Exploring the Definition and Characteristics of Politics

What is Politics?

Politics involves manoeuvring to assert power on a number of different levels. The simplest definition is ‘power as the capacity to influence the actions of others’.

The classic view of politics is that it is essentially about settling contestation over distribution. However, scholars have challenged this view by showing that politics also involves contestation over ways of framing and narrating policy issues.


Politics is a broad term that includes all of the human activities associated with decision-making. It has existed as long as humans have faced scarcity and had different beliefs and preferences, which have to be resolved while allocating scarce resources.

It may be used positively in the context of a “political solution” which is compromising and nonviolent, or descriptively as the art or science of government. But it also often carries a negative connotation, and different approaches have fundamentally differing views on whether politics should be used extensively or limitedly, empirically or normatively, and on whether conflict or co-operation is more essential to it.

This best-selling dictionary defines political terms from a broad spectrum of perspectives and is designed for students and academics of politics and related disciplines, as well as for politicians, journalists and general readers seeking clarification of the terms that shape attitudes to the world around them. It offers international coverage and embraces the whole multi-disciplinary spectrum of political theory.


Politics is an activity that takes place at a range of social levels, from clans and tribes to modern local government, companies and institutions and sovereign states. People engage in politics by promoting their ideas among other members of the group, engaging in negotiation with others and exercising internal and external force.

The character of politics is shaped by the political style of individuals. People can be minimally, moderately, highly or pathologically politicized. The pragmatist, for example, may be willing to engage in politics that advance group goals and values, whereas the street fighter is likely to use rough tactics to achieve individual goals at the expense of others.

Researchers have found that the self-rated political style of politicians is influenced by their personality traits. For example, Scott and Medeiros (2020) find that a politician’s low agreeableness is predictive of his actual vote share and longevity in office, while Amsalem et al.

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