Politics is the arrangement of activities which are related to making decisions in relation to groups, individuals or other types of political power relations within societies, including the distribution of basic status or resources. The field of political science is also known as social science. In this modern era politics has become an important force in society, representing one of the major influences upon societal behavior. There are two broad approaches to the study of politics: descriptive and institutional. The former concentrates on studying politics as an attribute of society while the latter investigates how institutions help shape political behavior.
The most common theory on politics is public policy. This theory suggests that politics may be studied to improve governmental policies that promote the economic well-being of citizens. Proponents of this view assume that politics may be studied as a process in which power is seized and dispersed according to the demands of the majority. Proponents of this view argue that politics is not only about elected office and party politics but it is also about civil society, the government’s legitimacy, and the legitimacy of its institutions.
Another popular theory of politics is sociology. This school of thought maintains that politics may be studied as a social science concerned with analyzing various institutions and policies that shape society. The scope of sociology includes all of the aspects of institutions and politics that affect the composition of the material world. In this way politics may also be understood as a social science whose focus is on understanding how various institutions interact with each other and how politics affects these institutions.
Comparative politics is another popular theory of politics. In this theory politics is seen as a relation of forces within societies and is studied to determine which relations of force are more potent than others. Examples of comparative political theories include international politics, national politics, international trade, and racism and sexism.
An alternative perspective on politics concerns the political economy. The study of politics as an economic activity draws on several fields in social science and economics. One school of thought is called Utilitarians who believe that politics is simply a set of tactics and tradeoffs between competing states in politics. For Utilitarians, politics has little to do with values and beliefs, but instead is purely a matter of practicality. By contrast, an Alternative School of Politics looks at politics as an objective system of interaction in which values, beliefs, and interests shape the course of events.
A further strand of political thought is Postcolonial politics. According to this school politics is the result of colonial expansion and the rise of new powers in world politics. It is argued that, rather than being an independent field of study, politics has been infused with influences from European and North American cultures. Thus, the effects of politics on politics have been both positive and negative, resulting in a complex web of interactions among different institutions.
The last major strand of analysis is what is commonly known as Critical Theory. This school of thought looks closely at how politics has an effect on society as a whole. By examining how politics has affected society, the researchers attempt to provide social scientists with a general understanding of how the processes of politics affect the course of events. Though often controversial, this school of thought is influential in shaping the study of politics.
In all, the social sciences have provided social scientists with a richly diverse set of tools to help them understand politics. In particular, politics has had a profound effect on science, making it important for scholars to look into the various different fields of social science in order to support or oppose particular policies or actions. As social scientists gain insight into politics, they can also examine the effects politics has on society. Ultimately, by examining politics in the various disciplines, the reader is better able to understand why politics matter.