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About this book

Now in its fourth edition, this hugely popular textbook has established itself as the number one introduction to Politics for students around the world. Systematically revised and updated, the book continues to offer a clear and comprehensive guide to the most important conceptual and theoretical issues in the study of Politics.

Paying particular attention to the interdependence of domestic and world events in present day politics, this latest edition is once again the ideal text to recommend to students undertaking introductory modules across Politics and International Relations programmes. With numerous features such as case studies, controversies, key thinkers and concept boxes, it helps students of all levels develop their critical awareness as well as their own views.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. What is Politics?

Abstract
Politics is exciting because people disagree. They disagree about how they should live. Who should get what? How should power and other resources be distributed? Should society be based on cooperation or conflict? And so on. They also disagree about how such matters should be resolved. How should collective decisions be made? Who should have a say? How much influence should each person have? And so forth. For Aristotle, this made politics the ‘master science’: that is, nothing less than the activity through which human beings attempt to improve their lives and create the Good Society. Politics is, above all, a social activity. It is always a dialogue, and never a monologue. Solitary individuals such as Robinson Crusoe may be able to develop a simple economy, produce art, and so on, but they cannot engage in politics. Politics emerges only with the arrival of a Man (or Woman) Friday. Nevertheless, the disagreement that lies at the heart of politics also extends to the nature of the subject and how it should be studied. People disagree about what it is that makes social interaction ‘political’, whether it is where it takes place (within government, the state or the public sphere generally), or the kind of activity it involves (peacefully resolving conflict or exercising control over less powerful groups). Disagreement about the nature of politics as an academic discipline means that it embraces a range of theoretical approaches and a variety of schools of analysis. Finally, globalizing tendencies have encouraged some to speculate that the disciplinary divide between politics and international relations has now become redundant.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 2. Political Ideas and Ideologies

Abstract
All people are political thinkers. Whether they know it or not, people use political ideas and concepts whenever they express their opinions or speak their mind. Everyday language is littered with terms such as freedom, fairness, equality, justice and rights. In the same way, words such as conservative, liberal, fascist, socialist or feminist are regularly employed by people either to describe their own views, or those of others. However, even though such terms are familiar, even commonplace, they are seldom used with any precision or a clear grasp of their meaning. What, for instance, is ‘equality’? What does it mean to say that all people are equal? Are people born equal, should they be treated by society as if they are equal? Should people have equal rights, equal opportunities, equal political influence, equal wages? Similarly, words such as communist or fascist are commonly misused. What does it mean to call someone a ‘fascist’? What values or beliefs do fascists hold, and why do they hold them? How do communist views differ from those of, say, liberals, conservatives or socialists? This chapter examines political ideas from the perspective of the key ideological traditions. It focuses, in particular, on the ‘classical’ ideologies (liberalism, conservatism and socialism), but it also considers a range of other ideological traditions, which have arisen either out of, or in opposition to, the classical ones. Each ideological tradition constitutes a distinctive intellectual framework or paradigm, and so offers a particular ‘lens’ on political world. However, before examining the various ideological traditions, it is necessary to consider the nature of political ideology itself.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 3. Politics and the State

Abstract
The shadow of the state falls on almost every human activity. From education to economic management, from social welfare to sanitation, and from domestic order to external defence, the state shapes and controls; where it does not shape or control it regulates, supervises, authorizes or proscribes. Even those aspects of life usually thought of as personal or private (marriage, divorce, abortion, religious worship and so on) are ultimately subject to the authority of the state. It is not surprising, therefore, that politics is often understood as the study of the state, the analysis of its institutional organizations, the evaluation of its impact on society and so on. Ideological debate and party politics, certainly, tend to revolve around the issue of the proper function or role of the state: what should be done by the state and what should be left to private individuals and associations? The nature of state power has thus become one of the central concerns of political analysis. This chapter examines the feature that are usually associated with the state, from both a domestic and an international perspective. It considers the issue of the nature of state power, and, in the process, touches on some of the deepest and most abiding divisions in political theory. This leads to a discussion of the contrasting roles and responsibilities of the state and the different forms that states have assumed. Finally, it looks whether, in the light of globalization and other developments, the state is losing its central importance in politics.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 4. Democracy and Legitimacy

Abstract
Although states may enjoy a monopoly of coercive power, they seldom remain in existence through the exercise of force alone. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau put it, ‘The strongest is never strong enough unless he turns might into right and obedience into duty’. This is why all systems of rule seek legitimacy or ‘rightfulness’, allowing them to demand compliance from their citizens or subjects. Legitimacy is thus the key to political stability; it is nothing less than the source of a regime’s survival and success. In modern politics, debates about legitimacy are dominated by the issue of democracy, so much so that ‘democratic legitimacy’ is sometimes viewed as the only meaningful form of legitimacy. However, the link between legitimacy and democracy is both a relatively new idea and one that is culturally specific. Until well into the nineteenth century, the term ‘democracy’ continued to have pejorative implications, suggesting a form of ‘mob rule’; and, in parts of the developing world, democracy promotion continues to be associated with ‘westernization’. Nevertheless, there is a sense in which we are all now democrats. Liberals, conservatives, socialists, communists, anarchists and even fascists are eager to proclaim the virtues of democracy and to demonstrate their own democratic credentials. Indeed, as the major ideological systems have faltered or collapsed since the late twentieth century, the flame of democracy has appeared to burn yet more strongly. As the attractions of socialism have faded, and the merits of capitalism have been called into question, democracy has emerged as perhaps the only stable and enduring principle in the postmodern political landscape.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 5. Nations and Nationalism

Abstract
For the last 200 years, the nation has been regarded as the most appropriate (and perhaps the only proper) unit of political rule. Indeed, international law is largely based on the assumption that nations, like individuals, have inviolable rights; notably, the right to political independence and self-determination. Nowhere, however, is the importance of the nation more dramatically demonstrated than in the potency of nationalism as a political creed. In many ways, nationalism has dwarfed the more precise and systematic political ideologies examined in Chapter 2. It has contributed to the outbreak of wars and revolutions. It has caused the birth of new states, the disintegration of empires and the redrawing of borders; and it has been used to reshape existing regimes, as well as to bolster them. However, nationalism is a complex and highly diverse political phenomenon. Not only are there distinctive political and cultural forms of nationalism, but the political implications of nationalism have been wide-ranging and sometimes contradictory. This has occurred because nationalism has been linked to very different ideological traditions, ranging from liberalism to fascism. It has therefore been associated, for instance, with both the quest for national independence and projects of imperial expansion. Nevertheless, there are reasons to believe that the age of the nation may be drawing to a close. The nation-state, the goal that generations of nationalists have strived to achieve, is increasingly beset by pressures, both internal and external.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 6. Political Economy and Globalization

Abstract
At almost every level, politics is intertwined with economics. Politics affects economic outcomes in a variety of ways, ranging from the ability of the state ensure a framework of public order in which property rights are protected and contracts are upheld, to the capacity of government to regulate the economy, or even exert direct control over economic life through planning and nationalization. No less important are the ways in which economics affects political outcomes. Political parties, for instance, compete for power by promising to increase economic growth, reduce inflation, tackle poverty and so on. As President Clinton recognized, election results are often determined by the state of the economy: governments win elections when the economy booms, but are likely to be defeated during recessions or slumps. Indeed, orthodox Marxists go further and suggest that politics is merely a part of a ‘superstructure’ determined or conditioned by the economic ‘base’, the political process being nothing more than a reflection of the class system. Although few people (including Marxists) now hold such a simplistic view, no one would deny that political life is intimately bound up with economic conditions and, most importantly, the nature of the economic system. The advent of globalization nevertheless threatens to overturn all conventional assumptions about the relationship between politics and economics, marking, some argue, the point at which economics finally triumphed over politics. When governments, almost everywhere, seem to be powerless in the face of the pressures exerted by global markets and intensifying international competitiveness, what role is left for politics?
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 7. Politics, Society and Identity

Abstract
To suggest, as textbooks tend to do, that politics takes place in a social context fails to convey just how intimately politics and social life are related. Politics, by its very nature, is a social activity, and it is viewed by some as nothing more than the process through which the conflicts of society are articulated and, perhaps, resolved. In this sense, society is no mere ‘context’, but the very stuff and substance of politics itself. Although later chapters examine the interaction between society and politics in relation to particular channels of communication, such as the media, elections, political parties, interest groups and so on, this chapter focuses on the broader political implications of how society is structured and how it has changed and continues to change. For example, the transition from agrarian societies to industrial societies and then to so-called post-industrial society has profoundly altered levels of social connectedness and given rise to new political battle lines. Not only has post-industrialism been associated with the declining significance of social class, but technological change, particularly in the fields of information and communication, has altered the breadth and depth of connections between people, as well as the nature of these connections. These and related factors have been linked to the strengthening of individualism, with major political consequences. Modern thinking about the relationship between politics and society is, nevertheless, increasingly focused on the question of identity, many claim, giving rise to a new politics of group self-assertion, or identity politics. This trend has helped, amongst other things, to highlight the political significance of race and ethnicity, gender, religion and culture.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 8. Political Culture and the Media

Abstract
Much of politics takes place in our heads; that is, it is shaped by our ideas, values and assumptions about how society should be organized, and our expectations, hopes and fears about government. Ultimately, what we believe about the society in which we live may be more important than the reality of its power structure, and the actual distribution of resources and opportunities within it. Perception may not only be more important than reality; in practical terms, perception may be reality. This highlights the vital role played by what is called ‘political culture’. People’s beliefs, symbols and values structure both their attitude to the political process and, crucially, their view of the regime in which they live. However, there is significant disagreement about the nature and role of the political culture, not least over whether it sustains democracy or is aligned with the interests of dominant groups. Others have highlighted concerns about the political culture’s (apparently) declining capacity to foster civic engagement and a sense of social belonging. The issue of the political culture also draws attention to the extent to which the politics of modern societies is conducted through the media — newspapers, television, the internet, mobile phones and so on. The media constitute much more than a channel of communications; they are part of the political process itself, affecting, and not merely reflecting, the distribution of power in society at large. Longstanding debate about the media’s relationship with democracy and styles of governance have been given a fresh twist by the advent of electronic-based ‘new’ media, while media influence generally has been associated with a growing emphasis in politics on ‘news managment’ and so-called ‘spin’.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 9. Representation, Elections and Voting

Abstract
Elections are often thought of as the heart of the political process. Perhaps no questions in politics are as crucial as ‘Do we elect the politicians who rule over us?’, and ‘Under what rules are these elections held?’ Elections are seen as nothing less than democracy in practice. They are a means through which the people can control their government, ultimately by ‘kicking the rascals out’. Central to this notion is the principle of representation. Put simply, representation portrays politicians as servants of the people, and invests them with a responsibility to act for or on behalf of those who elect them. When democracy, in the classical sense of direct and continuous popular participation, is regarded as hopelessly impractical, representation may be the closest we can come to achieving government by the people. There is, nevertheless, considerable disagreement about what representation means and how it can be achieved in practice. Although it is widely accepted that elections play a pivotal role in the process of representative democracy, electoral systems are many and various and debate has long raged over which system is the ‘best’. Not only do different systems have different strengths or advantages, but there is no consensus over the criteria that should be used for assessing them. Finally, elections need voters, but there is little agreement about why voters vote as they do, and especially about the extent to which their behaviour is rationally-based, as opposed to being influenced by underlying psychological, social or ideological forces.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 10. Parties and Party Systems

Abstract
So fundamental are political parties to the operation of modern politics that their role and significance are often taken for granted. It is forgotten, for instance, that parties are a relatively recent invention. As political machines organized to win elections and wield government power, parties came into existence only in the early nineteenth century. Now, however, they are virtually ubiquitous. The only parts of the world in which they do not exist are those where they are suppressed by dictatorship or military rule. Quite simply, the political party has become the major organizing principle of modern politics. Political parties are the vital link between the state and civil society, between the institutions of government and the groups and interests that operate within society. However, parties are by no means all alike. Not only do they differ in terms of matters such as organizational structure and ideological orientation, but they also carry out different roles within the larger political system. Political parties have thus been both lauded as the great tools of democracy and criticized as a source of tyranny and repression. Their impact, moreover, is crucially influenced by what is known as the party system, the network of relationships between and among parties, structured in particular by the number of parties in existence. One-party systems operate very differently from competitive party systems, but there are also important contrasts between two-party and multiparty systems. Nevertheless, parties and party systems have increasingly come under attack. They have been blamed for failing to articulate the new and more diverse aspirations that have emerged in modern societies, and for failing to solve, or perhaps even to address, many of their most troubling problems.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 11. Groups, Interests and Movements

Abstract
Patterns of political interaction were transformed in the twentieth century by the growing prominence of organized groups and interests. Indeed, in the 1950s and 1960s, at the high point of enthusiasm about ‘group politics’, it was widely asserted that business interests, trade unions, farm lobbies and the like had displaced assemblies and parties as the key political actors. The interest group universe was further expanded, particularly from the 1960s onwards, by the growth of single-issue protest groups taking up causes ranging from consumer protection to animal rights and from sexual equality to environmental protection. Such groups were often associated with broader social movements (the women’s movement, the civil-rights movement, the green movement and so on) and were characterized by the adoption of new styles of activism and campaigning, sometimes termed ‘new politics’. Considerable debate, nevertheless, surrounds the nature and significance of groups, interests and movements, especially in relation to their impact on the democratic process. Groups come in all shapes and sizes, and carry out a wide range of functions, being, for instance, agents of citizen empowerment as well as cogs within the machinery of government. There is particular disagreement about political implications of group politics. While some believe that organized groups serve to distribute political power more widely and evenly in society, others argue that groups empower the already powerful and subvert the public interest. These issues are related to questions about how groups exert influence and the factors that allow them to exert political influence. Finally, so-called ‘new’ social movements have been both praised for stimulating new forms of decentralized political engagement and criticized for encouraging people to abandon the formal representative process.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 12. Governments, Systems and Regimes

Abstract
Classifying the various forms of government has been one of the principal concerns of political analysis through the ages. This process can be traced back to the fourth century BCE, when Aristotle made the first recorded attempt to describe the political regimes then in existence, using terms such as ‘democracy’, ‘oligarchy’ and ‘tyranny’ that are still commonly employed today. From the eighteenth century onwards, governments were increasingly classified as monarchies or republics, or as autocratic or constitutional regimes. During the twentieth century, these distinctions were further sharpened. The ‘three worlds’ classification of political systems, which was particularly fashionable during the Cold War period, created an image of world politics dominated by a struggle between democracy and totalitarianism. However, in the light of modern developments, such as the collapse of communism, the rise of East Asia, and the emergence of political Islam, all such classifications appear outdated. Nevertheless, it is not entirely clear what these shifts mean. Some interpret them as an indication that democratization, modelled around the principle and structures of western liberal democracy, is a natural and inevitable process. In this view, liberal democracy constitutes the final form of human government. Others, nevertheless, argue that the modern world is becoming politically more diffuse and fragmented. From this perspective, not only is liberal democracy culturally-bound rather than universally applicable, but alternative regimes including authoritarian systems and forms of illiberal democracy, may prove to be more successful and enduring than expected.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 13. Political Executives and Leadership

Abstract
The executive is the irreducible core of government. Political systems can operate without constitutions, assemblies, judiciaries and even parties, but they cannot survive without an executive branch to formulate government policy and ensure that it is implemented. Such is the potential power of executives that much of political development has taken the form of attempts to check or constrain them, either by forcing them to operate within a constitutional framework, or by making them accountable to a popular assembly or democratic electorate. Political executives, and particularly chief executives, are certainly the face of politics with which the general public is most familiar. This is because the executive is the source of political leadership. This role has been greatly enhanced by the widening responsibilities of the state in both the domestic and international realms, and the media’s tendency to portray politics in terms of personalities. However, the hopes and expectations focused on executives may also prove to be their undoing. In many political systems, leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to ‘deliver the goods’. Debates about the nature, extent and implications of executive power are, nevertheless, linked to the wider issue of political leadership. Widely seen as a vital ingredient of politics, providing it with a necessary sense of purpose and direction, leadership has been interpreted in a variety of ways, ranging from a personal gift to a bureaucratic device. Similarly, leadership can involve a variety of styles, strategies and approaches, affecting not only how effective it is but also the relationship between leadership and democracy.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 14. Assemblies

Abstract
Assemblies (sometimes called ‘parliaments’ or ‘legislatures’) occupy a key position in the machinery of government. Traditionally, they have been treated with special respect and status as the public, even democratic, face of government. In written constitutions, for instance, they are usually accorded pride of place, being described before executives and judiciaries. Assemblies are respected because they are composed of lay politicians who claim to represent the people, rather than trained or expert government officials. Moreover, they act as national debating chambers, public forums in which government policies and the major issues of the day can be openly discussed and analysed. In most cases, they are also invested with formal law-making power, giving them some capacity to shape, or at least influence, public policy. Not all assemblies are alike, however. Their role and significance is crucially affected by wider constitutional and institutional factors — especially whether they operate within a parliamentary, presidential or semi-presidential system — as well as by their internal structures, including whether they comprise two legislative chambers or one. Nevertheless, it is widely alleged that, since the twentieth century, there has been a progressive weakening of parliamentary power reflected in a decline of assemblies relative, in particular, to executives. Although some may still play an important role in the policy process, many assemblies have been reduced to mere ‘talking shops’ that do little more than rubber-stamp decisions that have effectively, been made elsewhere. Others, however, claim that, for various reasons, recent decades have witnessed a revival of assembly power.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 15. Constitutions, Law and Judges

Abstract
In the 1950s and 1960s, the study of constitutions and constitutional issues became distinctly unfashionable. Political analysts turned instead to what were seen as deeper political realities, such as political culture, and the distribution of economic and social power. To be interested in constitutions was to perpetuate an outdated, legalistic and, frankly, boring approach to politics, to focus on how a political system portrays itself, rather than on how it actually works. Since the 1970s, however, constitutional questions have moved to the centre of the political stage. Developed and developing states have adopted new constitutions, and political conflict has increasingly been expressed in terms of calls for constitutional reform. This has occurred because constitutional change has far-reaching implications, affecting not just how decisions are made within government but also the balance of political forces that shape these decisions. Nevertheless, there is considerable debate about how constitutions should be configured and about the nature and extent of their political significance. Such issues, in turn, have had major implications for the role of law and the position of judges. Law has widely been seen as a vital guarantee of public order, but disagreement about the relationship between law and morality, and especially about the extent to which law should uphold individual freedom, have long been core themes in political theory. As far as the position of judges is concerned, although the courts have usually been viewed as strictly separate from politics, in practice, in many parts of the world, they have acquired a growing capacity to shape public policy. This has encouraged a search for a revised balance between judicial, executive and legislative power, and also led to calls for the reform of the courts and the judiciary.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 16. Public Policy and the Bureaucracy

Abstract
In a sense, policy is the aspect of politics that concerns most people. In crude terms, policy consists of the ‘outputs’ of the political process. It reflects the impact of government on society; that is, its ability to make things better or make things worse. Indeed, since the 1960s and 1970s a distinctive area of study has developed: policy analysis. This sets out to examine how policy is initiated, formulated and implemented, and how the policy process can be improved. At a deeper level, policy analysis reflects on how and why decisions are made, the policy process being, in effect, a linked series of decisions, or bundles of decisions. Particular debate nevertheless surrounds the extent to which these decisions are rationally-based. However, studying the policy process often means, in practice, studying the bureaucracy, the massed ranks of civil servants and public officials who are charged with the execution of public policy. As government has grown and the breadth of its responsibilities has expanded, bureaucracies have come to play an increasingly important role in political life. No longer can civil servants be dismissed as mere administrators or policy implementers; instead, they may dominate the policy process, and even, sometimes, run their countries. A reality of ‘rule by the officials’ may thus lie behind the façade of representation and democratic accountability. The control of bureaucratic power is therefore one of the most pressing problems in modern politics, and one that no political system has found easy to solve. Concern about how bureaucracies are organized has also become more acute as the image of bureaucratic efficiency and rationality has been challenged by critics who allege that civil servants are motivated primarily by career self-interest. This charge has led to radical attempts to restructure the administrative state.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 17. Multilevel Politics

Abstract
The nation-state has traditionally been viewed as the natural, and perhaps only legitimate, unit of political rule. Domestic politics therefore centred on the activities of the national government, while, in international politics, nation-states have been treated as discreet and unified entities. However, globalization and other developments have contributed to a process through which political authority has been both ‘sucked up’ and ‘drawn down’, creating what is called ‘multilevel governance’. States have always incorporated a range of internal divisions and levels of power; most significantly, territory-based divisions between central or national government and various forms of provincial, city or local government. These divisions are crucially shaped by a state’s constitutional structure; that is, by whether it has a federal or unitary system of government. Although each provides a distinct framework within which centre—periphery relationships can be conducted, both have been subject in recent years to a combination of centrifugal and centripetal pressures. At the same time, a trend towards transnational regionalism has emerged out of the fact that states are increasingly confronted by challenges that even the most powerful state struggles to meet on its own. This has created the spectre of an emerging ‘world of regions’. In this view, regionalism is both the successor to the nation-state and an alternative to globalization. Without doubt, the most advanced example of regionalism found anywhere in the world is the European Union, but this raises questions about whether the EU regional model is exportable and whether it is viable.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 18. Security: Domestic and International

Abstract
Security is the deepest and most abiding issue in politics. At its heart is the question: How can people live a decent and worthwhile existence, free from threats, intimidation and violence?’ The search for security is therefore linked to the pursuit of order; and for the establishment of relative peace and stability amongst individuals and groups with different needs and interests. These concerns are commonly thought to resolved in the domestic realm by the existence of a sovereign state, a body capable of imposing its will on all the groups and institutions within its borders. Nevertheless, domestic security raises important issues, particularly about the roles of the institutions of the ‘coercive state’; the police and the military. However, the issue of security is often considered to be especially pressing in international politics because the international realm, unlike the domestic realm, is anarchical, and therefore threatening and unstable by its nature. There has been fierce theoretical debate about whether this implies that international conflict and war are inevitable features of world affairs, and about the extent to which states are able to keep war at bay through cooperation. These debates have become increasingly pressing due to the advent of new challenges to international security, such as the rise of transnational terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Finally, growing interest in the concept of ‘human security’ has shifted attention from the security of the state to the security of the individual, and, in the process, widened the notion of security to include, for instance, economic security, food security and personal security.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 19. World Order and Global Governance

Abstract
The issue of world order is central to an understanding of international politics. The shape of world order affects both the level of stability within the global system and the balance within it between conflict and cooperation. However, since the end of the Cold War, the nature of world order has been the subject of significant debate and disagreement. Early proclamations of the establishment of a ‘new world order’, characterized by peace and international cooperation, were soon replaced by talk of a unipolar world order, with the USA taking centre stage as the world’s sole super-power. This ‘unipolar moment’ may nevertheless have been brief. Not only did the USA’s involvement in difficult and protracted counter-insurgency wars following September 11 strengthen the impression of US decline, but emerging powers, notably China, started to exert greater influence on the world stage. The notion that unipolarity is giving way to multipolarity has, moreover, been supported by evidence of the increasing importance of international organizations, a trend that is sometimes interpreted as emerging ‘global governance’. Of particular importance in this respect have been the major institutions of global economic governance — the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization — and the centrepiece of the global governance system, the United Nations. Although some argue that the trend in favour of global governance reflects the fact that, in an interdependent world, states must act together to address the challenges that confront them, others dismiss global governance as a myth and raise serious questions about the effectiveness of international organizations.
Andrew Heywood

Chapter 20. A Crisis in Politics?

Abstract
In this concluding chapter, we return to some of the themes discussed in Chapter 1, and, in the process, draw together some of the themes set out at different points in the book. This is done by examining the nature and health of politics itself, taking particular account of how and why politics — and especially conventional, or ‘mainstream’, politics — has been subject to increasing criticism. Of course, there is nothing new about politics being viewed in a negative light — the term has long been used as a ‘dirty’ word, implying an activity that is distasteful, even demeaning — but criticism seems to have risen to unprecedented levels in recent decades. Politicians, needless to say, have usually borne the brunt of these attacks, with popular associations with ‘politician’ commonly including ‘liar’, ‘corrupt’, ‘careerist’ and ‘untrustworthy’. Politics, moreover, appears to be losing its ability to engage and enthuse, as witnessed by declining levels of voter turnout and falling party membership — trends that are most pronounced in mature democracies and particularly affect younger people. However, this may be a deeply misleading picture. Anxieties about growing civic disengagement, for instance, may ignore the extent to which political participation is not declining but changing, through, amongst other things, the rise of protest movements of various kinds or the spread of internet-based activism. It is also far from clear that the trends mentioned above can be laid at the door of politics and politicians; other possible culprits include the media and, perhaps, the public themselves. Nevertheless, dissatisfaction with politics may have a deeper, even philosophical, dimension, in the form of confusion about what, exactly, politics is ‘for’, and how the performance of political systems should be judged. These questions, however, touch on some of the most intractable normative debates within the discipline of itself.
Andrew Heywood
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