“Politics is a many sided concept only to be understood if viewed from various angles”. Discuss.
Every day we will experience the activities and ideas of politics around us, despite not knowing its definition. When the majority consider politics they instantly think of government, laws, debates and scandal. However, the real question of what politics is has been pondered for thousands of years by many profound names, one of the many reasons why Aristotle referred to politics as being the ‘master science’ (Aristotle (unknown) Heywood 2013: 1). Some would say politics dates back to its original meaning of being the art of government. Others believe it to be more focused on public life, or even a way of creating peace between nations or compromise and consensus. Lastly, some would find politics to be seen as a way to gain power, in both a negative and positive aspect. Although despite contrasting views on what politics is, we may only be able to view collectively from each and every concept or angle. The ‘traditional view’ of politics or as some would refer as ‘authority’ or ‘authoritive rule’, dates back as far back as ancient Greece. The word ‘politics’ stems from the Greek word polis, meaning ‘city -state’. In ancient Greece, society had been divided into individual city-states, one of these states was Athens. Therefore politics can be recognized as the affairs of the polis, thus ‘what concerns the state’. This idea of politics was praised by Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato. It involves only focusing on the personnel and the machinery of government. Therefore focusing on who makes up the government and what laws are put in place. Politics as an art of government also allows for control to be exercised in society through the making and enforcement of collective decisions. David Easton is the most common representative of this idea of politics claiming politics is “the authoritive allocation of values” (Easton (1979, 1981) Heywood 2013:4). Easton is referring to the bigger picture of allocating benefits and also sanctions to help manage the pressure from the majority whilst still keeping control. Despite this argument being the original or ‘traditional view’ of politics it still holds many flaws. The fact that it only refers to the machinery and personnel of government holds restrictions to the definition itself. By ignoring other institutions such as schools and businesses involvement in politics, this therefore ignores the larger opinion and influence of the average person’s life. Also, politics in this sense creates an idea of party politics. This is because politicians who are in charge bring their own ideologies and believes to their campaigns. Through becoming a politician they can excel these believes to other people or maybe even appeal to others or the majority more, therefore creating a sense of competition which should not be included in politics. Therefore developing ideas within society of anti-politics, this idea is reflected in Niccolo Machiavelli’s writings (Heywood 2013:4). In turn, with such clear disadvantages, politics as a form of art can be seen to be as a very out dated practice. Holding such control or authority over a large number of people will not help control them, but only make them turn against authority. The idea that government needs legitimacy to have control over its people is reflected in John Kingdom’s book ‘Government and politics in Britain’ (Kingdom 2003:4). A second definition of the word and activity of politics is the idea of ‘Public life’ or ‘Public affairs’. Heywood defined this idea as being ‘The state is a political association that exercises sovereign jurisdiction within defined territorial borders and exercises authority through a set of permanent institutions’ (Heywood 2013:57). Politics as Public affairs goes much further than the idea that politics is an art of government to highlight the distinction...
Bibliography: Kingdom, John (2003) Government and Politics in Britain, 2nd edition (Cambridge: Polity)
Heywood, Andrew (2013) Politics, 4th edition (
Crick, Bernard (2013) In Defence of Politics, 5th edition (
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