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Political Theory. AP Government Unit One. State of Nature Review. PRO. Con. Was this process of conducting human affairs efficient? Was it fair? Did it yield the most good for the greatest number of people?.

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political theory

Political Theory

AP Government

Unit One

state of nature review
State of Nature Review



Was this process of conducting human affairs efficient?

Was it fair?

Did it yield the most good for the greatest number of people?

  • Were people free to choose what they wanted to do without any real rules just taking into account realities?
  • Do people generally enjoy Liberty/Freedom?
  • Does it come at a cost?

Question to Ponder

    • Would an individual alone fare better than a group in the state of nature?
  • Response:
    • General Consensus and Historical evidence proves that there is POWER/SECURITY in NUMBERS (groups).
thought exercise who is the leader and why
Thought Exercise: Who is the Leader and why?
  • Who was initially chosen to lead these groups? (circa Neolithic Period)
    • What qualities did he need to have? (Think: dangerous animals and hostile groups)
  • How did this change over time? (Think: New technologies and different qualities sought after)

Strong Brute (powerful, strong, fend off danger)

  • Dynasty/Monarchy/Lineage (family line)
    • What if the son is particularly weak or developmentally delayed or simply an inept ruler?
  • Oligarchy (elders/tribal counsel)
    • What if the tribal counsel becomes so insular or elitist that they stop caring for the general good and only care about their own group? Securing power…in some cases someone within the group wanting it all for themselves again (think Caesar and Rome)

Democracy (Rule by the PEOPLE)

    • Direct Democracy: LITERALLY everyone votes on every single law and majority wins every time no matter what.
    • What are the advantages and disadvantages here?
  • Republic (Representatives)
    • Indirect democracy is a form of rule whereby representatives vote in the interest of the people who voted them into office.
17 th 18 th century beginning of revolution
17th -18th Century: Beginning of Revolution
  • People dissatisfied with current forms of government because they were failing to meet needs
  • People sought new forms of government or better arrangements of existing forms of rule. (Think: British and Parliament)
social contract theory
Social Contract Theory
  • Locke “Second Treatise” Analysis
locke exc so what
Locke Exc. (So what?)
  • Government necessary because it is only way to secure most amount of freedoms/happiness for most people.
  • Entitled only to natural rights Life, Liberty, pursuit of Property-meaning ideas, labor, as well as land
  • Government can only be legitimate if it has consent of governed (“people”).

Legislative Branch: Most important branch and should be most powerful branch of government because it represents interest and will of people.

    • Can’t transfer power to another branch or person; can’t tax without consent of people/representatives, laws shall apply equally to all and that are published and known

Executive Branch: Need someone to enforce law that people pass because otherwise you have people ignoring laws which render them meaningless.


Judicial Branch: receives least attention and is only mentioned to state that there needs to be an impartial judge because anyone else will most likely render an unfair sentence or will not be able to assess matter for what it is. Judgment must be in accordance with established law

      • What is our established law that judges must reference in order to make a judgment? What is the ultimate established law? CONSTITUTION
defining politics and political science
Defining Politics and Political Science
  • At its most basic level, politics is struggle of "who gets what, when, how."
  • Political scientists study such struggles, both small and large, in an effort to develop general principles or theories about way world of politics works.
political theory1
Political Theory
  • Analyzes fundamental political concepts and questions such as, "How should the individual and the state relate?”
  • Differing political theories have developed as a result of conflicting answers to this question
most political scientists agree that criteria should include following rights and freedoms
Most political scientists agree that criteria should include following rights and freedoms :
  • Form and join organizations
  • Freedom of expression
  • Right to vote
  • Eligibility for public office
  • Right of political leaders to compete for support
  • Right of political leaders to compete for votes
  • Alternative sources of information
  • Free and fair elections
  • Institutions for making government policies depend on votes and other expressions of preference
political efficacy
Political Efficacy
  • Political efficacy: extent to which people feel they have an impact or exert some influence on public affairs.
    • Internal efficacy: beliefs about one’s own competence to understand and participate in politics
    • External efficacy: beliefs about responsiveness of governmental authorities and institutions to citizen demands
important political philosophers
Important Political Philosophers
  • Plato
  • Aristotle
  • Machiavelli
  • Hobbes
  • Hume
  • Locke
  • Montesquieu
  • Rousseau
  • DeTocqueville
  • Mill
  • Marx
  • Weber
  • Mills
  • Ancient Greek philosopher
  • The Republic one of most influential works in Western philosophy.
  • Deals with central problem of how to live a good life:
    • What is justice in the State?
    • What would an ideal State be like?
    • What is a just individual?
plato s ideal state aristocracy rule of the best
Plato’s Ideal State: Aristocracy “rule of the best”
  • Believed aristocracies would eventually fall to timocracy (ruled by military)
    • Military rule will fall because society will drive them out.
  • Next step was "oligarchy"
    • Rule of few or of wealthy
    • According to Plato, people will also tire of oligarchies and toss them out.
  • Resulting government will be democracy (rule of the people).
  • But will eventually fall to tyranny
  • Greek philosopher, logician, and scientist.
  • Along with teacher Plato, regarded as one of most influential ancient thinkers
  • Saw politics as science, and just as a physician would study the body, Aristotle sought to study the state.
    • Once state can be understood, politicians can frame constitution of state in its laws, customs and institutions, and protect it through education and legislation.
machiavelli 1469 1527
Machiavelli1469- 1527
  • Machiavelli's The Prince written to serve as guide to creating and holding on to a principality
    • In ways that often benefited people but sometimes only prince himself
  • Considered a political primer for “princes”- anywhere, anytime, any place.
important ideas from the prince
Important Ideas from The Prince
  • The end justifies the means
  • It is better to Be feared than loved.
  • Rivers and men can be controlled, but cannot be trusted.
  • Before all else, be armed.
  • Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil.
  • He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command.
  • Men are so simple and so much inclined to obey immediate needs that a deceiver will never lack victims for his deceptions.
montesquieu 1689 1755 baron de montesquieu charles louis de secondat
Montesquieu, 1689-1755(Baron de Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat)
  • One of great political philosophers of Enlightenment (French)
  • Saw despotism as danger and argued that it could best be prevented by system in which different branches had legislative, executive, and judicial power, and all bodies bound by rule of law.
  • Theory of separation of powers had an enormous impact on liberal political theory, and on framers of U.S. Constitution

Jean-Jacques Rousseau1712-1778

  • In state of nature, man prone to be in frequent competition with fellow men.
  • State of nature=violent and without law or morality, and that there are good men only as result of society's presence.
  • Only by joining together through Social Contract and abandoning claims of natural right, individuals can both preserve themselves and remain free.
  • Only then can we form collective human presence known as "society."
    • Rule by all - a complete democracy

“Never exceed your rights, and  they will soon become unlimited.”

direct democracies are best
Direct Democracies are Best
  • Opposed idea that people should exercise sovereignty via representative assembly.
  • Citizens should make laws directly.
  • Goal of government should be to secure freedom, equality, and justice for all within state, regardless of will of majority
thomas hobbes 1588 1679
Thomas Hobbes(1588-1679)
  • British political philosopher
  • Society obligated to an authority figure (King)
    • Man weak and self-centered, must be looked after by powerful leader
  • Hobbes Social Contract
    • Should give obedience to an unaccountable sovereign in exchange for being allowed to be part of society and safety sovereign brings
  • Frontispiece to 1st edition of Leviathan portrays commonwealth as gigantic human form built out of bodies of citizens, sovereign as its head.
  • "Leviathan" figure--word derived from Hebrew for "sea monster" and name of monstrous sea creature appearing in Bible
  • Text attempts to prove necessity of Leviathan for preserving peace and preventing civil war.
john locke
John Locke

1632, d. 1704

  • British political philosopher
  • Wrote and developed philosophy that there was no legitimate government under divine right of kings theory.
  • Ideas greatly admired by Founding Fathers
natural rights
Natural Rights
  • Locke thought purpose of government was to protect natural rights of citizens.
  • Life, Liberty and Property automatically earned by being born.
  • Locke’s Contract
    • When government did not protect rights, citizens had right and maybe even obligation of overthrowing it
coincidence i think not
Coincidence, I think not!

(Do you know of an another island with a Locke, a Rousseau, and a Hume?)

Terry O’Quinn as

John Locke on “Lost”

david hume 1711 1776
David Hume 1711-1776
  • Great philosopher and prominent figure in Scottish Enlightenment, also historian, economist, and “delightful fellow”.
  • NOT a believer of "natural law" or "social contract" theories
david hume 1711 17761
David Hume 1711-1776
  • Seen as political conservative, sometimes known as first conservative philosopher
    • Empiricist (knowledge comes from experience) in political and philosophical work. 
    • Central concern: importance of rule of law, and moderation in politics
  • Believed human nature was evil without society
  • Result--happy citizenry
  • Promoted idea of republics.
alexis de tocqueville 1805 1859
Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
  • French Historian and Political Philosopher
    • commitment to human freedom
  • Spent 2 years (1831-1832) roaming U.S. and wrote about form of democracy
  • Analyzed US attempt to have liberty and equality
  • Believed political democracy and social equality would replace aristocratic institutions of Europe.
detocqueville s theory
DeTocqueville’s Theory

Democracy Worked Well in America Because:

  • Lots of land!! (Fertile land)
  • No feudal aristocracy here
  • Small, independent farmers make up great deal of population (No great number of landless peasants like in Europe.)
  • American culture and ideals- Called them, “Moral and intellectual characteristics”
john stuart mill
John Stuart Mill
  • American political philosopher- On Liberty
  • Should have freedom of thought and discussion
  • Ideas uplifting and noble
    • Purpose of morality: to make world better place.
    • Do whatever will bring most benefit to all humanity.
  • Responsibilities as humans was to maximize utility
  • AKA set aside our personal interests for humanity.
how is political power distributed in a democracy
How is Political Power Distributed in a Democracy??
  • Majoritarian theory
    • Leaders follow wishes of people closely
    • Applies when issues are clear
  • Elitism theories
    • Marx
    • Mills
    • Weber
    • Pluralism
karl marx 1818 1883
Karl Marx1818-1883
  • German Author
  • Wrote The Communist Manifesto with partner, Frederick Engels
  • Believed government controlled by 1 dominant social class
  • Theory that power is reflection of underlying economic forces
max weber 1864 1920
Max Weber1864-1920
  • German political theorist
  • Political process controlled by political elites in bureaucracy
  • Expert knowledge and competence will (and should) dominate
  • Weber theorized about why some people work hard and some don’t in his essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
    • Work, save money, and you will be successful
    • Similar to Puritan work ethic
c wright mills 1916 1962
C. Wright Mills1916-1962
  • Power Elite Theory
    • Power elite control politics
  • They include:
    • Military leaders
    • Key corporate leaders
    • Political leaders in and out of office
the pluralist theory of power
The Pluralist Theory of Power
  • No one elite person or group dominates politics
    • No monopoly of power
  • Different players must bargain/compromise and be responsive to followers
    • (i.e.… voters)