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Welcome to the Discipline of Politics (PMB campus)


Welcome to the home page of the Discipline of Politics, Pietermaritzburg campus, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

While Politics affects each of us on a daily basis, it is not always easy to know exactly what we mean when we talk about studying Politics.  But how we conceive politics is affected by and will affect what we choose to study. One way to think about politics is to see it as being concerned with the study of power, especially, but not only, power relations centred on the institution of the state. Thus, the study of politics is primarily focused on governments, policies and public institutions, extended perhaps to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), trade unions and multinationals who attempt to influence the exercise of the power of the state.

Those who see politics as being about conflict, argue that the essence of politics is conflict between people and that a situation is regarded as political if it contains conflicts of policy preference, desires or interests power relations. We may then study the causes and effects of conflict – on a global, national or local scale – and conflict resolution – from peace-keeping to nuclear standoff. Resource allocation accounts of politics, feminist understandings that ‘the personal is political’ are some other conceptions of politics which affect what we choose to study and how we choose to study it.

This is not to say that these areas of study do not overlap, nor does it mean we cannot have different perspectives arising from the same material being studied.  What it shows is that politics is one of a very limited number of disciplines to which all students should be exposed, no matter what their intellectual or career goals. This is because politics influences so many of the decisions we make – and can make – regardless of where we are in life and what we do. It is not for nothing that Aristotle said ‘Man is a Political animal.’

The UKZN School of Politics offers a number of programmes of study, and here in PMB we specialise in Political Science, Government, Business and Ethics, and International Studies. Follow the links above to get information on each of these programmes, including course lists and degree options.  That way, you can decide in which of these you belong…because if you want to know anything about people, power, or the world, you do belong in the School of Politics.


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