ISSUE-123

Some people claim that the goal of politics should be the pursuit of an ideal. Others argue that the goal should be finding common ground and reaching reasonable consensus.


Write a response in which you discuss which view more closely aligns with your own position and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should address both of the views presented.


What should the goal of politics be? As complex as politics itself, this question does not seem to have a simple answer. Generally speaking there are two contrasting points of view on this issue. The first school of thought argues that the goal should be the pursuit of an ideal, or we could call it idealism. On the other hand, some would suggest the goal of politics to be finding common ground and reaching reasonable consensus, which could be regarded as practicalism. While both political ideologies have been implemented and tested in human history, in my opinion the goal of politics should be finding common ground for both theoretical reasons and practical concerns.

First, from a theoretical perspective, to understand what should the goal of politics be one must understand the origin of politics. Throughout the human history, politics has been present ever since our primate ancestors learned to use tools and form large social groups. The interactions between group members constitute the very foundation of our politics. Even in our modern society today, politics is still about the relationship between different nations and among different political bodies within a nation. Then the question arises why politics came into being in the first place. In my view, politics is about the coordination among people with different motivations and vested interest. Because of the diverse background and different ideologies, it is certainly inevitable that there will be conflicts among different social groups. If left unchecked and unaddressed, those conflicts will escalate and prevent any meaningful social progress from happening. Therefore politics is needed to reconcile those conflicts and move the society as a whole forward via compromises, which equate finding common ground and reaching consensus. In other words, politics itself should not be about the ideal itself; rather, politics is the avenue through which that very ideal can be achieved.

Similarly, in terms of practicality, treating the goal of politics as the pursuit of ideal can bring dangerous consequences to human society. The main reason is that those in power can use such ideals as excuses to fulfill the goals that actually aligns with their personal interest or the interest of the political group. Examples abound in our recent history. Hitler’s atrocious act towards Jewish people during the World War II was first disguised as an act to cleanse the German society, an ideal that the Nazi propaganda machinery and Hitler himself repeatedly highlighted. Whenever an ideological revolution takes place, it is often accompanied by bloodshed and turmoil, because the zealous pursuit of an ideal would not tolerate those who hold a different view. The infidels, in the eyes of the idealists, need to be purged. Thus, tragedies are almost bound to happen if the goal of politics is the pursuit of an ideal, due to the nature of exclusivity of an ideal as well as of the power itself. After all, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

To summarize, politics involves the relationship between human beings in a society and because our communities are so diverse that it is almost guaranteed that conflicts shall emerge. Politics should therefore aim to reconcile those conflicts so the society as a whole can progress. In addition to the theoretical considerations above, if we instead treat the goal of politics as the pursuit of an ideal, dangerous consequences and even disasters may occur in our society, as history has repeatedly shown to us. Overall, I agree with the view that the goal of politics should be finding common ground and reaching consensus.

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