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Thursday, August 17, 2017

What is the Nature of Politics. Undergraduate Level Lecture Notes

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Biju P R

Author, Teacher, Blogger

Assistant Professor of Political Science

Government Brennen College

Thalassery

Kerala, India



My Books
1. Political Internet: State and Politics in the Age of Social Media,
(Routledge 2017), Amazon https://www.amazon.in/Political-InternetStatePoliticsSocialebook/dp/B01M5K3SCU?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&ref_=tmm_kin_swatch_0&sr=  



2. Intimate Speakers: Why Introverted and Socially Ostracized Citizens Use Social Media, (Fingerprint! 2017)
Amazon: http://www.amazon.in/dp/8175994290/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1487261127&sr=1-2&keywords=biju+p+r 




This is lecture notes prepared by Biju P R, Assistant professor of political Science, at Govt. Brennen College, is useful only for undergraduate level students. 





Politics is a universal activity. All people engage in this act. Even Daniel Defoe’s novel character, Robinson Crusoe will engage in this act. Not only humans, even other animals will have some sort of political activity. Swarm of bees, ants, bats, and other animal species will have their own organized society where they engage in some sort of political act. Chimpanzee Politics, a book by Franz se Waal is an example. Hence the question what is the nature of this universal and most important human activity. 



Though politics is a universal activity; its nature differs from place to place and people to people. Different writers interpret nature of the political act in differing ways. Each interpretation is unique in its own ways. Different lenses can be used to scale up the nature of political act. 
I
One group of writers says that political act is a distinct human activity that is related to State. All what you do in your capacity as a citizen of the State and in relation to the government is political act. In this case, you caste vote, pay tax, obey laws, take part in the activities of political parties, take membership in political and other organizations recognized by state. That means you are a political animal.  There are many definitions to politics as activity confined to state and government. Here politics is viewed as an art of government. Look at their definitions.
(a) Paul Janet, "Political Science is the part of social science which treats of the foundations of the State and the principles of Government."
(b) Bluntschli believes that "Political Science is a science, which is concerned with the State, endeavors to understand and comprehend the State in its essential nature, various forms, manifestations and developments."
(c) Garris, famous German author is of the opinion that "Political Science deals with the origin, development, purpose, and all political problems of the State."
(d) Gettell says, "It is, thus, a study in the past, present and future, of political organisations and political theories."
(e) According to Lord Acon, "Political Science is concerned with the State and with conditions essential for its development."
(f) Dr. Garner believes that "Political Science begins and ends with the State."
(g) According to Leacock, "Political Science deals with Government."
(h) Seeley says, "Political Science investigates the phenomena of Government as Political Economy deals with Wealth, Biology with life, Algebra with numbers and Geometry with space and magnitude."
All the definitions limit politics as an activity confined only to the realm of State. Here it is mean that you eat, dress, employed, work, etc are a political act within the larger ambit of State in your life. 
II
A second interpretation gives an entirely different nature to politics. You can divide society in to private and public spheres. In Politics, Aristotle declared that ‘man is by nature a political animal’, by which he meant that it is only within a political community that human beings can live ‘the good life’. From this viewpoint, then, politics is an ethical activity concerned with creating a ‘just society’; it is what Aristotle called the ‘master science’. However, where should the line between ‘public’ life and ‘private’ life be drawn? 
You go to church, go to market to purchase some household items, you buy a car, and you own a new mobile. Are these public acts? No. They are all private acts. But no one can impose you church, household items, a car, or a mobile. So, it is the sole discretion of individual to buy or not. The line between public and private is much contested.
Political act is that act which is part of the public sphere. So, your love affairs, religious beliefs, life choices, food selection, etc., are private choices where as your political belief, participation in social movements, protest against government policies, etc., are public act. Hence they are political act.

III

A third dimension of the nature of politics is that politics is compromise and consensus. Life is replete with conflict. We have problems. We disagree with neighbours, we oppose government policies. We have boundary disputes with neighbours. We are not certain what happens to us the next moment. There are uncertainties in life. Life hasn’t much guarantee. No surety to what we do in our life. Hence we need an agency that can negotiate in times of problems and conflicts. So politics is that activity which gives order and solution to our human problems.
Politics [is] the activity by which differing interests within a given unit of rule are conciliated by giving them a share in power in proportion to their importance to the welfare and the survival of the whole community. (Bernard Crick in his book In Defense of Politics).
Key to politics is therefore a wide dispersal of power.  Politics is ‘that solution to the problem of order which chooses conciliation rather than violence and coercion’ says Bernard Crick. 
Here politics is viewed as a policy science. It is an act that manages public affairs and things.

IV
There is a radical view of the nature of politics. Cal lit power view. Politics is power. As an act related to power, anything can be politics. Power is at the nature of things. Power is there in the family. It is there in the way people think, act, purchase, eat, socialize, etc. Hence, power is everywhere. So is politics. 
It is said that if Africans had conquered the world, the measure of beauty would not have been white, rather it would be black. So, social world is created by those who have power. The power holders narrate the social world. Those powerless simply believe it is. 
The nature of politics as power has got wide recognition in the writing of Harold Laswell. He defined politics in terms of power. 
For example, why people buy too much gold on Akshaya Tritiya is also known as Akha Teej. That means market has influencing our thinking power and brings us to market by their ideology. Or just think of another example. In a leading news paper, it was featured that land price is increasing. So it is becoming difficult for people to buy small house plots. But at the same time, it was reported that price of flats is affordable. So, ordinary people think that they can now buy flats instead of house plots. So market has social power, which control lour thinking mind. So who will have power really control the society. 
Conclusion
Kahlil Gibran, Lebanon's most famous poet said Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave and eats a bread it does not harvest. Politics is at the heart of everything. What you eat. How you think. What you buy. How you travel. Everywhere politics prevails.

Politics is a universal act. Its nature is a complicated idea. Its nature has as many interpretations as the number of people who have gathered to discuss its nature in a place.

This is lecture notes prepared by Biju P R, Assistant professor of political Science, at Govt. Brennen College, is useful only for undergraduate level students.

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