What is politics

What is politics?

Here you will learn what politics is all about.

learning goals

At the bottom of this page you can:


  1. explain what politics is.
  2. judge why regulate are important for living together in society.
  3. explain why rules to protect as well as restrict.
  4. understand, who Can establish and change rules.

Politics and rules

Surely you hear the word politics several times a week. For example in a television interview with a politician or in a contribution about a particular country.

Yet it is often difficult for us to explain what politics is. This becomes more understandable if you look at a definition of politics:

Politics is that human action that creates generally applicable rules.

So in politics we are mainly concerned with regulate of living together in society.

Two other important aspects emerge from the definition above:

  • Politics is human action. The rules that are set about politics are therefore made by people. This is important in order to understand that rules in our society do not just “fall out of the sky”. This is in contrast, for example, to religious rules in which believers assume that they have been established by a higher power, for example a goddess or a god. Political rules are made by people and can therefore also be changed or abolished by people. This means that you too can contribute to changing the rules.

  • The rules of politics are universal. Perhaps you have heard the saying "Everyone is equal before the law". Rules are made by people for a specific group of people. These rules then apply equally to all people who belong to this group. Accordingly, everyone should stick to the rules.

Rules are an indispensable part of our lives. Rules are formulated by people. In the broadest sense, politics is precisely this setting up or inventing rules.

Why are rules created?

Rules can be set up or changed by people. Rules become necessary when an individual or group of people feels that social interaction in a specific area of ​​life is easier when fixed rules apply to everyone.

We can show this, for example, with the history of the origins of football and other similar sports such as rugby or American football.

Rules in sport

Sport is an area of ​​life that is heavily regulated, so it has many rules. Just imagine what it would be like if, for example, football didn't know any rules.

So it would not be stipulated that two teams compete against each other, that there are goals or that only the foot and the head can be played.

Football could probably not be played at all without the rules, as nobody would even know what to do. Only the rules provide information about how the game is playing at all!

The rules in football didn't just come about. Indeed, there have been several sets of rules throughout the history of football. An original form of "football", the Ba Game, is still played in Scotland, for example. Ba Game has almost no rules:

  • There is a ball.
  • There are two teams.
  • The ball must be brought to a specific location in order to win.

Watch a video about this:

As you can see in the video, the Ba Game is relatively chaotic. Although participating in the Ba Game can certainly be fun, the game has some differences compared to modern football, which may explain why modern football has established itself almost worldwide, but the Ba Game has remained a phenomenon in individual small villages:

  • As a single person, you rarely get a chance.
  • The risk of injury is great.
  • The game lasts for several hours.

So it is probably the making of rules that made football so popular around the world. There is a limit of 11 participants per team. This allows all participants to actively participate in the game. Second, there are clear rules that protect the participants. For example, biting, hitting and holding are prohibited. Third, a football game is limited in time to 60, 80 or 90 minutes.

  • Perhaps you will find other rules that make football more interesting than the Ba Game?

Protection and restriction through rules

One difference between the Ba Game and modern football is that several things are not allowed in football. Excessive physical activity such as standing on the legs, holding or touching the ball with your hands is prohibited. Compared to the Ba Game, you have a lot less in football Liberties. This indicates an important one Function of rules towards:

  • Restrict rules: Rules often have the property that they restrict the freedom of action of individuals or groups. Often there is a clear separation between Restrict and Enable not possible. This gives you the explicit right to attend school. So you will be able to attend school. At the same time you are not allowed to “skip school”, even if you would like to!

The rule that says you go to school have to was of course not set up just like that. Rather, it has been found that compulsory schooling for all children is beneficial for society as a whole, because a good education enables young people to lead an independent life later on. This suggests the second important function of rules:

  • Protect rules: Just as the ban on hitting in football protects participants from injury, compulsory schooling also has a protective function. By learning to read, for example, you will be protected from not being able to find work later because you cannot read.

Who makes rules and who do they apply to?

Rules exist in almost all areas of life, be it at home, in sports or at school. The individual rules can serve different purposes and are aimed at different groups of people. In some areas, the rules also apply to everyone; in others, such as the family, a rule may only apply to the young people in the household, but not to the adult who set the rule. Above all, it is important to understand that rules are set up by people and can also be changed or abolished by them.

In politics we are mainly concerned with rules that apply to all society in a country. One also speaks of Laws. In contrast to rules in school or at home, laws have the property that they apply equally to everyone. So also for the people who make the rules. They also have laws compelling character. So you can't just override it.


Finally, let yourself go through what you have read and try to answer the following questions:

  • Explain in your own words what politics is for you?
  • Why are rules for living together in society important?
  • Which functions do rules fulfill?
  • Who can make rules and who can change them again?
  • Which rules are important in your life?