Political Thought

Political thought is only a surrogate or substitute for more genuine political
action. This is one theory that has sparked much thought and when examined it
may be seen quite differently. For one, an argument can be made that indeed this
political thought may substitute political action. On the other hand, political
thought can serve as a great inspiration or spark political action. Thirdly,
political thought may not have anything to do with more genuine political action
but instead it may be purely theoretical and hypothetical. Examples of these
three arguments may be made out of the works of Locke, Plato, Machiavelli, as
well as other historical aspects of both political thought and action. Political
thought can indeed be a substitute for more genuine political action. Many
writers and political thinkers offer many theories about politics that may not
be intended to cause political action. Many theories are also offered but may
not be implemented into the political arena directly or indirectly. For example,
Machiavellis The Prince, has been viewed as a substitute for political
action. Many feel that Machiavelli wrote The Prince as a guidebook for his own
prince Lorenzo de Medici, to promote himself into the political arena of Italy.


Machiavelli dedicates this book to Medici, leader of the family who overthrew
the government he worked for. One may argue that the book is a masterful act of
political deception, filled with intentional bad advice he hoped Medici would
follow. Machiavelli aimed to trip him up bad enough to make him lose power
enabling a new republic to come in. Others feel that the dedication of the book
and the use of flattery are used as a means of setting himself up to function as
a political advisor. By using flattery, he thought Medici would be impressed
enough with him to ask Machiavelli to work for him. Machiavelli hoped to ensure
himself a position with the Medici government, a government that he hoped to
carry out his main goal which was the elimination of the papacy and through the
dedication suck Medici into Machiavellis unraveling plans for him.

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Nonetheless whatever Machiavellis intent was, his attempts to unravel the
Medici government obviously did not pan out the way he thought it would. In
fact, the book was not published until after his death in 1532. Even then the
book provoked controversy and was quickly condemned by Pope Clement VIII. The
book, with its various theories about its intent, goes to prove that Machiavelli
was using it as a clear substitute for a more “genuine” political action
such as raising a real attempt to take over and promote himself high up into
Italys political arena. His theories and thought were just a substitute for
something that he envisioned for himself. Aside from being a substitute
political thought can serve an inspiration to more genuine political action.


Works such as John Lockes Two Treatises of Government, as well as
Machiavellis The Prince, have been proven to spark revolt and revolution
among other types of political action. Lockes works have exercised enormous
influence in both England and America. In his Two Treatises of Government Locke
set forth the view that: “The state exists to preserve the natural rights of
its citizens. When governments fail in that task, citizens have the right and
sometimes duty to withdraw their support and even to rebel.” This view can
clearly be seen in the act of the American Revolution against Britain and is a
fundamental principal of many of societys constitutional democracies.


Lockes views influenced many people especially Thomas Jefferson in
Americas fight for freedom and its Declaration of Independence. Drafted by
Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence contained the ideas of individual
liberty that had been expressed by views of John Locke. Locke maintained that:
“…the social contract preserved the preexistent natural rights of the
individual to life, liberty, and property, and the enjoyment of private rights,
the pursuit of happiness led, in civil society, to the common good.” This
clearly influenced the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the United States.


Lockes notion of government was a limited one and his views on government
were also deeply reflected in the US Constitution: “The checks and balances
among government and true representation in the legislature would maintain
limited government and individual liberties.” Lockes ideas can be clearly
seen in the beginnings of the US governmental policies namely in the Declaration
of Independence and the US Constitution. Some of the ideas presented in
Machiavelli’s Prince have also been used to spark revolution and other political
actions. Lenin used Machiavellian tactics for a communist revolution, for these
tactics were not only interested in the survival of a principality but the way a
principality acquired its power. The communist revolution led by Lenin is a
modern example of the destruction of an old principality to a new. Machiavelli
outlines the unfailing process for a modern revolution in chapters VI-IX,
stating that a leader guiding his fellow citizens as a citizen must stamp out
the old principality, establish new government, appoint new officials, and
instill respect and gradually fear for the new principal leadership. These seem
to blue the blueprints for the Russian Revolution followed by Lenin. After Lenin
became leader of the Bolsheviks, he led them in a successful revolution. With
the communist ideals pushing them, the Bolsheviks threw out the provisional
government at the Winter Palace, a symbol of the old principality. Once the
complete destruction of the old principality was over, Lenin appointed a new
hierarchic system. He established himself at the head of that system and
developed a reputation of cruelty. It appears that Lenin followed many
Machiavellian principles including the following: “I conclude that since men
love as they themselves determine but fear as their ruler determines, a wise
prince must rely upon what he and not others control.” It is evident in the
above examples that political thought has sparked political action and it is
clearly exemplified in Jefferson and Lenins close followings of the
principles of Locke and Machiavelli respectively. Political thought can not
only spark political action or be used as a substitute for political action but
political thought could just be a theoretical or hypothetical thought as well.


In Platos Statesman, Plato speaks seeks to find a true definition of a
statesman and through arguments gives his theory of what a true ruler or
statesman should be. According to Plato all constitutions of government are
inferior to the only true government, that true government being the rule of the
royal statesman. Plato states that there is no need for laws as long as there is
a kingly ruler who knows the science of statesmanship. Out of the possible forms
of government Plato lists monarchy as the best with aristocracy occupying an
intermediate position and democracy last out of the other possible constitutions
of government. In the statesman the knowledge and insight of the ruler remain
the ultimate criterion of good government, although, at the same time, there is
greater skepticism about the possibility of ever attaining a perfect ruler. Thus
the rule of the kingly ruler who is the true statesman becomes the most
desirable ideal, and a government of law is proposed as an inferior because it
is a mere replica of the rule of the statesman. This ideal of the statesman may
be the most desirable however it is probably unattainable. We can never expect
that such a true ruler as the statesman will ever appear as is stated by Plato
himself: “We must take things as they are, however, and kings do not arise in
cities in the natural course of things in the way the royal bee is born in a
beehive-one individual obviously outstanding in body and mind. And therefore it
seems men have to gather together and work out written codes, chasing to catch
the tracks of the true constitution.” Therefore Plato admits that there is a
need for laws for whatever reason that may be, and that his arguments and
definition of a true statesman is purely hypothetical and theoretical. Plato was
not intending to implement this art form of the statesman nor did this type of
rule ever exist. Yet Plato was just out to define what a true statesman was.


Political thought is intended for various uses. For one it can definitely be a
surrogate for more genuine political action as is shown through Machiavellis
intent on writing the book, The Prince. Political thought can be used to as
rationale and ways to spark a more genuine political action as well. This is
shown through Thomas Jefferson and Americas use of Two Treatises of
Government and the influence of The Prince on Lenin during the Bolshevik
revolution in Russia. And finally, political thought may be purely hypothetical
or theoretical as is demonstrated by looking at Platos Statesman. Thus
political thought is used and has been used for various intent and ways of going
about more genuine political action.