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Goga Andreea SS 3 gr.


Political philosophy
Political philosophy can be defined as philosophical reflection on how best to arrange our collective life - our political institutions and our social practices, such as our economic system and our pattern of family life. Political philosophers seek to establish basic principles that will, for instance, justify a particular form of state, show that individuals have certain inalienable rights, or tell us how a society's material resources should be shared among its members. This usually involves analysing and interpreting ideas like freedom, justice, authority and democracy and then applying them in a critical way to the social and political institutions that currently exist. There are two reasons for this diversity. First, the methods and approaches used by political philosophers reflect the general philosophical tendencies of their epoch. But second, the political philosopher's agenda is largely set by the pressing political issues of the day. Today we would think of this as an enquiry into the best form of state, though we should note that the state itself is a particular kind of political arrangement of relatively recent origin - for most of their history human beings have not been governed by states (see State, the). Since all states claim Authority over their subjects, two fundamental issues are the very meaning of authority, and the criteria by which we can judge forms of political rule legitimate. Connected to this is the issue of whether individual subjects have a moral obligation to obey the laws of their state , and of the circumstances under which politically-inspired disobedience is justifiable. Next there is a series of questions about the form that the state should take: whether authority should be absolute or constitutionally limited; whether its structure should be unitary or federal ; whether it should be democratically controlled, and if so by what means. Finally here there is the question of whether any general limits can be set to the authority of the state - whether there are areas of individual freedom or privacy that the state must never invade on any pretext , and whether there are subjects such as religious doctrine on which the state must adopt a strictly neutral posture . The last quarter of the twentieth century has seen a powerful revival of political philosophy, which in Western societies at least has mostly been conducted within a broadly liberal framework. Other ideologies have been outflanked: Marxism has gone into a rapid decline, and conservatism and socialism have survived only by taking on board large portions of liberalism. Some have claimed that the main rival to liberalism is now communitarianism; however on closer inspection the so-called liberalcommunitarian debate can be seen to be less a debate about liberalism itself than about the precise status and form that a liberal political philosophy should take - whether, for example, it should claim universal validity, or should present itself simply as an interpretation of the political culture of the Western liberal democracies. The vitality of political philosophy is not to be explained by the emergence of a new ideological revival


and more fundamentally that the liberal image of the selfsufficient. that citizens should receive equal treatment under the law. how can this be now be reconciled with individual freedoms to move. or advocate affirmative action policies for employment that seems to contravene firmly-entrenched liberal principles of desert and merit. This assumption has become increasingly questionable. they pose major challenges to liberal political philosophy . Finally. but by the fact that a new set of political issues has arisen whose resolution will stretch the intellectual resources of liberalism to the limit. work. None of these problems is capable of easy solution. communicate. self-directing individual is at odds with the ecological picture of humanity's subordinate place in the system of nature as a whole. Many groups in contemporary societies now demand that political institutions should be altered to reflect and express their distinctive cultures. sheltered from the world market. is too firmly wedded to the market economy and to consumption as the means of achieving personal well-being. it is said.In many respects feminism and liberalism are natural allies. Liberalism. nationalist groups asserting that political boundaries should be redrawn to give them a greater measure of self-determination. which in one form or another has dominated political philosophy for much of the century. and it presents liberals with the following dilemma: if the pursuit of social justice is integral to liberalism. These demands once again collide with long-established liberal beliefs that the state should be culturally neutral. there is a set of issues arising from what we might call the new politics of cultural identity. demanding at least the partial offsetting of the economic and social inequalities thrown up by an unfettered market. What are these issues? The first is the issue of social justice.These theories rested on the assumption that social and economic policy could be pursued largely within the borders of a self-contained political liberalism. to be able to embrace the radical policies needed to avoid environmental disaster. and trade across state boundaries? The second issue is posed by feminism. It remains to be seen whether liberalism is sufficiently flexible to incorporate such demands. but when feminists argue for fundamental changes in the way men and women conduct their personal relationships. on the one hand. whose adherents claim that liberal political principles cannot successfully address urgent environmental concerns. not groups. and especially the feminist challenge to the conventional liberal distinction between public and private spheres . We may also 2 . Most of the many liberal theories of justice on offer have had a broadly egalitarian flavour. and that rights belong to individuals. liberalism is challenged by the environmental movement. these include. and we can say with some confidence that political philosophy will continue to flourish even in a world in which the sharp ideological divisions of the mid-twentieth century no longer exist. and on the other cultural minorities whose complaint is that public institutions fail to show equal respect for those attributes that distinguish them from the majority (for instance their language or religion. Third.

3 . while the everaccelerating pace of technological and social change will generate new problems whose solution we can barely begin to anticipate. Political questions that have concerned philosophers for two millennia or more will be tackled using new languages and new techniques.expect a renewal of non-Western traditions of political philosophy as free intellectual enquiry revives in those countries where for half a century or more it has been suppressed by the state.