6.1.1 The Definition of ‘Political’

Michael Oakeshott’s inaugural lecture as Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics was published as Political Education, in Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays.  In it, he 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’.” [p. 112]

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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