The origins of political thought are in ancient Rome and Greece. Starting in approximately 600 B.C.E, thinkers in these societies began to consider questions of how to organize societies, as part of their more broad considerations of how ethics and how to live the good life.
Origin of Political Thought
All living creatures except man are largely at the mercy of their surroundings. They live under conditions which are not of their making and which are but little changed by their efforts. No conscious purpose nor definite idea of progress is possible among them. They live in a world of nature and are controlled by its conditions, being unable to conquer it or to change their own destiny by their own deliberate actions.
The relation of man to his environment is essentially different. Although in primitive times man, like the lower creatures, lived at the mercy of nature and developed in accordance with the law of natural evolution, and although man is still in many ways affected by conditions which he is powerless to change, a point was nevertheless reached in human development when man became conscious of his environment and set his reason to work to explain it and to plan modifications and improvements. Natural phenomena were investigated and understood, and conscious direction and purpose gradually replaced the purely physical relation between man and nature.
This was the case not only with the physical environment, composed of those geographic and climatic conditions and their resultant natural resources within which all life exists, but also with the social environment, composed of those ideas, associations, and institutions that make up the non-physical life of man.
In the same way that man began to investigate nature, learn her laws, bring her powers under his control, and utilize her resources, so man began to question his intellectual beliefs and his social customs and institutions, to examine their nature, to question their authority, and finally to plan deliberate change and progress.
All early social institutions, therefore, arose and for a long time developed unconsciously.Only gradually did man realize their existence and the possibility of directing or improving them by his own purposeful efforts.
Of all social institutions the state has been the most universal and most powerful. Some form of organization and authority has been found wherever human life has existed, and a sanction of some kind has enforced some sort of rules. In the process of human development, it was, therefore, inevitable that man should investigate this institution, should attempt to discover its origin, should question or uphold its authority, and should dispute over the proper scope of its function.
As the outcome of this process, political thought arose. Government and law, springing up naturally and growing at first without conscious direction, came later under the scrutiny of man’s reason. Man became conscious of the state and made attempts, crude enough in the beginning, to explain the nature of political phenomena.
Increasing powers of observation and of logical analysis built up a constantly widening sphere of political speculation, and the development of the state in its objective phase of organization and activity was, accordingly, accompanied by its subjective phase the theory of the state in the minds of men and in the records of tradition and literature.
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