After reading this article you will learn about different aspects of modern political thought.
Scholars of Western political thought are of opinion that both Renaissance and Reformation have contributed a lot to the emergence of modern political thought. These two released political theory or thought from the octopus of religion and superstition.
It is true that these two movements could not establish secularism in politics, but as a result of Renaissance and Reformation the church was forced to give up its claim over politics. Church and papacy were forced to remain satisfied with their truncated authority.
Political affairs of the state got ample opportunity to travel on their own way. Political ideas were suppressed or could not get ample opportunity to flourish in the Middle Ages when the church was all-powerful. After Reformation various strands of political ideas spontaneously developed and this is an aspect of modern political thought.
The downfall of Feudalism was a spectacular aspect of modern political thought and this appeared after Reformation. Feudalism was incongruous for an atmosphere (both political and economic) that appeared after Reformation. Trade and commerce developed and a new economic order emerged. Economic nature of society changed considerably. Cottage and small scale industries of the past were replaced by comparatively large sized industries. Agriculture society of the past was replaced by the industrial society.
The contradictions of the feudal society gave way to new types of contradictions that characterized the industrial society. In such situation we find new types of political ideas. Marx and his followers strongly emphasized this new development and this many people call Marxian politics.
In the new political and economic situation two important classes appeared and their interest were poles apart. This situation created an atmosphere of contradiction and conflict.
The industrial society was characterized by class conflict and this according to Marx and Engels—led to class struggle. Marxian politics is a prominent part of modern political ideas and class struggle occupies a central position of that politics.
Marx, Engels and their followers focused their attention also on the materialism aspects of philosophy. Before Marx, idealism was one of the important aspects of politics. Marx challenged it. In the Theses on Feurbach Marx said, the standpoint of the old materialism is “civil” society, the standpoint of the new is human society or socialized humanity.
He further said: The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways, the point, however, is to change it.
The political thinkers of the modern age are thinking to change the materialistic aspects of society so as to make it relevant for the new materialistic situation. But this will not be done in Marxian way.
In 1884, Fabian Society was set up to fight the evils of Industrial Revolution. Attempts were made to give economic and other reliefs to the poorer and downtrodden sections of the society. So far as political thought or ideas are concerned the whole society is divided into two broad groups- Marxian politics and non-Marxian politics.
In his concluding observations about the foundation of modern political thought Skinner says “By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the concept of the state—its nature, its powers, its right to command obedience—had come to be regarded as the most important object of analysis in European political thought.”
The implication is the appearance of Renaissance and Reformation brought about sea changes in the vast field of political thought and it is interesting to note that this change is advancing. Skinner feels that though the basis of modern political thought appeared after Renaissance and Reformation, the actual foundation was laid by Aristotle in his Politics.
In Book I of Politics Aristotle said Communication political which means political community. After Aristotle scholars and philosophers have attempted to focus their attention on politics.
In the Middle Ages people forgot to think seriously about politics and some critics think that it was buried in oblivion. After Reformation its revival appeared.
A very important segment of modern political theory is the rise of the bourgeoisie and capitalist state. The unprecedented growth of trade and commerce enabled few persons to harvest huge amount of profit and this made them strengthen their position in society.
Ultimately the bourgeois class began to control politics and economics of society and, finally, an unholy alliance was established between the persons holding power and the capitalist class.
Governmental control over economy and politics, in a considerable way, was discouraging the growth of laissez-faire and in such a situation the capitalize class urged upon the government to slacken its control over society and economy.
The modern liberalism started its journey from John Locke and received enough impetus in the hands of Adam Smith. He strongly advocated laissez faire in his The Wealth of Nations which was published in 1776.
Liberalism and individualism travelled simultaneously. In the midst of all these religion was relegated to an ignoble position. Contrary to Middle Ages, people began to think more about economics and less about religion.