Doing politics is different from being in politics

Politics is a condemned affair. It is a negative word. Doing politics is seen as a bad deed. Being in politics is a dutiful affair.

In his well-known lecture, “Politics as a vocation”, delivered at Munich University in 1918, Max Weber sought to revisit his thesis on bureaucracy, but this time, as an intermix of the chains of interfaces operating through a complex web of power.

Weber looks at the rise of politics as an entity in state affairs. This system gave rise to “professional politicians” who came to serve the people from a disconnected yet existing lineage of politics. That is why a politician is a leader who is not a regular “normal” person. S/he has to evolve and work with existing structures while not submitting to the strict ethical conviction of a moral code. Yet, due to the market of emotion and followership, politicians have to compromise with rationality and make decisions to appease their followers. To have followers in favour is to ensure the victory of leadership. It does not necessarily result in the success of governance.

Politics is sought as a charitable, donating apotheosis. The one who turns to politics has the interests of many, at least in theory. Doing politics is a different thing than being in politics. The doing is to sustain in the difficult market of elections. The politician has to do and enact specific measures to impress their constituency. The doing of politics is to harbour high hopes, hoping to be the premier of the nation. Being in politics is to add significance to the multitudes of politics.

I would think of another class of category that is fixated on castes — rulers of institutions — who have maintained their authority despite the changing influences in the government. They have remained an invisible, solid, and dependent force upon which the economic hunger sustains.

In the doing of politics, the leadership is expected to be saintly and pure. Thus, the masses expect the politician as a leader to lead towards salvation. However, salvation is not available to the politician who has to break the rules so that s/he can exist. Due to compromising nature of politics, the pure core of morality is broken every now and then. Politics then becomes a vehicle of the ruling. To rule, one must get elected. Electioneering is a circus of the capitalist, feudal castes where they back their ideology with their resources to maintain their status quo.

In the being of politics, the politician has to stay awake and alive for the masses to draw inspiration. They are often always the inheritors of a lineage. In many democratic societies, such castes are available to comfort the economic anxieties of the authorities in power.

Therefore, the quality of politics is defined on two terms—first, the character of the polity, and second, the reflection of that on the politician. The public and public representatives are interdependent.

Administrators and politicians are the class of people who live off politics by being in the corridors of power. In a democratic set-up, both the rich and those without resources become politicians and draw salaries. This clean definition does not apply to those who do both and are of traditional castes or new castes. In the wake of competing advantages offered by the extra-state entities, the bureaucratic class and politicians draw their income through a protected bureaucratic state order.

Power is the rider for the state. The state here “is a relation of men dominating men”. To establish anything, the relationship is constituted through observing certain rules. Therefore, power is not exclusive, and so is politics. Weber argues that we’re all “occasional politicians” when it comes to casting a ballot, opining on issues, and partaking in protests. Thus, politics as an outward norm is not encoded into a definitional mode. We are all politicians as much as professionalised politicians. The position of the latter is temporary and can be called upon to serve to the best of their abilities, but the position of the earlier, the regular citizen, is of a full-time politician operating outside the state-power structures but drawing legitimacy and power from its rights as a citizen.

Doing politics and being in politics is a condition of the state. We change sequences over professionalized politics and politicized professions which act in conjunction with power, hierarchy, and castes.

Suraj Yengde, author of Caste Matters, curates Dalitality and is currently at Oxford University


  • Adam Gray

    Adam Gray is an experienced journalist with a passion for breaking news and delivering it to the masses. With over a decade of experience in the field, he has covered everything from local stories to national events, earning a reputation for his accuracy, reliability, and attention to detail. As a reporter, Adam is always on the lookout for the next big story, and his dedication to uncovering the truth has earned him the respect of his peers and readers alike. When he's not chasing down leads, Adam can be found poring over the latest headlines, always on the lookout for the next big scoop. Contact [email protected]

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