Politics (from Greek: πολιτικά, translit. Politiká,
meaning "affairs of the cities") is the process of making decisions
that apply to members of a group.
It refers to achieving and exercising positions of
governance—organized control over a human community, particularly a
In modern nation states, people have formed political parties to
represent their ideas. They agree to take the same position on many
issues, and agree to support the same changes to law and the same
An election is usually a competition between different parties.
Some examples of political parties are the African National Congress
(ANC) in South Africa, the
Great Britain and the Indian
Politics is a multifaceted word. It has a set of fairly specific
meanings that are descriptive and nonjudgmental (such as "the art or
science of government" and "political principles"), but often does
carry a connotation of dishonest malpractice. The negative
connotation of politics, as seen in the phrase "play politics", for
example, has been in use since at least 1853, when abolitionist
Wendell Phillips declared: "We do not play politics; anti-slavery is
no half-jest with us."
A variety of methods are deployed in politics, which include promoting
one's own political views among people, negotiation with other
political subjects, making laws, and exercising force, including
warfare against adversaries.
Politics is exercised
on a wide range of social levels, from clans and tribes of traditional
societies, through modern local governments, companies and
institutions up to sovereign states, to the international level.
It is very often said that politics is about power. A political
system is a framework which defines acceptable political methods
within a given society.
History of political thought
History of political thought can be traced
back to early antiquity, with seminal works such as Plato's Republic,
Politics and the works of Confucius.
History of state politics
2.1 The state
3.1 Forms of political organization
3.2 Global politics
3.3 Political corruption
3.4 Political parties
Politics as an academic discipline
4 Political values
5 See also
Women voter outreach from 1935.
The word comes from the same Greek word from which the title of
Politics (Πολιτικά, Polis) also derives;
polis means "affairs of the cities". The book title was rendered in
Early Modern English
Early Modern English in the mid-15th century as "Polettiques"; it
became "politics" in Modern English. The singular politic first
attested in English 1430 and comes from
Middle French politique, in
Latin politicus, which is the Latinization of the Greek
πολιτικός (politikos), meaning amongst others "of, for, or
relating to citizens", "civil", "civic", "belonging to the state",
in turn from πολίτης (polites), "citizen" and that from
πόλις (polis), "city".
Politics refers to the operation of a constitutional system of
government and publicly defined institutions and procedures.
Political parties, public policy or discussions about war and foreign
affairs would fall under the category of Formal Politics. Many
people view formal politics as something outside of themselves, but
that can still affect their daily lives.
Politics in government associations such as
neighborhood associations, or student governments where student
government political party politics is often important.
Politics is understood as forming alliances, exercising power
and protecting and advancing particular ideas or goals. Generally,
this includes anything affecting one's daily life, such as the way an
office or household is managed, or how one person or group exercises
influence over another. Informal
Politics is typically understood
as everyday politics, hence the idea that "politics is
History of state politics
The history of politics is reflected in the origin, development, and
economics of the institutions of government.
Main article: State (polity)
The origin of the state is to be found in the development of the art
of warfare. Historically speaking, all political communities of the
modern type owe their existence to successful warfare.
Kings, emperors and other types of monarchs in many countries
including China and Japan, were considered divine. Of the institutions
that ruled states, that of kingship stood at the forefront until the
American Revolution put an end to the "divine right of kings".
Nevertheless, the monarchy is among the longest-lasting political
institutions, dating as early as 2100 BC in Sumeria to the 21st
century AD British Monarchy.
Kingship becomes an institution through
the institution of Hereditary monarchy.
The king often, even in absolute monarchies, ruled his kingdom with
the aid of an elite group of advisors, a council without which he
could not maintain power. As these advisors and others outside the
monarchy negotiated for power, constitutional monarchies emerged,
which may be considered the germ of constitutional government.
The greatest of the king's subordinates, the earls and dukes in
England and Scotland, the dukes and counts in the Continent, always
sat as a right on the council. A conqueror wages war upon the
vanquished for vengeance or for plunder but an established kingdom
exacts tribute. One of the functions of the council is to keep the
coffers of the king full. Another is the satisfaction of military
service and the establishment of lordships by the king to satisfy the
task of collecting taxes and soldiers.
Activism is a form of politics.
Forms of political organization
There are many forms of political organization, including states,
non-government organizations (NGOs) and international organizations
such as the United Nations. States are perhaps the predominant
institutional form of political governance, where a state is
understood as an institution and a government is understood as the
regime in power.
According to Aristotle, states are classified into monarchies,
aristocracies, timocracies, democracies, oligarchies, and tyrannies.
Due to changes across the history of politics, this classification has
All states are varieties of a single organizational form, the
sovereign state. All the great powers of the modern world rule on the
principle of sovereignty.
Sovereign power may be vested on an
individual as in an autocratic government or it may be vested on a
group as in a constitutional government.
Constitutions are written
documents that specify and limit the powers of the different branches
of government. Although a constitution is a written document, there is
also an unwritten constitution. The unwritten constitution is
continually being written by the legislative branch of government;
this is just one of those cases in which the nature of the
circumstances determines the form of government that is most
appropriate. England did set the fashion of written constitutions
during the Civil War but after the Restoration abandoned them to be
taken up later by the
American Colonies after their emancipation and
France after the Revolution and the rest of Europe including the
European colonies.
There are many forms of government. One form is a strong central
government as in
France and China. Another form is local government,
such as the ancient divisions in England that are comparatively weaker
but less bureaucratic. These two forms helped to shape the practice of
federal government, first in Switzerland, then in the United States in
1776, in Canada in 1867 and in Germany in 1871 and in 1901, Australia.
Federal states introduced the new principle of agreement or contract.
Compared to a federation, a confederation has a more dispersed system
of judicial power. In the American Civil War, the contention of
the Confederate States that a State could secede from the Union was
untenable because of the power enjoyed by the
Federal government in
the executive, legislative and judiciary branches.
According to professor
A. V. Dicey
A. V. Dicey in An Introduction to the Study of
Law of the Constitution, the essential features of a federal
constitution are: a) A written supreme constitution in order to
prevent disputes between the jurisdictions of the Federal and State
authorities; b) A distribution of power between the Federal and State
governments and c) A Supreme Court vested with the power to interpret
the Constitution and enforce the law of the land remaining independent
of both the executive and legislative branches.
Main article: Global politics
Global politics include different practices of political globalization
in relation to questions of social power: from global patterns of
governance to issues of globalizing conflict. The 20th century
witnessed the outcome of two world wars and not only the rise and fall
Third Reich but also the rise and fall of communism. The
development of the atomic bomb gave the United States a more rapid end
to its conflict in Japan in World War II. Later, the hydrogen bomb
became the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.
Global politics also concerns the rise of global and international
United Nations has served as a forum for peace in a
world threatened by nuclear war, "The invention of nuclear and space
weapons has made war unacceptable as an instrument for achieving
political ends." Although an all-out final nuclear holocaust is
radically undesirable for man, "nuclear blackmail" comes into question
not only on the issue of world peace but also on the issue of national
sovereignty. On a Sunday in 1962, the world stood still at the
brink of nuclear war during the October
Cuban Missile Crisis
Cuban Missile Crisis from the
implementation of U.S. vs
Soviet Union nuclear blackmail policy.
According to political science professor Paul James, global politics
is affected by values: norms of human rights, ideas of human
development, and beliefs such as cosmopolitanism about how we should
relate to each:
Cosmopolitanism can be defined as a global politics that, firstly,
projects a sociality of common political engagement among all human
beings across the globe, and, secondly, suggests that this sociality
should be either ethically or organizationally privileged over other
forms of sociality.
Main article: Political corruption
William Pitt the Elder, speaking before the British House of Lords, 9
January 1770, observed: "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds
of those who possess it." This was echoed more famously by John
Dalberg-Acton over a century later: "Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government
officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power
for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and
general police brutality, is not considered political corruption.
Neither are illegal acts by private persons or corporations not
directly involved with the government. An illegal act by an
officeholder constitutes political corruption only if the act is
directly related to their official duties and/or power.
Forms of corruption vary, but include corruption, extortion, cronyism,
nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement. While corruption may
facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money
laundering, and trafficking, it is not restricted to these
activities. The activities that constitute illegal
corruption differ depending on the country or jurisdiction. For
instance, certain political funding practices that are legal in one
place may be illegal in another. In some cases, government officials
have broad or poorly defined powers, which make it difficult to
distinguish between legal and illegal actions.
Worldwide, bribery alone is estimated to involve over 1 trillion US
dollars annually. A state of unrestrained political corruption is
known as a kleptocracy, literally meaning "rule by thieves".[citation
Main article: political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to
attain and maintain political power within government, usually by
participating in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest
actions. Parties often espouse an expressed ideology or vision
bolstered by a written platform with specific goals, forming a
coalition among disparate interests.
Politics as an academic discipline
Political science, the study of politics, examines the acquisition and
application of power. Political scientist
Harold Lasswell defined
politics as "who gets what, when, and how". Related areas of study
include political philosophy, which seeks a rationale for politics and
an ethic of public behaviour, as well as examining the preconditions
for the formation of political communities; political economy,
which attempts to develop understandings of the relationships between
politics and the economy and the governance of the two; and public
administration, which examines the practices of governance.[citation
needed] The philosopher Charles Blattberg, who has defined politics as
"responding to conflict with dialogue," offers an account which
distinguishes political philosophies from political ideologies.
The first academic chair devoted to politics in the United States was
the chair of history and political science at Columbia University,
first occupied by Prussian émigré
Francis Lieber in 1857.
Political views differ on average across nations. A recreation of the
Inglehart–Welzel Cultural Map of the World
Inglehart–Welzel Cultural Map of the World based on the World Values
Main article: Political spectrum
Several different political spectra have been proposed.
Political analysts and politicians divide politics into left wing and
right wing politics, often also using the idea of center politics as a
middle path of policy between the right and left. This classification
is comparatively recent (it was not used by
Aristotle or Hobbes, for
instance), and dates from the
French Revolution era, when those
members of the
National Assembly who supported the republic, the
common people and a secular society sat on the left and supporters of
the monarchy, aristocratic privilege and the Church sat on the
The meanings behind the labels have become more complicated over the
years. A particularly influential event was the publication of the
Communist Manifesto by
Karl Marx and
Friedrich Engels in 1848. The
Manifesto suggested a course of action for a proletarian revolution to
overthrow the bourgeois society and abolish private property, in the
belief that this would lead to a classless and stateless
The meaning of left-wing and right-wing varies considerably between
different countries and at different times, but generally speaking, it
can be said that the right wing often values tradition and social
stratification while the left wing often values reform and
egalitarianism, with the center seeking a balance between the two such
as with social democracy or regulated capitalism.
According to Norberto Bobbio, one of the major exponents of this
distinction, the Left believes in attempting to eradicate social
inequality, while the Right regards most social inequality as the
result of ineradicable natural inequalities, and sees attempts to
enforce social equality as utopian or authoritarian.
Some ideologies, notably Christian Democracy, claim to combine left
and right wing politics; according to Geoffrey K. Roberts and Patricia
Hogwood, "In terms of ideology, Christian
Democracy has incorporated
many of the views held by liberals, conservatives and socialists
within a wider framework of moral and Christian principles."
Movements which claim or formerly claimed to be above the left-right
Terza Posizione economic politics in Italy,
Peronism in Argentina, and National Action Party in
Authoritarianism and libertarianism refer to the amount of individual
freedom each person possesses in that society relative to the state.
One author describes authoritarian political systems as those where
"individual rights and goals are subjugated to group goals,
expectations and conformities", while libertarians generally
oppose the state and hold the individual as sovereign. In their purest
form, libertarians are anarchists, who argue for the total abolition
of the state, of political parties and of other political entities,
while the purest authoritarians are, theoretically, totalitarians who
support state control over all aspects of society.[citation
For instance, classical liberalism (also known as laissez-faire
liberalism,) is a doctrine stressing individual freedom and
limited government. This includes the importance of human rationality,
individual property rights, free markets, natural rights, the
protection of civil liberties, constitutional limitation of
government, and individual freedom from restraint as exemplified in
the writings of John Locke, Adam Smith, David Hume, David Ricardo,
Montesquieu and others. According to the libertarian
Institute for Humane Studies, "the libertarian, or 'classical
liberal,' perspective is that individual well-being, prosperity, and
social harmony are fostered by 'as much liberty as possible' and 'as
little government as necessary.'" For anarchist political
L. Susan Brown "Liberalism and anarchism are two political
philosophies that are fundamentally concerned with individual freedom
yet differ from one another in very distinct ways.
with liberalism a radical commitment to individual freedom while
rejecting liberalism's competitive property relations."
Index of law articles
Index of politics articles - alphabetical list of political subjects
List of years in politics
Outline of law
Outline of political science - structured list of political topics,
arranged by subject area
Political lists - lists of political topics
Politics of present-day states
List of political ideologies
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