Politics and Power The American public’s reactions to the behaviour of their leaders in the debt/budget battle in Washington, July-Aug 2011, Pew Research poll: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2078/debt-ceiling-limits-budget-deficit-tea- party-republicans-obama-democrats-republicans-ridiculous "Man is by nature a political animal." -- Aristotle "Politics, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles." -- Ambrose Bierce, American journalist "Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them." -- Paul Valery, French writer and philosopher "The mistake a lot of politicians make is in forgetting they've been appointed and thinking they've been anointed." -- Claude D. Pepper, US Senator "My choice early in life was either to be a piano-player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference." -- Harry S. Truman, US President (1945-52) "Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects." -- Lester B. Pearson, Canadian PM (1963-68) "Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed." -- Mao Zedong, Chairman of People’s Republic of China "Politics is the art of the possible." -- Otto Von Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany Some common definitions of politics:* Politics is the exercise of power Politics is the public allocation of values Politics is the resolution of conflict Politics is the competition among individuals, groups, or states pursuing their interests *Danziger, James N. Understanding the Political World. NY: Addison- Wesley, 1991 Politics is often understood as: the art and science of GOVERNMENT, as affairs of STATE But: The state is rooted in society. The state maintains a particular social order. Politics outside the state is important. Interactions between state and society are at the core of politics. So, to understand politics, it has to be examined as part of the entire fabric of SOCIAL RELATIONS – cooperation and conflicts between individuals, groups, classes Cooperation and conflict are two basic modes of politics POLITICS AS COOPERATION, OR INTEGRATION – as the process of rule based on order and justice. Politics is driven by the considerations of the common good. More natural for the thinking of those who support the existing social order (status quo) POLITICS AS CONFLICT - as struggle for power. Politics is driven by selfish interests of individuals, groups, businesses, states. More natural for the thinking of those who would like to change the status quo in their favour. At any given moment, in any political process or event, one can discover elements of both cooperation and conflict which interact in various ways Political analysis seeks to make sense of the logics of these interactions Maurice Duverger: “The state – and in a more general way, organized power in any society – is always and at all times both the instrument by which certain groups dominate others, an instrument used in the interest of the rulers and to the disadvantage of the ruled, - and also a means of ensuring a particular social order, of achieving some integration of the individual and the collectivity for the general good… The two elements always co-exist, though the importance of each varies with the period, the circumstances, and the country concerned… “The relations between conflict and integration are, moreover, complex. Every attack on the existing social order implies the image of a superior, more authentic order. Every conflict implies a dream of integration and represents an effort to bring it into being… Many thinkers maintain that conflict and integration are not two opposed faces but one and the same overall process in which conflict naturally produces integration, and divisions, by their development, tend naturally toward their own suppression leading to the coming of the city of harmony.” The Idea of Politics, L.: Methuen, 1966, p.viii THE LEAST CONTROVERSIAL WORKING DEFINITION OF POLITICS A HUMAN ACTIVITY focused on: 1/ the FORMULATION and EXECUTION of: DECISIONS, which are BINDING on members of: A SOCIAL WHOLE (family, community, society, the world) – and: 2/ the RELATIONS which are formed between individuals, groups, states IN THE PROCESS of formulation and execution of those decisions. See Larry Johnston’s Politics, Broadview Press, 1998, p. 16 The word politics comes from ancient Greece. Its root is the word polis, which began to be used about 2,800 years ago to denote a self- governing city (city-state) POLIS – city-state POLITES – citizen POLITIKOS – politician POLITIKE – politics as the art of citizenship and government POLITEIA – constitution, rules of politics POLITEUMA – political community, all those residents who have full political rights Four categories of residents of the ancient Greek polis 1. Citizens with full legal and political rights Adult free men born legitimately of citizen parents. They had the right to vote, be elected into office, bear arms, and the obligation to serve when at war. 2. Citizens with legal rights but no political rights: Women and underage children, whose political rights and interests were represented by their adult male relatives 3. Foreigners (citizens of other city-states): Full legal rights, but no political rights. Could not vote, could not be elected to office, could not bear arms and could not serve in war. Subject to taxation. 4. Slaves Property of their owners, any privileges depend on the owner’s will The Acropolis, Athens State Market Society There is a city called Polis in the northern part of the Island of Cyprus: http://www.polis-municipality- cyprus.com/ Power The fuel of politics. The ability to make, or to influence the making of, those binding decisions which are the essence of politics Struggle for power Distribution of power: how fair? how equal? how effective? Balance of power Great power, superpower, hyperpower A powerful leader TYPES OF POWER POLITICAL POWER control of, or influence on, the state, ability to make, or influence, political decisions ECONOMIC POWER control of economic assets MILITARY POWER ability to wage war - or to compel others through intimidation or deterrence These forms of power interact in many ways. For example? An important distinction: “Power over…” and “power to…” “Power to” conveys the idea of one’s ability to realize one’s goals without coercing others Individually, by exercising one’s freedom Or collectively, by joining with others in a free and voluntary way Associated with visions of a good society, based on the ideals of freedom, equality, justice, solidarity, democracy Gandhi’s first protest, South Africa, 1906: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNmJqRV7LOA Barack Obama, 2009: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCFhpYMhaqY&feature=c hannel In real life, “power over” is the prevalent kind of power Its main characteristics: 1. AN INTERACTIVE PROCESS (you have to have someone to have power over) 2. POTENTIAL or ACTIVE 3. A PURPOSEFUL ACTIVITY 4. PROMOTIVE (Do it!) or PREVENTIVE (Don’t do it!) 5. BALANCED or UNBALANCED (“Absolute power corrupts absolutely” – Lord Acton). Democracy associated with balanced power INFLUENCE – use of power (or power exertion) with an uncertain outcome CONTROL – use of power with a more or less certain outcome DOMINATION – structured, stable use of power 5 principal forms of power (see OCDP, “power”) 1. FORCE – ability to detain and harm people and damage or confiscate their property to compel them to obey your orders 2. PERSUASION – ability to convince people to do what they otherwise would not have done by invoking their own interests and common sense 3. AUTHORITY – legitimate (just and lawful) power to control and direct people’s activities 4. COERCION – controlling people by means of threatening use of force 5. MANIPULATION – controlling people without threats, by persuading them about the legitimacy of the existing power relationships, or by offering them benefits LEGITIMATE power TYPES OF LEGITIMACY (Max Weber, Politics as a Vocation) TRADITIONAL – based on tradition, established beliefs or values (example: rule of dynasties, power of the church) LEGAL-RATIONAL – based on formal arrangements (rules, laws, constitutions). The main type practiced in contemporary politics CHARISMATIC*– based on the extraordinary personal qualities of a leader, or on the influence of an idea or a cause *from ancient Greek word “charisma”, meaning “gift” Information as a power resource “Knowledge is power” – Francis Bacon From the printing press to the Internet The Information Revolution The Information Age The new role of information in our lives – in our economy, social relations, politics – as a result of rapid development of ICT (information and communication technologies) since the 1980s Access to information Management of information Control of information Controlling people through their minds Values, ideas, the daily information flow Religion, education, propaganda, mass media The power of discourse The information battleground: how controllable are we? Can you fool all the people all the time? SO, WHERE DOES POWER COME FROM, ULTIMATELY? Power is produced by social cooperation. Ultimately, it is a collective product. We create power by acting together. The problem is that this product is usually appropriated by the few and used at the expense of, or downright against, the many.
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