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MPSE-003: Western Political Thought

MPSE-003: Western Political Thought

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2022-23

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Assignment Code: MPSE-003/ASST/TMA/2022-23

Course Code: MPSE-003

Assignment Name: WESTERN POLITICAL THOUGHT (From Plato to Marx)

Year: 2022-2023

Verification Status: Verified by Professor




1. Explain St. Thomas Aquinas’s views on law and the state and the relations between the Church and the State.

Ans) Law and the State: Eternal Law or Divine Reason, which reveals itself on four levels of cosmic reality yet stays the same reason throughout, is the central tenet and ultimate basis of St. Thomas's political theory. It is unchanging, unalterable, and unbreakable. It is all manifested existence that is both transcendent and immanent. It is equivalent to the "Reason of God" and can only be partially understood; it is unfathomable in its totality. "The participation of a creature in everlasting law" is what natural law is. It is that portion of the Law of Eternity that human reason, a divine power, can comprehend. Divine Law is that which God has revealed to man, and which is also contained in the Bible. The moral code that God revealed to Christ or handed to the Jews is an illustration of divine law. Thought to be superior to natural law, divine law does not invalidate it. It enhances it. The application of natural law to human concerns and political power is known as human law. Although this law derives from Natural Law W, it is relative and contingent, changing in accordance with the shifting conditions and demands of society. Therefore, it must be promulgated by a capable human authority who is responsible for the community. It is described as follows by St. Thomas:


A law is a rational ordinance that is passed by the person responsible for the community's welfare.


It is obvious that for St. Thomas, all political power derives from the law. He disagrees with the voluntarism view of law, which sees the rule of law as an expression of the sovereign power. He makes a contrast between the exercitium, or real enjoyment of authority, which is granted by people, its modus, or the constitutional form of authority, which is determined by people.


Church and the State: It is obvious how St. Thomas' idea of law and the state affects how the church and the state interact. These organisations stand for many human concerns and interests, and they must cooperate and work in harmony to achieve their individual goals. Of course, in a true philosophical sense, the church and the state are superior to one another, just as the soul is superior to the body. Nevertheless, both must cooperate in order to achieve the ultimate goal, which is salvation or the realisation of the beatific vision. In real life, there is always a chance for conflict, but balance and restraint are crucial.


According to Aquinas, politics was only a tool that could not be evaluated solely on the basis of its accomplishments, effectiveness, or success. This is due to the fact that politics has always implied a moral duty, consideration, willingness, and choice; it was not merely a matter of pragmatism in science but rather a matter of morals. He served as an example of the significance of selecting the proper methods, which in turn depended on the objective, which was a moral end. The common good served as the proper end of politics since it was valued higher than the interests of the individual and the family. Aquinas did not discover any conflict between the revealed truths of Christianity and human reasoning with regard to the problem of ends and values. Human nature and divine ideals, as well as reason and religion, coexisted peacefully in nature. God gave humans the ability to know right from wrong and the capacity to do the right thing despite their propensity for doing wrong. There was no decline in people's capacity for reasoning after the Fall.


2. Analyse Machiavelli’s thoughts on politics and forms of government.

Ans) Political Thought: His two most significant writings, "Prince" and "Discourses on Livius," analyse the political structure of a strong monarchy and a strong republic, respectively. The successful founding of a principality by an individual is the main theme of the first, whereas the establishment of an empire by emigrating citizens is the main focus of the second. The manner of those who exercise state authority, as opposed to the underlying relationship in which the essence of the state resides, is at the centre of his thinking in both, though. Me saw things from the perspective of the ruler, not the one who is being ruled. His major concern is the preservation of the state, not the quality of its constitution. He discusses the political methods used by governments to strengthen the state and the politics that underlie their authority. I-le also identifies the mistakes that led to their failure.


According to Sabine, "the purpose of politics is to preserve and increase political power itself, and the standard by which he judges it is its success in doing this. He often discuss the advantage of immorality skilfully used to gain a ruler's ends, and it is this which is primarily responsible for his evil reputation. But for the most part he is not so much immoral as non-moral." Therefore, political expediency can be used to explain his disregard for morals. Machiavelli's ideas were founded on two tenets. First, based on the ancient Greek view that the state is the highest form of human cooperation required for the defence, welfare, and perfection of humanity and that, as a result, the interests of the state are unquestionably superior to those of the individual or the group. The second promise was that the strongest motivator of political action is always self-interest, particularly material self-interest.


Machiavelli’s forms of government: The division of the several types of government by Machiavelli is not particularly systematic. His two major works approach government in quite different ways; they are also discordant with one another. In contrast to the "Discourses," which demonstrated his respect for the expanding Roman Republic, the "Prince7" deals with monarchy or absolute governments. With all due sincerity, Machiavelli's description of the absolute monarchy did not reflect his passion for the Roman Republic's freedom and self-government. In both formats, he places stress on the fundamental idea that the state's ability to remain separate from its foundlings depends on the quality of its legal system, which is where all of its inhabitants' civic virtues come from. Even in monarchies, having a stable government requires that it be governed by law. Thus, in order to stop unlawful violence, Machiavelli focused on the need for legal remedies against official wrongdoing. We emphasised the political risk posed by lawlessness among leaders as well as the foolishness of vacationist and harassing practises.


He was adamant about his belief that democratic societies have more stable governments. As a method of selecting monarchs, he preferred election to hereditary. Additionally, he advocated for the freedom of discussion before making decisions as well as the general freedom to suggest policies for the good of the public. He stated in his "Discourses" that people needed to be strong and independent because it was impossible to make them suitable without arming them with the tools to rebel. In comparison to the ruler, he had high regard for the virtue and judgement of an uncorrupted people. These views merely highlight how Machiavelli's ideology is riddled with paradoxes and contradictions; on the one hand, he supports an absolute monarchy while on the other, he expresses his respect for a republic.




Write a short note on each part of the question in about 250 words.


3. a) Rousseau on civil society and social contract

Ans) In 1754 and was titled "What is the origin of disparity among men, and is it authorised by Natural Law?" the ideas raised in his prize-winning essay were expanded upon. The second Discourse, as this essay is titled, tells the storey of how man fell from grace and how the rise of civil society, which in turn was prompted by the rise of the institution of private property and the need to defend it by institutionalising social inequality through "law," caused man's nature to become twisted, warped, and corrupted. In this passage, Rousseau praises the "natural man" while deriding the so-called "civilised men." Evidently, the nature of the culture in which he was living, not the guy, was the issue. Tracing the fall, Rousseau says that in the state of nature, which is a condition prior to the emergence of society, man was a 'noble savage'; lived in isolation and had a few elementary, easily appeased needs.


Social Contract: Despite the fact that Rousseau criticised "civil society," he did not advocate for man to adopt a life of savagery, as some of his contemporaries believed. In fact, Voltaire mocked Rousseau for advocating that we stand on all fours. In the Discourse, Rousseau provides explanations "What should be done, then? Do societies need to be entirely abolished? Must Meum and Tuum perish, and must we move back into the forests to coexist with bears? This is a deduction that my opponents might make, therefore I'd rather foresee it and spare them the embarrassment." There was therefore no turning back to the natural state. Rousseau believed that without society, man could neither fulfil himself nor realise his innate potentials. If falsehood was criticising civil society, it was because it lacked moral foundations and was tainted by corrupting forces. The challenge was to establish a new social structure that would enable man to recognise his actual nature. In Social Contract, Rousseau devoted himself to achieving this goal.


b) Edmund Burke on democracy and religion

Ans) Democracy: The democratic ideals of the French Revolution, particularly the ideas of popular sovereignty and public will, greatly alarmed Burke. He believed that democracy was the "world's most shameless thing" (Burke 1969: 190). He was an elite who showed little compassion for the plight of the common people; therefore I had doubts about the political acumen of the average person. He believed that the finest kind of politics was one that was performed by a select group of the educated and aristocratic elite. Burke thought that electroless allowed the enfranchised citizens a chance to select a knowledgeable elite to rule them. In the 1940s, Schumpeter offered a somewhat modified version of this elitist theory of democracy. Burke supported limiting citizenship to a group of individuals who had the time for conversation and information and were not mentally ill, much like Aristotle. The Whigs in England and America supported citizenship requirements that included property ownership. Government had to keep the general populace indifferent because they were led by their baser inclinations, preventing their selfishness from destroying collective life.


Religion: Burke held liberal and conservative opinions towards religion. Unless there was a "intolerable abuse," he defended the existing church's customs. Attacks on the established Church of England, in his view, were equivalent to assaults on the English constitutional system. He believed that the established religion would promote harmony and prevent civil unrest. He promoted and defended tolerance for the majority of religious sects, including non-Christians, due to his liberal disposition. He was dismayed by the Protestants' opposition to Catholic toleration. He was worried about how changes in conventional religious practise might affect political stability despite not believing in the veracity of any specific religion. Religious freedom and tolerance might be rejected if they harmed public order and saw atheism as a counterbalance to political extremism. Rational Dissenters, he implied, were superior to atheists since at least they believed in God, even if they did not believe that Christ was divine. But he denounced as destructive of all authority and weakening equity, justice.


4. a) Immanuel Kant’s political philosophy

Ans) The political philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) favoured a classical republican approach. In Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch (1795), Kant listed several conditions that he thought necessary for ending wars and creating a lasting peace. They included a world of constitutional republics by establishment of political community. His classical republican theory was extended in Doctrine of Right (1797), the first part of Metaphysics of Morals. At the end of the 20th century Kant's political philosophy had been enjoying a remarkable renaissance in English-speaking countries with more major studies in a few years than had appeared in the preceding many decades.


Kant's most significant contribution to political philosophy and the philosophy of law is the doctrine of Rechtsstaat. According to this doctrine, the power of the state is limited in order to protect citizens from the arbitrary exercise of authority. The Rechtsstaat is a concept in continental European legal thinking, originally borrowed from German jurisprudence, which can be translated as "the legal state" or "state of rights". It is a "constitutional state" in which the exercise of governmental power is constrained by the law, and is often tied to the Anglo-American concept of the rule of law. Kant's political philosophy has been described as liberal for its presumption of limits on the state based on the social contract as a regulative matter.


In a Rechtsstaat, the citizens share legally based civil liberties and they can use the courts. A country cannot be a liberal democracy without first being a Rechtsstaat. German writers usually place Immanuel Kant's theories at the beginning of their accounts of the movement toward the Rechtsstaat The Rechtsstaat in the meaning of "constitutional state" was introduced in the latest works of Immanuel Kant after US and French constitutions were adopted in the late 18th century. Kant’s approach is based on the supremacy of a country’s written constitution.


b) Jeremy Bentham and utilitarian principles

Ans) Utilitarianism is a tradition of ethical philosophy that is associated with Jeremy Bentham (1747-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), two late 18th- and 19th-century British philosophers, economists, and political thinkers. Utilitarianism holds that an action is right if it tends to promote happiness and wrong if it tends to produce sadness, or the reverse of happiness—not just the happiness of the actor but that of everyone affected by it. At work, you display utilitarianism when you take actions to ensure that the office is a positive environment for your co-workers to be in, and then make it so for yourself.


Jeremy Bentham describes his "greatest happiness principle" in Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, a 1789 publication in which he writes: "Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do."  John Stuart Mill had many years to absorb and reflect on Jeremy Bentham's thoughts on utilitarianism by the time he published his own work, Utilitarianism, in 1863. The key passage from this book:


The greatest happiness principle, which is accepted as the cornerstone of morality, asserts that deeds are morally right in proportion to how they tend to increase happiness and morally wrong in proportion to how they tend to have the opposite effect. By pleasure and the absence of suffering, happiness is meant; by pain and the deprivation of pleasure, unhappiness.


5. a) Alexis de Tocqueville on religion

Ans) The author's startling originality comes from his recognition of the enormous role that religion played in advancing democracy in America. As a "political institution," I saw religion as essential to preserving freedom in a democracy, especially in light of the dictatorial inclinations that equality of situation can unleash. Despotism may rule without religion, but liberty cannot, he said. Due to the equality of conditions, religion was necessary in a democracy. He emphasised the value of religion rather than the veracity of any one religion. Because he believed that it was essential to build democracy in France and other Christian republics of Europe, he placed an enormous emphasis on religion. He came to the conclusion that democracy in Europe had failed because of the conflict between "the spirit of religion" and "the spirit of freedom." Despite being harmful to religion in and of itself, the alliance between the Catholic Church and the French monarchy was emblematic of a more disastrous one between Christianity and the decaying aristocracy. Delicacy was viewed by the Church as being harmful to religion and as such, an adversary. These two factors were closely related in America, which helped to explain why democracy flourished there.


The emerging Puritan common wealth of America rejected Europe's aristocratic past and embraced democratic ideals. A democratic, constitutional, and republican form of Christianity was brought to the New World by the Puritans. Tlzey offered ideas like the right of the people to freely vote on taxation, the obligation of political representatives to carry out their duties, the protection of individual liberties, and jury trials. By instilling in Americans the belief that their freedom is a gift from God and must thus be taken seriously and used wisely, they fostered a love of freedom rooted in religious conviction. Christianity identified with the liberal democratic ideals that it helped to establish, and it had the freedom to envision an independent realm that would endure and never date.


b) John Stuart Mill on rights for women

Ans) Mill's view of history was that right up until his time "the whole of the female" and "the great majority of the male sex" were simply "slaves". He countered arguments to the contrary, arguing that relations between sexes simply amounted to "the legal subordination of one sex to the other which is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality." Here, then, we have an instance of Mill's use of "slavery" in a sense which, compared to its fundamental meaning of absolute unfreedom of person, is an extended and arguably a rhetorical rather than a literal sense.


With this, Mill can be considered among the earliest male proponents of gender equality, having been recruited by American feminist John Neal during his stay in London circa 1825–1827. His book The Subjection of Women (1861, publ.1869) is one of the earliest written on this subject by a male author. In The Subjection of Women, Mill attempts to make a case for perfect equality.


In his proposal for a universal education system sponsored by the state, Mill expands benefits for many marginalized groups, especially for women. For Mill, a universal education held the potential to create new abilities and novel types of behaviour of which the current receiving generation and their descendants could both benefit from. Such a pathway to opportunity would enable women to gain “industrial and social independence” that would allow them the same movement in their agency and citizenship as men. Mill's view of opportunity stands out in its reach, but even more so for the population he foresees who could benefit from it. Mill was hopeful of the autonomy such an education could allow for its recipients and especially for women

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