Defining Politics Essay

1943 words - 8 pages

The word politics comes from the Greek, meaning the affairs of the city-state (polis). Even though we have changed our predominant form of governing and our way of life from the times of Socrates and Plato, politics remains a vital part of how we interact with the world around us. Keeping that in mind, defining politics has always been a hard task and with the evolution of political forms, ideologies and an ever-expanding definition of the word global most would argue that a universal definition of politics is impossible. Looking at what the term encompasses today, I would seem to agree with them. In their efforts to answer the question of ‘what is Politics?’ Political Science, Philosophy and numerous other branches of Social Science, as well as extraordinary individuals, have produced different definitions through time based on power, resources, society, governance, war, cooperation, common goals, values, protection, exploitation etc., but none of them could agree on a single universal definition. This essay will avoid answering the question of what politics is exactly and try to see what it can be, based on predominant definitions and classifications. It will explore two things; firstly why is the definition of politics so elusive and possibly why should it remain undefined. Secondly it will endeavour to produce a viewpoint on what politics can be, seen as an ‘arena’ or as a ‘process’, introducing the concept of power distribution as an integral part of the study of politics and what is political. By doing so, one can produce a unique outlook into politics with usage for real world understanding and problem solving, especially for International Development.
What is politics? Is it the sole arena of governments and politicians? Is politics the beginning of cooperation or the result of it? What about conflicts, and war, are they an extension of politics or the end of it? Does politics encompass Religion, is the Church part of everyday politics? Do societies create political institutions or do the institutions themselves form societies? Is politics a vocation or a science or possibly an invisible structure linking all people who interact with individuals, governments and markets? Is the Market political? Is history? Can we be apolitical? All these are fair questions that give a little insight into why it is so hard to define politics, for politics is possibly all of that and none of that. To add to the confusion, exploring the same questions and lines of thought in different times and regions of the world will produce different answers. For example, governments are irrefutably linked with politics but if we hypothetically remove all official governments from Europe tomorrow, would it become apolitical, and even if it were to be apolitical, could it remain in that state? It is in a simple question like this where the beauty of not defining politics lays, no matter how frustrating it can be for students that study the field. In not having a...

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