IAPSS Annual Theme 2017: The Meaning of Politics

In contemporary world, the word ‘politics’ and its variations are virtually everywhere. Less frequently, however, the meaning of the term in different contexts and settings is analyzed and tried to be understood. Far more than an academic endeavor, which is itself of core importance for developing new and creative models of human interactions, the meaning of politics shapes our view of core elements of contemporary society, such as regimes, institutions, actors, conflicts, human rights or governance. A range of theoretical and methodological approaches can be used to design innovative research that helps us understand what politics really means.

In particular, the following questions will be discussed within the scope of the theme, with the help of all sub-disciplines and related disciplines of political science:

  • Why politics is or is not a normatively good phenomenon? In what ways and under what conditions politics does (or can) deliver freedom, justice, equality and other fundamental values?
  • How do human interactions become politicized, or depoliticized? What are the consequences of this (de)politicization for human well-being?
  • In what sense are human rights political? What does politics ‘do’ to the quality of human rights standards around the globe?
  • How is politics related to culture or economics? In what cases, if at all, can a hierarchical relationship be established between politics and economics/culture?
  • What are the dominant understandings of politics among contemporary elites and publics, and how do these understandings relate to dominant approaches to politics in social philosophy, sociology, law or international relations?
  • How is politics perceived by citizens on the local and global stage? Which factors determine these citizens’ decisions to participate in political matters?
  • How does political decision making influence the outcome of public policies in various political regimes?
  • When does politics evaporate from an institution or an actor that is usually considered to be part of the political world? How can politics be returned to such a depoliticized sphere?
  • What distinguishes political relationships at country-level from those at regional (e.g. the European Union) or international (e.g. the UN) levels?
  • In what ways are the ‘crises’, debated in particular in context of the European Union, political? How can politics contribute to overcoming and/or management of these ‘crises’?
  • How is politics related to the ‘institutions of international society’, such as war, diplomacy or (international) law?
  • When and from what perspectives is it better to leave decision-making to a non-political (e.g. bureaucratic) organization? How do politics and bureaucracy interact in such transfers?
  • Why politics does (or does not) comprehend an asymmetric relationship between dominant (active/aggressive) and non-dominant (passive) actors? How do gender perspectives change our understanding of politics?
  • What is the relationship between politics and humanitarianism? Under what conditions can politicization of humanitarian issues contribute to more effective humanitarian strategies and outcomes of the humanitarian work?
  • Are there any alternatives to political forms of decision-making, particularly in representative democracies? How do these alternatives work in practice?
  • How and why does the presence of political interactions at various levels influence the legitimacy of political regimes?