The Philosophy of Politics
Politics refers to the state of affairs which involves governance of individuals or groups. Politics refers to the power relations between various individuals and how do they are constituted. Politics is necessarily defined In terms of power: how much influence can a person or group exert over the others in the society. Since politics involves the dimension of power, the study of politics is necessarily a study of one’s motivations, agency, intentions, interests and strategies of how one goes about forwarding his/her interest in a collectivity. Thus, essentially, politics recognizes that individuals and groups in society are differentiated from each other in terms of their interests and how they pursue those interests. Political Science refers to a discipline which aims to study power in an institutional setup. What this means is that political science tries to study the patterns of power in a society. It is a social science which concerns itself primarily with issues of governance and a variety of the theoretical and practical issues pertaining to political activity and political behavior. Political science usually centers on state as a central entity and it tries to study how states interact and operate and how their power is diffused and exercised in the society. Moreover, since it involves a study of power, the political relations are not to be understood without a discussion on the conflicting interest of the groups in society and how it determines the distribution of resources in the society. Political science as the name implies is a scientific study which means that it aims to study the power relations within a society in an objective fashion. It draws evidence from positivism and empiricism, and through its study, it tries to discern the underlying power relations between the thoughts and the actions of various groups in the society. By trying to identify and determine the nature of political relationships in a social setup, it attempts to construct general schemas about how power operates and functions in a society. Politics is different from political science because politics refers to the actual political activity, and practices, whereas political science refers to an academic discipline which aims to study politics.
Theory refers to an explanation that is often proposed for a particular event. The theory’s function is not merely to explain or describe, but more importantly to identify a general pattern, or rule which governs a certain set of actions. This pattern then allows the theory to be able to analyze and predict a similar set of occurrences in future. Theory does not refer to just any explanation. It refers to a set of ideas, beliefs and assumptions, which are systematically linked to each other. Rather than being a random string of ideas, theory is based upon a certain theoretical framework or assumptions, upon which it goes on to construct an argument, and to put forward a particular perspective. In the social sciences, theory refers to a particular way of looking at things, and how that view or standpoint is constructed, and defended. A theory attempts to be objective, and aims at providing a generalized explanation about the social phenomena which it seeks to study. Marxist theory, for instance, attempts to understand the inequality in a society by focusing on division of economic resources in a society, and to argue how the economically privileged groups exploit the economically disadvantaged groups. This economic exploitation takes the form of domination in all walks of social life, such as religion, philosophy, morality etc., all of which are inherently designed or come to be in a way which supports, maintains and perpetuates this inequality.
Contractualism refers to how morality in a society is to be understood through how the social contracts are formed, or broken in a society. Marxism differs from Contractualism because it locates the basis of morality in the relations of economic inequality (hence in political economy), whereas Contractualism locates them in the theory of social contract (hence in moral philosophy). A Marxist view on Black Lives Matter would try to understand why the blacks in America are disadvantaged, mistreated and discriminated against by explaining it in terms of the economically marginalized position of the Black community in the economic setup of the country. A Marxist view point would explain away the discrimination in terms of economic inequality and how the mistreatment of blacks maintains or supports the hegemony and dominance of the rich non-blacks.
Political ideology refers to a particular worldview is created, or used to justify, maintain, perpetuate or advance one group’s “political interests”. For instance, Jihadism is a political ideology which is espoused by the terrorist group called ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Another example of a political ideology is the Nazism of Hitler during and before the 2nd world war. Both these ideologies refer to the worldviews which are advanced by the group holders to claim certain political and social privileges for themselves.
These ideologies are based on a certain set of ideas, theories, doctrines or beliefs which may come from religion (for instance in the case of ISIS) or from right-wing nationalism and racism (for instance, for Hitler). Thus, political ideology becomes a worldview in which political agents orient themselves to bring a wide-scale political and social change in a society. Political ideologies become a weltanschauung which defines, explains and justifies the political action, behavior and thinking of a particular group, state or league of nations.
Liberalism refers to an ideology which emphasizes on the core-values of liberty and equality of an individual in a society. Liberalism refers to a collection of theories advancing and advocating these principles of freedom and equality in a variety of political, social, legal and economic contexts. In the works of Adam Smith, we find that ideas of equality and freedom are derived from moral philosophy and applied in the context of economics. Adam Smith argues how individuals and businesses in an economy should be free to make the decisions that serve their individual interests. Moreover, the opportunity of freedom for individuals and businesses shall be equally available to all. He argued, doing so would allow the society to prosper. Particularly with reference to economics, Liberalism has many branches. For instance, classical liberalism gives prime importance to both individual freedom and the idea of the right to the private property, as cornerstones of an efficient economic system. They believe, the government intervention should be at minimum, as it infringes upon this freedom for firms and individuals.
On the contrary, another type of liberalism, New Liberalism, argues that individual liberty and private property cannot exist together in a harmony. The proponents of this theory argues that the right to private property leads to massive social inequality, for instance, by allowing rich to keep their property, they would be depriving the extremely poor and others in society, who may need those resources to survive and prosper. Thus, they argue, state shall intervene to make sure that the distribution of resources in the society is equitable and just. Yet another type of liberalism is neo-liberalism. This theory proposes that government intervention is required for a fair society, however, individuals are not responsible to society as they do not owe their talents and their resources or properties to society. The theory argues that economic affairs shall be kept away and separate from the domain of politics. I believe, the new American president shall espouse new liberalism and to increase its welfare system and social spending to reduce social and economic inequality.
Nation refers to a particular people, who are defined by a shared (actual or imagined) descent, language, geographical area they inhabit, history, religion culture, race etc.. Thus, nation refers to a term which categorizes a group of people based upon such socially understood or perceived criteria as above. Nation is a concept which binds people together in a sense of community. And often on, this invoking of the above-mentioned shares traits allow such people to unite, mobilize and advance certain social, political or economic claims and interests.
State, on the other hand, refer to a sovereign governing body which has a geographical territory where its laws apply State thus refers to a political institution or set of bodies which govern a geographical territory as a unified institution/presence. Nation and state may not be the same, For instance, USA is a state which is a home of many nations, such as American aborigines, African, Caribbean and other nations of European origin. Moreover, all nations may not have a state or may be living under different states, for instance, the Kurdish people, who live in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey- and do not have a state of their own.
In a unitary form of government, the political power lies with a single central body which makes decisions for all of its constituents (such as local states, or provinces). In this system the power and autonomy of local governments is minimal. One advantage of this system is that there are less political conflicts, as there is one chief governing body, it’s easier to pass political resolutions, laws and regulations etc., which would also be consistent and uniform throughout the state. One disadvantage is that the center may not be the best decision maker when it comes to particular local issues. Moreover, since there is one governing body, there’s a risk that its control may turn out to be hegemonic and dictatorial in nature. In a Federal form of government, there is a weak central power which governs all from the top. Rather, the power is divested to the local governments or states. Each local governing body of let’s say a province enjoys a great deal of autonomy in affairs pertaining to its geographical territories. One advantage of this system is that affairs of each state are decided and governed at the local level, without any interference or pressure from other states or the central body. One disadvantage of this system is that giving powers to local states may create unending political conflict and hence it may be difficult to reach a consensus on important political matters. Moreover, differences between states may mean there is no single law which applies to all, and this may be unfair in certain cases.
One example of a country which has a unitary system of government is the United Kingdom. One example of a country which has a federal form of government is the United States of America.
Political Communication is a compound of two terms, political and communication. Communication generally refers to the study of the systems and processes through which the information is received, sent, transmitted, and disseminated. Now, adding the term “political” as a prefix allows us to view political communication as a distinct study of communications which focused upon how the “information” flow operates, and functions in a political context. Political communication is often studied as a sub discipline of political sociology and political sciences, and it majorly focuses upon the role of political nature, function and role of mass media in a society. Political communication thus consists of discourse analysis (an evaluation of how speech in written or verbal forms is used to advance certain political interests), as well as a study of how public, state, political parties and various other interest groups communicate with each other in the context of their political action, and behavior. Here, the role of mass media is a critical focal point which explains the interactions among the groups highlighted above.
Political communication operates through many types of media, most dominantly through television, radio, and print (including pamphlets, and newspapers etc. However, the case of the Arab Spring highlights an interesting addition to these dominant modes of communication. We see that in 2011 during the Arab Spring protests and revolts, internet technologies played a crucial role in the political activism. It is important to mention here that mobile phone and internet technologies were used by protestors to make their voice heard around the globe, and to mobilize people. For instance, one may recall how people recorded the videos of their protest and government crackdown on them, and then uploaded them on social media such as Facebook, YouTube and twitter.
These media became alternate media for political change, since the state televisions in the Arab countries were usually not broadcasting the anti-government protests. Hence, these new-age internet technologies had a massive impact in generating attention of and support from the global community. In future, it can be argued that such technologies (such as Facebook and twitter, which are primarily for casual social networking) will increasingly be used for political activism and will alter the patterns of how political communication takes place. We see it happening for instance, in the 2016 US presidential election, where people are following up on and campaigning for their favorite candidates on platforms such as the Facebook.