Key Concepts in Politics by Max Weber


Politics can be defined as the means and ways through which decisions in a unit of governance are made. It is the art and science of the allocation and distribution of resources determining who gets what, when and where. From an academic perspective, it is a study aimed at creating more understanding of the system of governance and administration. Political science studies the process of acquiring and utilization of power by individuals in the society[1].

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There are a number of key concepts in politics as fronted by major scholars such as Max Weber. These range from power, legitimacy, authority, and sovereignty.

Sovereignty can be simply defined as the ability of a government or state to exercise control over the population within its territory. It is the key characteristic of a state. The term sovereignty drew major differing views on its classification and origin. There are those who thought that monarch was a sovereign that had some spiritual origin. There is also the legal sovereignty originating from the law which emanates from the general will as proposed by Jean Jacques Rousseau. There is also the popular sovereignty that posits that parliament is the ultimate source of sovereignty.

Political power was defined by Max Weber as the ability of a government to exercise control over an issue or a group of people even when such people strongly oppose such control. It is the ability to influence how a certain group of people behaves or responds to a stimulus. Authority is the right of a state government or an individual holding a political office, to exercise political power over others. The concept of authority comes hand in hand with legitimacy.

Legitimacy revolves around the acceptance of the subjects that the government or the state possess power, and also the right to exercise these powers on the subjects. The individual holding the power has a right to exercise it on the people. [2]

According to one scholar, Max Weber, authority or legitimacy comes into play because of three factors. These being traditions; preservation of long-held notions, values and beliefs, legal; in accordance to the law and also charisma or the ability of the officeholder to charm the subjects.

Systematic study of politics can take place through the analysis of political instructions and the system of governance. It can be done through the critical evaluation of how politicians, government and individuals interact within a broad framework of accepted norms.

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For example, a study can be done on how the United States government makes its decisions regarding the various issues affecting the society. How the system of justice or the principles of freedom and political rights are influenced by the government and how all these operations in the backdrop of the various interest groups and parties in America. Politics can be understood and analyzed systematically by looking at the political institutions rather than at the personalities.

Evaluation, analysis and research in political science can be done through a number of methods. It can be done through elite interviews. This is where scholars or other authorities in political science or specifically political scientists are interviewed and their interviews analyzed. It can also be done through case study analysis. In this a certain scenario or happening or event is looked into closely. It is analyzed to establish why such an event has happened, its cause and its effects.

Content analysis is a method through which the information that has been documented on a particular political topic is analyzed. This would include scholarly materials on the topic. In the analysis of political science it is important that one establishes the weak and strong points of each method. A method of research for a certain topic or problem should be chosen depending on what is to be analyzed. Modern methods in political science include feminist research as well as post-modernism [3].

Study of political science encompasses the analysis and description of some particular political events. As aforementioned, politics revolves around the allocation and distribution of resources in a particular political setting. It is how power is used or abased in the allocation of resources and the issues surrounding such resources. A study in politics sheds a light on such a process and the factors at play.

A study in politics sheds a light on concepts such as power and authority. Political science enables one to be able to explain certain phenomena. The issue of terrorism has been raging on for long and the United States has been a victim of a major terrorist attack. A political scientist will be able to explain in detail why such an attack has happened. It will be able to explain even the minute details that have been left to chance by a novice in politics. A study in politics also arms one with the skills to describe some political phenomena one can explain the system and process of governance or the operations of institutions such as the senate and the executive and how they correlate.

It can also aid one with the knowledge of predicting outcomes of certain events. Having put all the necessary issues into consideration, one can analyze the indicators and predict the outcome of an event. A study in politics for example can enable one to predict, although not to a certainty, the outcome of the forthcoming presidential elections in the United States, the outcome of a major bill before the legislature or the publics’ response towards a certain sensitive issue.


It is also possible to control situations, before they get out of hand having studied politics. Armed with the predictive knowledge, one can know whether a certain debate or issue is going to have negative results or positive outcomes and hence erect the necessary measures to curb adversities. A study of politics is hence important if one is to understand political phenomena and systems of governance.

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Cardiff School of European studies. What is politics? Cardiff University. Web.

Jeff Huysmans, 2005.What is Politics? Columbia University Press. Web.

Fred I Greenstein, 1992.Can personality and politics be studied systematically? Political psychology, vol 13. Princetown University.

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