Introduction to Politics

Introduction to Politics

Politics is the study and conduct of decision-making power (who's got it, and who hasn't) at the inter-social and societal levels. Some even use the term politology. When considered at smaller scales, e.g. within a profession, it is indistinguishable from applied ethics or specialist ethical codes - for these issues see the list of ethics articles.

At whatever scale, politics is the rather imperfect way that we actually do coordinate individual actions for mutual (or strictly personal) gain. What distinguishes the political from the ethical or merely social is a much-debated question. Most theorists would acknowledge that to be political, a process has to involve at least some potential for use of force or violence - politics is about conflict that is about much more than theory and fashion. To win a political conflict always implies that one has taken power away from one group or faction to give it to another. Most would also acknowledge that political conflict can easily degrade to zero-sum games, with little learned or settled by conflict other than "who won and who lost":

Lenin said politics was about "who could do what to whom" (Russian "Kto-Kogo" for "Who-Whom"). As political scientist Harold Lasswell said, politics is "who gets what, when and how." It also concerns how we resolve moral conflicts that are sufficiently serious that they constitute a risk of social disruption - in which case commitment to a common process of arbitration or diplomacy tends to reduce violence - usually viewed as a key goal of civilization. Bernard Crick is a major theorist of this view and also of the idea that politics is itself simply "ethics done in public", where public institutions can agree, disagree, or intervene to achieve a desirable culmination or comprehensive (process) result.

In addition to government, journalists, religious groups, special interest groups, and economic systems and conditions may all have influence on decisions. Therefore, politics touches...

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