Very many definitions cloud a universal application to understanding politics. There are those who argue that the search for a legal understanding of politics is practical. Given this scenario, it becomes necessary to place more emphasis on the characteristics of politics to arrive at a clear understanding and a better analysis of what actually constitutes politics.
Politics has been defined differently with the likes of Davideaston explaining politics as the authoritative allocation of resources and values within society. Thus, politics is mainly about the distribution of resources within society (Guy, 2010).
The people who control the distributive aspect occupy the top hierarchy within society. The group determines how scarce resources are allocated. The understanding of politics is about power relations with one class being inferior to the other. The inferior class is subjugated if not sidelined.
According to Laswell & Kaplan (1950), politics simply defined is who gets what, when and how. The scholars were mainly concerned with allocation of scarce resources in the society. It is therefore not surprising that we may have two groups of people who are not equal because only one group of people determines the distribution of resources.
Darh Robert who conceived politics in terms of power, power being the ability to influence the minds of men, perpetuated the same line of thinking. It emerges again that power is a relational concept (Darh, 1990).
Politics has been inherently viewed in man with Aristotle stating that man is a social as well as a political animal. He viewed politics as responsible for making a man happy. African political scientists have a different definition of politics.
Nwabuzor & Mueller (1985) observe that politics is found at all levels of society, be it vertical or horizontal. To these scholars, politics is ubiquitous since it is found in trade unions, market places in offices and even in homes.
Role of Opinion Polls in Democracy
Opinion polls are normally designed to present the thoughts of a particular population by carrying out a number of investigations with a standardized data collection tool referred to as questionnaire. The generalized results are then interpreted and concluded to predict the voter behavior.
Opinion polls are a threat to democracy since leaders always manipulate them to favor their interests and wishes. The polls are subject to sampling errors that mirrors in the consequences of probability and vagueness of the data sampling procedures.
Opinion polls have a skewed wording of questions that aim at intimidating some candidates, which further result to interference of democracy.
The problem lies with the way questions are asked and the type of possible answers, which may perhaps end up affecting the outcome of polls. The public has a tendency of supporting the candidate referred by the research assistants as the leading candidate (Nwabuzor & Mueller, 1985).
In most circumstances, sampling in opinion polling is not representative. The officials of the polling company normally choose the population sampled. Apart from sampling, there is also the problem of sampling tools where most operators prefer phones and emails.
People with phones are richer individuals in the society who may happen to be supporting the same candidate, probably a friend. Overall, opinion polls offer a base line and knowledge about what other people think about an election. This allows other undecided individuals to make up their mind by scrutinizing the prevailing political climate.
Relevance of Ideas and Ideologies in Politics
Ideology refers to a system of values and beliefs regarding various institutions and processes of society that are considered factual by a particular segment of society. It serves to equip the believers with knowledge about the world as it is now and the way it should be hence organizing the complex world into something simple and new.
Karl Marx viewed ideology as the ideas of the ruling class, which are in every epoch the ruling ideas. It is generally noted that ideology is all about delusion and demystification that provides false or mistaken view of the world.
Capitalism being one of the world’s leading ideologies is not only sustained by unequal economic and political power, but also the hegemonic ideas of the bourgeoisies.
Political Sociology and Ideology
There is a striking relationship between political culture (Ideology) and political socialization. Political sociology takes the immediate operating environment of the individual.
The environment shapes the thinking and attitudes of individuals hence political socialization is better understood when reference is made to the agents of socialization such as the family, schooling system, peer grouping and the media.
The family is associated with stereotyping and usually shapes individual’s initial stage of life. It is culturally oriented and not seen as a good source of knowledge. The school provides an individual with choices in life.
An individual acquires skills and knowledge that is distinct from that of the family. At the peer grouping stage, individuals acquire permanent political culture hence interacting with individuals with similar ideas.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Conservatism, Capitalism and Socialism
In liberal democracies, the market determines both the demand and supply of commodities. The state is a utility that create an enabling environment for the personal fulfillment of needs.
The state recognizes freedoms and upholds that the people determine their own destinies by being innovative hence encouraging development. One of the disadvantages of the model is that it encourages exploitation and alienation of the powerless in virtually all segments of the society is it social, economic or even political.
Socialism is a kind of ideology where by the society is centralized with only one party controlling all sectors of the economy. Education system and individual socialization is a state affair implying that the community is powerful and that an individual is just part of it.
The press is highly controlled being used in some incidences as a propaganda machinery to outline the goodness of life under socialism. The system has an advantage of collectivization where individuals develop a sense of belonging because there is no discrimination in terms of wealth.
Conservative ideology is mostly traditional, found in Africa and other traditional countries in the world. The type of governments in place are either militaristic or despotic and monarchies such as that in Swaziland. There is neither a market driven nor a controlled system of economy. The institutions in such states are weak with too many pop parties.
Darh, R. (1990). Modern Political Analysis, 5 Ed. Prentice-Hall: New York.
Guy, J. (2010). People, Politics, and Government. 7 Ed. Scarborough, Ontario: Pearson Education.
Laswell, H. & Kaplan A. (1950). Power and Society, Yale Law School Studies, Yale University Press: New Heaven.
Nwabuzor, E. & Mueller, M. (1985). An introduction to Political Science to African Students, Macmillan. London: McMillan Educational Ltd.