What is Politics?

Politics for Nerds - Episode 1

What is Politics?

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘politics’.

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Something like the above? Or perhaps you think of Frank Underwood…

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…with his scheming demeanour and total ruthlessness? You’re not wrong. But that is a specific manifestation of politics and if I might get a little ahead of the discussion — these images are designed to ensure that you do not engage with politics and do not build a political awareness as this is what serves those who truly understand exactly how powerful political awareness is.

It’s time to move beyond these childish caricatures of what politics means and start to study it because it is everywhere. It is affecting you today, most obviously in your relationship with your government and secondly in the politics that take place in your workplace. It is with this latter that this series concerns itself, but before we get into specifics we need to go down to the basics.

If you’ve read any beginner politics book, you already know everything I’m going to say in this first post, but since our STEM courses have only the bare minimum of humanities education, many engineers are innocent as to even the basics of stuff like politics. So consider this a gentle introduction to the study of capital P Politics, the generalised body of knowledge about how humans organise and of which stage Frank Underwood is but one character.

before we begin

When it comes to Politics, a lot has already been said. It is one of the main branches of Western Philosophy and has been studied endlessly and tome upon tome of ink and paper has been heaped on the subject. My job then is not to add to this staggeringly large pile of human thought, but rather to sift it down to its essence and present it in an easily understandable way.

My intention with this series is not to turn you into a Machiavellian operator, an adept at court intrigue or a shuffling Varys, rubbing their (not sure what Varys’ pronouns are, just guessing here) hands under silken robes and glaring meaningfully.

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It is rather to bring to your awareness certain ways of how the world outside computers works. Where we have to deal with people, we have politics and I intend for nothing more than to make you aware of the currents of politics that swirl in your workplace, that you may avoid the downdrafts and ride the fair winds to new heights.

But all that is later. For now, we must begin at the beginning. What then, is this politics?