Political Theory as an Attribute of the Western Cultural Tradition. As the preceding discussion clarifies, political theory is no primarily part of a poetic, musical, or artistic tradition. On the contrary, it is, for the most part, to be associated with a philosophical, scientific tradition and style of discourse.
Indeed, political theory is more often than not characterized by what has been called an “architectonic” stance concerning its subject matter. Thus, the political. Theorist stands ‘‘outside” the edifice as an architect might. He sees it as a whole, plans its whole development, and adjusts this or that aspect with an eye to the whole’s success.
This philosophic-scientific style of thinking of which political theory is a part began, as was suggested earlier, among what we call the Ancient Greeks. We talked about political theory having its origins in the fifth-century B.c. To the modern student, this seems a very long time ago-so long in fact as to bring into question its relevance for contemporary concerns.
We think of these Greeks as “ancient,” just as our term for them indicates. From another and in many respects true perspective, however, we would be more accurate to call Them ‘‘moderns,” if not quite contemporary. Consider the charts on-page.
The Golden Age of Athens, or Pericles, which we look back upon with reverence, is accurate to be thought of as the beginning of European civilization-or as we now usually say, of Western civilization-but from the broader point of view of the history of humankind, the flowering of Athens was a rather late and peripheral development.
Lt is easy enough to grasp that we in the twentieth century stand some 2400 years from the Age of Pericles. Still, it is also important to see that Pericles stood roughly an equal number of years from the Great Pyramid of Cheops builders, with their highly sophisticated mathematical astronomy and engineering techniques.
Greece is the place where Europeans contacted the ancient Middle East civilization, and it was there that man crossed the threshold of science, philosophy, and political theory. It is part of the provinciality of contemporary Western man that he judges Plato, Aristotle, and Greek science and philosophy in general only in contrast to contemporary Western science and philosophy and rarely in contrast to what went before them.
Understanding the nature of political theory as an extension of man demands that we see it in its developed context. Therefore, we need to do two things before moving in the next chapter into a discussion of the Greek city-state, which served as an immediate context for Socrates and Plato.
We must set the stage for the coming of Greek civilization. Even if briefly, we must examine the intellectual style and form that preceded the Invention of philosophy and political theory.