The idea of political is linked to the idea of governance. Political thought is understood with reference to time. It implies thinking of an age. Western political thought evolved in four stages namely, ancient, medieval, modern, and post-modern.
Ancient Political Thought
Western civilization originated in ancient Greece. Society was divided into masters and slaves. Serfs were like bonded laborers and were not allowed to work according to their choice. Greeks believed that inequality was natural. Not only natural but desirable.
It was a patriarchal society where women were not allowed to participate or considered citizens. People were ethnocentric or in other words having a sense of superiority. Roots of racialism were there in western society from the very beginning.
The concept of city-state existed in the ancient period. The city-state is an extremely decentralized form of political organization. Each state is a self-sufficient entity. A parallel idea is the idea of village republics as suggested by Gandhi. Gandhi was influenced by Greek thinkers.
Another popular example of a city-state is Singapore. Maybe the need of the hour.
Medieval Political Thought
During the medieval age, the concept of city-states came to an end because of their continuous fighting. As a consequence, they came under the Roman empire. Power also accumulated in the hands of the Church. During this time, the Church dominated all spheres of life including politics. Religion dominated which is why also known as the dark age.
There was no concept of equality of rights and liberty. The economic system was changed from a simple slave society to feudalism. Feudal lords gained by exploiting the labor class i.e serfs.
The king and the Church emerged as two sources of power. Also known as the theory of two swords (Church and king). The clash between king and church resulted in 30 years of war. After the war came the treaty of Westphalia.
In the 21st century, the Taliban has brought medievalism to Afghanistan.
Modern Political Thought
Renaissance, humanism led to the emergence of the modern age i.e. age of science, reason, and rationality. The scientific revolution led to growth in industries which further led to capitalism.
Renaissance – Revival of the age of reason
Humanism – consider human beings at the center. Medieval philosophy took “god” at the center
Modern man is not an atheist but it does not mean all social activities will relate to God. There is a separation between public and private affairs. God is a private affair.
For capitalism to survive, clarity in laws is required as it is based on a contract. Accordingly, the political organization changed from city-states to Nation-state.
A nation-state is a geographical territory, bigger than city-states with a centralized authority. The population is having a common culture, religion, and language. To keep people together in the nation-state, some unifying force is needed at a psychological level.
Post-Modern Political Thought
Post Modern is a post-WW2 society. Nation-states have resulted in constant wars in Europe. Hence, Europeans have thought of changing the system of governance from national to supranational. Thus, emerged the idea of the European Union.
(For more information on the European Union – click here)
Postmodernism is giving rise to a more interdependent world. It is a reaction against some of the evil consequences of modernity. It has given rise to social movements for peace, sustainable development, disarmament, etc.
If we were born, say 1600 years ago, we would have been convinced that the Roman empire is here to stay. Nation-States came late but are we sure that they will make it to the end of the century?
Probably two centuries back we could travel without checks and passports. We are deluded if we consider our way of living as eternal. American Revolution (1776) and the French Revolution(1789) created the idea of national interest. Today world is made up of 195 nation-states.
But globalization may enforce another change. Once Donald Trump tweeted “A nation without borders is not a nation at all. We must have a wall”. If a nation has no border, it will not exist nor will the concept of a nation-state. Was Donald Trump justifying his decision of the US-Mexico wall? So, where is the solution? The concept of city-state looks promising again. Singapore is an example of a modern city-state.
(Article – Singapore Democracy)
Nothing will collapse overnight. Rome was not built in a day nor did it collapse in a day. It takes time to make great things.