Volume 11, 2001
Social and Political Philosophy
Politics and Anti-Politics
Three very different things present themselves under the title “politics,” even when we restrict the domain of politics to civic concerns. One is the highly partisan activity that begins with the distinction between friends and enemies and culminates in wars or elections. Another is legislation, litigation, and diplomacy, often making use of conciliatory negotiation with adversaries (no longer “enemies” but honorable fellows). The third is civic action aimed at limiting, circumventing, or constraining the role of the first two. I call the first kind “zero-sum politics,” the second “integrative politics,” and the third “anti-politics,” anti-politics having affinities with what Pettit calls anti-power. My aim is to distinguish the three by sketching their salient differences. The important point, as Wittgenstein said, is that these language-games are played. Clarity about their differences can enhance both our understanding of public affairs and the quality of public discourse.