‘An Act Is Political When Performed By A Politician.’

1533 words - 7 pages

When is an act classed as political? Does the act have to be performed by politicians or can an act be deemed political when it is between ordinary people down the local pub? Are political acts purely in the hands of politicians? This article aims to discuss where politics occurs; looking at various influences that theories have put forward and how the information age has undermined the title statement.

Jef Huysmans, in ‘What is Politics,’ (2005: 43) states that the most likely place for politics to happen are with political individuals in political institutions, stating that “the obvious answer is in national and regional parliaments.” Politics most certainly happens in these places and ...view middle of the document...

In Frans de Waal’s 2000 novel ‘Chimpanzee Politics’ he offers the view that they are too political, at least in nature, that the struggle for power and sex is indeed political.

Does the place help define if an act is political or not? The houses of parliament, Congress and the courts are all places where political decisions are made but a corner shop is not. Is a street a political place is a protest is taking place? Huysmans argues that that is so. He also gives the example of Woomera in Australian where the ‘inmates’ went going on hunger strikes, sowing up their mouths in protest against the length of time that it took for the Australian government to decide on their cases and due to the poor treatment they received in the facility.

This however brings another point to the fore. If the above received little or no media attention would it have been considered political? The media is a political force; it helps to elect and discredit candidates. Having the media on your side can lead to a successful campaign whilst having the media against you can often have devastating consequences. Brian Doherty, Alexandra Plows and Derek Wall ( ) say that ‘there is acknowledgement of the importance of the media in shaping perceptions.’ Without the media the act will be lesser know and therefore would it be less political? Without the media, it would have a smaller audience and smaller chance of doing something so its political clout is reduced. Huysmans adds to this debates saying that the media coverage ‘made the conflict of values and the power struggle visible to a wider range of political actors.’ So that even though political actors are not necessarily involved with the demonstration by having media interest those who are in the political spectrum have more knowledge, and reasons to react to the cause; therefore increasing its political significance.
By saying that only politicians can engage in political activity you then say that all forms of protest not organised by politicians are therefore not a political act. The protest against Huntingdon Life Sciences and the 30th November 2011 rallies against public sector pay cuts are both done for political purposes. The Brighton Bomb was planted by Patrick Magee, in this attack five people died, but his target Margaret Thatcher survived. Yet, the argument in the title that ‘an act is political when performed by a politician’ must mean that this is not political. Huysmans (2005:39) comments that the reason a place becomes political because it is ‘a site in which power and values were contested.’

Even if an act can be political if members of the public are involved, it is increased by getting politicians involved? Organisations such as Earth First, Greenpeace, RSPCA, CND all use various methods to get politicians interested or involved, whether through legal or illegal means. In Gerry Stocker’s seminal book ‘Why Politics Matters’ (2006:90) he shows various patterns of activism. In the UK, in...

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