What is Politics?

von sophilos

Politics is any interaction involving hierarchical distinctions between two or more self-conscious beings. Any relation we enter with another human being involves this type of distinction – one having power over the other – be it a teacher and a pupil, a politician and his constituency or a couple quarrelling. Such distinctions are not static and thus reasserted in every newly arising situation – a man may tell his best friend his most intimate secrets and: there is hierarchy involved, that is to say the man gives his friend authority over himself, the friend could now tell others the secrets he has been told or to retain his status as a friend keep them to himself. I argue therefore that co-existence is political. Hence politics is not limited to the conduct of the state or its inner workings nor to the conflicts and debates concerning the use of scarce resources – indeed any interaction with our fellow beings is political.

What then is to become of the scope of Politics? Political Science itself is an academic construct. A subject defined to make possible the study of certain parts of the human condition that we define as political. If we were to view the political in the broader sense I have outlined before, Political Science would be a different subject altogether and other Social Sciences an integral part of it. Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Economics, Literature and Film all try to describe or portray human relations – and in this sense are political. So the problem emerges that the field to be studied to understand political behaviour becomes too broad to be possibly tackled. Thus it seems sensible to work with a more definitive definition of what politics is. Importance however must be asserted to the awareness of the reason why we limit our studies and the scope of our research.