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political philosophy definitions

Britannica Concise

Branch of philosophy that analyzes the state and related concepts such as political obligation, law, social justice, and constitution. The first major work of political philosophy in the Western tradition was Plato's Republic. Aristotle's Politics is a detailed empirical study of political institutions. The Roman tradition is best exemplified by Cicero and Polybius. St. Augustine's City of God began the tradition of Christian political thinking, which was developed by Thomas Aquinas. N. Machiavelli studied the nature and limits of political power. T. Hobbes's Leviathan (1651) raised the problem of political obligation in its modern form. Hobbes was followed by B. de Spinoza, J. Locke, and J.-J. Rousseau in the exposition of a social-contract theory. This was rejected by D. Hume and also by G. W. F. Hegel, whose Philosophy of Right (1821) was fundamental for 19th-cent. political thought. Hegel's defense of private property stimulated K. Marx's critique of it. J. S. Mill developed J. Bentham's utilitarian theory of law and political institutions, so as to reconcile them with a demand for individual liberty. Recent work has been characterized by a division between Marxists and traditional liberal thinkers, but there is much diversity within each of those traditions.


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