An Introduction to Politics

In most undergraduate courses in political science, students are required to complete one or more units on politics. This may be due to the popularity of political science courses in higher education, with the last thirty years seeing a boom in their use as a result of political activism and student activism. Within these units, political science students are exposed to the methods that were used throughout history to understand politics, from ancient Athens to twentieth-century United States politics. Politics is often seen as a field of history with its own theories and methods of measurement, but in reality there are several interwoven strands of history and politics that make up the larger picture.

Historically, there have always been four primary fields of study: the socio-historical formation of modern polities; how societal inequality impacts politics; the relationship between political movements and civic institutions; and how political groups outside of the legal institutions influence political power relationships inside and among such institutions. In Comparative Politics, students can expect to spend a year learning about the institutions of modern government and how politics affects those institutions. In History, students are expected to learn the methods by which social scientists examine history and interpret it, as well as how the past has impacted political situations today.

Politics is a course that students must take throughout their academic career, as it is an important study for anyone who cares about how politics affects institutions and individuals. It is important to be able to differentiate between the different types of politics. The subject of politics is not static, as there are ongoing debates within its various strands regarding what the definition of politics should be and how politics actually works. Politics is much more than a definition or a simple classification, however, and students who do not engage with politics as a whole are unlikely to become effective communicators or citizens. In order to learn how politics affects us all, we need to take an in depth look at all four of these strands of political science in order to see how politics relates to the lives and mindsets of everyone.

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