I’ve long been suspicious of anyone who attempts to give some kind of theoretical significance to a supposed distinction between “politics” and “the political.” Partly this is just linguistic; if you use “politics” as a noun you’re going want to use its adjectival form, “political,” at some point, and pretending that there’s a distinction between the two is just going to confuse you. But there is a more important problem with the purported distinction, which is that it obscures a genuine difficulty in the conception of politics. Drawing a distinction between, say, “politics” as a good practice and “the political” as a bad reification (or “politics” as a bad institutionalization and “the political” as a good ontological condition, or whatever other distinction you want to make; no-one agrees on what the actual distinction between the two terms is) is an attempt to fence-off some aspect of politics as unproblematic, to declare, by linguistic fiat, that the complexities in the concept of politics have been resolved.
In fact, however, the concept of politics is essentially problematic, and there is no aspect of it that can be protected from this difficulty. Read more↴