P is for Politics and Purpose
Psycho-politics and the political art of mass deception
Person and Point of View
P = Politics, Geopolitics, Political Science, and Psychopolitics.
See also: psycho-politics, geopolitics, and the dialectic instrumentality of War
pol·i·tics (pŏlʹĭ-tĭks) noun
Abbr. pol., polit.
1. (used with a sing. verb ) a. The art or science of government or governing, especially the governing of a political entity, such as a nation, and the administration and control of its internal and external affairs. b. Political science.
2. (used with a sing. or pl. verb ) a. The activities or affairs engaged in by a government, politician, or political party: “All politics is local” (Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr.).“Politics have appealed to me since I was at Oxford because they are exciting morning, noon, and night” (Jeffrey Archer). b. The methods or tactics involved in managing a state or government: The politics of the former regime were rejected by the new government leadership. If the politics of the conservative government now borders on the repressive, what can be expected when the economy falters?
3. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) Political life: studied law with a view to going into politics; felt that politics was a worthwhile career.
4. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) Intrigue or maneuvering within a political unit or a group in order to gain control or power: Partisan politics is often an obstruction to good government. Office politics are often debilitating and counterproductive.
5. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) Political attitudes and positions: His politics on that issue is his own business. Your politics are clearly more liberal than mine.
6. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The often internally conflicting interrelationships among people in a society.
Usage Note: Politics, although etymologically plural, takes a singular verb when used to refer to the art or science of governing or to political science: Politics has been a concern of philosophers since Plato. But in its other senses politics can take either a singular or plural verb. Many other nouns that end in -ics behave similarly, and the user is advised to consult specific entries for precise information.
Democracy, political system in which the people of a country rule through any form of government they choose to establish. In modern democracies, supreme authority is usually exercised by popularly elected representatives. The representatives may be replaced by the electorate according to the legal procedures of recall and referendum, and they are in principle responsible to the electorate.
The city-states of ancient Greece and of Rome during the early years of the Republic were direct democracies, in which all citizens could vote in assemblies. Some European cities carried on the democratic tradition during the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century). Concepts of equal political and social rights were further defined during the Renaissance (14th century to 17th century), when the development of humanism was fostered, and later during the Reformation (16th century), in the struggle for religious freedom.
Beginning with the first popular rebellion against monarchy in England (1642), political and revolutionary action against autocratic European governments resulted in the establishment of democratic governments. This change was fostered largely by political philosophers, notably French philosophers Montesquieu and Jean Jacques Rousseau, and American statesmen Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. By the end of the 19th century, every major Western European monarchy had adopted a constitution giving considerable political power to the people. The British Parliament became a model for representative legislatures in Europe and around the world. Later, democratic institutions in the United States served as a model for many nations.
The major features of modern democracy include individual freedom, equality before the law, and universal suffrage (voting rights) and education. By the mid-20th century nearly every independent country in the world had a government that-in form if not in practice-embodied some of the principles of democracy.
Political Science, academic discipline, focusing on the systematic study of government. It covers the origins of political regimes; their structures, functions, and institutions; the ways in which governments discover and deal with socioeconomic problems; and the interactions of groups and individuals that establish, maintain, and change governments.
Most scholars would agree that 4th-century BC Greek philosopher Aristotle was the earliest forerunner of the political scientist. His study of types of regimes in his Politics has remained a major influence on the discipline. Over the centuries, other classics of the field were written by Greek philosopher Plato, Roman statesman Cicero, Italian statesman Niccolò Machiavelli, British philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, French writer Jean Jacques Rousseau, and German philosophers Immanuel Kant and Karl Marx. Almost all of these authors dealt with the possibility that a society could provide the conditions for a good life for all its people.
Development in the United States
Political science emerged in the United States as a separate field of study in the late 19th century. The new breed of political scientists, often college professors, insisted that a genuine understanding of governments could be gained only through study of the actual process of politics, using careful methods to observe, gather, organize, and explain the facts. Many political scientists believed that if they developed explanatory theories, the study of government and politics could become as much a scientific endeavor as the established laboratory sciences. These scholars joined researchers in the fields of sociology and psychology. From sociologists they borrowed statistical methods of collecting and analyzing data on people’s political behavior. From psychologists they took definitions, propositions, and concepts to help in understanding why human beings act in certain ways.
Contemporary Political Science
The scientific approach finally began to dominate the field after the mid-20th century. Political scientists polished their skills in applying the methods of social science, including public opinion surveys, content analysis, statistical techniques, and other means of collecting and systematically analyzing political data. Some political scientists developed sophisticated models of human activity to guide their research, frequently drawing on computer technology for concepts as well as hardware. Others created a burgeoning subfield of policy analysis, which they promoted as an independent discipline. It calls for the mastery of scientific methods to enable policy analysts to judge what alternatives would and would not work in coping with public problems.
Political Theory, subdivision of political science, traditionally concerned with the body of ideas expressed by political philosophers. Political theory largely addresses the nature and justification of political obligation and authority and the goals of political action.
Throughout history a central concern of political theorists has been the notion of the state. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato presented a theory of the state in his discourse The Republic, which attempted to reconcile moral theory and political practice. Plato presented an idea of a community where property would be owned in common and an aristocracy of philosopher-kings would rule. His doctrines have been distorted to assert the supremacy of the state over the individual. Fourth-century BC Greek philosopher Aristotle is generally regarded as the founder of the scientific approach to political theory. His Politics combined an empirical investigation of facts and a critical inquiry into their ideal possibilities.
Church and State
In the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century AD) political writing dealt largely with the struggle for supremacy between the Roman Catholic church and the Holy Roman Empire. Italian philosopher Saint Thomas Aquinas defended the role of the church in his Summa Theologica (1265-1273), while Italian poet Dante Alighieri argued in his 14th-century treatise, On Monarchy, for a united Christendom under emperor and pope. In The Prince (1532), Italian statesman Niccolò Machiavelli transcended the traditional church-state debate by evaluating the problems and possibilities of governments seeking to maintain power.
The Social Contract
In his work Leviathan (1651), English philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued that the sovereign’s power should be unlimited, because the state originated in a so-called social contract, whereby individuals accept a common superior power to provide protection and make possible the satisfaction of certain human desires. English philosopher John Locke argued in the 17th century that sovereignty resided in the people, and that governments could be legitimately overthrown if they failed to meet their obligations to the people.
Marxism and Other Forms of Totalitarianism
German philosopher Karl Marx argued that the abolition of property, and therefore of class exploitation, would enable individuals to contribute according to their abilities and take according to their needs. The state, according to Marx, would eventually disappear. In the 20th century Marxism was subject to conflicting interpretations. It served as the official ideology of several totalitarian states and inspired many revolutionary and nationalist movements (see Communism; Socialism).
psy·cho (sīʹkō) Slang noun
violent creature: homicidal maniac, psycho, psychopath, madman
psycho- or psych- prefix
1. a. Mind; mental: psychogenic. b. Mental activities or processes: psychomotor.
2. Psychology; psychological: psychohistory.
[Greek psukho-, soul, life, from psukhē.]
psy·chol·o·gy (sī-kŏlʹə-jē) noun
Abbr. psych., psychol.
1. The science that deals with mental processes and behavior.
2. The emotional and behavioral characteristics of an individual, a group, or an activity: the psychology of war.
3. Subtle tactical action or argument used to manipulate or influence another: He used poor psychology on his employer when trying to make the point.
4. Philosophy. The branch of metaphysics that studies the soul, the mind, and the relationship of life and mind to the functions of the body.
Psychology, scientific study of human and animal behavior and experience. Modern psychology collects facts about behavior and experience and systematically organizes such facts into psychological theories. These theories aid in understanding and explaining people’s behavior and sometimes in predicting and influencing their behavior.
The science of psychology developed from many diverse sources, but its origins as a science can be traced to ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. The roots of modern psychological theory are in the 17th-century works of French philosopher René Descartes and British philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Descartes maintained that minds have certain inborn ideas and that these ideas are crucial in organizing people’s experience of the world. Hobbes and Locke, on the other hand, stressed the role of experience as the source of human knowledge. Most modern psychology developed along the lines of the British view. Descartes’s idea that some mental organization is inborn, however, still plays a role in theories of perception and cognition.
The field that contributed most to the development of scientific psychology was physiology-the study of the functions of the various organ systems of the body. The first true experimental psychologists were German physicist Gustav Theodor Fechner and German physiologist Wilhelm Wundt. Wundt, who in 1879 founded the first laboratory of experimental psychology in Leipzig, Germany, trained students in this new science.
Physicians who became concerned with mental illness also contributed to the development of modern psychological theories. The systematic classification of mental illnesss developed by German psychiatric pioneer Emil Kraepelin remains the basis for current methods of classification. The work of Austrian physician Sigmund Freud, who devised the system of investigation and treatment known as psychoanalysis, called attention to instinctual drives and unconscious motivational processes that determine people’s behavior. In the United States, psychology was influenced greatly by a strong practical orientation. American psychologists from about 1920 to 1960 showed little concern with mental processes, focusing their attention instead on behavior itself, in a movement known as behaviorism.
Major Areas of Research
The areas of modern psychology range from the biological sciences to the social sciences. The study of underlying physiological bases of psychological functions is known as physiological psychology. The two major communication systems of the body-the nervous system and the circulatory system-are the focus of most research in this area.
A central area of study in psychology is how organisms change as a result of experience-that is, how they learn. Two major kinds of learning are usually distinguished: classical conditioning and instrumental learning. Classical conditioning was discovered by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, who showed that animals could be trained, or conditioned, to respond to a particular stimulus by associating that stimulus with something already familiar to the animal; for example, a dog was conditioned to salivate at the sound of a bell after repeatedly being fed just after hearing the bell ring. In instrumental learning, emphasis is placed on what the animal does and what outcomes follow its actions. In general, if some action is followed by a reward, the action will be repeated the next time the animal is in the same situation.
Human learning and memory have been studied mostly with verbal materials or with tasks requiring motor skills. Such studies have emphasized the negatively accelerated learning curve (showing large gains at first, and then slower and slower learning) and the similar curve of forgetting (large losses immediately after learning, then small losses). In more recent decades, psychological research has drawn increasing attention to the role of cognition in human learning, stressing the importance of attention, perception, pattern recognition, and language use (psycholinguistics) in learning processes. Higher mental processes such as concept formation and problem solving are difficult to study. The most popular way to investigate them is through an information-processing approach. This approach asks how information is encoded, transformed, stored, retrieved, and transmitted by human beings.
Tests and Measurement
The best-known tool in psychological testing is intelligence testing. Psychologists have also constructed tests for measuring aptitudes, aspects of personality, interests, and attitudes. Social psychology frequently focuses on balance theories, which relate to how and why people change their attitudes, a problem of both practical and theoretical importance. Social psychology also deals with mass behavior.
Abnormal psychology is what most people usually think of when they hear the word psychology. The three major groups of abnormal psychological disorders are psychotic disorders, or psychoses, which involve a loss of contact with reality; nonpsychotic disorders, or neuroses, which do not usually involve a break with reality but which make life painful, unhappy, or ineffective; and personality disorders, which include the antisocial personalities known as psychopaths or sociopaths. See Also Mental Disorders.
Three important areas of applied psychology include industrial psychology, educational psychology, and clinical psychology (see Psychotherapy). A special contribution of clinical psychology is behavior therapy, through which clinical psychologists try to change the behavior of the patient and to remove unpleasant or undesirable symptoms by arranging the proper conditioning experiences or the proper rewards for desired behavior.
See also Socialism, Social Science
so·ci·ol·o·gy (sō´sē-ŏlʹə-jē, -shē-) noun
1. The study of human social behavior, especially the study of the origins, organization, institutions, and development of human society.
2. Analysis of a social institution or societal segment as a self-contained entity or in relation to society as a whole.
[French sociologie : socio-, socio- + -logie, study (from Greek -logia). See -logy.]
– so´ci·o·logʹic (-ə-lŏjʹĭk) or so´ci·o·logʹi·cal (-ĭ-kəl) adjective
– so´ci·o·logʹi·cal·ly adverb
– so´ci·olʹo·gist noun
SOCIOLOGY & SOCIAL REFORM
Sociology, scientific study of human social relations or group life. Sociologists examine the ways in which social structures and institutions-such as class, family, community, and power-and social problems-such as crime and abuse-influence society.
History of the Discipline
The first definition of sociology was advanced by French philosopher Auguste Comte. In 1838 he coined the term sociology to describe his vision of a new science that would discover laws of human society resembling the laws of nature by applying methods of factual investigation. In the late 19th century, French social theorist Émile Durkheim began teaching sociology and founded the first true school of sociological thought. In Germany, sociology was recognized as an academic discipline in the first decade of the 20th century, largely because of the efforts of German economist and historian Max Weber.
Despite its European origins, sociology during the first half of the 20th century became primarily an American subject. American sociology emphasized the study of particular social problems such as crime, marital discord, and the acculturation of immigrants. The center of sociological study in the United States before World War II (1939-1945) was the University of Chicago, where American philosopher George Herbert Mead wrote about the origins of the mind, the self, and society in the actions and interactions of people. In 1937 American sociologist Talcott Parsons introduced the ideas of Durkheim, Weber, and Italian sociologist Vilfredo Pareto to an American audience in his major work The Structure of Social Action.
Fields of Sociology
Sociological theory includes the discussion and analysis of basic concepts that are common to all the different spheres of social life studied by sociologists. Sociological practitioners apply their knowledge in an array of fields. In theory, methods, and subject matter, no single school of thought or topic dominates sociology today. The oldest subfields in the discipline include marriage and the family, social inequality and social stratification, ethnic relations, deviant behavior, urban communities, and complex or formal organizations. Subfields of more recent origin examine the social aspects of gerontology and the sociology of sex and gender roles.
Because nearly all human activities involve social relations, another major source of specialization within sociology is the study of the social structure of areas of human activity. These areas include politics, law, religion, education, the military, occupations and professions, governmental bureaucracies, industry, the arts, science, language, medicine, mass communications, and sports. At least two subfields of sociology, demography and criminology, were distinct areas of study long before the formal field of sociology existed. Demography is the study of the size, growth, and distribution of human populations. Criminology has in recent decades become more and more linked with the study of deviant behavior, including those forms that do not involve violations of the law.
Sociologists use nearly all the methods of acquiring information that are used in the other social sciences and the humanities, from advanced mathematical statistics to the interpretation of texts. They also rely heavily on primary statistical information regularly collected by governments, such as censuses, vital statistics reports, and records of unemployment, immigration, and the frequency of crime.
The method of observing firsthand some aspect of society has a long history in sociological research. Sociologists sometimes obtain information by temporarily becoming or by pretending to become members of the group being studied. Sociologists also obtain firsthand information by relying on knowledgeable informants from the group. Sociologists, like historians, make extensive use of secondhand source materials-for example, life histories, personal documents, and clinical records.
Quantitative methods include the presentation of large amounts of descriptive statistical data, sampling techniques, and the use of advanced mathematical models and computer simulations of social processes. The term survey research means the collection and analysis of responses of large numbers of people to polls and questionnaires designed to reveal their opinions, attitudes, and sentiments about specific topics.
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