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Mikhail Gorbachev 's speech at a session of the United Nations General Assembly ( RIA Novosti , archive 828797).

A polysemic notion , politics covers:

  • politics in its broader sense, that of civility or Politikos , designates what relates to the organization or self-management of a city (in Greek: polis , in Latin: civitas ) or of a State and to the exercise power in an organized society;
  • in general, the politics of a community , of a society , of a social group , in the sense of Politeia , conforms to a constitution drawn up by its founders which defines its structure and functioning (methodical, theoretical and practical). The policy bears on the actions, the balance, the internal or external development of this society, its internal relations and its relations with other groups. Politics is therefore mainly what relates to the collective, to a sum of individualities or multiplicities. It is in this perspective that political studies or political science extend to all areas of a society ( economy ,law , sociology , etc.);
  • in a more restrictive sense, politics in the sense of Politikè or political art, refers to the practice of power , i.e. to the struggles for power and representativeness between men and women in power, and to the different political parties to which they may belong, as well as to the management of this same power.



According to Georges Balandier , political anthropology "tends to found a science of politics, considering man in the form of homo politicus and seeking the properties common to all political organizations recognized in their historical and geographical diversity" [ 1 ] .

Anthropologists have distinguished four primitive political systems , which would be located outside of any state [ 2 ] or institutional logic:

  1. bands of nomadic hunter-gatherers . Because of their small size (barely more than a hundred individuals), and their mobility, these bands would feel no need to establish permanent political authorities;
  2. lineage societies. Described by Evans-Pritchard , in his classic study of the Nuer , this political system involves the coming together of several family groups, within which the elders possess a particular legitimacy, which makes them able to resolve a conflict;
  3. societies with charismatic notables. Here, power is represented punctually by a few personalities recognized for their moral qualities or their material attributes. However, this dignity remains individual, and is not transmissible hereditarily;
  4. chiefdom societies. A few individuals exercise undeniable and hereditary power, the extent of which remains variable, however.

Addressing the notion of political organization in stateless societies is under debate in the discipline.

Middle Eastern States

During the Obeid period in Mesopotamia (6500 to 3750 BC ), two major facts will appear and combine.

The phenomenon of economic structuring initiated at the beginning of the Neolithic era reached a critical level, which led to the emergence of a new sociological cell, the city , as well as the advent of social inequalities [ 3 ] . The invention of writing allows the rational administration of a given space: "writing, in fact, makes it possible to carry messages far away, to note down accounts, to keep archives, all resources likely to help the highest degree of state administration” [ 4 ]. The joint advent of this sociological model and this intellectual technology contributes to the emergence of a new human structure, the state , and its corollary, politics.

From the year 3000 BC. J.-C. , the city-states which appear in Mesopotamia seem to privilege political regimes rather close to the constitutional monarchy , even of the republic . A Sumerian poem studied in particular by Samuel Noah Kramer thus mentions the presence of two assemblies in Uruk , one, the assembly of elders, resembling a sort of senate , the other an assembly of the people. The legitimacy of the king of Uruk seems to depend closely on these two assemblies: he does not declare war on the city of Kish .only after having received at least the support of the assembly of the people [ 5 ] . What is more, the attribution of royal power is only rarely hereditary. The Sumerian term to designate the king , Lugal, consists in fact of the association of the root Lu, man and gal, great. What matters here above all are the moral qualities and by no means the hereditary membership: Sargon of Akkad thus obtains the throne only thanks to his royal virtues [ 6 ] .

Gradually the monarchical power grew stronger, both in power (the first coronation ceremonies , which implied legitimacy by divine right, appeared at the beginning of the second millennium BC [ 6 ] ) and in scope (the city-states are absorbed into great kingdoms). The democratic and republican institutions , noted by Kramer, are in fact falling into disuse. The reinforcement of the monarchical authority will support, during the first quarter of the II E millenium av. J.-C., the establishment of a standardized administration and jurisprudence, an evolution illustrated by the codes of Ur-Nammu (around -2100 ), Lipit-Ishtar (around -1930 ) and Hammurabi (around -1750 ) , as well as the Laws of Eshnunna (around -1760 ) [ 7 ] . Admittedly, these first legal corpuses have no exhaustive aim and are rather similar in style to collections of moral prescriptions [ 7 ] . However, the fact that they intend to correct oral traditions in a rational perspective represents an important break:“The situation in a Middle Eastern society is therefore very different from that of societies without histories , where customs are absolutely fixed and where change is undergone and not organised” [ 8 ] .

The strengthening of large, centralized and rationalized states induces the organization of international relations . From the end of the 2nd millennium BC. AD to -1100 , a space from Egypt to Elam , and from Arabia to the Hittite kingdom is governed by an elaborate diplomatic system: the Amarna system [ 9 ] . Based on a relative geopolitical balance between four or five great powers, this system has its own lingua franca , Akkadian, and its own protocols. Thus, the“different kings maintaining diplomatic relations are deemed to belong to one and the same great family or great house (…) kings of identical status treat themselves as brothers, those of lesser stature are the sons or servants of the first” [ 9 ] . The successive invasions of the peoples of the sea put an end to this elaborate political construction.

It thus seems that the Middle Eastern states have forged almost all of the political forms and structures. However, if the political is certainly a well-established object, it is in no way a matter of political thought or theory: "never will myth, law, custom as a whole become the object of explicit debate , because they continue to be sacred, and only sacred” [ 10 ] . Middle Eastern statesmen are primarily concerned with politics , the management of administrative affairs, and very little with politics ., of the state order as a whole — because the order is part of the divine order as a whole, and cannot be disputed, discussed or simply considered [ 10 ] .

Greek city

Despite the Middle Eastern precedents, the origin of politics is generally identified with that of political thought and therefore, in fact, with the Greek city. Thus the English Hellenist Moses Finley , he was able to assert that politics “is one of the least widespread activities in the pre-modern world” . It is indeed, "a Greek invention, or, to be more precise, an invention made separately by the Greeks , the Etruscans or the Romans  " [ 11 ] .

Throughout the second  millennium  BC . AD , Greece appears as a simple peripheral continuity of the Amarna system . As Jean-Pierre Vernant notes  : “the Mediterranean does not yet mark on either side of its shores a break between East and West. The Aegean world and the Greek peninsula are linked without interruption (…) on the one hand to the Anatolian plateau (…) on the other (…) to Mesopotamia and Iran  ” [ 12 ] . Thus, the first known Greek state, the Mycenaean kingdom, is similar in many ways to contemporary Middle Eastern monarchies. It is indeed a bureaucratic royalty , characterized by an almost manic regulation of social life [ 13 ] . In addition, the king or anax has an essentially military and religious authority [ 14 ] . Also, politics in the Mycenaean era thus takes the form of an essentially administrative activity, inscribed in a broader cosmogonic framework.

Effective from the 12th  century  BC . J. - C. the decline of the Mycenaean world will involve a complete redeployment of the initial political structures: the anax disappears and the local potentates, known as basileus preserve generally only religious prerogatives [ 15 ] . The ebb of monarchical sovereignty favored two social forces hitherto almost excluded from the political game: "on the one hand the village communities, and on the other a warrior aristocracy" [ 16 ] . The frequent disagreements between these two forces will make it necessary to set up the political debate or agon, in a public square. Power therefore ceases to depend on a single center, to be the product of constant deliberation: “the archè can no longer be the exclusive property of anyone; the State is precisely what has stripped away all private, particular character, which, escaping the remit of the genes , already appears as everyone's business” [ 17 ] .

Gradually a new kind of political entity was established: the polis or city. It is characterized by three main traits: the use of rational discourse, the publicizing of political acts, and the belief in the equality of citizens before the law (or isonomy ) [ 18 ] . This establishment effectively invalidates the old oral customs, which until then regulated the political and social game. Several legislators, grouped under the generic name of Seven Wise Men , will consequently promote a new civic ethic, which testifies to a desire to rationalize justice: the criminal is thus no longer judged guilty vis-à-vis his victim, but of the whole city [ 19 ].

The moral counterpart of this ethic, “  sôphrosunè  ” or moderation, makes all social structures converge towards a “golden mean” [ 20 ] . Solon thus imposes a geometric equality, or homoneia , of the bodies of citizens, in accordance with the ratios of musical types (2/1, 3/2, 4/3): the first class of citizen thus receives five hundred measures of wheat, when the last class receives only two hundred [ 21 ] . Subsequently, democrats like Cleisthenes generalized the principle of absolute equality, based on the 1/1 ratio: each citizen then became the indivisible entity of a single body: the city [22 ] . In order to guarantee this principle, Cleisthenes carried out a profound reform of the Athenian civic space, grouping the four traditional tribes into ten tribes: purely conventional, this administrative division completed the rationalization of the city [ 23 ] .

Middle Ages and Modern Age

The regent María de Molina presenting her son Ferdinand IV of Castile to the Cortes of Valladolid in 1295, painting by Antonio Gisbert Pérez, 1863, Congress of Deputies of Spain

In the Middle Ages , the most common political system was that of hereditary or elective monarchy . The king is then the suzerain of his vassals . In some states , the regime takes the form of absolute monarchy by divine right , the archetype of which is, in France , King Louis XIV  ; Russia lived until 1917 under the regime of autocracy inherited from the Byzantine Empire while Poland experienced a form of aristocratic republic , Golden Liberty, which ends with the partitions of Poland .

In the barbarian kingdoms of the High Middle Ages , the sovereign was above all a warlord and the royal function was practically reserved for men. During the central Middle Ages, the consolidation of the feudal system sometimes allowed a woman to inherit sovereignty over a state or a fief. The inheritance system tends to favor men: women are excluded from inheritance in certain countries ( Salic law in France, Golden Bull of 1356 in the Holy Empire ) or only have access to it in the absence of male heir ( England , Spain, Portugal, Russia until the end of  the 18th century); the jurists only endorse a general view of medieval women as inferior to men. However, until the 19th century ,  it was not uncommon for the mother of a minor or absent ruler to exercise the regency . In France, monarchical power came to an end under a regent, Eugénie de Montijo , wife of Napoleon III [ 24 ] .

Late 17th century  -  early 20th century

The arrest of Louis XVI during the flight from Varennes in June 1791 marks the failure of the first attempt at a constitutional monarchy in France. British engraving from 1900.

From the end of the 17th  century and in the 18th century ,  in several Western countries, the monarchy was called into question in favor of a more or less expanded parliamentary system which would evolve towards representative democracy .

Great Britain was the first to adopt a constitutional monarchy during the Glorious Revolution of 1688  : the Bill of Rights of 1689 limited the authority of royal power while guaranteeing the inhabitants a certain number of rights political and personal. The American Revolutionary War , from 1775 to 1783, allowed the British colonies in North America to become the first modern democratic republic . In France, the French Revolution broke out in 1789. It materializes initially by a Declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen  ; power no longer emanates from the monarch through divine rights but from the sovereign people and finds its legitimacy in the "  natural , inalienable and sacred rights" [ 25 ] , which every man (and every woman ) possesses from birth [ 26 ] . The privileges granted to the nobility were abolished on the night of August 4, 1789 . The regime passed to the constitutional monarchy ( 1791 ), then to the republic (1792 ); France oscillates between these two forms until the victory of the Republicans in 1879 .

In Europe, the Congress of Vienna and the Holy Alliance of 1815 restored a European balance based on the monarchical model which would evolve, more or less quickly depending on the country, towards a constitutional form. Political and economic liberalism , a largely dominant model in the United Kingdom and the United States, found it more difficult to impose itself in France and Germany, where the 1848 revolution was a failure; the German and Italian unifications are accompanied by the construction of a monarchical national state not devoid of authoritarian inclinations, as well as the Iberian world, while in Russia, after the failure of the Decembrist movement of 1825, the Russian revolution of 1905 resulted only in an unfinished draft of a constitutional regime [ 27 ] .

These two types of regimes (constitutional monarchy and Republic) will gradually spread, with more or less success, in a majority of states. Thus, constitutional revolutions occurred in Iran in 1905-1911 [ 28 ] , in the Ottoman Empire in 1908 [ 29 ] and in China in 1911-1912 [ 30 ] .

British suffragettes Annie Kenney (left) and Christabel Pankhurst demonstrate for women 's suffrage , circa 1908.

The 20th century  was marked by a greater presence of women in political life, although their place remained in the minority in most countries [ 31 ] .

From the end of World War II

After the Second World War, new rights were proclaimed. In France , the 1946 Constitution defines in its preamble essentially social rights ( right to obtain a job , right to strike, right to obtain suitable means of existence from the community). These rights are retained in the 1958 Constitution .

The appearance and intensification of ecological problems from the 1970s raised the question of the rights and duties of citizens in relation to their environment . State policies are beginning to take into account the objectives of sustainable development , crossing economic, social and environmental aspects, according to the description given at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 . The European Union is implementing a sustainable development policy . In France, the rights and duties related to the environment are proclaimed in the Environmental Charter of 2004, making this country the first state in the world to give them constitutional status.

According to the United Nations , the proportion of seats women hold in national parliaments exceeds 25% for the first time in 2020 [ 32 ] , with lower rates in the Middle East and North Africa region in 17.8%, all chambers combined, as well as in the Pacific [ 32 ] , except in New Zealand . At, parity has been reached in three countries : Cuba , the United Arab Emirates and Rwanda [ 32 ] .



Chinese political thought emerges, as in archaic Greece in a context of crisis . The decomposition of traditional political structures in fact arouses in both cases a philosophical and political awareness. Effective from the 8th  century  BC . J.-C. , the decline of the empire of Zhou , allows the various strongholds and seigniories to emancipate themselves and to constitute multiple independent kingdoms.

In a Chinese society divided by feudalism , Confucius sought to restore order and peace through respect for traditions, legitimacy of power, and social hierarchy. Beyond his guiding principles, his experience leads him to the following theoretical conclusion: for political power to live and be sustainable, the Prince is required to behave like a man of quality, a wise man by constantly showing the 'example. “If a man knows how to govern himself, what difficulty will he have in governing his state? » .

ancient Greece

The political thought of Socrates can be summed up in two fundamental contributions [ 33 ] . First, the development of a critical method of evaluating political knowledge. Unlike Protagoras , Socrates asserts that truth exists. However, this truth is not dogmatic: it can only be reached by the constant exercise of a critical spirit. Reluctant to concepts, Socrates strives to instill doubt about the morality and effectiveness of political systems:“by putting his interlocutors in contradiction with themselves, he shows that opinion is (…) incapable of serving as a basis for deliberation and political decision-making, which ruins the Athenian postulate (…) of universal competence citizens” [ 34 ] . Second, the conceptualization of morality as an object of science. There are, according to Socrates, universal moral laws which can only be discovered by a truly philosophical education. Rarely innate, the science of government is learned; so that for Socrates, Politics appears as a real job.

Initially derived from Socratic theories, Plato's political philosophy is based on the question of the good and the faculties of the soul, a question which affects both individual human behavior and education  : for Plato, there is no of virtue that one could acquire individually, and philosophy itself is an activity of thought that always presupposes an education and political conditions that remain to be defined. For Plato, political philosophy is then inseparable from moral philosophy (as is the case for all ancient Greek philosophy), so that politics, by means of education, aims to take care of the soul of citizens. For these reasons, politics is the science of good in general, and it is therefore superior to all other sciences and techniques, which is why Plato designates it as a royal technique .

As opposed to Socrates who starts from the world of ideas, from which our souls come, to deduce concrete applications, Aristotle tends to want to rely on the observation of reality to deduce theoretical principles. This Aristotelian approach is also true in politics. For Aristotle, man is made to live in a political community. For him, the City is willed by nature and is therefore inherent to any human group, according to the principle that man is by nature a being destined to live in a city ( ἄνθρωπος φύσει πολιτικὸν ζῷον / anthropos phusei politikon zoon ).

In his work Politics , Aristotle analyzes the origin and functioning of the different political regimes of his time, the 4th  century  BC. J.-C. , to define the best of them, which must give birth to the Ideal City. Hellenistic Philosophy will mark a clear withdrawal from these political concerns.





Renaissance and secularization

Machiavelli embodies an absolute break with the Christian political tradition and, as such, appears as the first modern political thinker. According to him, in fact, “a new prince, in a conquered city or province, must do everything new” [ 35 ] [ref. incomplete] . For Machiavelli, three principles must direct the Policy: force, respect for the law, cunning [ 36 ] . For Machiavelli, the prince does not need to make a profession of a good man. These political conceptions are coupled with an equally renewed theological interpretation. Indeed, according to Leo Strauss  :"Since he characterizes as tyrannical a way of acting which the New Testament attributes to God , he leads us to the conclusion, no, he is indeed saying that God is a tyrant  " [ 37 ] .

Also, for Machiavelli, the prince must be efficient, in other words the prince must be useful. Which is a revolution for the time because it implies that the prince is not necessarily useful, that the prince is not an end in itself but that his place and his function must be deserved [ref . necessary] .

17th  –  18th  centuries _ _

The question of the state of nature and the social contract is part of a particular context of Western thought. From the 17th century onwards  , a contestation of Aristotelian political theses began, based on a humanist counter-argument. For Aristotle in fact: "The State is a fact of nature" , and "Naturally, man is a sociable being" , by the simple fact that he masters rational language, and is thus able, more than any other animal to group together in society: “man is infinitely more sociable than all the other animals that live in groups” . It follows that"Nature therefore instinctively drives all men to political association" and that "ἄνθρωπος φύσει πολιτικὸν ζῷον""man is a political animal" [ 38 ] .

Conversely, "for the modern age, the humanity of man does not essentially depend on his relationship to others in the construction of a just order" [ 39 ] . In the spirit of humanism, the relationship between man and morality or nature is indeed not collective, but individual. Insofar as man precedes the State, the latter cannot be a fact of nature, and could only have been established at a precise moment in human history, to meet needs no less precise. .

Such a conventionalist position already existed in the time of Aristotle. Apart from a number of sophists cited by the latter whose work has not stood the test of time, such as Lycophon , Epicurus shared these conceptions. For the latter, the State was established by convention ( Sunkhétai ), in order to allow philosophers to devote themselves to science, without fearing the insecurity of human relations: "Epicurus sees the foundation of the city, and more generally of bonds of law, in contracts or conventions binding autonomous subjects [...] men associate because they have experienced the pain of suffering damages [...] man is not a naturally political animal » [ 40 ]. The chance transmission of the texts contributed to concealing this conventionalist position, then relatively frequent.

Rehabilitated by Hugo Grotius , who establishes the existence, in his Traite du droit de la guerre et de la paix , of a natural law pre-existing to the various political rights, the State of nature is exposed clearly by Samuel Pufendorf in the first book of the Law of Nature and People . For him, the state only positively confirms a system of rights and duties preexisting in man: there are natural laws, such as the law of sociability, which govern human relationships. However, for these natural laws to really be applied, the intervention of a political authority is necessary:“The object of the legislators of this earth is to regulate the external actions of each one, as best as possible” [ 41 ] .


The first mention of the term ideology dates back to 1801 , when Antoine Destutt de Tracy published Elements of Ideology . However, the meaning that Tracy applied to this neologism had nothing political about it: it was about a science of ideas and sensations: "I want in this writing, not to teach you, but to point out to you everything that happens in you when you think, speak, and reason” [ 42 ] . It does not in fact recover its current meaning until the German Ideology of Karl Marx , written in 1846 , but published much later.


Liberalism is a current of thought in political philosophy , born of an opposition to absolutism and divine right in Enlightenment Europe ( 18th century )  , which affirms the primacy of the principles of freedom and individual responsibility [ref . necessary] on the power of the sovereign master. It is based on the idea that every human being has fundamental rights that no power can violate. Consequently, the liberals want to limit the social obligations imposed by the power and more generally the social system with the profit of the free choice of each individual.

Liberalism is based on a moral precept which opposes the subjugation of the individual, from which flow a philosophy and an organization of life in society allowing each individual to enjoy maximum freedom, particularly in matters economic. For most liberals, the dichotomy between “  economic liberalism  ” and “  political liberalism  ” therefore does not exist, since it involves the application of the same doctrine in different areas.

In the broad sense, liberalism advocates a society based on the freedom of expression of individuals with respect for the right to pluralism and the free exchange of ideas. It must join on the one hand in the economic field, the private initiative, the free competition and its corollary the market economy , on the other hand, political and economic powers well framed by the law and the counter-powers . It therefore values ​​merit as the basis of the hierarchy. This ideally presupposes a rule of law where minorities are respecteddown to the smallest, the individual, the State being only the guarantor of this respect and having to render accounts for its action.

However, depending on the country and the political context, liberalism may manifest itself in very different, even opposite ways. The liberal could thus be, according to the place, even according to the times, the one who requires the State to break a religious or social traditionalism oppressive for the individual (caste, statutes, discriminations and privileges…) or that it intervenes to give everyone a real capacity for economic action (restrained by a monopoly, poverty, lack of education, credit or other), or conversely, those who oppose the intervention of power. This stems in particular from the ambiguity of the term between English liberalwhich designates the progressive supporters in particular of interventionism, and "liberal" French term which designates the philosophical movement and opposed to the intervention of the State outside the sovereign. If they both refer to the Enlightenment, that of the Anglo-Saxon world is heir to the liberalism of the 1920s (like that of Beveridge , or initiated by John Stuart Mill , in particular in his work De la liberté ), when he returns to France to the Austrian school and the turn of liberalism after the 1970s, often called neo-liberalism.

The limits to be set on the action of the State, as well as the modalities of public action (in particular the respective roles of administrative action and the law), will be especially subject to debate within the organization itself. Most liberals consider state action to be necessary for the protection of individual freedoms, as part of its sovereign functions , and many of them (such as Adam Smith , Raymond Aron , Karl Popper or Benedetto Croce ) accept and even recommend certain state interventions in the economy, particularly in terms of control and regulation. In contrast, libertarians (or anarcho-capitalists) deny the state any legitimacy in any area whatsoever.


Wim Kok , Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1994 to 2002 under the Labor banner. A former union leader, he invented the “polder model” .

Socialism is a type of social organization based on collective ownership (or social ownership ) of the means of production [ 43 ] , [ 44 ] , [ 45 ] , as opposed to capitalism .

It is the objective of various currents which have appeared and developed since the 19th  century , and which have led today to the various Marxist and anarchist currents , as well as to the social democrats . The distribution of goods and services can be done according to the production of each individual (collectivism, piecework) or according to the needs of each individual (communism, taking the heap). Marxist states have a collectivist economy, while communism is advocated by anarchists . The socialist movement seeks social justice [ 47 ] , condemnssocial inequalities and the exploitation of man by man [ 48 ] , defends social progress [ 49 ] , and advocates the advent of an egalitarian society , without social classes [ 45 ] .

For their part, academics Georges Bourgin and Pierre Rimbert define socialism as “a form of society whose fundamental bases are as follows:

  1. Social ownership of the instruments of production;
  2. Democratic management of these instruments;
  3. Orientation of production with a view to satisfying the individual and collective needs of men” [ 50 ] .


Originally, fascism (in Italian fascismo) designates an Italian political movement that emerged at the end of the First World War . the, Benito Mussolini brings together a certain number of dissidents of the PSI , and undertakes to form a “Combat Beam” ( fascio di combattimento ). By “Beam”, Mussolini then meant a spontaneist movement , in line with Italian revolutionary syndicalism . The term belonged in fact to a vocabulary of the far left [ 51 ] . In direct competition with other revolutionary organizations (including the nascent Communist Party), the Fascii tried to recover a right-wing clientele [ 52 ]. These attempts at recovery reassured the Italian bourgeoisie, which, following the repression of workers' movements, considered this movement to be a lesser evil [ 53 ] .

The ideology of this movement is difficult to define: one can see there schematically a synthesis of nationalism and revolutionary syndicalism [ 54 ] , but multiple contexts and ideological movements have in fact preluded its creation: the revival of the irrational [ 55 ] , futurism [ 56 ] , anti- Semitism [ 57 ] … Due to its composite nature, fascism struggled to constitute an original and new doctrine: “at the beginning, fascism was difficult to distinguish from other ultra- minorities” [ 58] . Contemporaries themselves were skeptical of a 'catch-all' program that captures Marxist, nationalist andreactionary themes alike .

As the historian Pierre Milza notes , this ideological diversity obliges us to think of fascism as a plurality: "There is not one but several fascisms" [ 60 ] . This plurality is first of all spatial: “On a common background (…) there is the blossoming of political movements of a new type, closely related to each other, but at the same time endowed with a specificity which relates to the past, to the traditions and structures of the countries in which they develop” [ 60 ] . It is also, and above all, temporal. Milza thus identifies four stages in the development of fascism:

  1. The first fascism constituted a spontaneous reaction of the middle class in the face of various and contextualized threats: proletarianization, revolutionary movements [ 61 ] .
  2. The second fascism results from an alliance between the first fascism and the big bourgeoisie, which supposes that the latter also feels threatened. This alliance leads to the liquidation of certain leftist currents (the Italian squadrism, the German SA…) [ 62 ] .
  3. The third fascism represents government fascism. It inherits the initial contradictions of the movement. Unlike classic right-wing dictatorships, fascism cannot simply enshrine the domination of established elites. It must indeed satisfy certain lower social classes, which constituted its original clientele: the petty bourgeoisie thus provided the main cadres of the new regime, while multiple social institutions (corporations) endeavored to integrate the proletariat into fascist society. . These contradictory provisions can only be reconciled within the framework of a great national design. Also, by its very contradictions, fascism is forced into war [ 63 ] .
  4. The fourth fascism or full fascism strives to replace the bourgeois and liberal order with a new order. This replacement presupposes the establishment of a totalitarian power (the SS-State) and the generalized conditioning of individuals [ 64 ] .

Considered from the angle of these two pluralities, Fascism becomes a generic political concept, which, beyond Mussolini's regime, characterizes Hitler 's Nazism , Codreanu 's Cuza League , the Austrian Heimwehr , Oswald Mosley 's BUF , the PPF of Jacques Doriot … It would even seem that one can speak, after 1929 , of a fascist international. In 1932 , Mussolini stated in a speech held in Milan: "In ten years, Europe will be fascist or fascist" [ 65 ]. A little earlier, one of the caciques of the regime, Asvero Gravelli , went so far as to declare in his journal Antieuropa: “Fascism is the gravedigger of old Europe. Here come the forces of the Fascist International” [ 66 ] . It is in this spirit that Mussolini created the CAUR ( Comitati d'Azione per l'Universalità di Roma ) in 1933 , in order to federate the movements which claim Italian fascism 67 . This initiative remained a dead letter: fundamentally nationalist, fascisms could not coexist [ 68 ]. It was only through the expansionism of a few fascist states that fascism could impose itself internationally.

At the end of World War II , fascist movements ceased to be a viable political alternative. Both their involvement in crimes against humanity and “the advent of a capitalist system infinitely more internationalized than in the past” [ 69 ] definitively mortgages their ideological future. Although the "era of fascism" is over, these movements continue, marginally, to exist.


neoliberalism has the ideology of privatizing the public sector and limiting state intervention in the economic system to promote private sector profit. Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher promoted these practices during their tenure in the 1980s .

The main thrusts of neoliberal theses also aim to lower the cost of labor and control the evolution of the money supply to prevent inflationary effects [ 70 ] .

organization of power

Political regimes according to legitimacy

In order to exercise itself without encountering opposition, political power has always endeavored to justify its legitimacy. This can be based on:

  • tradition and heredity, the case of traditional regimes, monarchies and aristocratic systems;
  • the divine will, the case of theocracies but also of the monarchy of divine right  ;
  • the expression of the rights of peoples and individuals ( popular sovereignty ); this is the case of democracies but also of authoritarian regimes but claiming the popular will (certain fascist regimes);
  • the merit and quality of the leaders. This is the theory induced by regimes governed by “wise men” (case of certain local or tribal powers), bourgeois oligarchy ( suffrage censitaire ) or technicians;
  • the concern for the effectiveness of political action, officially for the good of the people, even if the latter is – temporarily or permanently – not deemed fit to exercise power. These are the regimes inspired by positivism , the technocracies  ;
  • chance ( stochocracy ) .

Historically, it appears that in a number of early civilizations political power does not appear distinct from religious power (see for example Politics in Ancient Egypt ). The confusion of political and religious power, or the submission of political power to the religious, or the very close proximity of the two, is called theocracy .

Other typologies of political regimes

Politics consists first of all in the organization of power in society. A distinction is made between several decision-making systems .

A distinction is traditionally made between monarchies and republics , an institutional distinction ultimately deemed irrelevant nowadays given the fact of the diversity of types of monarchy (from the Scandinavian or British parliamentary monarchy to the Saudi theocracy ) and types of republics.

Current distinctions are based more on the degree of democracy , democratity , characterizing the regime. We thus distinguish between democratic, authoritarian and totalitarian regimes .

Political powers

Political power is made up of at least two distinct functions:

  • an executive power , which makes decisions and, once these are adopted, applies them and enforces them through an administration  ;
  • a legislative power (one or more assemblies), ensuring the representativeness of the people or at least of the elite, which accepts or not the decisions of the executive and can sometimes propose them itself.

Added to this are powers that are not directly “political” but which participate in the political system:

In Western democratic political thought (born in Britain and later formalized by the French philosopher Montesquieu ), which currently serves, at least on paper , as a model internationally, powers must be separated. In democracies, a distinction is thus made between:

Territorial powers

The modes of territorial organization constitute another aspect of the organization of power. In this regard, we distinguish:

Classically, states include two main types of territorial subdivisions:

  • large regional entities (in the French sense) often corresponding to well-defined historical entities, having sometimes known during their history periods of independence or autonomy (such, in Europe, Brittany , Scotland , Catalonia , Bavaria , etc.);
  • municipalities or villages, historically constituting the basic unit of local life.

Between the two, there are sometimes political or administrative levels such, in France, the department and the cantons .

Above the national framework, there are more or less flexible “regional” (such as the European Union ) and global (such as the United Nations ) political structures.

Politiké  : art and practice

Political life

The modalities of accession to power are, like the organization of power, determined by the institutions and are part of the political regime . However, they also go beyond the question of the organization of power for the following reasons:

  • accession to power also depends on political life, that is to say in particular, in contemporary societies, on the life of political parties; hence also the question of the relationship between power and its opposition  ;
  • the issue of accession to power also goes beyond that of its organization since accession can occur in a form that has not been provided for by the institutions. These are all forms of violent seizure of power: coup d'etat and revolution .

Political politics designates the part of politics that does not conform to established principles. This term is used, for example, when a politician ( individual or party) deals with his own affairs, those of his colleagues and those of his party , rather than those of the city .

Mode of accession to power

The different modes of accession to power depend on the legitimacy of the regime in place (see above) as well as the type of regime (supra). On paper, the system of election, based on the theoretical presupposition of democracy, imposed itself in the 20th century  as the standard international system for appointing leaders. There are exceptions with monarchies in particular (Saudi Arabia, Sultanate of Brunei, etc.).

Within the democratic system, we distinguish in particular between:

Modes of political action

In democratic regimes, the normal mode of accession to power is participation in elections .

Other non-violent modes of expression also exist ( demonstrations , strikes , non-violence , civil disobedience , non-violent conflict , boycott , press campaigns, cybermovements , etc.).

The field of politics, however, also covers violent modes of political action: coup d'etat , revolts , Revolution . Some violent acts are considered Terrorism by those against whom they are intended and acts of Resistance by those who practice it.

Political parties

Opposing political factions have always existed within all regimes, often based more on the support of a personality of the regime (often a prince or a great lord within monarchies). From the French Revolution at least (but much earlier in England with the Tories and Whigs), a model was put in place based on political parties or political movements theoretically more united by political ideas rather than by support to a personality.

Multiparty political systems have spread across the world, introducing new political notions:

  • peaceful political alternation at the head of government between parties;
  • the distinction between a majority and an opposition;
  • the distinction between two main political camps: the right and the left, or, in a caricatural way, the conservatives and the reformers, etc.

Political movements can be associated in their action with social movements , associations , etc. Article 4 of the 1958 Constitution governs the organization of political parties in France.

Political role of the media

The media have always played an important role in political life, constituting a relay of political life to the public. The influence of the media has led to the press being called the “fourth estate”. Political power followed technological developments, using the press, radio (  Franklin Delano Roosevelt  's " fireside chats " ), cinema (the propaganda films of totalitarian regimes), television and then the Internet and direct marketing. .

In France, the use of media directly affecting the general public, apart from the press, was regarded at the beginning of the 20th  century with suspicion by republican circles for whom the direct link between the head of the executive and the people was a matter of Bonapartist tradition. The use of radio first (General de Gaulle 's June 18 appeal ) and then of television by General de Gaulle broke these taboos.

The development of the media has led to a change in the behavior of politicians, a trend called peoplelization in the early 2000s. This is to show another image (non-institutional and more intimate) of the politician and to highlight private life in order to create a favorable image and a close bond with the potential voter. In France, we can trace its beginnings in the 1970s when Valéry Giscard d'Estaing put his wife on stage and had herself filmed playing the accordion.

exercise of power

The policy pursued by a government covers all of its decisions taken at the political or administrative level. This “general” policy is subdivided into sectoral policies, the main ones being social policy , economic policy , foreign policy , etc. A concept that can be refined (housing policy, cultural policy, agricultural policy). Political action is exercised concretely through the issuance of rules (political or administrative level) applied or controlled by an administration .

Notes and references

  1. George Balandier, Meaning and power , 1971, Paris, PUF
  2. Philippe Nemo 2007 , p.  4
  3. Philippe Nemo 2007 , p.  12
  4. Philippe Nemo 2007 , p.  14
  5. Samuel Noah Kramer 1986 , p.  55-60
  6. a and b Francis Joannès 2001 , p.  730-731
  7. a and b Francis Joannès 2001 , p.  190
  8. Philippe Nemo 2007 , p.  18
  9. a and b Francis Joannès 2001 , p.  236
  10. a and b Philippe Nemo 2007 , p.  23
  11. Moses Finley , The Invention of Politics , Flammarion ,, p.  89
  12. Vernant 2007 , p.  167
  13. Vernant 2007 , p.  172-173
  14. Vernant 2007 , p.  175-176
  15. Vernant 2007 , p.  181
  16. Vernant 2007 , p.  182
  17. Vernant 2007 , p.  186
  18. Vernant 2007 , p.  188-199
  19. Vernant 2007 , p.  204-205
  20. Vernant 2007 , p.  215
  21. Vernant 2007 , p.  216
  22. Vernant 2007 , p.  217
  23. Vernant 2007 , p.  219
  24. Moisei Ostrogorski, The woman from the point of view of public law: a study of history and comparative legislation , ed. Arthur Rousseau, Paris, 1892, p.  1-25 [1]
  25. Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 , preamble
  26. Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 , article 1
  27. Georges Burdeau (dir.), Diversity of political liberalism in Europe in the 19th century  , Works of the Aquitaine House of Human Sciences, No. 2  , Economica, 1985 [2]
  28. Soudabeh Marin, Ancients and Moderns? Ideal of Justice and Constitutional Revolution in Iran (1905-1911)  ” , on Law and Cultures , (consulted the)
  29. Lisa Romeo, Young Turks and the 1908 Revolution in the Ottoman Empire  " , su The Keys to the Middle East , (consulted the)
  30. Marianne Bastid-Bruguière, Founding a republic in the China of 1911  " , 1-2 , on Materials for the history of our time , (consulted the)
  31. Monique Selim, Bernard Hours and Claude Didry, From the 20th to the 21st century: what emancipation?  » , on Man & Society n°201 , (consulted the)
  32. a b and c More than a quarter of the world's parliamentarians are women, but it would take another 50 years to reach parity  " , on , (consulted the)
  33. Philippe Nemo 2007 , p.  108-113
  34. Philippe Raynaud 2006 , p.  562
  35. Machiavelli , The Prince , I. 26.
  36. Machiavelli, The Prince or the New Political Art , Yves Charles Zarka, Thiery Ménissier.
  37. Strauss 1982 , p.  49, published in English in 1958.
  38. Aristotle, The Politics book I, I 1-9.
  39. Dictionary of Political Philosophy, art. State of Nature and Social Contract , p.  255.
  40. Philippe Raynaud, Dictionary of Political Philosophy, article Epicureanism , p.  234.
  41. On the Law of Nature and People , VII, II, 4.
  42. Destutt de Tracy, Introduction to Elements of Ideology.
  43. “Economic and political doctrine which advocates the disappearance of private ownership of the means of production and their appropriation by the community. » (Hachette encyclopedic dictionary, 2002, page 1506)
  44. “Name of various economic, social and political doctrines condemning private ownership of the means of production and exchange. (Petit Larousse Illustré, 2007, page 990. The definition of the Petit Larousse 1972 was already almost identical )
  45. ^ a and b "A political doctrine or system which aims to create a classless society by moving ownership of the nation's wealth (land, industries, transport systems) out of private and into public hands" (Harrap's Chambers compact dictionary, 2000, page 744 )
  46. Anarchist Encyclopedia article "Collectivism"
  47. "Theory aimed at renovating social organization for the purpose of justice" (Grand Dictionnaire encyclopédique Larousse, 1985, volume 9, page 9645)
  48. “Socialism began by condemning social inequalities and the exploitation of man by man, and by asking that the general interest take precedence in everything over individual interest. (Le Quid, 1995, page 904)
  49. "Doctrine of social organization which intends to make the interest, the general good, prevail over particular interests, by means of a concerted organization (opposed to liberalism); social organization that tends to the same goals for the sake of social progress. (New Petit Robert of the French language , 2007, page 2382 and Petit Robert 1990, p.  1822 )
  50. Georges Bourgin and Pierre Rimbert, Socialism , University Press of France, coll. “  What do I know?  », 1986, p.  13 .
  51. Milza 2001 , p.  92
  52. Milza 2001 , p.  103
  53. Milza 2001 , p.  100
  54. Milza 2001 , p.  28
  55. Milza 2001 , p.  16-24
  56. Milza 2001 , p.  32-33
  57. Milza 2001 , p.  40-42
  58. Milza 2001 , p.  91
  59. Milza 2001 , p.  105
  60. a and b Milza 2001 , p.  157
  61. Milza 2001 , p.  158-160
  62. Milza 2001 , p.  160-162
  63. Milza 2001 , p.  162-164
  64. Milza 2001 , p.  164
  65. Milza 2001 , p.  332
  66. Milza 2001 , p.  334
  67. Milza 2001 , p.  336
  68. Milza 2001 , p.  339
  69. Milza 2001 , p.  165
  70. Keyword: Neoliberalism - Le Monde diplomatique  " , on (consulted on)
  71. politician politics  " , on Wiktionary (accessed on)



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