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MY LECTURES ON “WHAT IS POLITICS?”                                                                  2010

                                                LECTURE FIVE
                ‘You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.’’


                  “POLITICS AS COMPROMISE AND CONSENSUS”
  •   We have discussed in our third and fourth lecture that politics is traditionally understood as an art of
      government and then moved our discussion to understand politics as public affair. Today we are going to
      third conception of politics which says politics is concerned “compromise and consensus.”
  •   The third conception of politics postulates the existence of a disagreement or conflict, and effort for the
      resolution of that conflict by means of compromise, conciliation and negotiation, rather than through force
      and naked power. Bernard Crick, in his classic study In Defence of Politics, offered the following
      definition: “Politics is the activity by which differing interests within a given unit of rule are conciliated by
      giving them a share in power in proportion to their importance to the welfare and the survival of the whole
      community.”
  •   However, every situation involving a conflict and efforts for its resolution cannot be called “political
      situation”. For example, the conflict between senior and junior students at NLUO on the issue of
      ragging does not present a political situation so long as it is confined to the private domain of both the
      group. The same issue will become political if either group make a written complain and seek the
      intervention of the university authorities to resolve the conflict between them.
  •   In other words, a political conflict is always concerned with public issues, not private issues. It demands
      a universal solution, not a private one.
  •   Conflict is inevitable. It is because of the scarcity of valuable resources which is desired by many and thus
      giving rise to political situation. However, the competing claims of people against a limited resource must
      be conciliated; they cannot merely be crushed. This is why politics is portrayed as an instrument of
      reconciliation of the conflicting interests in society.
  •   Such a view of politics reflects a deep commitment to liberal–rationalist principles. It is based on resolute
      faith in the efficacy of debate and discussion, as well as on the belief that society is characterized by
      consensus rather than by irreconcilable conflict. In other words, the disagreements that exist can be
      resolved without resort to intimidation and violence.
  •   However, politics is certainly no utopian solution (compromise means that concessions are made by all
      sides, leaving no one perfectly satisfied), but it is undoubtedly preferable to the alternatives: bloodshed and
      brutality. In this sense, politics can be seen as a civilized and civilizing force. People should be encouraged
      to respect politics as an activity, and should be prepared to engage in the political life of their own
      community.




                                 NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, ORISSA                                   Page 1

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Lecture five on politics as compromise and consensus

  • 1. MY LECTURES ON “WHAT IS POLITICS?” 2010 LECTURE FIVE ‘You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.’’ “POLITICS AS COMPROMISE AND CONSENSUS” • We have discussed in our third and fourth lecture that politics is traditionally understood as an art of government and then moved our discussion to understand politics as public affair. Today we are going to third conception of politics which says politics is concerned “compromise and consensus.” • The third conception of politics postulates the existence of a disagreement or conflict, and effort for the resolution of that conflict by means of compromise, conciliation and negotiation, rather than through force and naked power. Bernard Crick, in his classic study In Defence of Politics, offered the following definition: “Politics is the activity by which differing interests within a given unit of rule are conciliated by giving them a share in power in proportion to their importance to the welfare and the survival of the whole community.” • However, every situation involving a conflict and efforts for its resolution cannot be called “political situation”. For example, the conflict between senior and junior students at NLUO on the issue of ragging does not present a political situation so long as it is confined to the private domain of both the group. The same issue will become political if either group make a written complain and seek the intervention of the university authorities to resolve the conflict between them. • In other words, a political conflict is always concerned with public issues, not private issues. It demands a universal solution, not a private one. • Conflict is inevitable. It is because of the scarcity of valuable resources which is desired by many and thus giving rise to political situation. However, the competing claims of people against a limited resource must be conciliated; they cannot merely be crushed. This is why politics is portrayed as an instrument of reconciliation of the conflicting interests in society. • Such a view of politics reflects a deep commitment to liberal–rationalist principles. It is based on resolute faith in the efficacy of debate and discussion, as well as on the belief that society is characterized by consensus rather than by irreconcilable conflict. In other words, the disagreements that exist can be resolved without resort to intimidation and violence. • However, politics is certainly no utopian solution (compromise means that concessions are made by all sides, leaving no one perfectly satisfied), but it is undoubtedly preferable to the alternatives: bloodshed and brutality. In this sense, politics can be seen as a civilized and civilizing force. People should be encouraged to respect politics as an activity, and should be prepared to engage in the political life of their own community. NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, ORISSA Page 1