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what is politics?

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eury sociology

on 19 February 2014

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Transcript of what is politics?

what is politics?
for people in the street politics is a dirty word

it implies partiality, self-interest, sometimes corruption and sometimes authority and power

in our course we will approach the subject from an academic lens
It is not easy to give one simple definition for politics since there are differing understandings of politics:
for some, politics is the process of reaching consensus
seni consensusta göremedim mübarek'
consensus rulez!
Jürgen Habermas
for some others politics emerges where enmities intensify
Carl Schmitt
Andrew Heyword (author of your book) defines politics "in its broadest sense", as "the activity through which people make, preserve, and amend the general rules under which they live" and suggests 4 views of politics
This categorization can be challenged as well but for the sake of simplicity we are going to follow his lead.
please note that art refers to techné : a technical knowledge of a task; not virtue not wisdom not wealth or merit
remember the origin of the word politics: POLIS
city ----state
prince->king->office of PM or president
politics is associated with
(the formal or authoritative decisions that aims to regulate the society or the social order) and
(the formal framework of a political system including state, government, regions etc.)
The emphasis is not on the city (demos/city/citizens)
concepts like raison d'etat, authority, the interest of the state or any discourse that puts emphasis on state (tradition, order, unity) represents this understanding.
Famous figures of this approach
This is a state-centered view of politics; politics is what governments or states or government or state officials do. Most people, most institutions and most social activities are left 'outside' of politics.
Italian Renaissance political philosopher and statesman, secretary of the Florentine republic, whose most famous work, The Prince (1531), brought him a reputation as an immoral cynic.
The Prussian general and military thinker, whose work On War (1832) has become one of the most respected classics on military strategy.

"War is only a continuation of state policy by other means."
Carl von Clausewitz
Limitations of the politics as the art of government approach
state centric conception is limited with formal politics
many elements, domains and issues are regarded as non-political
politics has come to be understood in a pejorative manner (Machiavellianism, realpolitik etc.)
how would you interpret state's attitude towards its citizens? Think about the discourse of 'traitos', 'enemies' etc.
economic liberalism in the understanding of the individual and the system
Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.
Ronald Reagan
In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of
politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a
mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.
George Orwell
One has to be a lowbrow, a bit of a murderer, to be a
politician, ready and willing to see people sacrificed,
slaughtered, for the sake of an idea, whether a good one or
a bad one. Henry Miller
The city
Res publica
Public domain
This is a broader understanding of politics-one that moves beyond the narrow realm of government to what
is thought of as 'public life‘ or 'public affairs‘.

Politics is understood as an ethical activity concerned with creating a good/just society. This conception of politics as something positive and public activity is exalted.

The emphasis is on the city/public here.

Aristotle: "Man is by nature a political animal"

a sort of idealism or communitarianism can be traced in the understanding of the individual-participation in politics is overcoming individualistic desires, interests etc.
Famous figures of this approach
Hannah Arendt
In The Human Condition (1958) Arendt writes that politics is the most important form of human activity because it involves interaction amongst free and equal citizens. It thus gives meaning to life and affirms the uniqueness of each individual.
Vaclav Havel
"Genuine politics—politics worthy of
the name and the only politics I am willing to devote myself to—is simply a matter of serving those around us: serving the community and serving those who will come after us. Its deepest
roots are moral because it is a responsibility expressed through action."
Limitations of the politics as public affairs approach
Despite its broader nature the public affairs approach too makes a distinction this time between the public and the private.
the division between the state and civil society is replaced with the division between public and private.
public realm/domain: politics, commerce, arts, culture
private domain: personal matters (ethnic, religious identity, lifestyles)
so called "private" issues such as VAW cannot be part of political agenda. How can we draw the distinction between political and personal life?
This conception of politics relates to the way in which decisions are made; the emphasis is on the process here. What do we do with politics?
politics is a particular means of resolving conflict: that is, by compromise, conciliation and negotiation. Force or violence are considered non-political means. Politics is the process of "conflict resolution"
important aspect of politics is the necessity of distribution of power (compare it with the first approach)
liberal-rationalist understanding of the individual: individuals are rational creatures looking for the optimization of interests and harmony within a social order.
Famous figures of this approach
Jürgen Habermas
Individuals do not only pursue self-interest. There are different forms of rationalities we use in life. Among them is the communicative rationality. Human beings strive for understanding and consensus. Politics is this process of consensus formation.
John Rawls
Since individuals are rational beings even if they pursue self-interest in the case of a fair arrangement of social order they would agree with lesser benefits.
Limitations of this approach
Similar to the first two approaches the politics as consensus approach insists on private/public distinction.

It puts an emphasis on consensus and for this reason neglects conflicts as part of politics.

It is western oriented-the theory is founded on the basis of the functioning of liberal-order
4. Politics as power
Heywood2s conception of power is problematic
for theorists like Arendt and Habermas power is something good
Rather than confining politics to a particular sphere (the government, the state or the 'public‘ realm) this view sees politics at work in all social activities and in every corner of human existence.
politics takes place at every level of social interaction; it can be found within families and amongst small groups of friends just as much as amongst nations and on the global stage.
Power becomes an important concept here but it is understood as an ability to exert influence; the ability to achieve a desired outcome, to set an agenda and control others.
politics is the struggle to acquire existing power mechanisms, transform or destroy them.
individuals are considered as produced by structures. No essential attributions are made.
Famous figures of this approach
Kate Millet
In Sexual Politics, she defines politics as "power structured relationships, arrangements whereby one group of persons is controlled by another."

Karl Marx
politics like law, culture and other forms of
social life is an aspect of superstructure. The superstructure is shaped by the forces and relations of economic production i.e. capitalism.

the bourgeoisie and the proletarians struggle for the control over the economic relations.
Limitations of the power approach
Heywood argues that this view approaches politics in negative terms-it reproduce the conventional understanding of politics.

Yet, both the Marxist and feminist approaches criticize politics in its current form. They foresee a change in the system and the overcoming of the current form of politics.

Some criticize this approach for understanding power in possessive terms. For thinkers like Arendt for instance power is relational.
to the study of

Ancient times
the knowledge of politics is more like the knowledge coming from history, philosophy
idealist conception of politics and political questions
think about questions like "what is justice?" "what is truth?" they are not like the ones we ask today "who is going to win in the elections?" "why do people vote for M. Gökçek?"
19th century
rise of natural/positive sciences
study of politics as a scientific discipline
open rejection of metaphysics
rise of scientific approach
behavioralism, political science
challenge of the claim of scientificity
Berkeley school
The philosophical tradition--political philosophy
preoccupation with ethical, prescriptive or normative questions: what is justice? why should I obey the state?
the prescription of values and standards of conduct; deals with the question of "what should" be rather than "what is"
analytical study of ideas and doctrines
historical analysis of thinkers
it is not objective in a scientific sense
disagreement about the nature of politics (as an activity)is matched by controversy about the nature of politics as an academic discipline
objective: based on facts; not influenced by personal feelings or opinions
the empirical tradition
the underlying assumption is that experience is the basis of knowledge
all hypothesis and theories should be tested by a process of observation
it is descriptive in nature not prescriptive
Commonly adopted by the UK & USA scholars
be traced back to Ancient Greece (Aristotle) or to Middle Ages (Montesquieu; Machiavelli) and in modernity (August Comte)
positivism & comparative government
The scientific tradition
behavioralism: the belief that social theories should be constructed only on the basis of observable behavior
quantitative analysis-voting behavior;behavior of politicians and political actors
empirical: based on observation and experiment; empirical knowledge is derived from data and experience
the claim is that produced data is objective and reliable because it is value free
the problem with positivism and scientific tradition is that both reduce the study of social phenomena to observation

they neglect the normative aspects of the enterprise

by doing so they seem to legitimize the status quo (non-problematization of inequality, injustice etc.)

ex: voting behavior of Mamak region does not explain the class structure of Mamak and does not aim at transforming the relations there
political theory

an activity of analysis and reflection that is distinct from philosophizing and political science
political economy
public choice theory
rational choice theory
"the use of economic tools to deal with traditional problems of political science". Its content includes the study of political behavior
voters, politicians, and bureaucrats as mainly self-interested.
Rationality, interpreted as "wanting more rather than less of a good",

the rationale of behavior of individuals and form the basis of human decision-making.
introducing a gender lens to social, economic and political analysis
they both overestimate human rationality in that it ignores the fact that people seldom possess a clear set of preferred goals and rarely make decisions in the light of full and accurate knowledge.

abstract model of the individual pays insufficient attention to social and historical factors, failing to recognize, amongst other things, that human self-interestedness may be socially conditioned, and not merely innate.
focuses on developing a sociological view of institutions, the way they interact and the effects of institutions on society
old institutionalism-formal politics (until 1950s)
new institutionalism: (1980s onwards)
political organizations are thought of not as ‘things’ but as sets of ‘rules’, which guide or constrain the
behaviour of individual actors.

rules can be informal too policy-making processes sometimes being shaped more by unwritten
conventions or understandings than by formal arrangements.

institutions are ‘embedded’ in a particular normative and historical context.
A concept is a general idea about something, usually expressed in a single word or a short phrase. A concept is more than a proper
noun or the name of a thing. Concepts are the tools with which we think, criticize, argue, explain and analyse.

Model: A theoretical representation of empirical
data that aims to advance understanding by highlighting significant relationships and interactions.

Theory: A systematic explanation of empirical data,
usually (unlike a hypothesis) presented as reliable

Ideology: a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.
PD shows why two individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so.
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