The policy objective can be studied from different perspectives. Politics can be defined, in the broadest sense of the word, as the activity through which people create, preserve and modify the general laws on which their societies are based.
Above all else, politics is a social activity, since it involves dialogue. It foresees the existence of opposing opinions, of different demands and needs, and above all of opposing interests with respect to the regulations that govern society. However, it is also recognized that if the rules are to be changed or maintained, teamwork is necessary.
In this sense, politics is intrinsically related to conflict (product of disagreements) and cooperation (product of teamwork).
The delimitation of the term “policy” and its objectives presents two problems. First, over the years, the term “politics” has been loaded with negative connotations, constantly being related to terms such as armed conflict, disruption, violence, lies, manipulation. Even the American historian Henry Adams defined politics as “the systematic organization of hate.”
Second, it appears that policy experts have not reached a consensus as to the concept and purpose of the policy.
Politics has been defined in many ways: the exercise of power, the science of governments, the practice of manipulation and deception, among others.
Approaches to policy objectives
There are two major approaches to studying politics: politics as a battlefield or arena and politics as behavior
Politics as the art of government
Otto von Bismarck, first chancellor of the Second German Empire, is credited with the authorship of the phrase “Politics is not a science but an art.”
Possibly, Bismarck viewed politics as art whose goal is to exert control in a society through collective decision-making.
This conception of politics is one of the oldest and derives from the Greek term “polis”, which means city – state. In ancient Greece, the term politics was used to designate matters that concerned the polis. That is, it is in charge of matters that concern the State.
However, this definition is very narrow because it only involves members of society who belong to the government, that is, those who hold political office, leaving aside other citizens.
Politics as public affairs
The second definition of politics is broader than politics as the art of government, since it takes into account all members of a society.
This conception of politics is attributed to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who pointed out that “man is by nature a political animal.” From this statement, it follows that just by the simple fact of belonging to a society, politics is already being done.
For the Greeks the polis involved the sharing of problems. In this sense, politics is the search for the common good through the direct and continuous participation of all citizens.
Politics as compromise and consensus
This conception of politics refers to the way in which decisions are made. Specifically, politics is seen as a way to solve conflicts through compromise, reconciliation and negotiation, ruling out the use of force and power.
It should be noted that advocates of this perspective recognize that there are no utopian solutions and that concessions will have to be made that may not fully satisfy the parties involved. However, this is preferable to armed conflict.
One of the leading representatives of this concept is Bernard Crick, who in his study In defense of politics (1962) points out that politics is the activity that reconciles the interests of different individuals through the proportional division of power.
This approach to politics is ideological, because it puts international morality (ethical norms that regulate the behavior of nations, just as ethical principles do in individuals) before the interests of the State.
Politics as power
The last definition of politics is the broadest and most radical of all. According to Adrien Leftwich (2004), “… politics is the heart of all social activities, formal and informal, public and private, within all human groups, institutions and societies…”. In this sense, politics is present at all levels where human beings interact.
From this point of view, politics is the exercise of power to achieve a desired goal, regardless of the means. Harold Lasswell (1936) summarizes this view in the title of his book “Politics: Who Gets What, When, and How?”
Politics as power is opposed to politics as compromise and consensus, because it puts the interests of a group first.
Policy objective according to approaches
Just as the definition of the policy varies, so does its objective. Politics seen as an arena has two objectives: to attend to the issues that concern the State (politics as the art of government) and to promote the participation of citizens to achieve the common good.
On the other hand, politics as a behavior has the general objective of determining the performance of countries in the pursuit of interests; however, the processes proposed by each of the approaches are diverse.
Politics as consensus aims to achieve interests through negotiation; on the other hand, politics as power aims to achieve interests regardless of means.
- What is Politic? Retrieved on March 18, 2017, from freewebs.com.
- Lasswell, Harold (1936). Politics: Who Gets What, When, and How? Retrieved on March 18, 2017, from policysciences.org.
- Power and Politics. Retrieved on March 18, 2017, from nptel.ac.in.
- Aristotle (sf) Politics. Retrieved on March 18, 2017, from socserv2.socsci.mcmaster.ca.
- Introduction to Political Science. Retrieved on March 18, 2017, from londoninternational.ac.uk.
- A Plain English Guide to Political Terms. Retrieved on March 18, 2017, from simpleput.ie.
- Rhe concept of power. Retrieved on March 18, 2017, from onlinelibrary.wiley.com.