The term politics has been derived from a Greek word politiká which means “affairs of the cities.” It was first used in Aristotle’s classic work Politiká. Since then politics is not just an ideology but has become a way of life.
Politics is the process of making decisions. It establishes a power relation between individuals. Since politics is all about governance, it serves as a bridge between the state and the authority. For example, the governance by the government of your state is a matter of politics. It is believed that once upon a time, there were enough resources on the earth to satisfy human wants. Everybody had enough for himself/herself. Resources were rather available in surplus. However, as the population started growing, the resources became limited. This created chaos in the society where everybody started fighting for things. It was then realized that there was a need for an authority or a body that could regulate the usage of resources and resolve conflicts. It initially started with having ahead of the group which has now evolved as a head of the state: the President.
Various political scientists have tried to explain politics in their way. For example, politics for Vladimir Lenin is ‘the most concentrated expression of economics.’
As per David Easton, “politics is merely the authoritative allocation of values for a society.”
As per Aristotle, “he who has the power to take part in the deliberative or judicial administration of any state is said by us to be a citizen of that state; and speaking generally, a state is a body of citizens sufficing for life.” It is this state that engages in what is known as politics.
Debates around the idea of politics
There are a lot of debates about the concept of politics. Here are some of the prominent ones.
- Perception-This debate revolves around the definition of politics itself. Philosophers such as Adrian Leftwich explains this as an extensive perception and a limited perception of politics. The limited perception holds that politics solely concerns governance and nothing else. However, philosophers like Hannah believe that politics transgresses the domain of governance. It also concerns both the public and private sphere of an individual. It is believed ‘personal is political.’ Such a view has been time and again reinforced by Feminists.
- Power and value-This debate is centred around the idea of (a) politics as power and (b) politics as moralism. According to Robert A. Dahl, politics is necessarily a domain that concerns power. It is all about controlling power over ordinary citizens. This could lead to conflicting situations in society. Well, this is something that has been a major concern even in today’s day politics where parties are hungry to gain power. By this way, it is the common man who is exploited. Some philosophers, on the other hand, believe that politics is concerned with values and moralism. It is by the tool of politics that one can imbibe great values in the common man. This is based on the idea that people look up to those in power and so politics can be used to make the world a better place. There is an authority to make rules, regulations that can keep a check on the people.
- Efficiency- This debate revolves around conflict and cooperation. Some believe that since politics is an instrument of power it will eventually lead to conflict among the leaders. It rests on the idea that ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ In such a situation, doing good for society and upholding the law and values could be undermined. On the other hand, some theorists believe that politics is a tool for cooperation. This could be traced to the very reason for its origin. It originated to solve conflicts and so is seen as a way of cooperation.
Apart from these two extremes, author Michael Laver believes that “politics is about the characteristic blend of conflict and cooperation that can be found so often in human interactions. Pure conflict is war. Pure co-operation is true love. Politics is a mixture of both.”
Tools of politics
There are some of the basic related concepts to the idea of politics.
⦁ Type of government- With time they have come up with new and various forms of government. The types of government decide the type of polity that will exist in society. It talks about the structure of power. Some of the examples are monarchy, constitutional monarchy, presidential democracy, parliamentary democracy, etc.
⦁ Distribution of power- This relates to how power is shared in the government. For example, in a democracy, there are three organs of government. These are the legislature, executive and judiciary. These three organs have power in their different spheres. The distribution of power can also be understood in the way the centre and state authorities divide power.
⦁ Constitution- Most of the countries today have enacted their constitution. A constitution is the law of the land. It is the guidelines and directions from which the government derives its powers. The rights of the citizens are guaranteed and protected via the constitution. The separation of power is also written in the constitution. This prevents an ultra vires situation in the country. The constitution is large of two types, written or unwritten.
⦁ Political group- Note that, here, the political group stands for all kinds of groups and not only political parties. Since different countries can have a different kind of polity, it is possible that political groups as such are not present.
With the growing time, the idea of politics has also undergone a paradigm shift. With the concept of globalization, the talk has started about world politics. It rests on the idea that the entire world is one community and that what happens in one region affects other regions. Political globalization has been made largely possible after the second world war. The catastrophic event led to a realization of the need to have global groupings. Some of these are the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank and many others.
Olivia Is Free Independent Journalist, Has B.A in International Relations, With Many Of Her Research And Papers Published On America’s Most Influence Newspapers.