from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Politics refers to the regulation of the affairs of a community through binding decisions . In general, any influencing, shaping and enforcement of demands and goals in private or public areas can be described as politics. In most cases, the term does not refer to the private, but to the public and the community as a whole. Then the public life of citizens , actions and efforts to lead the community internally and externally, as well as will-building and decision-making on community affairs can be described as politics. In a narrower sense, politics refers to the structures ( polity ) , processes ( politics ) and content ( policy ) for controlling political units, mostly states , internally and their relationships to one another.

In political science , the conviction has become generally accepted that politics “defines the entirety of all interactions that aim at the authoritative ( generally binding by recognized power ) distribution of values ​​(material such as money or non-material such as democracy )”.

Political action can be characterized by the following motto: “Social action that is geared towards decisions and control mechanisms that are generally binding and regulate the coexistence of people”.

Word origin

The term politics was derived from the ancient Greek Πολιτικά politiká , with a detour via Latin ( politica , politicus ) . In the city-states of ancient Greece, this word denoted all those activities, objects and questions that affected the community - and that was called the polis at that time . Accordingly, the literal translation of politiká should be given as “things that affect the city” or “political things”. In this meaning, “politics” can be compared with the Roman term res publica , from which the modern term “ republic ” arose. The word found a particularly prominent use as the title of a major work by the ancient philosopher Aristotle , Politics .

Political Terms

Max Weber (1894)
Luhmann's system theory
Examples of well-known policy definitions
category definition

"Politics is the sum of the means that are necessary to come to power and to stay in power and to make the most useful use of power"

- Machiavelli , around 1515

"Political science ... can be defined as that special branch of the social sciences that objectively and critically examines the state under its power aspect as well as all other power phenomena with the inclusion of other objectives insofar as these power phenomena are more or less directly related to the state."

- Ossip K. Flechtheim , 1958: p. 70

"Politics is the pursuit of a share of power or to influence the distribution of power ..."

- Max Weber , 1919

"Politics is the doctrine of the purposes of the state and the best means (institutions, forms, activities) for their realization."

- Brockhaus , 1903, vol. 13: p. 236

“Politics is the complex of social processes that specifically serve to guarantee the acceptance of administrative (factual) decisions. Politics should take responsibility, legitimize and provide the necessary power base for the implementation of factual administrative decisions. "


"By politics we mean the art of organizing and executing the leadership of human groups."

"Politics is the management of communities on the basis of possession of power."

- Werner Wilkens , 1975
Hierarchy / rule

"To investigate relationships of superiority and subordination and their effects on human behavior (is the goal of political science)."

- Georges Burdeau , 1964: p. 61

"Politics is the fight for the right order."

- Otto Suhr , 1950

"The object and the goal of politics is peace ... peace is the political category par excellence."

- Dolf Sternberger , 1961: p. 18

"Political science is the science of freedom."

- Franz Neumann , 1950

“Practical-critical political science aims at a political theory that integrates the findings of social criticism. In the concept of democracy, it gains a key concept for the analysis of the politically relevant structures of rule in society. "

- Jörg Kammler , 1968: p. 20

"Politics is the totality of all activities for the preparation and production of decisions that are binding for society as a whole and / or that are oriented towards the common good and benefit society as a whole."


"Politics (is) social action ... which is aimed at regulating social conflicts in a binding manner through values."

- Gerhard Lehmbruch , 1968: p. 17

"Politics is the authoritative (by rulers, rulers) decreed distribution of material and immaterial values ​​in society."

- David Easton , 1954/1964

"Politics is the struggle to change or maintain existing conditions."

Class struggle

"Politics (is) the struggle of the classes and their parties, states and world systems that pervades all areas of social life for the realization of their socio-economic interests and goals."

- Dictionary of Marxist-Leninist Sociology 1969: p. 340

The controversial policy terms and definitions can be sorted into three dimensions without these being mutually exclusive.

Government-centered versus emancipatory

Government-centered or governmental political terms include the concepts of power, domination and leadership. In the 19th century, the state and its power ( monopoly of force ) were the main character of politics. All power phenomena were tried to be assigned to the state. In international relations, power is still one of the cornerstones of theory formation today (see, for example, political neorealism ). Kurt Sontheimer (1962) points out the danger that political science, with this understanding of politics, can easily become the stooge of power and the powerful.

Emancipatory political conceptions, on the other hand, concentrate on power restrictions through participation , equality and democratization as a counterbalance to an organizing power. This also includes the critical analysis of the dominant structures of rule and social criticism .

Normative versus descriptive

The normative political terms include the concepts of right order , peace , freedom and democracy and, in particular, all emancipatory political definitions. It is not about the pure description of political phenomena, but rather a judgmental target or target value is used as the main category. The concept of freedom, for example, can be understood as an opposite of the concept of power or domination . Mostly harmonious concepts of the common good are offered, which are difficult to reconcile with today's pluralistic social conditions. A special problem of the 'peace' category is that it can mean not only the absence of violence, but also the reduction of inequalities.

The purely descriptive, i.e. descriptive, political ideas reject setpoint values ​​as the essence of politics. These include the policy definition given in the introduction, that of Lehmbruch and that of David Easton ( authoritative allocation of values ; David Easton's system theory ). Just like the government-centered, power-emphasizing political terms, these are in danger of stabilizing the status quo and of using those in power.

Conflict-oriented versus consensus-based

Conflict-oriented political concepts assume the existence of conflicts as unalterable and necessary phenomena of political-social life. These conflicts would have to be settled through the political processes. The prerequisite for using the conflict category is that there is a sufficiently flexible and stable social structure that enables the peaceful settlement of conflicts between the various social groups with their diverging interests. In addition to the descriptive system-theoretical understanding of politics, the conflict-oriented political concepts also include the conflict theories of Ralf Dahrendorf and Lewis Coser , who understand conflicts as the driving forces behind all social change. The Marxist concept of politics is also based on conflict as a basic category, namely the struggle of the classes and their parties to enforce their primarily socio-economic interests.

In contrast, in the case of consensus-based political terms, the common good can only be established through consensus . In addition to Jean-Jacques Rousseau's classic emancipatory understanding of politics, these political concepts also include Thomas Meyer's concept of politics.

Multi-dimensional concept of politics in the recent political science discussion

Dimensions of politics

Even without a decision about the main category of politics, one can distinguish three dimensions that enable us to conceptually clarify and differentiate the complex reality of politics, which appear in various forms. For this, the English terms Policy , Politics and Polity have become common in German-speaking countries .

Policy: normative, content-related dimension

Different normative ideas (how something should be) about the content, i.e. tasks and goals, of politics, due to limited resources ( scarcity of resources ), mean that not all wishes can be satisfied. Conflicts of interest arise within a wide variety of policy areas, such as security policy , economic policy , social policy and many others. In the interests of the stability of the political system, these conflicts must be mediated through compromises and the following generally binding decisions.

Policy therefore stands for the content-related dimension of politics. Regarding the politics of a party or government , the term includes what it intends to do or what it does. In addition to the material goods awarded and approved by a government, this also includes immaterial aspects. But since the vast majority of political measures have a material-economic side, the public budgets or the budget drafts introduced can give an impression of which policy a country or a government is implementing.

When people talk about “good” and “bad policies” in everyday life, then they usually refer to the government's policy . In so far as the population judges what comes out of a certain policy for whom, this is the view of those affected by political decisions. However, the assessment criteria are usually very different in the pluralistic societies , depending on the respective values and ideas of justice , depending on which social structures (a certain social group or class , the nation or a social collective that extends beyond national borders ) is identified.

Since policy is always about social content, values ​​and interests, it is never just about the answer to the question of the best policy. Rather, the focus of the analysis is on those involved in the political decision-making process and the consequences of the decision for the individual. Consequently, the question of the beneficiaries and the burdened is also relevant.

Categories: Political Problem; Programs, goals, solutions; Results of policy; Evaluation of the policy

Areas of politics

according to the spatial boundary: micro policy , local policy , metropolis policy , state policy , federal policy , European policy , world politics

by subject: labor market policy , foreign policy , international cultural relations , building policy , disability policy , education policy , drug policy , energy policy , development policy , family policy , financial policy , research policy , women's policy , equality policy , health policy , domestic policy , international policy , youth policy , agricultural policy , cultural policy , wage policy , media policy , minority policy , rights policy , education policy , social policy , sports policy , language policy , tax policy , technology policy , environmental policy , consumer protection policy , transport policy , defense policy , economic policy , science policy

Politics: procedural dimension

The ongoing political decision-making processes and the brokering of interests significantly shape the possible results of the policy . In particular, power and its enforcement within the framework of formal and informal rules also determine these politics processes (art of governance in the broadest sense). In liberal-democratic systems (modern democracy , with the rule of law and market economy ) the acceptance of compromise formation is increased in that early stage in addition to the parties and social interest groups (lobby groups such as trade unions and business organizations ) and individuals are involved in the process of decision making.

In developing and influencing policy , politics shows its conflictual side, the struggle for power and influence of different groups and people. In order for content-related programs of action to be implemented, in addition to the acquisition, maintenance and expansion of positions of power, there is also a need for the skillful selection of political leaders, the formulation of the wishes and interests of social groups, the coordination with other demands and interests To be able to offer a comprehensive program of action and to be selectable. This requires the constant consideration of other people (voters, party colleagues, etc.), whose possible reactions when creating and implementing the policy must be factored in and anticipated from the outset. In democratic systems in particular, it is always about collecting consent and consent to the programs of action.

For the politicians themselves, however, the aspect of the struggle for decision-making authority, which encompasses more than the acquisition of state power, is also decisive. In contrast to typical administrative officials , whose area of competence is clearly regulated by the office , the politician must first develop this area and then assert himself. Therefore it is not enough for him to only consider the purely factual aspects in his decision-making. The aspects of acquiring and maintaining power are particularly important in democratic, responsive systems; in this respect, democracy is a highly political form of government .

Politics also plays a role in authoritarian systems in which leaders have less consideration for the population. As long as the actors are under a certain pressure to consider other actors and have to try to generate a willingness to consent, by whatever means, one can speak of politics . The way in which consent is created (consideration of interests, compromise, conviction, coercion, etc.) can then be used to judge politics as “good” or “bad”. “We obviously don't understand a 'smart and skilled politician' as simply a 'good professional' who understands a lot - if he does that, all the better - but a person who has the ability to get people to do it to agree to certain programs of action and to follow them. "

It is not always possible to make a strict distinction between policy and politics . There is not first a program of content and then an effort to get approval for it. The formation of political groups ( coalitions of interests ) takes place in interaction with the development of the program. A political party striving for government power that intends (or wants to prevent) certain social reforms will usually also represent other program items that are less important to it, but are considered necessary for the chance of winning the government majority. This cannot be separated from the “art of government”. The conceptual distinction between policy and politics is justified by the fact that it allows us to "bring order to our thinking about the political."

Categories: political actors, participants and affected persons; Participation; Conflicts; Struggle for shares of power and decision-making authority; Mediation, articulation, selection, bundling and enforcement of interests; Obtaining legitimation through negotiations, seeking compromises, finding consensus

Polity: formal, institutional dimension

The constitution , the applicable legal system and traditions determine the institutions that exist in a political system, such as parliaments and schools. This shapes the way in which the political will is formed and the scope for action of the other dimensions is influenced. Politics in the sense of policy and politics always takes place within this framework. This cannot be changed, but it is so stable that it is not available at any time and at any time.

Parliament: the German Bundestag in the Reichstag building in Berlin

In (modern) states , this is first of all expressed through the constitution, which is generally understood here as a fundamental form of organization that regulates the relationship between the state organs and does not mean the notion of the “constitutional state”, which has already been defined in terms of content, which means concrete Regulations such as the rule of law , separation of powers and guarantee of freedom and civil rights . Furthermore, the proceeds polity as an organizational form and the content of the written constitution in the strict sense and also includes other basic laws such as the Federal Republic of Germany , the Federal Electoral Act or the regulations that the relationship between Parliament and government , government and administration , federal and state governments regulate.

To polity includes the boundaries that are set political action (for example, civil rights, civil definition or state lines). Such a state “constitution” is also based on a unit ( people or civil population) that is “constituted” by it. Thus the aspect of demarcation also belongs to the polity .

In addition to the official, written sets of rules (constitution, laws) there is also the respective political culture of a country; there has already been talk of a “double political constitution”. The written constitution can provide for a parliamentary democracy , but the disinterest of the population or the abuse by the rulers justify the actual constitution of the state as authoritarian . The attempt after 1945 to simply transfer Western constitutional ideas to countries in the Third World has shown this through its sometimes grandiose failure. Legal regulations and political institutions alone, no matter how sophisticated the political system of institutions may be, are not enough to stabilize a political system and explain how it actually works. Social norms and customs , for example not to hit the political opponent below the belt, are usually more important for the continuation of good political manners and thus for the stability of the political system than the possibilities to take legal action against political defamation , i.e. within the framework of the written constitution, to be able to proceed. The typical political orientation and behavior patterns of people belong to the political culture of a society.

Categories: International Agreements and Regulations; Basic Law; Central constitutional principles; political institutions; Laws and legal norms; Political culture

Civil theory discussion of the multidimensional concept of politics

According to Volker von Prittwitz's theory of civil modernity , civil orders are characterized by multi-dimensional coordination. In doing so, forms of interaction based on friends / enemies, power and interests are bound by rules that are recognized by all parties involved (bound governance) . Only in such systems does an independent policy dimension exist, and only in their protection, for example in the protection of human rights, can factual policies be freely developed and discussed. The Policy / Politics / Polity -Trias, which has spread in political science in highly developed industrialized countries since the 1980s, corresponds with the development of civil modernity.

In premodern societies and in countries of uncivilized (merely technical) modernity, on the other hand, one-dimensional forms of politics dominate, in which the rulers can also intervene in current procedures, current constitutional and statutory law and in the course of political discussions. Polity and policies do not form independent political dimensions here, but merely reflect current constellations of power and interests. Multi-dimensional politics is completely lost when the friend / foe logic prevails; because the logic of war fundamentally contradicts a political model in which all those involved come to jointly recognized decisions based on rules that are jointly recognized.

Since even a developed, multi-dimensional system of political will-formation and decisions can perish again, political civility is never completely guaranteed. Rather, there is - often latently - a constant struggle for civil modernity. This applies to domestic political conflicts, for example between democratic public opinion, populism, fundamentalism and extremism; it applies to conflicts over the establishment of a state and state separation (war of separation versus amicable differentiation), and it applies to the area of ​​tension between the UN concept of rule of law (based on human rights) and the pursuit of absolute power, unilateral interest strategies and friend / foe- Patterns between cultures and states.

Delimitation of political and social - politics in the narrower and broader sense

Political questions mostly arise in connection with factual questions, but they cannot be decided by experts in a purely scientific , technocratic manner. The answer always requires basic normative decisions and the weighing of claims that are in principle equally justified and for which there is no right or wrong in the sense of absolute truth . Political questions always also concern questions of human coexistence. Therefore, in addition to subjective opinions and convictions about our interests and rights , the will to enforce them also play a role in the answer . Liberal theory of democracy sees ourselves as the best agent of our own interests , hence the need for basic rights to political participation. Political questions are normative questions that cannot be scientifically decided (see political theory and philosophy of science ).

But not all interpersonal problems are political problems. Human action is generally defined as behavior with which the agent associates a subjective meaning, and social action as action whose intended meaning is related to the behavior of others ( Max Weber ). To do this, people need empathy , the ability to put themselves in the shoes of the interaction partner and see the situation "with his eyes".

This social aspect now becomes political as soon as the coexistence of people as such becomes a problem (conflict-oriented political concept). In all social relationships (circle of friends, colleagues, etc.) , a specific procedure may be necessary to resolve conflicts. All efforts that (should) lead to mediation and regulation can be described as politics in the broader sense . This kind of policy is not the real purpose of these informal groups and social organizations (for example sports clubs).

Only at the level of an anonymous society, which is no longer based on personal acquaintance, does politics become an actual purpose, because the coexistence of many social groups, interests and worldviews is always prone to conflict and requires regulation. All social action that aims to achieve binding regulations for society as a whole is called politics in the narrower sense .

Brief history of the development of important political concepts

see also: Political History of Ideas and State Theory


Scholars early on dealt with what politics should look like; The discussion focused on the questions "What is a good and just state order?" and "How do you really gain power in the state?" Even in ancient times, for example, Aristotle ( 384 to 322 BC ) compared all the constitutions known to him ( political systems ) and developed a typology in his work Politics , which is still much quoted today . In addition to the number of those involved in power (one, a few, all), he distinguished between a good non-profit system ( monarchy , aristocracy , politics ) and a bad self-serving state system ( tyranny , oligarchy , democracy ). The first written laws show that politics not only dealt with the rulers, but also early on with social rules that have been handed down to this day. The Codex Hammurapi ( Babylon , around 1700 BC ) or the Twelve Tables law ( Rome , around 450 BC ) are examples of binding rules that can safely be assessed as the result of politics. If you look at the politicians of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire , you can still see many elements of the politics of that time. Election advertising was written in chalk on the house walls (for example in Pompeii ). There was a complex government apparatus and heated rivalry between officials. Corruption was an issue in legislation and in Roman court hearings. Letters from Cicero to a relative show how carefully the election to a state office was also tactically prepared.

middle Ages

With the fall of the Roman Empire, politics in Europe lost its complexity again, the communities became more manageable and conflicts became smaller. In the time of the Great Migration and the early Middle Ages , politics was more of a warlike power politics and less of institutions and generally accepted rules. The more long-distance trade , money and cities regained importance, the more fixed centers of power were needed again and the more important institutions became. For example, the Hanseatic League was formed as an interest and power group of influential self-governing cities. The Catholic Church was an important, relatively constant center of power . Social communities that swore allegiance to certain leaders (personal association) slowly became hereditary monarchies with fixed borders .

Modern times

In France the archetypal absolutist ruler developed , in England the constitutional monarchy, bound by law and order, arose . There the wealthy citizens were soon officially involved in politics. Over time, the census suffrage was extended to larger parts of the population. During the Enlightenment, scholars devised new models of statecraft. Instead of Niccolò Machiavelli's model of absolute power, which he presented in his book The Prince (Il Principe) , John Locke defined the model of the separation of powers . The Civil liberties demanded by various political philosophers. With Thomas Jefferson's declaration of human rights and the US constitution , the era of the modern constitutional states began. The French Revolution and Napoleon's campaigns revolutionized Europe. With the Civil Code in France, the first code of law based on human rights was introduced. Gradually, the barriers of class fell everywhere . Politics became an issue for the whole people. Parties emerged that first organized an opposition from outside in order to later form the government themselves. Some parties such as the SPD or later the Greens emerged from social movements such as the workers' movement or the anti-nuclear and peace movement , others formed against a religious background ( center ).

In the 20th century , international organizations emerged with increasing influence on politics. The first attempt to form a community of nations in the so-called League of Nations failed with the Second World War . Today there are a number of other international organizations in addition to the United Nations . The European Union represents a special feature, which has a higher level of integration than a classic international organization, but is still not a federal state .

Central political terms

Political systems and ideologies

Anarchism - Authoritarianism - Christian Democracy - Democracy - Dictatorship - Fascism - Institutionalism - Capitalism - Communism - Communitarianism - Conservatism - Contextualism - Political Liberalism - Neoliberalism - Marxism - Nationalism - National Socialism - Parliamentarism - Social Democracy - Socialism - Totalitarianism

Classic political thinkers

Plato - Aristotle - Niccolò Machiavelli - Baruch de Spinoza - Jean Bodin - Hugo Grotius - Charles de Montesquieu - Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Thomas Hobbes - John Locke - John Stuart Mill - Karl Marx - Michail Bakunin - Max Weber - John Rawls - Hannah Arendt

See also

Portal: Politics  - Overview of Wikipedia content on politics
Portal: Politicians  - Overview of Wikipedia content on politicians
Portal: Political Science  - Overview of Wikipedia content on political science


Web links

Commons : Politics  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
 Wikinews: Portal: Politics  - in the news
Wiktionary: Politics  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Dieter Fuchs / Edeltraud Roller: Politics. In: Dieter Fuchs / Edeltraud Roller (ed.): Lexicon politics. A hundred basic terms. Reclam, Stuttgart 2009, pp. 205-209.
  2. Politics. In: Klaus Schubert / Martina Klein: Das Politiklexikon. 5th updated edition, Dietz, Bonn 2011. Last accessed on February 6, 2015.
  3. Cf. Manfred G. Schmidt: Politics. In: ders .: Dictionary on Politics (= Kröner's pocket edition. Volume 404). 2nd, completely revised and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-520-40402-8 , p. 538 f.
  4. ^ Frank Schimmelfennig: International Politics . Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh GmbH & Co. KG, Paderborn 2010, pp. 19-21.
  5. Thomas Bernauer et al .: Introduction to Political Science . Political Science course. Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden 2009, p. 32.
  6. cf. Karl Rohe 1994: p. 61 ff., Which this chapter follows.
  7. Karl Rohe 1994: p. 64.
  8. ^ Karl Rohe 1994: p. 65.
  9. Volker von Prittwitz (ed.): Equally and freely according to commonly recognized rules. Bound Governance - Theory of Civil Modernity , ISBN 978-3-96110-176-4 (Online) / December 2018; Free University of Berlin University Library: https://refubium.fu-berlin.de/handle/fub188/23258.2 , pp. 10–19 and 258/259.
  10. Volker von Prittwitz (ed.): Equally and freely according to commonly recognized rules. Bound Governance - Theory of Civil Modernity , ISBN 978-3-96110-176-4 (Online) / December 2018; Berlin: Free University of Berlin University Library https://refubium.fu-berlin.de/handle/fub188/23258.2 , pp. 10–19; 258/259.
  11. Volker von Prittwitz (ed.): Equally and freely according to commonly recognized rules. Bound Governance - Theory of Civil Modernity , Freie Universität Berlin, University Library: ISBN 978-3-96110-176-4 (Online) / December 2018: https://refubium.fu-berlin.de/handle/fub188/23258.2 ; Pp. 20-28; 68-87; 88-94