Nature of Politics

Before we delve on some specific issues concerning Politics and Governance, it would be much better if we begin first with a brief review of the most basic ideas of Politics.

Defining Politics

Politics, in the most essential sense, is a means of organizing collective
human activity.

    • In daily life, it refers to any collective decision making process.
    • As a discipline, it focuses on conflict and conflict resolution.
    • “Seeking and using the power of the State to make allocations of scarce resources throughout a given polity”.
    • For Harold Lasswell, politics is the study of who gets what, when and how.
    • For Aristotle, Politics is both a royal art and a royal science. Because unlike other fields of human inquiry, it attempts to understand the political nature of a subject that is considered to be the only rational and free physical entity in the world

The Historical Role of Politics

According to Marx, there are five stages or levels of societal development, and each of these stages demonstrate the evolution of the uses or roles of politics:

  1. Primitive Communal Society – characterized by the common ownership of the means of production; non-existence of class divisions and the value of the product produced is determined by labor. The role of politics is for the collective actions of man to confront resistance or challenges to common survival in the primitive state.
  2. Feudal society – characterized by the first emergence of private property ownership and introduction of social classes. The means of production in this stage is land. Here, landowners, tenants, artisans, merchants etc. emerged. The main and conflicting classes are landowners (those who own lands) and the tenants (persons who are used by landowners to till their vast lands). Politics n this stage is geared towards the protection of the interest of the dominant class (i.e. land owners ). Great armies are formed to enforce order and to ensure the continuous control of the dominant class over the means of production. The modern concept of a State emerged during this period.
  3. Capitalist society – a previously insignificant segment of the society (the merchants) have developed as a major political and economic player. Driven by profit, these lowly businessmen gradually became very wealthy that soon they were able to finance the formation of new and more powerful armies that ultimately brought them into power. Emerging from
    centuries of political insignificance, it successfully revolutionized the existing social order. At this stage, the means of production is no longer the land but big factories. After the industrial revolution, the political influence of these profit-seeking tradesmen became unprecedented. Two major classes emerged, the Capitalist (those who control the means of production) and the Proletariat (laborers or the working class). The role of politics in this stage is the protection of the interest of the dominant class. Politics also ensures the favorable condition for the production not only of profit but also of ideas that will help the preservation of the new status quo. Politics also maintain social division of labor (e.g. the capitalist as the provider of Capital and the proletariat as the provider of labor) and the international division of labor (e.g. the developed or the Capitalist states produce the finished products and the Third World States as the consumer).
  4. Socialist Society – The unlimited and undying quest for bigger profit will itself spell the decline and the “ bloody” end of Capitalist order. After the predicted success of the Proletarian revolution around the world, a new social and world order will emerge. Classless societies will be formed from the ashes of Capitalism. The means of production, which the Capitalists once enjoyed, will become a common property. Seizing the high technologies developed during the Capitalist state will make the distribution of goods based on abilities (this is the Socialist’s Theory of Justice) to become possible. A highly centralized government exists and assumes the role of a vanguard which will bring about the realization of the highest state of societal development. At this stage, the role of Politics is to ensure the extinction of Capitalism as a way of life. Politics is also expected to promote the spirit of communality and not of profit and individualism. Politics will ensure the realization of Communism, or the highest level of societal development.
  5. Communist State – the final stage of societal development characterized by the abolition of states (This is because Marx believes the states are basically Capitalist’s tool of preserving the interest of the ruling class) and abolition of social and world classes. Politics in this final synthesis will therefore be in consonance to the desired future of a “global communality”.

The Significance of the Study of Politics

There is a widespread agreement that only through the “politicization” of the people, the process by which public policies are made, in a democracy, can receive systematic and meaningful treatment.

Many study Political Science (the systematic study of politics) because they believe that it provides a good training ground for those who will pursue Law

Still, others pursue the formal study of Politics as a preparatory course for the rugged world of real-life political arenas (Ferdinand E. Marcos took up AB Political Science and fell in-love with Machiavelli before taking up Law at the University of the Philippines. There is this anecdote that once Ferdinand’s professor has asked the clean-cut freshman why he is studying Political Science and why he is in U.P., the lean-bodied Ferdinand answered bluntly: “Well, because I want to be the next President of the Philippines.” Years later, the innocent looking boy indeed took the presidency and raped the country beyond the wildest imagination of his professor).

There are, however, a few who study politics because they believe with Aristotle: Politics is “the most sovereign of the Arts and the Sciences”, a discipline concerned with the highest good of man justice and not necessarily as the art that should be understood in terms of struggle for power.

Approaches to the study of Political Science

It is very important to remember that there are two general approaches to the study of politics:

  1. Political Philosophy– concerns itself with institutions and behavior, it focuses on normative judgements and attempts to derive principles from objective facts with as much qualification as the evidence will allow. It is more on prescriptive ( the “shoulds ” and “ oughts ” of politics ).
  2. Political Science– seeks to establish by observation, and if possible by measurements the existence of uniformities in political behavior and to draw correct inference from these data. It is more on observation or/ and description of facts. It aims to be objective and value-free on its measurement and description

The Ideals of the Study of Politics

Ideally, the study of politics should contribute to the general progress and development of humanity and not to perpetuate the greed for power of few individuals, which from time immemorial, has been the root cause of man’s inhumanity towards each other. Students of Politics should use the knowledge they acquire from their study to educate people, assuming of course that by dealing with the study of politics they have already educated themselves, for better citizenship. Students of Politics, in short, should help equip people with intellectual resources that will catapult them to greater heights of human resources and which will make their existence more meaningful and satisfying.