6.1.1 The Definition of ‘Political’

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/611.htm)

Michael Oakeshott, in his inaugural lecture as Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics, defined politics as:

“the activity of attending to the general arrangements of a set of people whom chance or choice have brought together.  In this sense, families, clubs, and learned societies have their ‘politics’.” [1]

This definition encompasses the multi-level and diverse nature of what this book refers to as the Political Dimension of governance, which consists of:

• the processes by which people are appointed to take decisions on behalf of others;

• their organisation and performance when exercising their authority;

• and the mechanisms by which the population interacts with those who hold positions of authority.

A political system can be thought of as providing a means of continuous negotiation between the people and those to whom they entrust many governance decisions.

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[1] Michael Oakeshott, Political Education, in Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, 112.