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What is a Political Philosophy?

By Jason C. Chavis
Updated May 23, 2024
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A political philosophy is the concept by which an individual or group of people adopt specific viewpoints regarding the duties of a government and the way it interacts with the population of a nation, state or local region. Some of the major issues political philosophy deals with are the rights of individuals, legal concerns and property rights. Other concepts may include suffrage and the overall equality of members of the society. While the basic philosophical questions relate directly to the concept, these principles can create social upheaval in the form of revolutions or rebellions. This can stem from simple ideas addressed in works of literature or major events such as terrorist attacks or the martyrdom of freedom fighters.

Central to the concept of political philosophy is the standards by which the government is organized. Many prominent philosophies through history included feudalism, monarchies and oligarchies. Modern examples are democracies, communism and libertarianism. Additional movements within these nations and states are also said to represent political philosophies. Examples include feminism and the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transsexual movement.

One major focal point of political philosophy is the idea of panarchism. This states that a person has the right to enter or leave any form of government and jurisdiction in which the person desires. Another major concept is the issue of progressivism, the tendency of moving a society forward using reform to institute change. This is essentially the antithesis of those who focus on keeping the status quo intact and occasionally respond to new events in a reactionary manner.

An important factor in political philosophy throughout history has been the position of political media. Since antiquity, various writers and speakers have worked to drive political discourse. In modern times, this has become an industry based on newspapers, magazines, television and film designed to help stimulate political discussions. Throughout history, however, this media has also been used to move the overall philosophy in the direction of its choosing. It can also be used to make money for the companies or individuals involved.

Political philosophy is strongly associated with sociology. Scientists research the different ways in which society changes its dynamics regarding political stances and the reasons they do so. Observations can be made that show different events and structures within a society that are directly associated with changing dynamics of philosophy. Many of these changes then lead to more changes, creating a continual environment of evolution in the political spectrum.

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Discussion Comments

By pleonasm — On Sep 11, 2011

@indigomoth - It's so important to make sure you know what you're talking about before you fully form your beliefs. I know when I first started traveling, my political beliefs were much the same as my parents, and they had never really given me a reason for it.

Then I started meeting people who had a different political philosophy than me. I just assumed they were wrong! And some of them were. But it was much better to talk to them and find out what they actually were about, then to just make assumptions because of what others had told me to think.

By indigomoth — On Sep 10, 2011

@umbra21 - I know a lot of people who simply won't talk about politics at all because they are afraid that will happen.

But, I think good friends should be able to talk about it. I know that when I hear people argue, often they aren't really expressing what they want, or they are basing their opinions on hearsay.

If you are talking about politics with friends, it might be easier to say what you really think. You would also be able to run off and look up examples to back yourself up.

And, most importantly, I think you will be able to understand why they believe what they do. In the end, they must have a reason, even if they don't fully understand it themselves.

I think if you can accept someone else's point of view like that, it will only make the friendship stronger, even if you don't completely agree.

By umbra21 — On Sep 10, 2011

Differences in political philosophy can make for some interesting debates. I know some of my fondest memories of university were sitting with a group of friends at the bar after classes and arguing the different merits of various political ideologies.

You have to be careful not to start taking it too personally though. A couple of my friends just could not agree to disagree and fell out over it. They stopped speaking to each other for a long time. It was really sad, because I think one of the key things most people can agree on is that people should have freedom of speech and opinion, but they each couldn't let the other believe what he believed without trying to change his mind.

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