The aim of this dissertation is to establish the presence of four distinct conceptions of political theory--traditionalist, historicist, linguistic and behaviouralist--among those who discuss its nature and to consider the effects of adopting these conceptions for the purposes of analyzing a political theory.
An examination of the literature on the issue of the nature of political theory allows for the identification of the four conceptions considered in this dissertation. The application of three of the four conceptions in studies of the works of John Stuart Mill provides some appreciation of the effects of these different conceptions on interpretations of political theories.
The fundamental irreconcileability of the four conceptions of political theory emerges from the general examination of the four conceptions and the use of three of these in studies of Mill’s works. This irreconcileability constitutes a significant problem for those who wish to engage in the analysis of a political theory and for those who wish to identify an object and analytic method that unifies the discipline of political theory.