Political Theory and the Evolution of Man

Political Theory and the Evolution of Man. Science in the final third of the twentieth century allows us, with a high level of confidence, to describe the man as a member of that order of the animal kingdom called the primates, like other primates and, for that matter, like all other animals and plants-constantly face the myriad problems of adaptation to the conditions of life on this earth.

Human-animal adaptation may mean a genetic alteration in skin color or lung capacity, or ability to withstand cold. Still, it also means discovering and inventing ways and means of dealing with nature, other men, and, above all, perhaps, with the inner man.

What we call political and social organization-the customs, practices, and procedures that with varying degrees of firmness hold men together in interrelated groups-is perhaps the most important form of human adaptation to the environment, both external and internal Students of anthropology and animal behavior are making it increasingly clear that in man, most of the other primates, and in many other animal species as well, social life and organization are primary biological survival devices. Man has no leathery armor like a turtle or spines like a porcupine, but he does have a social life and can organize it effectively for survival purposes.

Against this background and in this context that we must begin our understanding of political theory. Political theory is, quite simply, a man’s attempt to consciously understand and solve his group life and the organization’s problems. Thus, political theory is an intellectual tradition, and its history consists of the evolution of men’s thoughts about political problems over time.

Anthropologists like to speak of man as a culture-bearing animal, and communications theorist Marshall McLuhan describes media of communication and cultural devices as extensions of man.? Political theory is part of this culture that man bears or carries with him. It is an extension of man, and it is stated in and conditioned by extensions of man such as speech, writing, printing, and more recently, radio and television.

If we were to define political theory as broadly as any thinking about politics or relevant to politics, we would come close to including all human thinking for all time. But the political theory, as we shall mean it in this book, is the disciplined investigation of political problems. As such, it was invented at a particular place, namely among the Hellenes in what we now call Greece, and at a more op less specific time, during the fifth century before Christ.

If we borrow a way of talking from biology, we can say that just as nature at a certain time and place evolved mammals, so did the culture-bearing animal at a certain time and place evolve and come to carry with him disciplined, self-conscious political inquiry. We must carry this evolutionary image a little further.

The “invention” of mam. By nature, mammals meant not that the whole mammalian line emerged instantaneously and full-blown upon the world, but rather that a threshold was crossed from which the extremely varied mammalian order exfoliated itself.

From the crossing of that threshold-whether, it happened once, or several times-mammals developed and spread worldwide. We could, from this perspective, speak of a history of mammalian development. In this same way, we speak of an intellectual tradition, of the culture-bearing animal carrying a certain kind of man’s extension, of-finally-a history of political theory.

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