What Is Political Theory? And Why Should We Study It?

Every time you start to study political science, the first thing you need to know about and understand is political theory. And in order to understand the political theory, you have to face many problems.

Political Theory theory shape our thought process towards society from where we belong to. That is why as a student of political science we should study political theory. because it helps-

  • To explain what is going on around us.
  • To understand our rights and duties.
  • To decide what should be or not should be.
  • To solve ethical problems.
  • To understand political development and political crisis in the world.

So it became necessary to clearly understand the concept of political theory. Once we understand the meaning of political theory and what its functions are, then it will be easy for us to figure out why should we study political theory in detail.

Political theory is the combination of two words.

let’s start with the theory.

Table of Contents


What is Theory?

The first term is a theory that you need to know; otherwise you will not understand anything of political theory.

The English word ‘Theory’ comes from the Greek word ‘Theoria’ which means “a looking at, viewing, beholding”. In a sense of ancient Greek the theory is to gain knowledge of a particular phenomenon through thoughtfulness and intellectual insight. In general, the theory implies an analytical framework.

But proponents of empiricism think that knowledge, which is based on some predetermined self-reflection and make a conclusion based on that, cannot be called as theory.

According to them theory refers to Determines the inter-relationship between the various information obtained from the experience and presents it in a coherent and meaningful way. But the problem is that if the theory is based on only information by experiences then how we define the concept of Freedom, Equality, and Justice, and so on. 

So in general you can say that theory is a systematic study for systematic knowledge about a particular phenomenon based on abstract ideas, rational character, generality, and non-speculation in nature. The prime goal of the theory is to find out the human achievable truth. 

What is Political?

Now you have to understand what politics is. Political mainly refers to power or authority. It also refers to influence, control, and use of physical force or threat.

In Newspaper, we see a variety of issues related to the rape, racism, gender equality, political party, March against the government. Now the question is, are these political issues?

Yes these issues are political because of all these issues related to power. And all these are linked to the government institutions.

So it can be said that political refers to the power to take decisions by the government institutions about common life or society. Here political refers to power with (a government institution) and power to (common people and society).

But is it not 100 percent true. Rajeev Bhargava in his book (Political Theory: An Introduction) explain political very accurately. He has used an example of women’s organization protesting against the exclusion or unequal treatment of women.

So far as political has meant that the Woman Organization has never belonged to the political. Because the Woman Organization is not part of the government organization.

But protest by women’s group is political. Their act is political. Women have long struggled against some social practice. Unequal treatment over them means the use of power over them by men or any social practices. Exercise of power in any type linked to the political and it refers to power over also.

What is Political Theory?

The main point of this article is political theory. You have already got the meaning of Theory and Political and now you will learn what it means when these two words sit together.

If theory refers to the systematic study for systematic knowledge about a particular phenomenon or issues then, political theory is the systematic study for systematic knowledge about political phenomena or issues.

Again, it can be said that political theory is a theory that deals with political matters. Political theory is related to the science and philosophy of political affairs.

A British political scientist David Held nicely defines political theory as “a network of concept and generalizations about political life involving ideas, assumptions and statements about the nature, purpose and key features of government, state and society and about the political capabilities of human beings”.

Must Read- 3 Most Important Types of Political Theory

Why Should We Study Political Theory?

At the beginning of this post, I have highlighted some points about why should we study political theory. Now it’s time to explain those points clearly so that you are able to understand the importance of political theory.

No political theory means problems without a solution.  You are part of a particular society. You should understand that society from where you belong. The political theory makes it easy for you.

People in every society carry ideas. From those ideas you can understand your position in that society. Political theory helps us understand those concepts and helps us to realize our identity.

You ask yourself who are you? If your answer is you are a citizen of a particular country. Then what do you mean by citizenship? The idea of citizenship is shaped by political theory and it has its universal applicability.

Just like this our concept of equality, freedom, rights, justice, etc, all are shaped by political theory. Political theory decides how we look at our society as a political animal.

Suppose you are a worker and your question yourself why are you so deprived? To find the answer, you need to understand classes of society or the hierarchy of society. Karl Marx’s theory of class struggle helps you to understand the notion of class. And you will also get the answer to why you are so deprived of this hierarchical structure of society.

Must Read- Is Political Science A Science? [3 Reasons]

To understand why should we study political theory, the functions of political theory need to be discussed.

Functions of Political Theory

Political theory performs several functions that are very needful for our society as well as the world.

Understanding what is going on in the society and the world as well

Political theory helps to understand what is actually happening surrounding us and throughout the world as well. Political theory tells you how you do collect data from those political events and how to study it systematically.

Political Theory plays Explanatory Role

Now, it’s time to find out why those events are happening?

When women organizations protest against the government, there are definitely some reasons behind those protests. Political theory gives us theoretical/conceptual frameworks to explain the reasons for those protests. When we study women protest, the maximum time we use the conceptual frameworks like equality, empowerment, rights, justice, and so on.

Solving Ethical Questions

Political theory always tells us that the political events surrounding us are good or bad, right or wrong for all of us. The prime goal of political theory is to find out the truth from our society. The political theory also gives the criterion of how good and how bad that truth is.

It tells what ought to be or not to be

It helps us to understand about good order society and what makes society perfect. If anything wrong is happening related to politics then what will is the best solution also given by political theory.

Justification of Human Actions

Political theory justifies the action of humans. Through this human action can be explained and it provides the proper reasons for those actions. For example, in 2003 invasion of Iraq has justified by the just war theory. Just war theory has given the reasons to the USA for that action.

Again, when we take action to think about our country, such as the Poverty Alleviation Program, the participation in the Decision making Process of Governance,   the idea of nation encourages us to do more.


From the above discussion, it can be concluded that how much need for political theory in our life, society, and the world as well. It helps to think, helps to find out the solution to problems that are happening in our political world and it also gives the reasons for our every action of political life.

Again it can say that no political theory means political problems without solutions. Every subject grows because of its theoretical dimension. The theory makes a subject as a separate academic discipline.

I hope you understand why should we study political theory as political creatures.

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SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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