Political thought is only a surrogate or substitute for more genuine politicalaction. This is one theory that has sparked much thought and when examined itmay be seen quite differently. For one, an argument can be made that indeed thispolitical thought may substitute political action. On the other hand, politicalthought can serve as a great inspiration or spark political action. Thirdly,political thought may not have anything to do with more genuine political actionbut instead it may be purely theoretical and hypothetical.
Examples of thesethree arguments may be made out of the works of Locke, Plato, Machiavelli, aswell as other historical aspects of both political thought and action. Political thought can indeed be a substitute for more genuine political action. Manywriters and political thinkers offer many theories about politics that may notbe intended to cause political action.
Many theories are also offered but maynot be implemented into the political arena directly or indirectly. For example,Machiavellis The Prince, has been viewed as a substitute for politicalaction. Many feel that Machiavelli wrote The Prince as a guidebook for his ownprince Lorenzo de Medici, to promote himself into the political arena of Italy.
Machiavelli dedicates this book to Medici, leader of the family who overthrewthe government he worked for. One may argue that the book is a masterful act ofpolitical deception, filled with intentional bad advice he hoped Medici wouldfollow. Machiavelli aimed to trip him up bad enough to make him lose powerenabling a new republic to come in.
Others feel that the dedication of the bookand the use of flattery are used as a means of setting himself up to function asa political advisor. By using flattery, he thought Medici would be impressedenough with him to ask Machiavelli to work for him. Machiavelli hoped to ensurehimself a position with the Medici government, a government that he hoped tocarry out his main goal which was the elimination of the papacy and through thededication suck Medici into Machiavellis unraveling plans for him.
Nonetheless whatever Machiavellis intent was, his attempts to unravel theMedici government obviously did not pan out the way he thought it would. Infact, the book was not published until after his death in 1532. Even then thebook provoked controversy and was quickly condemned by Pope Clement VIII.
Thebook, with its various theories about its intent, goes to prove that Machiavelliwas using it as a clear substitute for a more “genuine” political actionsuch as raising a real attempt to take over and promote himself high up intoItalys political arena. His theories and thought were just a substitute forsomething that he envisioned for himself. Aside from being a substitutepolitical thought can serve an inspiration to more genuine political action.
Works such as John Lockes Two Treatises of Government, as well as Machiavellis The Prince, have been proven to spark revolt and revolutionamong other types of political action. Lockes works have exercised enormousinfluence in both England and America. In his Two Treatises of Government Lockeset forth the view that: “The state exists to preserve the natural rights ofits citizens. When governments fail in that task, citizens have the right andsometimes duty to withdraw their support and even to rebel.” This view canclearly be seen in the act of the American Revolution against Britain and is afundamental principal of many of societys constitutional democracies.
Lockes views influenced many people especially Thomas Jefferson inAmericas fight for freedom and its Declaration of Independence. Drafted byJefferson, the Declaration of Independence contained the ideas of individualliberty that had been expressed by views of John Locke. Locke maintained that:”…the social contract preserved the preexistent natural rights of theindividual to life, liberty, and property, and the enjoyment of private rights,the pursuit of happiness led, in civil society, to the common good.” Thisclearly influenced the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the United States.
Lockes notion of government was a limited one and his views on governmentwere also deeply reflected in the US Constitution: “The checks and balancesamong government and true representation in the legislature would maintainlimited government and individual liberties.” Lockes ideas can be clearlyseen in the beginnings of the US governmental policies namely in the Declarationof Independence and the US Constitution.
Some of the ideas presented in Machiavelli’s Prince have also been used to spark revolution and other politicalactions. Lenin used Machiavellian tactics for a communist revolution, for thesetactics were not only interested in the survival of a principality but the way aprincipality acquired its power.
The communist revolution led by Lenin is amodern example of the destruction of an old principality to a new. Machiavellioutlines the unfailing process for a modern revolution in chapters VI-IX,stating that a leader guiding his fellow citizens as a citizen must stamp outthe old principality, establish new government, appoint new officials, andinstill respect and gradually fear for the new principal leadership.
These seemto blue the blueprints for the Russian Revolution followed by Lenin. After Leninbecame leader of the Bolsheviks, he led them in a successful revolution. Withthe communist ideals pushing them, the Bolsheviks threw out the provisionalgovernment at the Winter Palace, a symbol of the old principality. Once thecomplete destruction of the old principality was over, Lenin appointed a newhierarchic system. He established himself at the head of that system anddeveloped a reputation of cruelty.
It appears that Lenin followed manyMachiavellian principles including the following: “I conclude that since menlove as they themselves determine but fear as their ruler determines, a wiseprince must rely upon what he and not others control.” It is evident in theabove examples that political thought has sparked political action and it isclearly exemplified in Jefferson and Lenins close followings of theprinciples of Locke and Machiavelli respectively. Political thought can notonly spark political action or be used as a substitute for political action butpolitical thought could just be a theoretical or hypothetical thought as well.
In Platos Statesman, Plato speaks seeks to find a true definition of astatesman and through arguments gives his theory of what a true ruler orstatesman should be. According to Plato all constitutions of government areinferior to the only true government, that true government being the rule of theroyal statesman. Plato states that there is no need for laws as long as there isa kingly ruler who knows the science of statesmanship.
Out of the possible formsof government Plato lists monarchy as the best with aristocracy occupying anintermediate position and democracy last out of the other possible constitutionsof government. In the statesman the knowledge and insight of the ruler remainthe ultimate criterion of good government, although, at the same time, there isgreater skepticism about the possibility of ever attaining a perfect ruler.
Thusthe rule of the kingly ruler who is the true statesman becomes the mostdesirable ideal, and a government of law is proposed as an inferior because itis a mere replica of the rule of the statesman. This ideal of the statesman maybe the most desirable however it is probably unattainable. We can never expectthat such a true ruler as the statesman will ever appear as is stated by Platohimself: “We must take things as they are, however, and kings do not arise incities in the natural course of things in the way the royal bee is born in abeehive-one individual obviously outstanding in body and mind.
And therefore itseems men have to gather together and work out written codes, chasing to catchthe tracks of the true constitution.” Therefore Plato admits that there is aneed for laws for whatever reason that may be, and that his arguments anddefinition of a true statesman is purely hypothetical and theoretical. Plato wasnot intending to implement this art form of the statesman nor did this type ofrule ever exist. Yet Plato was just out to define what a true statesman was.
Political thought is intended for various uses. For one it can definitely be asurrogate for more genuine political action as is shown through Machiavellisintent on writing the book, The Prince. Political thought can be used to asrationale and ways to spark a more genuine political action as well. This isshown through Thomas Jefferson and Americas use of Two Treatises of Government and the influence of The Prince on Lenin during the Bolshevikrevolution in Russia. And finally, political thought may be purely hypotheticalor theoretical as is demonstrated by looking at Platos Statesman. Thuspolitical thought is used and has been used for various intent and ways of goingabout more genuine political action.