Politics is an intriguing idea. It is also an interesting idea. It is one of basic and fundamental human activities. Different people interpret politics in many different ways. But it is a fact that politics is everywhere. All societies have politics. All people are infected by politics. Just like what V I Lenin said, if you are not involved in politics, politics will eventually get involved in you; there is no individual or society outside politics.
This human activity has been a major enquiry since Greek period. The ancient father of politics, Aristotle had considered man by nature a political animal. He also considered politics a master science.
For Aristotle, human life is a tug of war between good and bad or put it otherwise, a perennial conflict between right and wrong. In this clash, it is politics which brings virtues in human life and give good path to individual life. So he defined politics as “leveling process”.
This idea given by Aristotle dominated the understanding about meaning of politics for many centuries still it is one of the most accepted definitions of politics. This means politics is a noble act. It is a virtuous act. Here one might think about What Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic and polemicist had said about politics- politics is the last resort of scoundrels. Aristotle believed that only good people enter into political act which was meant to serve other people. So give food to those who starve, give shelter to those who have no shelter and give a helping hand to those who need a helping hand.
Otto von Bismarck- a conservative Prussian statesman who dominated German and European affairs from the 1860s until 1890; who defined politics as the art of possible. It means anything is possible in politics. You can make both war and peace by politics. You can kill and love by politics; you can feed hungry and create millions of starving population by politics. You can drop atom bomb on societies and use technology for improving human living conditions.
A beautiful definition to politics was later developed by David Easton, Canadian-born American political scientist; who defined politics as authoritative allocation of values. It was a highly technical and scientific definition. It is assumed that politics work in a system environment. System environment is just like a football match in a big ground or cricket match in a playground or computer system, in which an operating system is installed. Here in the system, people put demands, say input function; such as demand for road, demand for good public amenities, demand for good communication infrastructure, demand for good education system, demand for peace and order in society. The same people also give support to system like paying tax, obeying laws. The same system when demand in entered into the machineries of system, convert the same into outcome. Say output function. Here politics is a technical process of citizens’ demand, converting into output.
The most interesting definition to politics was given by Harold Dwight Lasswell, a leading American political scientist and communications theorist; who defined politics as politics as a competition about who gets what, when, and how. It is meant that politics is all about who gets what and when and how. So here power is the central question. He also said politics is shaping and sharing of power. It is all about the relationship between influence and the influential. Power and how it is disbursed in society constitute the core idea about politics.
There are also other definitions to politics.
Meaning of politics
Meaning of politics is highly contested and disputed, there is no accepted meaning. There isn’t accepted and agreeable point about what exactly is the meaning of politics among writers on this subject.
Marxist had a distinct understanding about meaning of politics. For example, for Marxists, politics is nothing but a bourgeois idea. It is a false consciousness of the proletariat. In Marxist analysis, those who control means of production say, base structure also control the superstructure that is non-economic structure of the society. This means, those who control the production function, also control, culture, family, religion, education, imagination, thinking power etc. Hence, politics is just a tool of oppression. Politics is a mechanism to control the proletariat by creating false consciousness among the working class. So, for the Marxists, politics has a technical meaning coupled with Marxist jargons about means of production, relations of production, forces of production, historical materialism, dialectical materialism etc.
Feminist had a radical idea about politics. Feminism as a political theory evolved through the writing of Mary Wollstonecraft was an English writer, philosopher, and advocate of women's rights, who wrote the Vindication of the Rights of Women. Many other writers such as Virginia Woolf was an English writer, Betty Friedan was an American writer, activist, and feminist, who wrote Feminine Mystique, Simone de Beauvoir, a French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher had extensively contributed to the development of feminism as an intellectual movement.
Feminist believe that the whole world is male centered. Hence all social institutions are male centered. So, political institutions are male centered. Politics is a male profession. Women have historically little space in politics. Hence, liberation of women is not possible through the present political act. It is patriarchal.
Liberals think that man by nature is altruistic. Man is loving and caring .so there is anymore problem in the present order. The problem is only in the institutions, hence they recommend for reforming institutions. Liberals prefer individualism, freedom, tolerance, liberty, constitutionalism, rights, equality, democracy, etc. Politics is meant to create a just social order. Liberals such as Hobbes, Locke, J S Mill, Adam Smith etc have contributed to the development of liberal ideas.
Meaning of politics is so complex. It is broader and contested. Many writers have differing ideas about politics. Marxists, liberals, feminists all differ on the meaning of politics.
Why is politics a distinct human activity…………….?