Essay on Politics as Public Affairs



Another notion of politics takes it beyond a narrow focus on government to what is thought of as 'Public Life' or 'Public affairs'. The public sphere of life can be considered as 'Political' whereas the private sphere of life remains 'non-political'.

The roots of such a view of politics can be located in the writings of the famous Greek Philosopher Aristotle. In his book 'Polities', he said that "man is by nature a political animal". By this, he meant that human beings could live 'the good life' only within a political community.

Hence, politics is a moral activity essential for creating a 'just society'. In other words, politics is a noble activity precisely because of its public character. This is the reason for which Aristotle describes politics as the 'master science'.

However, the distinction between 'public life' and 'private life' needs to be clarified. There are two ways of understanding this distinction.

According to the traditional approach institutions of state can be regarded as public. Hence politics is restricted to the activities of the state which is considered responsible for managing the collective problems of the community. Those areas of social life like the economic, cultural, artistic, personal, domestic, etc. which, the individuals manage for themselves are considered 'nonpolitical'.

The other approach to 'public/private' division takes note of the fact that besides the state there are many other institutions which are opening, which operate in public and the public has access to these.

Institutions such as business, factory, trade unions, church, university and other community groups come to be considered as public and hence political. This definition of politics, however, excludes disagreements and conflicts emerging in the private or personal sphere. It is strongly believed that politics does not and should not interfere in personal affairs and institutions.