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The Development of Western Political Thought

How Western political thought, such as democracy, was influenced by other political systems throughout history.

Many people say they understand how modern Western government works. However, what many people do not know is specifically how the ideas of modern Western government came to be and what its influences were. Others, unknowingly, say that the founders of the United States were pure genius, and thought it up all on their own. The development of Western political thought had many influences from both ancient and more recent times in Europe. Those influences were: the Greek and Roman philosophers and government styles, teachings of monotheistic religions, the rise of democracy in England, and the 17th and 18th century philosophers.

Greek and Roman philosophers, as well as government styles, clearly had a huge impact on the development of Western political thought. Greek philosophers, such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, were the first to use their opinions on natural rights, and apply them to political thinking. They said that, naturally, all humans have the ability to use logic and reason and could use that to form fair, sensible laws. These ideas of natural rights and logical formulation of laws are seen in Western political thought today when laws are carefully written out by citizens and submitted for voting. Athenian and Roman government also contributed a lot to the development of Western political thought. Ideas in Athens such as separation of powers and juries have a great presence in Western political thinking in that they are believed to be some of the best ways to keep power in check, and fairly exercised. Ideas from Roman government have carried over to the modern West as well.

These include a written legal code, and a republican form of government, ideas which are now seen in the Constitution and Senate of the United States. Many ideas and ways of thinking from Greece and Rome have been pillars of Western political thought.
In addition to governments and philosophers, a great deal of Western political thought has been influenced by religion. Unlike other political systems, Judaism’s system taught morality. For example, the Ten Commandments taught not to steal, murder, and commit adultery. Many of these laws were once less prominent, but now, because of Judaism, are very much a part of the Western political way of thinking. Judaism also spurred new thoughts of equality. Because God made everyone, he had given everyone his divine spark, and therefore, all men were equal under God. The idea that all men are created equal has survived even to the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Followers of Islam were required to offer charity and help those in need. Muhammad called them to be brothers and live in unity, creating a sense of community. This sense of community is seen in Western political ideas of military, as well as charity spending.

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