High and low politics

Often we hear the terms “high” and “low politics”, though the precise meaning of these terms heavily depends upon the person who use them. In this post I will propose, from a classical republican perspective, my own definitions.

Low politics is concerned with the (peaceful) resolution of conflicting interests of individual citizens. The aim of low politics is to reach a compromise between these interests. However if different groups cling too much on their self-interests, such compromise could be impossible.

High politics is about the exchange, or even clash, of different answers on what constitutes the public good. Essentially high politics is a debate which has no definite end, because the question has no definite answer. This is not to say that no agreement could be reached, quite on the contrary.

In modern society high politics is rare, as most citizens are mostly concerned with their own private interests rather than the public good.

There is even a third type of politics, which is so low that it in my opinion is hardly worth to be called politics. This type is the battle for political power. Unfortunately, this is often portrayed as “high” politics, not the least by the sensationalist media.

10 thoughts on “High and low politics”

      1. One only needs to read the paper and see that low low one being played out between brothers/sisters cousins and 2nd cousins grand kids. Somehow it is usually about $$$.

    1. What I mean is that my definitions are inspired by the tradition of classical republicanism, which goes back to Aristotle. CR itself, as far as I am aware of, has no formal distinction between high and low politics, though from the central concepts of CR, I think one could derive such a distinction.

  1. In the U.S. today, there is precious little “low politics” being practiced. Political discourse is almost exclusively being dominated by “high politics” as well as the “third type.” Substantive debate over vitally important issues has been supplanted by ideological mudslinging.

    This spells eventual ruin for democracy. A nation which cannot address its most fundamental problems is destined to self-destruct. Furthermore, in a world of global economics and grave environmental concerns, the demise of a nation with the size and stature of the U.S. is bound to have catastrophic consequences.

    1. >>Substantive debate over vitally important issues

      I would state this as high politics as it’s concerns the public good.

      >>has been supplanted by ideological mudslinging.

      and this as low politics, as ideological rhetoric is often used t disguise private interests. At least in my opinion.

      Further I agree with your analysis. The current state of US politics does indeed cause great concern, even in other parts of the world.

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