Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Understanding Politics: Interests, Identities, and Institutions

There are three principles that are significant in understanding domestic and international politics. First, people are rational beings who purse their interests. Second, people are meaning-seeking beings who are defined by their identities. Third, people’s interests and identities are shaped by and pursued within institutions. Interests, identities, and institutions are all, in turn, shaped by the global context of development.

Politics is largely the pursuit of interest. Interests define the purpose of politics. But what is politics? The definition of politics is an ontological and epistemological question. Simply, politics is defined as who get what and how. People get involved in politics to get the things that they want from government and to ensure that the state enacts laws and policies that advance their interests and the interests of the state.
Individuals are rational beings, so are states. The involvement of people in politics is therefore the pursuit of their interests. States as rational actors are also largely driven by (national) interests. These interests as realists will posit, are defined in terms of security and state survival. The pursuit of security and state survival is in various forms. It could be in economy or military terms.

Politics is also about identities. Although evidence shows that people pursue common goals with shared interests, people also frequently define their interests based on certain sets of beliefs and values, and principles. This categorization is what is termed as identity.  People will pursue certain dictates based on their religious affiliations, cultural practices, political orientations, geographical settings, economic status, gender relations, sexual orientations etc. These categorizations are what constitute identity relations and interest articulations. Politics will be approach from the different identity suppositions based on collective classifications.

The United Nations is an institution that governs states, the state is an institution that governs citizens and the family is the basic institutional framework. Institutions form a basic framework that interests are pursued. Similar identities also come together and form institutions that advance their interests. Apart from interest articulations, institutions also set up rules and regulations that govern tranquil human coexistence.

Politics can be thus summarized as subset of interests, identities and institutional engagement.       


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