History of political thought
|Supplements to this article include a chronology of political events and the philosophers that influenced them - with links to online sources.|
Among the many contributions to political philosophy, a continuous thread can be traced from the analytical theorising of the thinkers of Ancient Greece through the writings of the philosophers of The Enlightenment and the teachings of the founders of the French and American revolutions, to the current ideologies of Conservatism, Liberalism, Socialism and their offshoots. There were significant developments in political thinking in China and India during that period, but since they had little influence on that thread, they are conventionally omitted from courses and treatises on the history of political thought, and are usually given separate treatment elsewhere.
Among the topics that are debated throughout what is regarded as the mainstream thread, are the relations between individual and community, and between community and state. Although many issues remained unresolved, an unprecedented degree of ideological convergence began to develop during the latter decades of the 20th century, culminating in a situation that Francis Fukuyama dramatised as "the end of history". However a controversy gathered strength in the 21st century concerning a state's "duty of care" toward its citizens, and the rôle of the international community when an individual state fails to discharge that duty.
The thread begins in Ancient Greece after thinkers such as Thales and Anaximander had moved, away from a passive acceptance of the anecdotes and superstitions of the time of Homer, toward an active conviction that an understanding of the world could be gained by rational enquiry. Their enquiries came to include the examinations of the advantages of social cooperation that culminated in the political debates of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE. In the course of those debates, they developed a political vocabulary and a taxonomy of political systems that have survived to the present day. The thread centres on the city-state (polis)) of Ancient Athens at a time when an assembly of all of its citizens had been made its legislative body: a body to which its magistrates and administrators were made responsible. That was the form of democracy that was praised by the Athenian aristocrat Pericles in his famous funeral speech. At the time of Plato's political commentaries, Athenian democracy had made some regrettable decisions, and lost a war against Sparta and its allies, but had survived as the first fully-functional democratic city-state. Plato considered Athenian democracy to be an imperfect society because it put power in the hands of those who were ill-qualified to exercise it. Ruling was, in his view, a specialised skill that required unusual intelligence and self-discipline. Much of the Socratic dialogue in The Republic is concerned with the selection and training of an elite body of "Guardians" who would be given the duty of taking decisions that they deem to benefit the community. To gain their popular acceptance, he suggested the use of a public relations campaign to persuade the populace to believe the "Noble Lie" that the powers of the guardians had been divinely bestowed. Plato's pupil, Aristotle disagreed. He regarded Plato's Republic as the negation of politics, arguing that "man is by nature a political animal" that cannot reach its full potential without reasoned discourse. He believed, nevertheless, that deliberative politics was only feasible for a select elite - fearing that democracy would be used by the poor in their own interests - and he defended slavery. With those qualifications, he regarded politics as "a partnership of citizens in a constitution". By comparison with their predecessors, the philosophers of the later Hellenic period had little influence on political thought. The followers of Epicurus had no time for politics but were willing to acknowledge the merits of a system of civil law that helped to prevent citizens from harming each other. The principle contribution to political thinking that is generally attributed to the Stoics is the concept of a universal "natural law" consisting rules of conduct that are independent of man-made legislation, and apply equally to all.
The influence of Ancient Rome upon political thought has arisen from the policies and practices that it adopted rather than the writings of its philosophers. Unprecedented administrative problems had to be tackled during the five centuries of the Roman Republic and the further five centuries of the Roman Empire, and the solutions that were adopted have since been widely used as precedents or warnings by politicians and political thinkers. It has been described as a vast administrative experiment, and it has mainly influenced thinking about down-to-earth political issues such as taxation, monetary policy, the infrastructure, citizenship and the assimilation of differing cultures. Cicero, the best-known thinker of the republican period, carried forward the Stoic concept of a universal natural law, embodying an embryo version of universal human rights , and the Roman legal system, with its jury trials and presumption of innocence, was probably its most influential legacy. There was no return to democracy: the form of government ranged from aristocracy during the Republic to dictatorship during the imperial period.
Medieval Christianity and Islam
The decline in the authority of the Roman empire in the West in the 5th century BCE left a void in political thinking that was soon filled by the growing influence of the Christian Church, and the idea of being part of "Christendom" gained currency in popular attitudes to politics throughout most of Europe. The leading religious thinkers of the day regarded politics as an inferior pursuit, and political authority as no more than a necessary restraint upon otherwise destructive human behaviour. The thread was not broken, however, because there was also a resurgence of interest in the teachings of the ancient Greek philosophers. The Christian bishop Augustine of Hippo accepted Plato's authoritarianism, and its extension by Plotinus to a hierarchy of authority encompassing all existence (summed up in Alexander Pope's Vast Chain of Being). Aristotle's teaching was a major influence on the philosophy of the later theologist, Thomas Aquinas. In his political writing. Aquinas generally followed Aristotle in advocating reasoned political discourse among a qualified elite, although he was also known to advocate monarchy as the ideal form of government. He emphasised the priority of natural law over man-made law, even to the point of asserting that the decisions of a government carried no authority if they were contrary to natural law. Islamic scholars such as Al-Farabi, Avicenna, and Averroes, were also influenced by the political thinking of the ancient Greek philosophers, and took their hierarchical teaching, in particular, to be generally supportive of Islamic practice. (The Qur'anic concept of Shura, or decisions by mutual consultation, is interpreted by the Islamic scholars who created the Sharia, to refer, not to representative government, but to the need for rulers to consult experts .) Yet the medieval politics of Christendom developed differently from the politics of the Muslim world. In contrast to the unifying influence of the Christian doctrine of papal supremacy, differences of interpretation among Islamic thinkers resulted in the development over time of a range of normative attitudes to social and political conduct.
Rise of the nation state
Much of the political thinking during the thousand years that followed the sack of Rome is unrecorded. The literacy that had been a common feature of the Roman empire was seldom evident in Europe, except in the monasteries. Thus, much of what people were thinking can only inferred from the political developments of the period. Fear of violent disorder would account for the agreements under which kings offered land in exchange for homage and armed support, and landowners demanded serfdom in return for tenancy and military protection. Choices were made and promises were given that resulted in a variety of political systems that came to be known as feudalism. General acceptance of the binding nature of the oath of fealty was a stabilising aspect of medieval political thinking. that preserved a hierarchy that many believed to have been divinely ordained. Another decisive aspect was the belief that every ordained priest had the power to consign the recalcitrant to eternal torment. Its consequence was the emergence of the church and the various monarchies as parallel sources of political authority. But feudalism can now be seen as no more than a stage in the process of emergence that imposed order upon a chaotic situation. At the beginning of the period there was no concept of a nation state, meaning a source of authority that is generally accepted by the members of a culturally coherent community. By the end of the period it was a commonplace political feature. At the beginning of the period, it was accepted that political legitimacy was conditional upon the approval of the church. By its end, the principle of state sovereignty was a fait accompli. Fear of a breakdown of law and order continued to influence political thought throughout the middle ages and beyond. Order was considered by Machiavelli to be an overriding necessity that justified ruthless actions that would otherwise be deemed immoral, and similar arguments were used by King James I of England to justify absolute despotism. Towards the end of the middle ages, however, political thinkers began to reconsider the relation between the state and the individual, and started to examine the possibility that order could be preserved at the cost of fewer sacrifices of individual freedom.
During the second half of the 17th century there was a revival of the Ancient Greek philosophers' conviction that an understanding of the world could be gained by rational enquiry, and a renewed willingness to challenge authority. Political thinkers including Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were inspired by the scientific achievements of Isaac Newton, to apply scientific modes of analysis to the issue of the relations between the state and the individual. Like earlier thinkers, Hobbes was influenced by fear of a return to an unregulated condition in which (as he put it) "life is nasty, brutish and short". Like Machiavelli, he considered the total submission to a "sovereign" to be a price that should willingly be paid for the avoidance of such an outcome. Unlike Machiavelli, however, he reasoned that such submission to be conditional. In his words:
- The Obligation of Subjects to the Soveraign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth, by which he is able to protect them. For the right men have by Nature to protect themselves, when none else can protect them, can by no Covenant be relinquished .
According John Locke, however, security is essentially a product of cooperation within the community, only one form of which is an agreement to cede powers to the state.
- MEN being... by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent. The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it.
In contrast to Hobbes' view of the ceding of power to a king as a price paid for security, Locke considered it to be in the nature of a contract that is automatically void if the king fails to act in the wider interests of the community.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau developed the concept of the social contract a stage further by examining the means by which its terms could be delivered. He introduced the concept of "the general will" in the following terms:
- The body politic is also a moral being, possessed of a will, and this general will, which tends always to the preservation and welfare of the whole and of every part, and is the source of the laws.
- but made it clear that the will of the people could differ from the general will because of popular misperceptions.
The French and American Revolutions are said to have marked a watershed concerning the impact of political philosophy. From being the intellectual concern of philosophers, politics had become a burning issue that could rouse whole populations. The monarchy and the aristocracy had ceased to be regarded as protectors, and had come to be regarded as oppressors. Human rights, that had formerly been debated as an abstraction, had become the subject of implacable popular demands such as those that were set out in France's Declaration of the Rights of Man. That change in popular attitudes was to dominate the following developments in both political philosophy and the conduct of politics. During the 18th century, the principles established by the philosophers of the Enlightenment gained popular acceptance, and the central topic of political thought became the means by which they should be put into practice.
The main topic of the debate about means concerned the choice of a constitution for a future government. Jean-Jacques Rousseau categorised the options as monarchy, aristocracy or democracy, and he concluded that "democratic government suits small States, aristocratic government those of middle size, and monarchy great ones". He noted, however that most constitutions are in fact a mixture of two of those categories. He dismissed the use of representation as somehow incompatible with the need to comply with the general will. His analysis was influential in the revolutionary France of the time, but it did not lead to a positive recommendation. Elsewhere, there was a widely-held rejection of the option of the introduction of democracy that was summed-up in Alexis de Toqueville's phrase "tyranny of the majority". De Toqueville's fears of the abuse of power appear to have been shared by Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison in the United States, and Edmond Burke in England. Thomas Paine proposed "representation ingrafted upon democracy", and that solution seems to have found favour with Madison and the other "founding fathers". The concept of representative government came to occupy a central place in constitutional thinking, and it was extensively developed in the 19th century by John Stuart Mill. It referred, not to government by those who were in some way representative of the governed, but to government on behalf of the governed. In the ideal version developed by Mill it was distinguished from governmental paternalism by the adoption of Emmanuel Kant's principle of autonomy, under which it was deemed immoral for a public authority to overrule individual preferences. Mill combined Kant's autonomy principle with the principles of utilitarianism to envisage a system under which government decisions would be determined solely upon their consequences for the welfare of those affected - as seen by those affected.
Political movements of the 19th and 20th centuries
A variety of systems of governance emerged in the course of the 19th century and the early 20th century, many of which embodied elements of 18th century thinking. The term "democracy" was widely applied, but for much of the period, participation in politics was limited to a privileged minority. Even when universal suffrage was eventually adopted, popular participation was normally limited to the making of election-time choices between rival political candidates. There was, however, a major increase in the influence of public opinion, and of the media that informed it. Politicians, when in office, became aware that their re-election - and possibly their continuation in office - would depend upon the extent to which they were believed to be contributing to individual welfare . There was thus a significant move toward the ideal of representative government, although the term itself fell into disuse. An exception to that trend was the persistence of the paternalist practices of imposing arbitrary restrictions upon individual freedom, concerning such matters as private sexual conduct and religious observance. There was otherwise an intensification of the debate about relations between the state and the individual - concerning, in particular, the rôle of the state in the distribution of individual wealth and in the defence of personal security and public order. Rival ideologies emerged, that found expression in the formation of political movements, and sometimes in the establishment of rival political parties. The following paragraphs consider each of the six broad categories under which most of the political ideologies of the 19th- and 20th centuries are held to fall.
Classical Liberalism was the optimistic political expression of a willingness to use reasoned analysis to supplant existing beliefs and practices. The 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man by the French National Assembly can be regarded as an early statement of its principles. Its essence was expressed in the phrase the freedom to do everything which injures no one else, and its development in the course of the 19th century was largely concerned with the concrete interpretation of that concept. The outcome was the adoption by various political parties of policies that supported free enterprise, including free trade, as well as personal freedom of action, and that were opposed to most forms of state paternalism. In the course of its subsequent evolution it generated variants ranging from Libertarianism, which permits no state activity beyond that necessary for the preservation of order, to those in which the state is required to promote economic welfare and an equitable distribution of wealth; and which sometimes tend to converge with communitarianism or social democracy. In the United States, the term is often used to refer to policies typified by Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.
|The bibliography subpage provides links to the writings of John Stuart Mill and L T Hobhouse on the subject of Liberalism|
Conservatism has been explained as an attitude to change. It is an attitude that had political expression in the late 18th century in response to the French Revolution - as scepticism about the wisdom of discarding the product of generations of political experience, solely on the basis of what was seen as a priori speculation. - and again in the 20th century as a reasoned response to Socialism. Negative reactions apart, a variety of positive policies have been associated with Conservatism in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. In 19th century England, for example, it was associated with royalism, imperialism, paternalism and protectionism. In 20th century America, it had associations with libertarianism, support for free enterprise, and qualified support for free trade. Among varied and changing policy themes, however, there emerged consistent opposition to government activity, and in particular to their opponents' policies of redistributive taxation, borrowing for investment, and government regulation of commerce. In the early 21st century, the Great Recession weakened the Conservative opposition to financial regulation, and in many countries, electoral pressures have promoted some degree of convergence with social democracy, as a result of which electoral changes ceased to result in large policy swings.
|The bibliography subpage provides links to the writings of Edmund Burke, Michael Oakeshott and Friedrich Hayek on the subject of Conservatism.|
Socialism has been put forward as a solution to the problem stated in the 16th century by Sir Thomas More:
- "Consider any year, that has been so unfruitful that many thousands have died of hunger; and yet if, at the end of that year, a survey was made of the granaries of all the rich men that have hoarded up the corn, it would be found that there was enough ... that, if it had been distributed among them, none would have felt the terrible effects of that scarcity..."
More's fantasy of a "better place" (Utopia) in which "all live easily together" in a tolerant, poverty-free "commonwealth" inspired a group of 19th century thinkers, including Robert Owen, and Pierre Joseph Proudhon and Karl Marx. The concept of socialism was defined in the minds of its adherents by the objective of achieving such an outcome, and attention turned, first to the establishment of the policies by which it could be achieved, and secondly to the political problem of getting them agreed. On the first point, a consensus emerged that there should be public control of the production and distribution of wealth, and reduction in the inequality of income. On the second point, the followers of Robert Owen proposed to campaign for those modifications to the existing capitalist system, but Karl Marx argued that the objective could not be achieved without the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by a regime based upon the principle of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" . According to Marxist theory, the overthrow of capitalism by revolution would be the inevitable outcome of a growing "class war" between workers and capitalists, and it was the duty of socialists to "shorten and lessen the birth pangs" of the coming socialism. According to Lenin that was to be the work of a tightly controlled elite. Lenin's concept of Socialism became known as Communism, and its adoption normally involves the creation of a command economy under the control of the leadership of a single political party. The alternative category of socialism - known as Social democracy - makes use of a mixed economy in which public sector decisions are under the control of a democratically-elected representative government.
|The bibliography subpage provides links to the writings of Sir Thomas More, Karl Marx and V I Lenin on the subject of Socialism.|
The ideologies of Fascism and Nazism are now seen as temporary aberrations, without significant influence upon the subsequent development of political thought. They were the product of a variety of influences, most of which were peculiar to the 20th century. Among the influences of World War 1 was a resurgence of nationalism and an inclination to accept Hegel's contention that the individual exists for the state. The civil and economic disorder that followed the war prompted a revival of Hobbes' argument that only a strong authoritarian government could avert a descent into chaos. Following the Russian Revolution, many feared the spread of communism and saw Fascist or Nazi authoritarianism as the only effective defence against it. In Germany, many blamed defeat upon the forces of Zionism, and popular support for the Nazi party was helped by a resurgence there of the, then widespread, European attitude of antisemitism. Support for the Nazi ideology of racism was made possible by the fact that the people of Germany saw themselves as members of a single ethnic group, and Hitler was able to use Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of "superman" to support his claim that a German "master race" was destined to achieve world conquest. Hitler's personal charisma and his political skills were a further powerful influence. The success of Fascism in Italy has been attributed partly to national pride created by the success or the Risorgimento struggle for unity and independence, and the country's part in World War 1, and the opposition of the Church to the alternatives of liberalism, socialism and unregulated capitalism was undoubtedly a factor. Mussolini presented Fascism as religiously-motivated movement whose objective was to establish "moral law, binding together individuals and the generations into a tradition and a mission" . The initial successes of Fascism and Nazism have been attributed to their popularity, and their subsequent political dominance to the use of state sponsored terror.
|The bibliography subpage provides links to the philosophical works of Hegel, Nietzsche and the political writings of Hitler and Mussolini|
The Sharia is a code of personal and social conduct and a schedule of penalties for breaches. It is based partly upon the Qur'an, but mainly on posthumous accounts of the sayings of Muhammad, and the interpretations of medieval scholars - and there are differences of detail among the versions adopted by various Islamic sects. Many Muslims believe it to express the Will of Allah, and therefore to be impeccable and immutable , but some argue that, since it is a human interpretation, it is fallible and subject to revision It has an important influence upon political thought in the Islam world because of the strength of Islamic movements that advocate its introduction, both as a system of jurisprudence, and as a set of overriding principles to which government should confirm. There is an ongoing debate concerning its compatibility with democracy. In a judgment involving a Turkish political party that advocates its adoption as law, the European Court of Human Rights has commented that
- "It is difficult to declare one’s respect for democracy and human rights while at the same time supporting a regime based on sharia, which clearly diverges from Convention values, particularly with regard to its criminal law and criminal procedure, its rules on the legal status of women and the way it intervenes in all spheres of private and public life in accordance with religious precepts" 
The impact of Sharia among Muslim countries ranges from its widespread acceptance as a personal code of conduct to its near-total adoption as a system of jurisprudence.
Thinking about international affairs, which had previously been related mainly to the principles of realpolitik and the balance of power, has been disrupted by two world wars, two global recessions, and a range of humanitarian and cultural issues. The first world war prompted the limited adoption in 1918 of a policy of collective security, which was extended in 1945 following the second world war. Awareness of the damaging effects of the realpoltik policies of protectionism and competitive currency devaluation that were adopted during the Great Depression, led in 1945 to an international agreement aimed at the negotiated reduction of trade restrictions, and another to create and regulate a new currency regime. The national banking regulations, that had been relaxed under the deregulation policies of the 1980s, were replaced by internationally-agreed controls following the crash of 2008. Increased public awareness of the sufferings of people in the developing countries has led to the introduction of internationally-agreed programmes of overseas aid, and there have also been international military interventions to rescue victims of ill-treatment by their own governments. One topic of current political thinking concerns measures to avoid or deal with further bouts of international instability. Another concerns the extent, if any, of the obligation owed by a country's citizens to the defence of the citizens of other countries against extreme poverty or violent ill-treatment. A third concerns the political implications of international growth of cultural rivals to the currently dominant "Western" group of nations
At a meeting in London in June 1933 representatives of the leading industrial nations failed to agree on a collective response to the Great Depression. At London's second world economic summit in April 2009, there was detailed agreement among representatives of the G20 (Group of Twenty) countries on a coordinated response to the developing Great Recession. During the intervening 76 years there had been a major change in thinking about the political consequences of "globalisation". The first political expression of the changing attitude was the 1944 Bretton Woods conference that agreed to set up a new exchange rate regime, to create an International Monetary Fund to provide financial assistance to countries in economic difficulties, and to create a World Bank to relieve world poverty by the provision of low-interest loans. The second was the agreement at the Washington summit of the G20 countries in November 2008 to take collective action to avert the threatened collapse of the global financial system. Those political decisions were taken in recognition of growing economic and financial interdependence, and there was also a growing recognition of a collective interest in the provision of aid to developing countries, because of their potential contribution to world trade, and because failed states tend to foster terrorism. Recognition of those collective interests was given formal expression in 2000 by the adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations of a set of quantified poverty-reducing Millennium Development Goals for achievement by the year 2015.
Responsibility to protect
The concept of a sovereign state, free from outside intervention in its domestic affairs, was established in the 17th century by the Treaty of Westphalia , signalling the end to papal intrusions into the domestic affairs of the countries of Christendom. During the following two centuries, the policy of sovereign states toward their neighbours was realpolitik - the pursuit of national advantage in a threatening environment. Alliances were made from time to time, with the object of preserving the balance of power against the threat of a single neighbour's hegemony, but international cooperation went no further until after World War 1. In reaction to that disaster, there was widespread support for an innovatory policy of international cooperation that was then referred to as collective security. It was given political expression in the League of Nations Covenant, the signatories to which undertook to "respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence" of its members. The League set up a court for the resolution of disputes between countries, and appointed a Council to make recommendations concerning the economic sanctions or military action to be taken against aggressors. No provision was made for the creation of a military force to carry out the Council's recommendations, and no obligation was placed upon members to do so. The United Nations Charter of 1945 made similar provisions but did place an obligations on its members to provide armed forces at the call of its Security Council. The League of Nations Covenant did not authorise intervention in the domestic affairs of a country, and the United Nations Charter expressly forbids it:
- "Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state...".
However, the widespread revulsion of the horrors of the Holocaust prompted the General Assembly to call upon members to "prevent and punish the crime of genocide, and there was a gradual change thereafter in attitudes toward humanitarian intervention, and in 2000 the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty concluded that:
- "Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.".
An unresolved issue that demands immediate attention concerns the need to create a consensus political philosophy concerning measures to promote the stability of the international financial system. The problem arises from the existence of large international disparities in both the costs of a breakdown, and the costs of measures to avert a breakdown. The current practice of relying upon the national adoption of internationally-agreed recommendations creates a major prisoner's dilemma problem because of the gains obtainable from free-riding, but assent to compulsion depends upon willingness to sacrifice national sovereignty for the common good.
A second, and more far-reaching unresolved issue concerns the precise extent of a country's obligations to people who are not its citizens. Overseas intervention to relieve human suffering has been defended as enlightened self-interest in specific cases, but it is evident from philanthropic attitudes to the victims of earthquakes and tsunami that there is also a widespread willingness to intervene for humanitarian reasons. A decision about military intervention, however, depends upon how many of the country's soldiers it is deemed justified to sacrifice in order to save (say) a hundred foreign lives. (It also requires a forecast of the lives that would otherwise be lost - but that is a separate issue). That consideration has presumably figured in attitudes to the interventions in Iraq and Libya, but they would also have been influenced by judgmental factors,
A third unresolved issue concerns relations with members of other cultural groups. One view, expressed by Samuel Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order is that
- The futures of both peace and civilization depend upon understanding and cooperation among the political, spiritual and intellectual leaders of the world's major civilizations.
An alternative is the version of Cosmopolitanism favoured by Kwame Anthony Appiah that respects cultural diversity, not because cultures are important, but because people are important and cultures are important to people. Huntington's approach is consistent with the version of multicuturalism that gives political recognition to the authority of religious and ethnic leaders, an approach that is opposed by some cosmopolitanists as an unnecessary reinforcement of cultural differences
Notes and references
- Including the massacre of the male population of the island of Mitylene[]])
- The Pelopponesian War[
- Plato: The Republic, Project Gutenberg
- Aristotle: Politics, The Internet Classics Archive
- H G Wells: A Short History of the World", Pelican Books, 1949, p130.
- Edward Gibbon: General Observations on the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West
- Plotinus, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2008
- Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae.
- Aquinas, Thomas: Summa Theologica, Project Gutenberg
- Al-Farabi, Islamic Philosophy Online, 2007
- Avicenna, Internet Encylopedia of Philosophy
- Averroes, Catholic Encyclopedia
- The reference is to verse 42,38 of the Qur'an
- Bridget Johnson: Sharia, About.com Guide
- Safaa Alshiraida: The Concept of Shura, Islamic Information Institute of Manitoba, 2008
- A formal promise of loyalty
- Serfdom, The FreeDictionary.com
- Feudalism, The FreeDictionary.com
- "Feudal" Oaths of Fidelity , Medieval Sourcebook, 1996
- Machiavelli, Niccolò: Discourses, Project Gutenberg, Chapter 2
- James VI and I: True Law of Free Monarchies, (1598) Modern History Sourcebook
- Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan, Project Gutenberg, Chapter XXI
- Locke, John: Two Treatises of Government, Project Gutenberg, Chapter VIII
- Rousseau, Jean-Jacques: The Social Contract, The Online Library of Liberty, Page 30
- Bruce Haddock: A History of Political Thought. Polity 2008, p141
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract(1762), The Online Library of Liberty, p57
- Alexis de Toqueville: Democracy in America, American Studies at the University of Virginia
- Thomas Jefferson is widely quoted as saying that "Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%" but the source of the quotation is unknown.
- James Madison: The Federalist No 10, Daily Advertiser, November 22, 1787
- Edmond Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
- [Thomas Paine: Rights of Man (1791) , Project Gutenberg
- John Stuart Mill: "Considerations on Representative Government (1861), Project Gutenberg
- Emmanuel Kant: The Fundamental Principles of the Ethics of Morals, (1781), Project Gutenberg
- [Michael Oakeshott. : On Being Conservative, Riverside Community College
- Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
- F A Hayek: The Fatal Conceit: Errors of Socialism (The Collected Works of F.A. Hayek), Rutledge, 1990
- Thomas More: Utopia, (1516), Project Gutenberg
- Robert Owen's Quest for Universal Harmony - extracts from his published works, New Lanark Trust, 2010
- Pierre Joseph Proudhon: What is Property? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government, University of Virginia Library
- Karl Marx: Critique of the Gotha Programme,Marx/Engels Selected Works, 1875
- Marx, Karl: Capital, (1867) www.marxists.com
- V I Lenin:What is to be Done, (1902) Modern History Sourcebook
- Lenin, V I: The State and the Revolution, (1918) Collected Works, Marxists.com
- Hegel, G W F: Philosophy of Right, (1833) (trans F W Dyde) Batoche Books, 2001
- Friederich Nietzsche: Thus Spake Zarathustra, (trans Thomas Common) (1896) Project Gutenberg
- Adolf Hitler: Mein Kampf
- James Chastain: Risorgimento, Encyclopedia of 1848 Revolutions
- [Gentile, Giovanni: Origins and Doctrine of Fascism (1929) (Google Books extract)
-  Pius XI: On Reconstruction of the Social Order, (Encyclical of Pope Pius Xl issued on May 15, 1931)]
- Mussolini, Benito: Doctrine of Fascism, (1932), (excerpts) The History Guide
- Islamic Sharia Council
- What is the Islamic Shariah?, Islamic-Truth.com
- Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq: Shariah, Law and Islam, October 2008
- Sherif Mansour: The Challenge of Democracy in the Moslem World, Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, May 2006
- The Welfare Party and Others v Turkey, paragraph 123, European Court of Human Rights, 13 February 2003
- Steve Schifferes: Lesson for G20 from 1933 London summit, BBC News, 23 March 2009
- United Nations Millennium Declaration, 2000
- United Nations Millennium Goals, 2000
- Cleophas Tsokodayi: Sovereignty - the legacy of the Treaty of Westphalia to international relations, Examiner.cm August 16th, 2010
- League of Nations Covenant - 1924, The Avalon Project of the Yale Law School
- The Permanent Court of International Justice (1922-1946)
- United Nations Charter
- Articles 44 and 45 of the Charter
- Article 7 of the Charter
- Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. United Nations General Assembly 1946
- Responsibility to Protect, Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, 2000
- Samuel P Huntington: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Simon and Schuster, 1996, page 121
- Kwame Anthony Appiah: Cosmopolitanism, Ethics in a World of Strangers, Penguin Books, 2006
- John Thompson: Multiculturalism vs cosmopolitanism, Mackenzie Institute, 2003