Common Political Terms

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Ancient Athens

Politics, just like any other world, has its own terminology. There are terms that political analysts use that are pretty loaded concepts. The reason they’re used is so they can get the point across in single essay, or audio clip.

If you’re interested in politics, you need to know the terminology. While some people claim to know what these terms mean, I actually find that many don’t.

NOTE: I didn’t put these in alphabetical order so that you have to hunt for the term! The idea is you inadvertently learn something new along the way.

So, here’s a few concepts/terms to know:

Popular: This term does NOT mean something that a lot of people like. Instead, it means “from the people,” or, “the people chose.” The core idea is that if something is popular, it was chosen by free will, from a majority of people …

Hence a “Populist” is someone who is legitimate because of public free choice, or that person appeals to the public’s sentiments.

Legitimacy: Acceptance by citizens, or the granting power by citizens.

Government: The formal organization of power. The rules of power, and the organ of the state that formally decides what the people get (as benefits of citizenship), and what actions should be taken to mediate the passions of society.

Conservative (general use): Emphasizing fiscal responsibility, security (military affairs), and individual freedoms.

Liberal (general use): Emphasizing social justice, equality, and individual freedoms.

Demagogue: This is a term for someone who takes public sentiments (i.e. popular sentiments), and uses those sentiments to preach a message. The message is grassroots, from the bottom up, and a demagogue is almost a preacher for the people. Often Demagogues take people’s fears and anger, amplify it, and use it to gain popular support.

Nihilism: The belief that society has to be destroyed to be rebuilt. Nihilists usually emphasize that society can’t be fixed unless it were to be restarted. At their roots, nihilists believe that nothing means anything; hence society can’t make sense of anything and the only thing to do is leave it to destroy itself. … pretty bleak.

Grassroots: This term means that the foundation was laid at the bottom level. A grassroots phenomena, or campaign, is legitimized by word of mouth, door-to-door visits, and in-the-trenches tactics. Campaigns like this seek to include the broadest support possible (as in not targeting a single demographic).

Authoritarian: Meaning, authority. Authoritarians use their authority to assert policies, and derive their support by demanding obedience from people, and use that obedience as leverage to enact whatever policy they want. Basically Authoritarians demand support, then use that support to justify just about anything they choose.

Ideology: As in ideas, or ideal, and is a coherent, or at least unified, set of beliefs about how society should, or ought, to be. Adhering to a singular ideology is extremely rigid, and doesn’t allow a lot of room for creative thinking.

Reactionary: This is a conservative reaction to events, policies, or otherwise. Reactionaries are SUPER-conservative, often militant, oppositions to developments, whatever they may be.

Radical: A radical can be a few things: 1) A SUPER-liberal reaction to developments (as in, forcibly transferring wealth from wealthy to lower incomes), or 2) ‘Radical’ can be attached as a description for a person, policy, or ideology that is extreme (i.e. saying that EVERYONE must have a gun at all times is radical, because it is rigid, absolute, and is extremely conservative).

Radicalization: The process of becoming extreme, or the process of convincing a person or people to adhere to strict rules without deviation.

Elite: People who have say in the system. Individuals who have the ability to sway others. Most of the time elite are wealthy, but not always. Elite could include populists, journalists, politicians, business people, celebrities or otherwise. The requisite is the ability to influence people on a mass scale, or if the individual has substantive say in policy.

Civil Society: This is the idea that organizations build relationships, and those relationships help gain trust of society in general. The idea is that the more inter-linked agencies, organizations, and people are, the more is at stake if it were to crumble. In general, it refers to an interconnected network of people who encompass civil virtues.

Devolution: The act of central government gradually giving power to smaller components.

Pluralism: A system organized around the idea that multiple interests can co-exist. Pluralists usually emphasize that multiple ethnicities, religions, cultures, and genders can life cohesively in one state.

Plurality: Getting more votes than anyone else, but not getting a majority.

Statecraft: Using power, derived from wisdom and experience, to influence affairs for the good of the state. This term is most commonly used in international affairs.

Tyranny: Cruel, unusual, or inappropriate rule. Unreasonable use of control and power by a powerholder (individual or organization).

Welfare State: A state that uses it’s power to aid the poor, underemployed, or incapable individuals in society. Conservative ideology has issues reconciling freedom with welfare in this configuration.

Autocrat: A leader who demands absolute rule.