CLASSICAL POLITICAL THEORY HAS BEEN PREOCCUPIED WITH TWO over-arching problems; the stability and survivaI of political systems and the rationality of political acts. Rational decisions, it has been assumed, lead to stable and successful government. The first rule of nature is to make peace, Hobbes pointed out, and it is human reason that devises means for doing this.
All the arguments, of course, have hung on the definition of rationality, and more particularly on the question of who, in practice, is to define what is rational or contribute to such a definition. The ultimate objective of the philosophers has been the ‘good of the whole community’, so the question has always resolved itself into establishing criteria for deciding which category or categories of person, under which set of rules or restraints, are most likely to make rational contributions to political decision-making for the good of the whole society. A large vocabulary of concepts – sovereignty, general will, obligation, citizenship, rights and so on – has been developed to provide theoretically satisfactory answers to this question.