Blog Political Science and Public Administration

Eva Anduiza (UAB), Xavier Ballart (UAB), Joan Botella (UAB), Quim Brugué (UAB), Alex Casademunt (UAB), Ana Mar Fernández (UAB), Francesc Morata (UAB), Joan Subirats (UAB), Josep M. Vallès (UAB) and Salvador Martí (USAL)


“Politics for the Apolitical” (published in Spanish as Política para apolíticos) is a collectively written book designed to discuss and combat some clichés regarding politics that have become widespread in popular opinion and the media. The authors contend that the criticism of democratic politics that is necessary should not lead to an overall dismissal of the value of politics. Written by professors of political science at the UAB, the text is written in a style suitable for a wide audience, not just for academics, with the aim of bringing well-founded data and considerations to bear in the public debate on the crisis of democracy and possible remedies for it.

Some of the issues raised by the authors are:

 

  • Why does politics move away from what interests the public?
  • Do the citizens feel represented by their politicians?
  • Why is there a growing schism between citizens and parties?
  • Do politicians actually represent who they claim to represent?
  • Are there still differences between political parties?
  • Are politicians paid similarly to other professionals?
  • Would we be better off without politics?
  • Should we trust politicians?
  • Are there too many politicians and too few experts?
  • Can Internet solve the problems of democratic politics?

 

And in relation to political science:

 

  • Is a science of politics possible?
  • Why do we need political science?

 

Along with the introduction and conclusions, the final part of the book includes biographical notes in which the authors explain what led them to devote their careers to the study of politics or policies, something that might surprise those who believe there is currently a general lack of interest in or rejection of “politics.”

To illustrate some of the opinions that are detailed in the book, some excerpts are reproduced below:


"...In the world of politics, perception is everything. In fact, it is often said that perception is reality and that political struggle can be summed up as an attempt to shape that reality based on the manipulation of three factors: images, numbers, and discussions on the relationship between social change and governmental action."

"...Nowadays "democracy by election" is not enough. A democracy cannot be mistaken for a blank check. Is it possible to set up regular mechanisms to express distrust linked to the "automaticity" of the current representative democracy? Is it possible to establish channels to provide "attentive representation" that takes into account the voices and interests of those who are most disregarded?"

"... In the dialectic between public representatives and internal positions, between leadership and grassroots level, the balance has clearly turned in favor of the former. At present, parties are essentially their leaders and their elected representatives."

"... Every corrupt person in politics or government has his/her corresponding corrupter in society or the economy."

"... The image of politics that predominates in the media tends to accentuate its less attractive side... However, for many citizens this is the least comprehensible aspect of politics. It is unable or barely able to spark public interest or motivate citizen participation."

"... The differences in policies made by governments of different colors have been getting substantially smaller and smaller, making them unappreciable in some areas. At the same time, the parties are becoming similar in their modes of expression and in their ways of acting."

"... It’s not the same to reach mid- and high-level positions at an early age, without previous experience in a non-political profession or in lower-level political institutions, as to do so after having acquired some political experience or having worked in a non-political profession to which one may or may not return upon leaving public office."

"... The economy has also shown us its stupidity. Political intervention is now begged for. It might be the time to reiterate a vengeful "This is politics, imbeciles!"

"... Can it be said that European integration complicates politics? Actually, what happens is that European integration aims to address complicated political problems."

"... If we accept that there is a clear nucleus on which society is in general agreement, it should be possible to periodically determine the extent to which we are "advancing satisfactorily” and in what areas “improvement is needed.” Thus, broadening the channels of information and participation, and facilitating straightforward evaluations of policies would contribute to the re-engagement of citizens in politics."

"... Policies do not have to be identified with anyone in particular. They are responses to conflicting demands and divergent interests and, therefore, call for mediation and synthesis. They must recognize diversity and conflict in order to channel them into the construction of a collective project."

"... Perhaps there is not an excess of politicians but rather a lack of experts...having access to the results of performance assessments has become essential for citizens to feel close enough to public issues to participate in politics…, after analyzing the diverse information they receive on topics of interest to them."

"... Technology can facilitate and enhance social processes and actually opens a world of possibilities. But, by itself, it does not initiate or cause political change. It is not the determining factor, a “driving force,” but rather one more condition."

"... There are three problematic aspects in the analysis of political reality: multiple causes, observation, and the generalization of findings."

"... Political science has tended to bifurcate along two lines: either focusing exclusively on formal and modeling processes which allow it to remain isolated from social conflicts, or responding to social demands and needs with more applied and critical approaches."