The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Political Concepts: Introduction and Table Of Contents

I thought hard about what concepts to include in this little booklet, and how to talk about them. Broadly speaking two approaches were possible: I could draw on my reading and give a summary of how the terms are usually used in the social sciences or I could convey my understanding.

I have come down on the side of explaining how I understand and use various political concepts, first because anyone who wants to know the standard usage can find it on the Web or in sociological and political science textbooks; and second because people who read me (and who gave to the fundraiser) will mostly find my understanding more useful and interesting. While these concepts cover only a small piece of my world-view, it’s an important one, and it’s a chunk of the model I use to understand and then explain the world when I write.

The first draft of the chapters are written except for the conclusion, and I’m currently editing them.

Over the next two to three weeks I’ll intersperse these articles with other posts. I’ll update the Table Of Contents as each chapter is published, link to the Table of Contents and the previous and next chapter in each piece, and at the end I’ll delete this paragraph and the preceding one.

In general terms, we will be looking at politics thru a lens of legitimacy, ideology, identity and power: seeing what forces form the groups and coalitions which jockey for power and how the forces determine who wins and what they do, and are able to do, with the power they win. Despite how that may sound, the booklet isn’t primarily about elections because most elections change little, they elect people who will do about the same things their predecessors did. Elections that signal great change, like Thatcher and Reagan in 1979 and 1980, or FDR in 1932, are rare, and and those I do discuss.

Sadly, despite many efforts, politics is social, and no one other than Hari Seldon has managed to create an effective science of history. There are no social physics, and any set of tools requires understanding to use. That said, my goal (over more than half my lifetime) has been to understand social forces well enough so that as a race, we humans can perhaps not just understand them, but gain some control over them; creating history, rather than being its victims.

It is my hope that this little booklet will contribute to that project.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who donated to the 2020 fundraiser, which made this possible. I appreciate it more than most reads likely realize.

Table Of Contents

(As the chapters are published, I will link to them here)

Introduction and Table of Contents

Politics Itself




Groups and Coalitions





International Government and Relations


(My writing helps pay my rent and buys me food. So please consider subscribing or donating if you like my writing.)



Open Thread


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 14, 2021


  1. Ian Welsh

    All off topic, rude or otherwise inappropriate comments will be deleted. I’ve put up an Open Thread for discussion of unrelated topics, right below this article.

  2. Synoia

    None other than Hari Seldon has managed to create an effective science of history.

    I believe focusing on greed would be interesting.

  3. Hugh

    Synoia, it is sane to try to make sense out of world, our society, and ascribe forces like greed and selfishness to what is happening. But I can’t help thinking that a lot of this looks like our species is experiencing a kind of psychotic break. Sometimes things don’t look like they make any sense precisely because they are senseless. I remember seeing someone having such a break once. She was yelling at, arguing with, and cussing out a whole bunch of people. Thing was there was no one there. She was standing alone in the room. But the people she was yelling at were realer to her than the people who came into the room to see what was going on. Our world is becoming increasingly like that, people filled with anger and hatred for people and things that mostly exist only in their own minds.

  4. Willy

    A thousand people showed up in Dallas to witness JFK and JFKjr’s triumphant reappearance and support for Trump. While I don’t think any of them would offer much good advice about how to go about divining a true political science which Hari Seldon might be proud of, figuring out the psychology behind their behaviors seems to be part of the puzzle. It is disappointing that so few seem able to just dump out all the many pieces of that puzzle, and just put them together, instead of forcing a few pieces together in an unconscious effort to try and create whatever narrative floats their particular boat. It’s a shame we don’t have the box lid to be our guide. Or maybe in some form, we actually do.

  5. Astrid

    I appreciate this effort. My awakening came from reading cogent arguments, decades after my formative education, on “why it doesn’t have to be like that” and I hope this work will bring more people in.

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