Politics is a word which describes the object of study and the study itself. Maddox's (2000 version) Australian Democracy in Theory and Practicediscusses various approaches to politics as an object of study. He offers eight possible approaches which have been presented by various authors (1-29). You need to know these approaches, know some of the key writers who promote them and how they compare with each other. The eight approaches are:
• Politics as conflict among individuals or groups
• Politics as the exercise of power
• Politics as 'the authoritative allocation of values'
• Politics as communication and control
• Politics as class conflict
• The personal as political
• Politics without the state
• Politics as discourse
Maddox then offers his own definition of Politics which guides the content of his book. It is also an approach which underpins the academic study of politics in units such as PAIS 101. Maddox says that: politics is attending to the public affairs of all the members of 'the Australian state' (2000: 34).
The important of this approach is that it tells us what politics is primarily about (a process) and where it happens (a place or an arena). It is about 'public affairs' and it focuses on 'the Australian state.' 'State' here is used in the sense of the entire political system, not merely, for example, the state of NSW. Remember also that 'state' is not the same as 'government': the government is part of the state.
Another important theme in the chapter is the question of whether politics is a positive or a negative activity. 'Politics' has a bad image, partly because of its identification with politicians who are often criticised for self-seeking behaviour. We often hear the saying 'don't bring politics into this.' The alternative view espoused by Maddox, and which dates back to the ancient Greeks, is that politics is a very positive activity, concerned with the exercise of citizenship and self-fulfilment:
The state exists, then, for...