Theory and Practice

How much do political practices follow political theories? A skeptic’s view on “The Modern Political Tradition”.

This is the best among the “Great Courses” series that I’ve listened to in the past several years, although I didn’t really get the audible book for this one, but rather the Amazon video. Professor Cahoone has made distinctive efforts to make things clear. Due to the scope of it, it is very difficult to elaborate on one philosopher or one particular concept, but he tries to clarify as much as possible through repeat assertions, comparisons between old and modern figures, philosophers and rival philosophers. The progress of the idea of “Social Contract” from Hobbes, Locke, to Rousseau is crystal clear; the conservative Burke and the enlightened people who attacked him are dwelled on with relish. Through his tireless explanations, I can almost understand the conflicts between Hamilton and Jefferson, Hamilton and Burr–he didn’t actually mention Burr but I thought he would, American and English political system. He didn’t elaborate on how the hybrid political system, like what the French has, works and it will be interesting to know.

When the lecture veers towards WWI, WWII, and post WWII, I begin to get more confused. Since I have experienced different political systems and have personal observations to rely on to make sense of the lectures. I begin to feel that a lot of concepts are not really dig up and dissect fully. For example, socialism and socialists become blanket terms to cover all the countries and all the people who claim to be socialists. Actually many so called socialism are not really socialism at all. Mussolini and other Nazi called themselves socialists, but that’s just a title they assumed. They couldn’t call themselves dictators, could they, even though they were the biggest ones among all the dictators. In addition, it’s very hard for me to imagine Theodore Roosevelt being a liberal democrat. He’s the one who tacitly and skillfully agreed that Japan took Korea as a colony. His imperialism is very much at odds with the principle of being a liberal and a democrat.

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