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WHAT IS POLITICAL ANALYSIS AND WHY IS IT A CRAFT? C H A P T E R O N E 1 T his book is intended primarily for practitioners and prospective practitioners of political analysis and for those with a specific interest in how the craft is practiced. It is not intended to be a philosophical, historical, or etymological treatise. Nevertheless, some definitional work is necessary so that both author and reader share a common understanding of the content to follow and its boundaries. For the purposes of this book, politics has to do with social relations involving authority or power. It could be argued that all, or virtually all, social relations involve authority or power, but that would be to define politics so broadly as to rob the term of any analytical utility for present purposes. Family politics, office politics, and gender politics may all be legitimate objects of inquiry, but they are not what we are concerned with here. The “polis” was an ancient Greek city-state, a geographically defined entity governed by a body that existed to regulate the affairs of its constituents. We shall be concerned with politics primarily as they concern authority or power relations within and between those regulating bodies that we know as governments, and between them and the societies they are regulating. Analysis is an endeavor that involves separating an intellectual or material whole into its constituent parts for individual study, studying such constituent parts and their interrelationships in making up a whole, and/or preparing a spoken or written presentation of such a study.1 In political analysis, then, we may be deconstructing governmental or other entities concerned with power or authority so as to better understand how particular parts work, or, conversely, we may be looking at the entity as a whole with a view toward understanding how it affects, and is affected by, its constituent parts. 2 ———— THE CRAFT OF POLITICAL ANALYSIS FOR DIPLOMATS To summarize, we shall think of political analysis as the attempt to convey an understanding of how authority and power relations operate and evolve within and between governments and between government and society. I believe it is more useful to think of political analysis as craft than as science or art. Having a craft essentially means having a skill at making or doing something. Often, in the past, one would have apprenticed before being accepted into membership in a trade association or guild, thereby becoming recognized as a craftsman. A craft is not a science, although it benefits from and partakes of science because it contains elements that can be taught and mastered. It is not art, because it is essentially utilitarian rather than aesthetic, although the work of the finest craftsmen may rise to the level of art. At its best, it combines the intellectual rigor of science with the aesthetic sensibility of art. The subject matter of political analysis does not easily lend itself to the rigorous application of the scientific method. Opportunities for controlled experimentation are rare. History at the social level and experience at the individual level are generally thought of as the best teachers. But the lessons they teach are subject to widely varying interpretations . Art emphasizes the subjective. It is the imposition of one’s personal aesthetic sensibility on “objective” reality. Political analysis that relies too heavily on one’s own aesthetic sensibility—or, to put it another way, on a personal worldview—is no longer reliable. It does not listen. It marshals facts to support a preordained conclusion. Yet that insight, that artistic sensibility that makes the leap from incomplete information to the correct conclusion, that creates a new understanding of a complex reality, distinguishes the brilliant craftsman from the journeyman. In democratic societies, political analysis is fair game for everyone. Private opinions are, generally, welcome in the public arena, and a variety of media are not only available, but protected as means for expressing them. It is worth remembering that this was not always so. The salons and coffeehouses of the Enlightenment, and the publications prepared and circulated within them, created the first post-Roman public venues for political discourse. Within these venues, the exchange of political ideas was no longer confined to the nobility and their satraps, but could include the artistic, literary, and commercial classes. It remains true, however, that although Everyman may be a political analyst, not everyone engages in the craft of political analysis. The craft is practiced by members of particular professions...


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