The Fundamental Notions of Politics

1. The Fundamental Notions of Politics

Politics is the activity through which different groups within society make decisions about how society will be organized and governed, and about what policies will be pursued in order to shape social and economic life. The term “politics” comes from the Greek word politikos, which means “of, for, or relating to citizens.”

In order to understand what politics is, it is necessary to understand two key concepts: power and authority. Power is the ability of an individual or group to get other people to do what they want them to do. Authority, on the other hand, is the legitimate exercise of power. That is, authority is power that is recognized by those over whom it is exercised as legitimate.

2. The Concept of the State

The state is a political institution through which a group of people govern themselves. The concept of the state has a long history, and has been variously understood by different political philosophers.

For Aristotle, the state was a natural institution, necessary for human beings to realize their full potential as rational beings. For Aquinas, the state was established by God in order to promote the common good. For Hobbes, the state was created by individuals in order to escape the state of nature, in which life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

3. Medieval Christian Political Philosophy

During the medieval period, Christian political philosophy was dominated by two schools of thought: Aristotelianism and Augustinianism.

Aristotelianism, as articulated by Aristotle and Aquinas, emphasized man’s reason and natural law as the basis for political life. Augustinianism, named after Augustine of Hippo, emphasized man’s sinfulness and his need for grace as the basis for political life.

4. Aristotle and Aquinas

Aristotle’sPoliticsis one of the most important works of political philosophy ever written. In it, Aristotle argues that human beings are naturally political animals who must live in states in order to fully develop their capacities as rational beings. He goes on to say that there are different types of states, each of which has its own unique characteristics.

Aquinas’Summa theologiaeis also an important work of political philosophy. In it, Aquinas articulates his understanding of natural law and its role in politics. He argues that natural law is based on reason and that it should be the foundation upon which positive law (i.e., man-made law) is built.

5. Galileo, Machiavelli, and Max Horkeheimer

Galileo Galileiwas an Italian physicist and astronomer who made significant contributions to the scientific revolution. In hisDialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo(Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems), Galileo presents a fictional dialogue between two characters who represent different theories about the nature of the universe: the Ptolemaic system (which held that Earth was at the center of the universe) and the Copernican system (which held that Earth revolved around the sun).
Machiavelliwas an Italian diplomat and writer who lived during the Renaissance period. In his best-known workThe Prince(1532), Machiavelli provides advice to rulers on how to acquire and maintain power. He is famous for his scathing critique of Christian morality, which he argued was incompatible with the realities of politics.
Max Horkheimerwas a German philosopher and sociologist who was associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. In his magnum opusEclipse of Reason(1947), Horkheimer critiques the Enlightenment project of using reason to control nature, arguing that this has led to the domination of nature and the dehumanization of man.

6. Modern Political Concepts

The following are some important concepts in modern political thought:

The Social Contract: The social contract is an agreement among members of a society in which they agree to give up some of their freedoms in exchange for protection from the state. The social contract is a central idea in the works of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Natural Rights: Natural rights are rights that all human beings have by virtue of their humanity. They are distinct from positive rights, which are rights that are granted by the state. The concept of natural rights is central to the works of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes.

Separation of Powers: The separation of powers is a principle of government whereby the executive, legislative, and judicial branches are kept separate from each other in order to prevent abuse of power. The idea of separation of powers is central to the works of Montesquieu and Baron de Montesquieu.

Checks and Balances: Checks and balances are a system of government whereby each branch (executive, legislative, judicial) has the ability to check the power of the other branches. This system is designed to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful. The idea of checks and balances is central to the works of James Madison and Baron de Montesquieu.

7. Karl Marx

Karl Marxwas a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. Marx’s work laid the foundations for the communist movement. In his most famous work,The Communist Manifesto(1848), Marx argues that history is a class struggle between those who own the means of production (the bourgeoisie) and those who work for them (the proletariat). He predicts that the proletariat will eventually overthrow the bourgeoisie and establish a communist society in which there is no private ownership of property and all people are equal.

8. Dr. King

Martin Luther King Jr.was an American Baptist minister and activist who was a key leader in the civil rights movement. In his “I Have a Dream” speech (1963), King urges Americans to live up to their ideals of equality and justice for all regardless of race.

9. Solon

Solonwas an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet who is credited with instituting democratic reforms in Athens. He is best known for his reforms that granted citizenship to all free men and established a system of checks and balances that limited the power of the aristocracy.


The main political and social concepts of modern political thinking include liberalism, conservatism, socialism, anarchism, and Marxism.

These concepts have evolved over time in response to changes in politics and society. For example, liberalism has been influenced by the rise of democracy and the Industrial Revolution, while conservatism has been shaped by the French Revolution and the fall of communism.

These concepts have a significant impact on contemporary politics and society. For instance, liberalism is the dominant political ideology in many Western countries, while socialism is an important force in many developing nations.

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