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What Is Politics?

  • Politics, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.Ambrose Bierce, writer (1842-1914)
  • Political history is largely an account of mass violence and of the expenditure of vast resources to cope with mythical fears and hopes.Murray Edelman, professor, author (1919-2001)
  • Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the wrong remedies.Groucho Marx

Politics is the operation of power in society:

  • physical power
  • economic power
  • legal power
  • power over opinion.

Power is used to pursue the interests of human beings. These interests are often aggregated into factional alliances.

Political Studies, often also called Political Science, is the academic discipline that tries to establish how this happens.

The study of politics is one of the oldest academic disciplines.

In ancient Greece political philosophers studied the uses of power. They also concerned themselves with creating a good society and balancing the pursuit of power with justice and order.

They started the study of the four great sub-disciplines of Political Studies:

  • domestic politics and policy studies (Herodotus)
  • political philosophy (Plato)
  • comparative politics (Aristotle)
  • international politics (Thucydides).

Source: University of Otago Political Studies Department

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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