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1LECTURE NOTESUCLA Department of Political Science Fall 2007 PS 40 Introduction to American Politics Prof. Thomas Schwartz Hunk 2 Political Theory There are two kinds of political theory. Normativetheory examines how to justify or evaluate political institutions and policies (e.g., What kind of government shouldwe have?). Positive theory seeks to explain and predict political behavior, policies, and institutions (e.g., Why dowe have the kind of government that we do?). In this class we are concerned more with positive theory, with explanation. The distinction is not razor sharp. Sometimes one “rationale” is a plausible justification andexplanation of an institution, practice, or policy. Example: Most of us prefer protection from theft to the chance to steal, and that plausibly justifies andexplains why we have laws against theft. Why have government?One can approach this question either normatively or positively. One can ask why do we have it or why should we have it. Plato, in The Republic, briefly entertains two answers. The book shows Socrates conversing with other characters about justice, and the two answers come from two of those characters. 1.Thrasymachus contends that justiceis simply the will of the stronger, hence that there is no transcendent standard of justice. The underlying assumption is that governments are put in place to serve the interests of the rulers - - who are few compared with their subjects.
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