republic). Representative democracy can function as an element of both the parliamentary and the presidential systems of government. It typically manifests in a lower chamber such as the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, or the Lok Sabha of India, but may be curtailed by constitutional constraints such as an upper chamber and judicial review of legislation. Some political theorists (including Robert Dahl, Gregory Houston, and Ian Liebenberg) have described representative democracy as polyarchy. Representative democracy places power in the hands of representatives who are elected by the people. Political parties often become central to this form of democracy if electoral systems require or encourage voters to vote for political parties or for candidates associated with political parties.

Q10. What are the limits of a representative democracy? Elaborate.

Ans) Representative democracy is a limited and indirect form of democracy: It is limited in the sense that participation in government is infrequent and brief, being restricted to the act of voting every few years. This form of rule is democratic only as far as representation establishes a reliable and effective link between the government and the governed.

The limits of representative democracy include the following:

  1. It offers a practicable form of democracy, as large populations cannot participate in the governmental process.

  2. It relieves the ordinary citizen of the burden of decision-making, thus making it possible to have division of labour in politics.

  3. It maintains stability by distancing the ordinary citizen from politics thereby encouraging them to accept compromise.

Synonymous with Electoral Democracy

However, although these features may be a necessary precondition for representative democracy, they should not be mistaken for democracy itself. The democratic content in representative democracy is the idea of popular consent, expressed through the act of voting. Representative democracy is, thus, a form of electoral democracy, in that popular election is seen as the only legitimate source of political authority.

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