A History of Western Political Thought by J. S. McClelland

By J. S. McClelland

It is a nice publication to achieve a greater realizing of some of the options of western politcal thought...its sparknotes for any poli sci significant, yet on an highbrow level...its an excellent e-book.

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He has at least as sure a grasp as Aristotle of the principle that the cause of political instability and changes of regime is disunity in the ruling group, and he adds the twist that the ideal recipe for political stability is unity above and disunity below. If all the material wealth in a society is possessed by the ruled class, then they can quarrel about it to their hearts’ content provided only that wealth is not concentrated in too few hands. The same is true of honour. Provided that competition for honour is confined to a military caste who are kept from the highest positions in the state, then the military are unlikely to compete with their rulers, who are above such things, and they are unlikely to be united as a group except on the battlefield.

The man who is himself properly self-controlled is fit to command others unlike himself. His relations with others like himself will be friendly and co-operative, but his A history of western political thought 24 relations with others unlike himself will be relations of rulership. Plato sees a very close connection between instability of character and political instability. An unstable character is one where the naturally ruling part is not in control, and an unstable state is one where men who are not naturally in control of themselves control public affairs.

If he has a fault, it is that he is not very reflective about his own ethic, though Socrates does not chide him for that. Socrates does ask him what he thinks goodness is, and Cephalus answers that it is telling the truth, helping friends and paying debts. Socrates suggests very gently that there may be cases where that definition might cause a problem or two, as when a friend has lent you a knife and gone mad in the Socrates and Plato 25 meantime. Would it be just to return the knife in these circumstances?

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