Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 32, No. 18. July 30, 1969

Politics an art

Politics an art

He does not like confusing complexities that do not fit meekly into his mould. He therefore, despite the inherent contradictions, reduces man to the social digit he can handle. The study of politics can become scientific when men, have in actuality, been forced in to the precast mould of the political scientist. This date is set at an Orwellian 1984.

Until 1984, the study of politics is not a science but an an. Political feel is as important as the naked intellect. While the political scientist takes man, the digit, the political philosopher takes man—man in his entirety, many faceted man. The political philosopher is capable of viewing all these facets of man at once. Thus he views man's Essence. The political scientist places man under the microscope, studies one facet only, then calls this single facet man's base. From a base thus perceived, rational theories arise. Bentham's base was an ignorant bliss. Marx's base is an economic equation reducing man to a tube of flesh fit only for alimentation and elimination. When mankind can be summed up so simply politics will have become a science. Until then, it remains an art.

I distinguish between an art and a science as that difference between taste and mechanical technique, between feel and intuition and rationally conceived knowledge, between the irrationalism of the conservative and romantic and the rationalism of the social engineer and metaphysician.

Aristostle, Aquinas. Burke and Oakshot can be linked in that their interest lay in man and not just his intellect. They not only realised, but valued man's diversity. They were all sceptical of man's ultimate perfectability. They could all be termed irrationalistic and conservative (in the modern ideological sense) in that they were sceptical of any one man's ability to intellectually arrive at a pattern for an ideal society. They all deny the possibility and perhaps the desirability of a Utopia, They all value the individual more than a grand design for the State. They also value a collective wisdom of society over the intellection of one man, and the collective wisdom of the ages over an unproven reason for change. An opposing example would be Plato, his Republic with its guardians and people—breeding evinces his scepticism of all save his own mind. He, in this respect, is a political scientist, while the others qualify as political philosophers.

Why should the political philosopher of the twentieth century demean himself with the restricting appelation, political scientist. He seeks glory in a term applied to physicist and sanitation engineer alike. Only in the most vulgar of materialistic societies need man justify his moral judgments by the standards of a utilitarian technician. Yet, it would appear that contemporary thinkers place an independent value on things scientific.

The scientist belongs strictly to the kingdom of necessity. Why should we exalt necessity? Has modern day society no room for the Don Quixote? Why must we justify our personal windmills to the scientist? Is his truth the only truth, and universally applicable? Supposing science could arrive at ultimate reality, must we deem that reality desirable? I somehow feel reality would be a world of stark glass and concrete, tarmac and steel—a sterile asceptic treadmill, wherein we run like pissants under bright lights. And to what end? progress? Towards what? The ends must be those of the scientist for the ends as the egg and not the after-birth of the means. Cornices and gargoyles are useless antiquities on the structure of necessity. Byron and Robbie Burns hold naught for the one-eyed men of science. The brass band is only a hollow noise for hollow men.

I grant the scientist his place in the car factory but I resent his presence in the front seat telling me where to drive. The shortest distance between two points is always the motorway, never the scenic route. The political scientist sits behind the wheel of State and steers with the callous grubby hands of the mechanic.

By treating politics scientifically we reduce our scope. We can deal with social man only to the extent that he is rational. The scientist approaches humanity brandishing a dehumanising determinism. Indeterminate free will negates science. Determinism negates the individual—man. Attempt to marry socio-economic determinism with free will and the scientist finds himself following the ludicrous loop of that proverbial bird, flying in ever decreasing circles. He is attempting to reach and devour his own free intellect by means of his alimentary tract. He foolishingly considers his prejudices only that which he had, or had not, eaten for breakfast. Whether the determinist uses the ego, security, happiness, sex, or the potato to bail his trap he still expects to catch all men in the same trap. He is not prepared to cater to individual mice.

The danger lies not in the self-applied term political scientist' but in the value we attribute to science. Since the enlightenment science has been elevated to a position where it enjoys a God-like infallibility and universality. Newton tried to sum up all in an inclusive system of laws. Boyle had rather a mechanical interpretation of the world. His theories were the spring board to Deism; a rationalism of God. They taught that the intellect had no bounds. They put the intellect over emotion. This belief, when applied to politics, results in a negation of the human being. Rationally, all men are equal. Enforced equality denies the individuals right to self expression. Universal principles and a world-wide morality leads the New Zealand rationalist to the bigoted belief that a system evolved in New Zealand, by and for New Zealanders, should be applied to the South Africans, living over 8,000 miles away, in different surroundings, with different problems, and surprisingly enough, their own culture and their own moral force evolved by and for themselves. Political science is the arch enemy of the individual. It denies the unique man as it denies cultural and regional diversities. As a science it cannot cater to man but only to the social common denominator scientifically created.