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Politics (from Greek : Πολιτικά, politiká, 'affairs of the cities') is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status. The academic study of politics is referred to as political science.


It may be used positively in the context of a "political solution" which is compromising and non-violent, [1] or descriptively as "the art or science of government", but also often carries a negative connotation. [2] For example, abolitionist Wendell Phillips declared that "we do not play politics; anti-slavery is no half-jest with us." [3] The concept has been defined in various ways, and different approaches have fundamentally differing views on whether it should be used extensively or limitedly, empirically or normatively, and on whether conflict or co-operation is more essential to it.

A variety of methods are deployed in politics, which include promoting one's own political views among people, negotiation with other political subjects, making laws, and exercising force, including warfare against adversaries. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] Politics is exercised on a wide range of social levels, from clans and tribes of traditional societies, through modern local governments, companies and institutions up to sovereign states, to the international level. In modern nation states, people often form political parties to represent their ideas. Members of a party often agree to take the same position on many issues and agree to support the same changes to law and the same leaders. An election is usually a competition between different parties.

A political system is a framework which defines acceptable political methods within a society. The history of political thought can be traced back to early antiquity, with seminal works such as Plato's Republic , Aristotle's Politics, Chanakya's Arthashastra and Chanakya Niti (3rd century BCE), as well as the works of Confucius. [9]


The English politics has its roots in the name of Aristotle's classic work, Politiká , which introduced the Greek term politiká (Πολιτικά, 'affairs of the cities'). In the mid-15th century, Aristotle's composition would be rendered in Early Modern English as Polettiques[ sic ], [lower-alpha 1] [10] which would become Politics in Modern English.

The singular politic first attested in English in 1430, coming from Middle French politique—itself taking from politicus, [11] a Latinization of the Greek πολιτικός (politikos) from πολίτης (polites, 'citizen') and πόλις ( polis , 'city'). [12]


Politics comprises all the activities of co-operation, negotiation and conflict within and between societies, whereby people go about organizing the use, production or distribution of human, natural and other resources in the course of the production and reproduction of their biological and social life. [17]


There are several ways in which approaching politics has been conceptualized.

Extensive and limited

Adrian Leftwich has differentiated views of politics based on how extensive or limited their perception of what accounts as 'political' is. [18] The extensive view sees politics as present across the sphere of human social relations, while the limited view restricts it to certain contexts. For example, in a more restrictive way, politics may be viewed as primarily about governance, [19] while a feminist perspective could argue that sites which have been viewed traditionally as non-political, should indeed be viewed as political as well. [20] This latter position is encapsulated in the slogan the personal is political , which disputes the distinction between private and public issues. Instead, politics may be defined by the use of power, as has been argued by Robert A. Dahl. [21]

Moralism and realism

Some perspectives on politics view it empirically as an exercise of power, while others see it as a social function with a normative basis. [22] This distinction has been called the difference between political moralism and political realism . [23] For moralists, politics is closely linked to ethics, and is at its extreme in utopian thinking. [23] For example, according to Hannah Arendt, the view of Aristotle was that "to be political…meant that everything was decided through words and persuasion and not through violence;" [24] while according to Bernard Crick "[p]olitics is the way in which free societies are governed. Politics is politics and other forms of rule are something else." [25] In contrast, for realists, represented by those such as Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, and Harold Lasswell, politics is based on the use of power, irrespective of the ends being pursued. [26] [23]

Conflict and co-operation

Agonism argues that politics essentially comes down to conflict between conflicting interests. Political scientist Elmer Schattschneider argued that "at the root of all politics is the universal language of conflict," [27] while for Carl Schmitt the essence of politics is the distinction of 'friend' from foe'. [28] This is in direct contrast to the more co-operative views of politics by Aristotle and Crick. However, a more mixed view between these extremes is provided by Irish author Michael Laver, who noted that:

Politics is about the characteristic blend of conflict and co-operation that can be found so often in human interactions. Pure conflict is war. Pure co-operation is true love. Politics is a mixture of both. [29]


The history of politics spans human history and is not limited to modern institutions of government.


Frans de Waal argued that already chimpanzees engage in politics through "social manipulation to secure and maintain influential positions." [30] Early human forms of social organization—bands and tribes—lacked centralized political structures. [31] These are sometimes referred to as stateless societies.

Early states

In ancient history, civilizations did not have definite boundaries as states have today, and their borders could be more accurately described as frontiers. Early dynastic Sumer, and early dynastic Egypt were the first civilizations to define their borders. Moreover, up to the 12th century, many people lived in non-state societies. These range from relatively egalitarian bands and tribes to complex and highly stratified chiefdoms.

State formation

There are a number of different theories and hypotheses regarding early state formation that seek generalizations to explain why the state developed in some places but not others. Other scholars believe that generalizations are unhelpful and that each case of early state formation should be treated on its own. [32]

Voluntary theories contend that diverse groups of people came together to form states as a result of some shared rational interest. [33] The theories largely focus on the development of agriculture, and the population and organizational pressure that followed and resulted in state formation. One of the most prominent theories of early and primary state formation is the hydraulic hypothesis, which contends that the state was a result of the need to build and maintain large-scale irrigation projects. [34]

Conflict theories of state formation regard conflict and dominance of some population over another population as key to the formation of states. [33] In contrast with voluntary theories, these arguments believe that people do not voluntarily agree to create a state to maximize benefits, but that states form due to some form of oppression by one group over others. Some theories in turn argue that warfare was critical for state formation. [33]

Ancient history

The first states of sorts were those of early dynastic Sumer and early dynastic Egypt, which arose from the Uruk period and Predynastic Egypt respectively around approximately 3000 BCE. [35] Early dynastic Egypt was based around the Nile River in the north-east of Africa, the kingdom's boundaries being based around the Nile and stretching to areas where oases existed. [36] Early dynastic Sumer was located in southern Mesopotamia with its borders extending from the Persian Gulf to parts of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. [35]

Although state-forms existed before the rise of the Ancient Greek empire, the Greeks were the first people known to have explicitly formulated a political philosophy of the state, and to have rationally analyzed political institutions. Prior to this, states were described and justified in terms of religious myths. [37]

Several important political innovations of classical antiquity came from the Greek city-states ( polis ) and the Roman Republic. The Greek city-states before the 4th century granted citizenship rights to their free population; in Athens these rights were combined with a directly democratic form of government that was to have a long afterlife in political thought and history.[ citation needed ]

Modern states

Women voter outreach (1935) Women voter outreach 1935 English Yiddish.jpg
Women voter outreach (1935)

The Peace of Westphalia (1648) is considered by political scientists to be the beginning of the modern international system, [38] [39] [40] in which external powers should avoid interfering in another country's domestic affairs. [41] The principle of non-interference in other countries' domestic affairs was laid out in the mid-18th century by Swiss jurist Emer de Vattel. [42] States became the primary institutional agents in an interstate system of relations. The Peace of Westphalia is said to have ended attempts to impose supranational authority on European states. The "Westphalian" doctrine of states as independent agents was bolstered by the rise in 19th century thought of nationalism, under which legitimate states were assumed to correspond to nations —groups of people united by language and culture. [43]

In Europe, during the 18th century, the classic non-national states were the multinational empires: the Austrian Empire, Kingdom of France, Kingdom of Hungary, [44] the Russian Empire, the Spanish Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the British Empire. Such empires also existed in Asia, Africa, and the Americas; in the Muslim world, immediately after the death of Muhammad in 632, Caliphates were established, which developed into multi-ethnic trans-national empires. [45] The multinational empire was an absolute monarchy ruled by a king, emperor or sultan. The population belonged to many ethnic groups, and they spoke many languages. The empire was dominated by one ethnic group, and their language was usually the language of public administration. The ruling dynasty was usually, but not always, from that group. Some of the smaller European states were not so ethnically diverse, but were also dynastic states, ruled by a royal house. A few of the smaller states survived, such as the independent principalities of Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, and the republic of San Marino.

Most theories see the nation state as a 19th-century European phenomenon, facilitated by developments such as state-mandated education, mass literacy, and mass media. However, historians[ who? ] also note the early emergence of a relatively unified state and identity in Portugal and the Dutch Republic. [46] Scholars such as Steven Weber, David Woodward, Michel Foucault, and Jeremy Black have advanced the hypothesis that the nation state did not arise out of political ingenuity or an unknown undetermined source, nor was it an accident of history or political invention. [47] [48] [49] Rather, the nation state is an inadvertent byproduct of 15th-century intellectual discoveries in political economy, capitalism, mercantilism, political geography, and geography [50] [51] combined together with cartography [52] [53] and advances in map-making technologies. [54] [55]

Some nation states, such as Germany and Italy, came into existence at least partly as a result of political campaigns by nationalists, during the 19th century. In both cases, the territory was previously divided among other states, some of them very small. Liberal ideas of free trade played a role in German unification, which was preceded by a customs union, the Zollverein. National self-determination was a key aspect of United States President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, leading to the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, while the Russian Empire became the Soviet Union after the Russian Civil War. Decolonization lead to the creation of new nation states in place of multinational empires in the Third World.


Political globalization began in the 20th century through intergovernmental organizations and supranational unions. The League of Nations was founded after World War I, and after World War II it was replaced by the United Nations. Various international treaties have been signed through it. Regional integration has been pursued by the African Union, ASEAN, the European Union, and Mercosur. International political institutions on the international level include the International Criminal Court, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization.

Political science

Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), from a detail of The School of Athens, a fresco by Raphael. Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Politics secured the two Greek philosophers as two of the most influential political philosophers. Sanzio 01 Plato Aristotle.jpg
Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), from a detail of The School of Athens , a fresco by Raphael. Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Politics secured the two Greek philosophers as two of the most influential political philosophers.

The study of politics is called political science, or politology. It comprises numerous subfields, including comparative politics, political economy, international relations, political philosophy, public administration, public policy, and political methodology. Furthermore, political science is related to, and draws upon, the fields of economics, law, sociology, history, philosophy, geography, psychology/psychiatry, anthropology, and neurosciences.

Comparative politics is the science of comparison and teaching of different types of constitutions, political actors, legislature and associated fields, all of them from an intrastate perspective. International relations deals with the interaction between nation-states as well as intergovernmental and transnational organizations. Political philosophy is more concerned with contributions of various classical and contemporary thinkers and philosophers.

Political science is methodologically diverse and appropriates many methods originating in psychology, social research, and cognitive neuroscience. Approaches include positivism, interpretivism, rational choice theory, behavioralism, structuralism, post-structuralism, realism, institutionalism, and pluralism. Political science, as one of the social sciences, uses methods and techniques that relate to the kinds of inquiries sought: primary sources such as historical documents and official records, secondary sources such as scholarly journal articles, survey research, statistical analysis, case studies, experimental research, and model building.

Political system

Systems view of politics. Systems view of politics.png
Systems view of politics.

The political system defines the process for making official government decisions. It is usually compared to the legal system, economic system, cultural system, and other social systems. According to David Easton, "A political system can be designated as the interactions through which values are authoritatively allocated for a society." [56] Each political system is embedded in a society with its own political culture, and they in turn shape their societies through public policy. The interactions between different political systems are the basis for global politics.

Forms of government

Legislatures are an important political institution. Pictured is the Parliament of Finland. Eduskuntatalo (Finnish Parliament building).JPG
Legislatures are an important political institution. Pictured is the Parliament of Finland.

Forms of government can be classified by several ways. In terms of the structure of power, there are monarchies (including constitutional monarchies) and republics (usually presidential, semi-presidential, or parliamentary).

The separation of powers describes the degree of horizontal integration between the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, and other independent institutions.

Source of power

The source of power determines the difference between democracies, oligarchies, and autocracies.

In a democracy, political legitimacy is based on popular sovereignty. Forms of democracy include representative democracy, direct democracy, and demarchy. These are separated by the way decisions are made, whether by elected representatives, referenda, or by citizen juries. Democracies can be either republics or constitutional monarchies.

Oligarchy is a power structure where a minority rules. These may be in the form of anocracy, aristocracy, ergatocracy, geniocracy, gerontocracy, kakistocracy, kleptocracy, meritocracy, noocracy, particracy, plutocracy, stratocracy, technocracy, theocracy, or timocracy.

Autocracies are either dictatorships (including military dictatorships) or absolute monarchies.

The pathway of regional integration or separation The pathway of regional integration or separation.png
The pathway of regional integration or separation

Vertical integration

In terms of level of vertical integration, political systems can be divided into (from least to most integrated) confederations, federations, and unitary states.

A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing provinces, states, or other regions under a central federal government (federalism). In a federation, the self-governing status of the component states, as well as the division of power between them and the central government, is typically constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision of either party, the states or the federal political body. Federations were formed first in Switzerland, then in the United States in 1776, in Canada in 1867 and in Germany in 1871 and in 1901, Australia. Compared to a federation, a confederation has less centralized power.


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Federal states
Unitary states
No government Map of unitary and federal states.svg
  No government

All the above forms of government are variations of the same basic polity, the sovereign state. The state has been defined by Max Weber as a political entity that has monopoly on violence within its territory, while the Montevideo Convention holds that states need to have a defined territory; a permanent population; a government; and a capacity to enter into international relations.

A stateless society is a society that is not governed by a state. [57] In stateless societies, there is little concentration of authority; most positions of authority that do exist are very limited in power and are generally not permanently held positions; and social bodies that resolve disputes through predefined rules tend to be small. [58] Stateless societies are highly variable in economic organization and cultural practices. [59]

While stateless societies were the norm in human prehistory, few stateless societies exist today; almost the entire global population resides within the jurisdiction of a sovereign state. In some regions nominal state authorities may be very weak and wield little or no actual power. Over the course of history most stateless peoples have been integrated into the state-based societies around them. [60]

Some political philosophies consider the state undesirable, and thus consider the formation of a stateless society a goal to be achieved. A central tenet of anarchism is the advocacy of society without states. [57] [61] The type of society sought for varies significantly between anarchist schools of thought, ranging from extreme individualism to complete collectivism. [62] In Marxism, Marx's theory of the state considers that in a post-capitalist society the state, an undesirable institution, would be unnecessary and wither away. [63] A related concept is that of stateless communism, a phrase sometimes used to describe Marx's anticipated post-capitalist society.


Constitutions are written documents that specify and limit the powers of the different branches of government. Although a constitution is a written document, there is also an unwritten constitution. The unwritten constitution is continually being written by the legislative and judiciary branch of government; this is just one of those cases in which the nature of the circumstances determines the form of government that is most appropriate. [64] England did set the fashion of written constitutions during the Civil War but after the Restoration abandoned them to be taken up later by the American Colonies after their emancipation and then France after the Revolution and the rest of Europe including the European colonies.

Constitutions often set out separation of powers, dividing the government into the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary (together referred to as the trias politica), in order to achieve checks and balances within the state. Additional independent branches may also be created, including civil service commissions, election commissions, and supreme audit institutions.

Political culture

Inglehart-Weltzel cultural map of countries. Inglehart-Values-Map-Small.png
Inglehart-Weltzel cultural map of countries.

Political culture describes how culture impacts politics. Every political system is embedded in a particular political culture. [65] Lucian Pye's definition is that "Political culture is the set of attitudes, beliefs, and sentiments, which give order and meaning to a political process and which provide the underlying assumptions and rules that govern behavior in the political system". [65]

Trust is a major factor in political culture, as its level determines the capacity of the state to function. [66] Postmaterialism is the degree to which a political culture is concerned with issues which are not of immediate physical or material concern, such as human rights and environmentalism. [65] Religion has also an impact on political culture. [66]

Political dysfunction

Political corruption

Political corruption is the use of powers for illegitimate private gain, conducted by government officials or their network contacts. Forms of political corruption include bribery, cronyism, nepotism, and political patronage. Forms of political patronage, in turn, includes clientelism, earmarking, pork barreling, slush funds, and spoils systems; as well as political machines, which is a political system that operates for corrupt ends.

When corruption is embedded in political culture, this may be referred to as patrimonialism or neopatrimonialism. A form of government that is built on corruption is called a kleptocracy ('rule of thieves').

Political conflict

Political conflict entails the use of political violence to achieve political ends. As noted by Carl von Clausewitz, "War is a mere continuation of politics by other means." [67] Beyond just inter-state warfare, this may include civil war; wars of national liberation; or asymmetric warfare, such as guerrilla war or terrorism. When a political system is overthrown, the event is called a revolution: it is a political revolution if it does not go further; or a social revolution if the social system is also radically altered. However, these may also be nonviolent revolutions.

Levels of politics


Macropolitics can either describe political issues that affect an entire political system (e.g. the nation state), or refer to interactions between political systems (e.g. international relations). [68]

Global politics (or world politics) covers all aspects of politics that affect multiple political systems, in practice meaning any political phenomenon crossing national borders. This can include cities, nation-states, multinational corporations, non-governmental organizations, and/or international organizations. An important element is international relations: the relations between nation-states may be peaceful when they are conducted through diplomacy, or they may be violent, which is described as war. States that are able to exert strong international influence are referred to as superpowers, whereas less-powerful ones may be called regional or middle powers. The international system of power is called the world order, which is affected by the balance of power that defines the degree of polarity in the system. Emerging powers are potentially destabilizing to it, especially if they display revanchism or irredentism.

Politics inside the limits of political systems, which in contemporary context correspond to national borders, are referred to as domestic politics. This includes most forms of public policy, such as social policy, economic policy, or law enforcement, which are executed by the state bureaucracy.


Mesopolitics describes the politics of intermediary structures within a political system, such as national political parties or movements. [68]

A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to attain and maintain political power within government, usually by participating in political campaigns, educational outreach, or protest actions. Parties often espouse an expressed ideology or vision, bolstered by a written platform with specific goals, forming a coalition among disparate interests. [69]

Political parties within a particular political system together form the party system, which can be either multiparty, two-party, dominant-party, or one-party, depending on the level of pluralism. This is affected by characteristics of the political system, including its electoral system. According to Duverger's law, first-past-the-post systems are likely to lead to two-party systems, while proportional representation systems are more likely to create a multiparty system.


Micropolitics describes the actions of individual actors within the political system. [68] This is often described as political participation. [70] Political participation may take many forms, including:

Political values


Democracy is a system of processing conflicts in which outcomes depend on what participants do, but no single force controls what occurs and its outcomes. The uncertainty of outcomes is inherent in democracy. Democracy makes all forces struggle repeatedly to realize their interests and devolves power from groups of people to sets of rules. [71]

Among modern political theorists, there are three contending conceptions of democracy: aggregative, deliberative , and radical . [72]


The theory of aggregative democracy claims that the aim of the democratic processes is to solicit the preferences of citizens, and aggregate them together to determine what social policies the society should adopt. Therefore, proponents of this view hold that democratic participation should primarily focus on voting, where the policy with the most votes gets implemented.

Different variants of aggregative democracy exist. Under minimalism, democracy is a system of government in which citizens have given teams of political leaders the right to rule in periodic elections. According to this minimalist conception, citizens cannot and should not "rule" because, for example, on most issues, most of the time, they have no clear views or their views are not well-founded. Joseph Schumpeter articulated this view most famously in his book Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy . [73] Contemporary proponents of minimalism include William H. Riker, Adam Przeworski, Richard Posner.

According to the theory of direct democracy , on the other hand, citizens should vote directly, not through their representatives, on legislative proposals. Proponents of direct democracy offer varied reasons to support this view. Political activity can be valuable in itself, it socializes and educates citizens, and popular participation can check powerful elites. Most importantly, citizens do not rule themselves unless they directly decide laws and policies.

Governments will tend to produce laws and policies that are close to the views of the median voter—with half to their left and the other half to their right. This is not a desirable outcome as it represents the action of self-interested and somewhat unaccountable political elites competing for votes. Anthony Downs suggests that ideological political parties are necessary to act as a mediating broker between individual and governments. Downs laid out this view in his 1957 book An Economic Theory of Democracy . [74]

Robert A. Dahl argues that the fundamental democratic principle is that, when it comes to binding collective decisions, each person in a political community is entitled to have his/her interests be given equal consideration (not necessarily that all people are equally satisfied by the collective decision). He uses the term polyarchy to refer to societies in which there exists a certain set of institutions and procedures which are perceived as leading to such democracy. First and foremost among these institutions is the regular occurrence of free and open elections which are used to select representatives who then manage all or most of the public policy of the society. However, these polyarchic procedures may not create a full democracy if, for example, poverty prevents political participation. [75] Similarly, Ronald Dworkin argues that "democracy is a substantive, not a merely procedural, ideal." [76]


Deliberative democracy is based on the notion that democracy is government by deliberation. Unlike aggregative democracy, deliberative democracy holds that, for a democratic decision to be legitimate, it must be preceded by authentic deliberation, not merely the aggregation of preferences that occurs in voting. Authentic deliberation is deliberation among decision-makers that is free from distortions of unequal political power, such as power a decision-maker obtained through economic wealth or the support of interest groups. [77] [78] [79] If the decision-makers cannot reach consensus after authentically deliberating on a proposal, then they vote on the proposal using a form of majority rule.


Radical democracy is based on the idea that there are hierarchical and oppressive power relations that exist in society. Democracy's role is to make visible and challenge those relations by allowing for difference, dissent and antagonisms in decision-making processes.


Two-axis political compass chart with a horizontal socio-economic axis and a vertical socio-cultural axis and ideologically representative political colours, an example for a frequently used model of the political spectrum Political Compass yellow LibRight.svg
Two-axis political compass chart with a horizontal socio-economic axis and a vertical socio-cultural axis and ideologically representative political colours, an example for a frequently used model of the political spectrum
Three axis model of political ideologies with both moderate and radical versions and the goals of their policies 3-axis-model-of-political-ideologies-with-both-moderate-and-radical-versions-and-policies-goals.png
Three axis model of political ideologies with both moderate and radical versions and the goals of their policies

Equality is a state of affairs in which all people within a specific society or isolated group have the same social status, especially socioeconomic status, including protection of human rights and dignity, and equal access to certain social goods and social services. Furthermore, it may also include health equality, economic equality and other social securities. Social equality requires the absence of legally enforced social class or caste boundaries and the absence of discrimination motivated by an inalienable part of a person's identity. To this end there must be equal justice under law, and equal opportunity regardless of, for example, sex, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, origin, caste or class, income or property, language, religion, convictions, opinions, health or disability.

Left–right spectrum

A common way of understanding politics is through the left–right political spectrum, which ranges from left-wing politics via centrism to right-wing politics. This classification is comparatively recent and dates from the French Revolution, when those members of the National Assembly who supported the republic, the common people and a secular society sat on the left and supporters of the monarchy, aristocratic privilege and the Church sat on the right. [88]

Today, the left is generally progressivist, seeking social progress in society. The more extreme elements of the left, named the far-left, tend to support revolutionary means for achieving this. This includes ideologies such as Communism and Marxism. The center-left, on the other hand, advocate for more reformist approaches, for example that of social democracy.

In contrast, the right is generally motivated by conservatism, which seeks to conserve what it sees as the important elements of society. The far-right goes beyond this, and often represents a reactionary turn against progress, seeking to undo it. Examples of such ideologies have included Fascism and Nazism. The center-right may be less clear-cut and more mixed in this regard, with neoconservatives supporting the spread of democracy, and one-nation conservatives more open to social welfare programs.

According to Norberto Bobbio, one of the major exponents of this distinction, the left believes in attempting to eradicate social inequality—believing it to be unethical or unnatural, [89] while the right regards most social inequality as the result of ineradicable natural inequalities, and sees attempts to enforce social equality as utopian or authoritarian. [90] Some ideologies, notably Christian Democracy, claim to combine left and right-wing politics; according to Geoffrey K. Roberts and Patricia Hogwood, "In terms of ideology, Christian Democracy has incorporated many of the views held by liberals, conservatives and socialists within a wider framework of moral and Christian principles." [91] Movements which claim or formerly claimed to be above the left-right divide include Fascist Terza Posizione economic politics in Italy and Peronism in Argentina. [92] [93]


Political freedom (also known as political liberty or autonomy) is a central concept in political thought and one of the most important features of democratic societies. Negative liberty has been described as freedom from oppression or coercion and unreasonable external constraints on action, often enacted through civil and political rights, while positive liberty is the absence of disabling conditions for an individual and the fulfillment of enabling conditions, e.g. economic compulsion, in a society. This capability approach to freedom requires economic, social and cultural rights in order to be realized.

Authoritarianism and libertarianism

Authoritarianism and libertarianism disagree the amount of individual freedom each person possesses in that society relative to the state. One author describes authoritarian political systems as those where "individual rights and goals are subjugated to group goals, expectations and conformities," [94] while libertarians generally oppose the state and hold the individual as sovereign. In their purest form, libertarians are anarchists, [95] who argue for the total abolition of the state, of political parties and of other political entities, while the purest authoritarians are, by definition, totalitarians who support state control over all aspects of society. [96]

For instance, classical liberalism (also known as laissez-faire liberalism) [97] is a doctrine stressing individual freedom and limited government. This includes the importance of human rationality, individual property rights, free markets, natural rights, the protection of civil liberties, constitutional limitation of government, and individual freedom from restraint as exemplified in the writings of John Locke, Adam Smith, David Hume, David Ricardo, Voltaire, Montesquieu and others. According to the libertarian Institute for Humane Studies, "the libertarian, or 'classical liberal,' perspective is that individual well-being, prosperity, and social harmony are fostered by 'as much liberty as possible' and 'as little government as necessary.'" [98] For anarchist political philosopher L. Susan Brown (1993), "liberalism and anarchism are two political philosophies that are fundamentally concerned with individual freedom yet differ from one another in very distinct ways. Anarchism shares with liberalism a radical commitment to individual freedom while rejecting liberalism's competitive property relations." [99]

See also

Related Research Articles

Anarchism is a political philosophy and movement that is sceptical of authority and rejects all involuntary, coercive forms of hierarchy. Anarchism calls for the abolition of the state which it holds to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful. It is usually described alongside libertarian Marxism as the libertarian wing of the socialist movement and as having a historical association with anti-capitalism and socialism.

Anarcho-capitalism is a political philosophy and economic theory that advocates the elimination of centralized states in favor of a system of private property enforced by private agencies, free markets and the right-libertarian interpretation of self-ownership, which extends the concept to include control of private property as part of the self. In the absence of statute, anarcho-capitalists hold that society tends to contractually self-regulate and civilize through participation in the free market which they describe as a voluntary society. Anarcho-capitalists support wage labour and believe that neither protection of person and property nor victim compensation requires a state. In a theoretical anarcho-capitalist society, the system of private property would still exist and be enforced by private defense agencies and insurance companies selected by customers which would operate competitively in an open market and fulfill the roles of courts and the police.

Democracy System of government of, for and by the people

Democracy is a form of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislation. Who people are and how authority is shared among them are core issues for democratic theory, development and constitution. Cornerstones include freedom of assembly and speech, inclusiveness and equality, membership, consent, voting, right to life and minority rights.

Libertarian socialism, also referred to as anarcho-socialism, anarchist socialism, free socialism, stateless socialism, socialist anarchism and socialist libertarianism, is an anti-authoritarian, anti-statist and libertarian political philosophy within the socialist movement which rejects the state socialist conception of socialism as a statist form where the state retains centralized control of the economy. Overlapping with anarchism and libertarianism, libertarian socialists criticize wage slavery relationships within the workplace, emphasizing workers' self-management and decentralized structures of political organization. As a broad socialist tradition and movement, libertarian socialism includes anarchist, Marxist and anarchist or Marxist-inspired thought as well as other left-libertarian tendencies. Anarchism and libertarian Marxism are the main currents of libertarian socialism.

Political philosophy Sub-discipline of philosophy and political science

Political philosophy, also known as political theory, is the study of topics such as politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of laws by authority: what they are, if they are needed, what makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect, what form it should take, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown, if ever.

Socialism is a political, social and economic philosophy encompassing a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management of enterprises. It includes the political theories and movements associated with such systems. Social ownership can be public, collective, cooperative, or of equity. While no single definition encapsulates many types of socialism, social ownership is the one common element. Socialists disagree about the degree to which social control or regulation of the economy is necessary; how far society should intervene and whether government, particularly existing government, is the correct vehicle for change are issues of disagreement.

State (polity) Organised community living under a system of government

A state is a polity under a system of governance. There is no undisputed definition of a state. A widely used definition from the German sociologist Max Weber is that a "state" is a polity that maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence, although other definitions are not uncommon.

The justification of the state refers to the source of legitimate authority for the state or government. Typically, such a justification explains why the state should exist, and to some degree scopes the role of government - what a legitimate state should or should not be able to do.

In political science, statism is the doctrine that the political authority of the state is legitimate to some degree. This may include economic and social policy, especially in regard to taxation and the means of production.

Anarchist economics is the set of theories and practices of economic activity within the political philosophy of anarchism. Anarchists are anti-capitalists, with anarchism usually referred to as a form of libertarian socialism, i.e. a stateless system of socialism. Anarchists support personal property and oppose capital concentration, interest, monopoly, private ownership of productive property such as the means of production, profit, rent, usury and wage slavery which are viewed as inherent to capitalism.

The nature of capitalism is criticized by anarchists, who reject hierarchy and advocate stateless societies based on non-hierarchical voluntary associations. Anarchism is generally defined as the libertarian philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful as well as opposing authoritarianism, illegitimate authority and hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations. Capitalism is generally considered by scholars to be an economic system that includes private ownership of the means of production, creation of goods or services for profit or income, the accumulation of capital, competitive markets, voluntary exchange and wage labor which has generally been opposed by anarchists historically. Since capitalism is variously defined by sources and there is no general consensus among scholars on the definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category, the designation is applied to a variety of historical cases, varying in time, geography, politics and culture.

Left-libertarianism, also known as egalitarian libertarianism, left-wing libertarianism or social libertarianism, is a political philosophy and type of libertarianism that stresses both individual freedom and social equality. Left-libertarianism represents several related yet distinct approaches to political and social theory. In its classical usage, it refers to anti-authoritarian varieties of left-wing politics such as anarchism, especially social anarchism, whose adherents simply call it libertarianism. In the United States, it represents the left-wing of the libertarian movement and the political positions associated with academic philosophers Hillel Steiner, Philippe Van Parijs and Peter Vallentyne that combine self-ownership with an egalitarian approach to natural resources. This is done to distinguish libertarian views on the nature of property and capital, usually along left–right or socialist–capitalist lines.

Stateless society anthropological phenomenon of societies where state-like social organisation is not present

A stateless society is a society that is not governed by a state. In stateless societies, there is little concentration of authority; most positions of authority that do exist are very limited in power and are generally not permanently held positions; and social bodies that resolve disputes through predefined rules tend to be small. Stateless societies are highly variable in economic organization and cultural practices.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to anarchism, generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority and hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations. Proponents of anarchism, known as anarchists, advocate stateless societies or non-hierarchical voluntary associations.

Anarchy is the state of a society being freely constituted without authorities or a governing body. It may also refer to a society or group of people that entirely rejects a set hierarchy. Anarchy was first used in 1539, meaning "an absence of government". Pierre-Joseph Proudhon adopted anarchy and anarchist in his 1840 treatise What Is Property? to refer to anarchism, a new political philosophy and social movement which advocates stateless societies based on free and voluntary associations. Anarchists seek a system based on the abolishment of all unjustified, coercitive hierarchy and the creation of system of direct democracy and worker cooperatives.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to politics and political science:

State socialism is a political and economic ideology within the socialist movement advocating state ownership of the means of production, either as a temporary measure or as a characteristic of socialism in the transition from the capitalist to the socialist mode of production or communist society. Aside from anarchists and other libertarian socialists, there was confidence amongst socialists in the concept of state socialism as being the most effective form of socialism. Some early social democrats in the late 19th century and early 20th century such as the Fabians claimed that British society was already mostly socialist and that the economy was significantly socialist through government-run enterprises created by conservative and liberal governments which could be run for the interests of the people through their representatives' influence, an argument reinvoked by some socialists in post-war Britain. State socialism went into decline starting in the 1970s, with the discovery of stagflation during the 1970s energy crisis, the rise of neoliberalism and later with the fall of state socialist regimes in the Eastern Bloc during the Revolutions of 1989 and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Types of socialism include a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production and organizational self-management of enterprises as well as the political theories and movements associated with socialism. Social ownership may refer to forms of public, collective or cooperative ownership, or to citizen ownership of equity in which surplus value goes to the working class and hence society as a whole. There are many varieties of socialism and no single definition encapsulates all of them, but social ownership is the common element shared by its various forms. Socialists disagree about the degree to which social control or regulation of the economy is necessary; how far society should intervene and whether government, particularly existing government, is the correct vehicle for change are issues of disagreement.

Social anarchism is the branch of anarchism that sees individual freedom as interrelated with mutual aid. Social anarchist thought emphasizes community and social equality as complementary to autonomy and personal freedom. It attempts to accomplish this balance through freedom of speech, which is maintained in a decentralized federalism, with freedom of interaction in thought and subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is best defined as "that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry" and that "[f]or every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them", or the slogan "Do not take tools out of people's hands".

Left-wing market anarchism is a strand of free-market anarchism and an individualist anarchist, left-libertarian and libertarian socialist political philosophy and market socialist economic theory associated with contemporary scholars such as Kevin Carson, Gary Chartier, Charles W. Johnson, Roderick T. Long, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Sheldon Richman and Brad Spangler, who stress the value of radically free markets, termed freed markets to distinguish them from the common conception which these libertarians believe to be riddled with statist and capitalist privileges. Proponents of this approach distinguish themselves from right-libertarians and strongly affirm the classical liberal ideas of self-ownership and free markets while maintaining that taken to their logical conclusions these ideas support anti-capitalist, anti-corporatist, anti-hierarchical and pro-labor positions in economics; anti-imperialism in foreign policy; and thoroughly radical views regarding socio-cultural issues.



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Further reading