The position taken here is thatis to society what is to a person: it is about pursuit of what is good and right.
What I found surprising is the complete lack of concern for this ethical dimension by most commentators. Aristotle must be turning in his grave.
Notions like «responsibility», «the good of society», «benefit for the populace» should surely be intrinsic to any formulation. But the nearest that the authorities below get to ethics is when they refer to government duties.
Note: The texts referenced here change their material and web addresses unpredictably. This particular THEE Topic will not be updated to reflect such changes as they are not relevant to the message.
"Broadly defined, a political system comprehends actual as well as prescribed forms of political behaviour, not only the legal organization of the «government» or «state», but also the reality of how the state functions. Still more broadly defined, the political system is seen as a set of «processes of interaction», a subsystem of the social system interacting with other subsystems, such as the economic system. This points to the importance of informal sociopolitical processes and emphasizes the study of political development."
[Modified from: http://www.britannica.com , 2009]
This refers to a «political system» rather than politics. Also it is very wordy and abstract—near impossible to remember.
"Politics is the process by which groups of people make decisions. The term is generally applied to behaviour within civil governments, but politics has been observed in all human group interactions, including corporate, academic, and religious institutions."
This seems far too broad. It is true that some groups are highly politicised when deciding. However, in other groups there may be a high degree of consensus and a focus on the facts. Furthermore some behaviours within civil governments as well as other institutions named are surely not political. The essence of what is political («what has been observed») and what is not political is simply left unstated as if we did not need to bother about such things.
"The science of government; that part of ethics which has to do with the regulation and government of a nation or state, the preservation of its safety, peace, and prosperity, the defence of its existence and rights against foreign control or conquest, the augmentation of its strength and resources, and the protection of its citizens in their rights, with the preservation and improvement of their morals." (© Webster 1913)
This seems to be a list of governance duties: with politics as the «science» of those duties. Does that help? What about «political science»? That would have to be the science of the science of government.
"The management of a political party; the conduct and contests of parties with reference to political measures or the administration of public affairs; the advancement of candidates to office; in a bad sense, artful or dishonest management to secure the success of political candidates or parties; political trickery." (© Webster 1913)
This offers a weak focus. Politics seems to be what parties who call themselves political do—apparently they are not very nice at times when they try to get into office.
The following items were taken as a snapshot from: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/politics. On re-checking before posting… several of the items had been changed. Some items are taken from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 2009 and from the Collins English Dictionary 2003. The main point is that usage, which follows convention, has a diffuse focus that is unsuitable for systematic inquiry.
"The art or science of government or governing, especially the governing of a political entity, such as a nation, and the administration and control of its internal and external affairs."
Equating politics and government is like saying «waves» = «ocean» or «conducting» = «opera».
"(a) The activities or affairs engaged in by a government, politician, or political party.
(b) The method or tactics involved in managing a state or government." (This entry is more general than an earlier entry which said "Politics refers to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy.")
(a) This proposition begs the question, is over-generalized and far too sweeping.
(b) The notion of a «method» begs the question. There are many methods used in policy-making and implementing policy, and even more in government.
"Intrigue or manoeuvring within a political unit or group to gain control or power."
Politics does not cover all relations, but some that are defined by a method. Could politics be just a method? Perhaps. But why just limit the method to intrigue? What about campaigning as a method to get power via an election? Looking at history, why not include assassination or revolution as a means to power?
"Politics refers to the regulation of a political unit."
It's rarely helpful to include the word you are explaining in its definition.
"The subject matter of politics is to describe the structure and function of the government." Philosophy article.
Surely the subject matter of government is to describe its structure and function."
"Politics is the activities associated with the governance of a country or area." Answers.
Numerous activities associated with governance are purely administrative or professionally determined.
"Politics is ... essential in building societies and communities based on rules, laws and a balance of conflicting interests." Opening of Ethics in Politics.
Many terms could replace the word 'politics' e.g.'communication' or 'peace'. So the definition points us in a direction without reaching any essence.
Originally posted: July 2009; Last updated: 22-Feb-2014