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Political and Social Philosophy -Is power the driving force behind politics?


thehumannn 3 / 5  
Apr 25, 2011   #1
Politics is only power. It is the constant struggle for those who want to stay on top of the social order. As Thrasymachus claims, justice is only the will of the stronger -the same could be applied to politics as a whole. In order to understand the concept of power, we must begin with the initial conditions in which man is -in his natural state. Man according to Hobbes is conniving, hedonistic and concerned with his own well being and essentially evil in his own right. Man is estranged and does not have the ability reason with one another. He is concerned with his own preservation and therefore needs strong leadership in order to maintain full order, because otherwise they would destroy themselves. Man is evil in his natural state so therefore cannot reason because he is so self-interested.

Machiavelli is often the same page when it comes to man and his initial state. He asserts the fact that man is merely concerned with his well being and therefore needs strong handed leaders to maintain some sense of order. That power cannot be conceptual, it is practical and based off the idea of power. The prince (or benevolent leader) for Machiavelli is the best exemplification of how power can be used in the most practical of ways. The prince must be powerful and concentrate on keeping order through the use of constant assertion of that power.

"A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves."

The leader must exert himself practically and have shows of both complete authoritarian and reserved, cunning power. A higher sense of morality or virtue cannot exist because we are essentially estranged from one another. That is why we are constantly involved in conflict and that is why we need strong concentration of power. For Socrates, however he believes that man has the capacity to reason. He is drastically different from both Hobbes and Machiavelli and presents the different side of the features of politics.

Justice and moral values exists in the realm of Socrates. In The Republic, he speaks of the unifying greater moral virtues we have; man is essentially not estranged or evil as Hobbes or Machiavelli would state, rather he has the capacity for reason, understanding and compassion. Humans do care for one another and can show an aspect of unity. In Plato's dialogue Gorgias, Socrates begins by stating;

"Happiness surely does not consist in being delivered from evils, but in never having them."
He asks his listeners to picture a person suffering from illness. Would this person remain ill, or would he go to seek a cure? Without a doubt he would seek the cure for his ailment. He then points out the man who never falls sick is happier than the man who is cured from sickness. After stating this, Socrates claims that punishment for the crime is the cure for evil, and justice leads to that punishment.

Unfortunately, these principles of "goodness" and a higher sense of morality are all based on human emotion; hard to quantify and do not have much practical use in the running of a state. Understanding that man has no real intrinsic values and that we are so concerned with ourselves understands the practicality that must exist in politics. The concept that reason and justice are elements of politics is highly idealistic. There is no practical element; it is based all on the belief that man can govern himself without getting into conflict in his natural state. Man wants to do what he wants and continue to do what he wants to do because he is free. But man does not want to suffer consequences of his actions, and that is why there must be the exertion of power according to how man acts. This is the most practical and best manner to run a state.

One cannot believe that the conception of the state is essentially good mainly off the basis that it is not practical. Power is the main feature of all politics because the exertion of power is what is most practical. If you take into account "morality" and constructions of what is "good", then the state no longer becomes maximized to its fullest extent and would work. The ends justify the means in politics. We cannot claim that man is good because conflict constantly arises. As Machiavelli claims, power must be concentrated in a charismatic, practical man who understands that he must be purely political thereby exert power not only powerfully, but in a practical manner. It is better to be rational and logical rather than purely idealistic. There is no practicality to Socrates claims of his "ideal" Republic where he focuses mainly on "keeping the state pure and completely ordered".

Understanding that power is the premier feature of politics will better understand how the state of government functions in terms of pure reality. That isn't to say that man is purely a practical and rational animal. Power defined will often be misguided into thinking that man doesn't comprehend the tensions that exist in society. "We are aware of the tension between the moral command and the requests of successful political actions". If power is doles out in an authoritarian way, then A will occur. If power is administered in a more passive, cunning way then B will occur. It understands the discrepancies of how power should be administered and finding that balance.

EF_Kevin 8 / 13,334 129  
Apr 28, 2011   #2
Sorry you waited so long for a response!

It is the constant struggle for of those who want to stay on top of the social order.

If you use "He" to refer to humankind, be consistent:
He is concerned with his own preservation and therefore needs strong leadership in order to maintain full order, because otherwise they would destroy themselves himself.

But I like "Humankind" a lot more, because it does not reflect the old patriarchal ways of thinking.
Humankind... would destroy itself.

The leader must exert himself practically and have shows of demonstrate both complete authoritarian power and reserved, cunning power. ---I changed it to improve clarity...

One cannot believe that the conception of the state is essentially good, mainly off the basis that because is not practical.---I am not sure how you meant this.

Use an apostrophe: There is no practicality to Socrates' claims of his ...

Great job! Thanks for participating, we are lucky to have you helping people at Essayforum.


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