A contextual study is always a safer method of understanding a text. It is true that a text without a context is a structure without a base. In this sense Machiavelli is better understood in the context of renaissance. But Hobbes Locke, with their views as apart as the north-south poles, can be better studied in the background of the English civil war.
Also Marx can be understood in the light of the growing capitalism of the European western society. Is it western political thought is based on history? But its history, Professor Sabine rightly says, has no concluding chapter. This has grown and is growing and in fact, will always keep growing.
This has grown in a typical way; each subsequent philosopher criticizes the philosophy or political ideas of an earlier philosopher and in the -process build his own philosophy. Here Aristotle did so with Plato, Locke did so with filmer, Bentham with Blackstone, john Stuart mill, with Bentham, Marx did so with Hegel, Adam smith, Proudhon.
Then western political thought has grown its proceeds on polemics, it changes, but it continues. It is continuing since the days of Plato and Aristotle. No wonder if then it is said that all philosophy is a footnote to Plato. Plato and Aristotle together gave the base on which stands the whole fabric of western political thought, for political idealism and political realism are the two pillars of the western political philosophy from where rise numerous other related shades. So we can say that it is not easy to identify what the western political thought contains.
The attempt, indeed, would be arbitrary. However, major contents of the western political thought can be, for the sake of making a point, be stated, to be political institution, and procedures, political idealism and realism. Lastly we can say that western political thought is rich in its contents.
It has helped in stating the utility of political institutions, political procedures to be followed. It has given the western tradition values such as democracy, nationalism, liberty, and justice and above all the two parallel pillars, idealism and realism; on which rest the major frameworks of political theory within which most theorists operate.