Sunday, May 20, 2007
The Master Science
Ever since man came to become a social animal, it is ‘Politics’ that has continued to govern his journey from the cradle to the grave. This is an attempt to unravel some complexities of this rather subtle concept.
Technically speaking, Politics is the theory and practice of government. A closer look at this apparently simple definition reveals many imbricated meanings. Politics actually is the science that governs the interrelationships between human beings. It is a science because of the certainty with which it predicts human behaviour. And it is through the notion of ‘Political Power’ that any relationship in a given society can be explained.
Power, as defined by scholars, is the ‘ability’ of an individual to influence the behaviour of others. Examine any relationship in a society and you would see that its existence or non-existence is determined by the exercise of power by the players involved.
Relationships between Government and the people, parents and their children, husband and wife, employers and their employees and even between two friends are shaped by the exercise of power by one in relation to the other.
All our acts relating to other individuals are directed at influencing their behaviour. When a car salesman tries to convince a customer into buying a car, he is only trying to influence the customer’s behaviour in order to ensure that he does buy it. The customer on the other hand remains skeptical through out the process, asking questions every now then, and in the process influencing the behaviour of the salesman who is forced to give his best. If the customer ends up buying the car, the salesman was more effective in exercising his power than the customer and hence can be called more powerful. But, how does this happen? How does one become ‘powerful’?
It is here that ‘ability’ assumes importance. In the above example, if the car salesman has an experience of more than ten years, his ability of influencing the behaviour of a customer is obviously high. And unless the customer has a very good understanding of cars himself, he would find it extremely difficult to not succumb to this ability of the salesman.
The logic of the above argument can be extended to each and every relationship in the society. Be it the Prime Minister and his Secretary, a lawyer and his client, a beautiful girl and her beholder, a doctor and his patient, a CEO and his employee, a software-professional and his client and even a taxi driver and his passenger, they are all perpetually caught up in this clash of ‘abilities’. They are all trying to influence each other and more often than not, it is their natural ability or education/training that determines the final outcome as to who overpowers whom. The crux of the argument is that we are all perpetually involved in politics which is shaped by our respective abilities to influence the behaviour of others.
But then why do we enable ourselves? What makes us crave for power? The answer lies in understanding a highly complex facet of the human mind, i.e., the ego. Ego is our own idea of our worth in the society we are part of. It is to increase this worth that we channelize all our energies throughout our lives. No human mind is bereft of this inherent quality. We try to look good, impress others, earn money, and move ahead in life with the sole purpose of increasing our self worth in the society. While a rickshaw puller works hard to give good education to his children so that his own self worth increases in his society, a CEO of company does that to make sure that his company earns the highest possible profit, increasing his self worth in the process. Our ego therefore, is the single most determining factor in directing our desire to enable ourselves - going to the gym, working hard for the exams, working hard at the work place are all means of augmenting our abilities- for influencing the behaviour of others.
Disparaging as it might sound, but the fact remains that in trying to impress upon your boss, in engineering somebody’s downfall and even in seducing your partner, you are doing nothing but playing politics. Politics, in no uncertain terms is the art of making what seems impossible, possible. And yet it is a science that governs all others.
So, before you throw a jibe at a politician involved in the governance of the country, do remember that he is one of your own tribesmen, a little less enabled then you perhaps.
What is imperative for you is to be aware of your own politics. This is because understanding your own politics is the ‘key’ to understanding why certain things ever happen to you.
This life is a political battleground. Don’t play blindly without thinking about the pros and cons of your actions. And make the right moves. You would always get the same results. It’s the master science after all. And always remember that you can’t help but play.
And be on your guard. Because this game stops only with your end!
© Debanshu Mukherjee, 2007.
P.S.- I’ve been a student of political philosophy in my first year at law school. The politics of International Relations (American Realism, a theory that traces the American foreign policy from the World War Days to Vietnam and Iraq, among other theories is my all time favourite) was by far the most interesting part of the two semester long course. Our course teacher, Dr. Maheshwar Singh, a PhD from JNU was extremely effective. This is my first attempt at looking at politics from a micro perspective.
I am currently reading the Age of Capital by Eric Hobsbawn and another book on the Indian Securities Market.