politics is and what it is not. Some definitions of politics are examined. The applications of politics in society are explored. The paper also looks at some of the things that are not politics, and examines why these things are not politics. The role of politics is distinguished from the role of government, and the reasons for this are looked at more closely.
This is a paper written in Harvard style that is actually three five page essays in one. These three essays all answer specific questions about politics, particularly the theories of elitism and pluralism.
What is Politics?
Many people believe that politics is simply the workings of the government, the ins and outs of the daily process of making, enforcing, and interpreting the laws. This is certainly one aspect of politics. However, politics encompasses so much more than just this. Politics also takes into account the structures of power and governing, wielding and shifting of power, conflict, change, scope of community relations, and negotiation that goes on at all levels of federal, state, and local government, as well as between people who are involved in the agencies that work with government and the organizations that try to influence government. Politics has a truly wide definition. However, in determining what politics is, it is easy to try to make the definition too broad and to forget what politics isn't. This paper takes a look at what constitutes politics and what politics is not.
Politics can simply be described as the craft of the state. This definition takes into account all of the aspects of governing a nation, and at all levels. The craft of the state involves making the laws, enforcing them, and interpreting them. It also involves determining the needs of the people of the state and trying to find ways to meet those needs. Also involved in the craft of the state is the study of public opinion, the craft of lobbying the government, the administration of countless social programs, and the operation of political campaigns to select leaders for public offices. The craft of the state is, at least in today's modern world, a far-reaching, broadly scoped craft that has multiple levels and functions. It is complicated, but its complication also has a beauty, a grace, and a sense to it.
True politics constitutes a multitude of things. Elections and the process of being elected constitute true politics. In fact, this is politics in its purest form, because politics is at its very heart the delicate dance that takes place in the ever-shifting balance of power. Politicians and others in the government have power, and other people want that power. Since we live in a democracy, we are able to have elections, and the power that is coveted by so many is consequently transferred back and forth between people fairly often. Elections are the vehicle through which this power is continually transferred. All of the activities that incumbents and those who are challenging them use to convince people to vote for them are part of the process of politics. This means that campaign tours, campaign speeches, campaign literature that is handed out, debates between candidates, back room strategizing among the campaign staff, television appearances, and campaign ads that appear on television, radio, billboards, and in the newspaper are all part of politics because all of these things are part of the process by which power is brokered. Even the process of voting is part of what constitutes true politics, as the people are engaging in the mechanism by which the power will be transferred.
The activities of organizations and agencies that deal with the government and try to influence it also constitute politics. This is because by attempting to influence the government, the organizations that do this are trying to wield a little power themselves. Lobbyists who work for many non-profit organizations are good examples of people whose jobs are pure politics. These are people who are paid to try to influence lawmakers to make laws and policies that are favorable to the aims of the group for whom the lobbyist is working. Since lobbyists have to employ all sorts of techniques in order to influence the government, and hence gain power in the government in an indirect way, the lobbyists are engaging in the process of politics on a daily basis. Lobbyists have to strategize and come up with campaign techniques in order to influence lawmakers, just as candidates who are running for office have to do these same things in order to convince people to vote for them. Therefore, the organizations that work to try to influence the government can be considered part of politics.
Even the functions of the government, such as making laws, enforcing laws, and interpreting laws are part of politics. This is because there is a lot of jockeying of power that goes on in the process of getting these things done in most modern democratic governments. For example, in order to get a law passed, legislators in Congress have to convince each other, make deals with each other, and otherwise negotiate with each other. With any bill that is up for consideration to be a law, there will be lawmakers who approve of it and those who do not. In order to convince other lawmakers to vote for a certain position, lawmakers have to engage in a good deal of negotiation with their peers in Congress, much like they would do with voters in a political campaign. The president, too, has to make deals and run negotiations with members of Congress in order to get items that are important to his own personal agenda passed. Even federal judges feel the pressure of politics in their interpretations of laws and their rulings, as ruling one way could make them a candidate for the Supreme Court, while ruling another way could take them out of consideration. Really, of all of the components of government, only the U.S. Supreme Court is relatively free of politics, as these justices are appointed to their positions for life, and so do not have to jockey for power with anyone. For all others in the government game, power is the word of the day, and every action undertaken by a member of the government is done so in a bid to gain and/or to wield more power.
So, now that we know what constitutes politics, the question remains of what does not constitute politics. Politics can be considered to be any action of a government or organization involved with the government or persons trying to become a part of the government that has as its base intention the gaining and/or wielding of power. Therefore, any action of the government or those associated with it that does not have the gaining and/or wielding of power as its base concern can be considered to be not politics. In a democratic government, almost every action that the government takes is political in some way, shape, or form. The same is true for organizations involved with the government in a democratic nation. This is because being able to make and influence law and public policy involves a lot of power, and through elections, this power can frequently change hands, thus resulting in a large number of people who are always trying to gain power, because they know that it is possible for them to get this power. Democratic governments are by nature highly political.
However, non-democratic governments are not so political. In fact, the less free and democratic a nation is, the less political it is. Consider the pure monarchy. The king or queen in a nation such as this has all of the power. There is no hope of anyone else ever getting as much power as the monarch. Therefore, all of the functions of the government are non-political, as the monarch makes all of the decisions. This is not, however, to say that politics is totally non-existent in a nation such as this. Power struggles that constitute politics occur behind the scenes among potential heirs to the throne and among people who would like to gain access to the monarch in order to possibly have influence over him or her. The same is true in a dictatorship, or really any other type of government except possibly in a pure communist system (though a pure communist government has yet to exist).
Politics is basically the struggle to gain and wield power. Any function of the government that involves a person or persons trying to gain and/or wield power can be considered to constitute politics. Democratic nations are highly political by their very nature. On the other hand, any function of government that does not involve the struggle to gain and/or wield power does not constitute politics. The less democratic a nation is, the less political it will be. However, some politics will occur in any sort of government, though usually behind the scenes. This happens due to…