Politics is the process and conduct of decision-making for groups. Although it is usually applied to governments, political behavior is also observed in corporate, academic, religious, and other institutions.
Political science is the study of political behavior and examines the acquisition and application of power, i.e. the ability to impose ones will on another.
While the word, "Politics" is derived from the Greek word for city, "Polis", it should be remembered that politics happens in every group undertaking. Corporate, religious, academic and every other polity, especially those constrained by limited resources, contain dominance hierarchies and therefore politics.
"Politics" may have a pejorative sense, particularly when applied to the internal workings of institutions. Saying that a decision was reached for "political" reasons may hint that those reasons were more motivated by petty interests or influence peddling than by objective reasons or the common good.
At whatever scale, politics is the rather imperfect way that people coordinate individual actions for mutual (or strictly personal) gain. What distinguishes the political from the ethical or merely social is a much-debated question. Most theorists would acknowledge that to be political, a process has to involve at least some potential for use of force or violence - politics is about conflict that is about much more than theory and fashion. To win a political conflict always implies that one has taken power away from one group or faction to give it to another. Most would also acknowledge that political conflict can easily degrade to zero-sum games, with little learned or settled by conflict other than "who won and who lost":
Lenin said politics was about "who could do what to whom" (Russian "Kto-Kogo" for "Who-Whom"). As political scientist Harold Lasswell said, politics is "who gets what, when and how." It also concerns how we resolve moral conflicts that are sufficiently serious that they constitute a risk of social disruption - in which case commitment to a common process of arbitration or diplomacy tends to reduce violence - usually viewed as a key goal of civilization. Bernard Crick is a major theorist of this view and also of the idea that politics is itself simply "ethics done in public", where public institutions can agree, disagree, or intervene to achieve a desirable culmination or comprehensive (process) result.
The word itself is coined from the Greek word for city, "Polis", hence the term 'Politics'. The first expression of what Politics means is found in Hesoid where it is quoted, "How would men best dwell in cities, and with what observances?". (1) Paraphrased, it would read, "How shall man order his ways?". For the Greeks, it was the application of reason to life. Politics is an ordering of society by reason of attainment to some goal; such as harmony among the social classes as in Athens under Solon, or business and commerce, or for war such as the Doric Communities of Crete and Sparta.
is there any possible empirical or more formal method for evaluating and quantifying ethicality and morality of human actions that could augment or replace religion or authority or political contention in deciding what political leaders "should" do?
is there an objective way to evaluate the quality of a decision, policy, leader or party?
These are ongoing debates that are millennia old.
As well as being influenced by these weighty matters, politics is also a social activity, and as such it is subject to the whims of fashion as any other.
Political scientists are academics who research the conduct of politics. They look at elections, public opinion, institutional activities (how legislatures act, the relative importance of various sources of political power etc), the ideologies behind various politicians and political organisations, how politicians achieve and wield their influence, and so on.
In American universities, the field of Political Science is divided into several subfields, typically American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Public Law, and Political Theory. Each subfield tends to overlap with other academic disciplines, such as philosophy, law, sociology, anthropology, and especially history.
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