Politicization refers to the social tendency for various abstract concepts as well as specific entities and collections of facts to go from being seen as objective and/or seemingly outside of politics to being a part of culture war debates and/or topics for subjective discussion.
The politicization of science is a prominent example, with multiple nations suffering from having leaders manipulate data about various issues such as global climate change in order to push ideological agendas. Other instances include the spread of political debates centered around the arts, with certain individuals in particular as well as general artistic styles receiving either condemnation or praise for their supposedly politically charged content. In terms of regular day-to-day life, the advent of increased political polarization and the rise of extremism can prevent people from accomplishing even simple, normal goals as they go on.
Although bemoaned by political figures across the political spectrum, examples being U.S. writers Jonah Goldberg and Ezra Klein, no consensus among academics or the general public has emerged as to either the proper understanding of the social trends causes or possible ways to stop it.
1. Debates and discussions
Multiple commentators have speculated on the specific nature of political polarization in the U.S. specifically and more broadly the sorting of individuals into rigid ideologies as narrow-minded politics takes over more and more of peoples lives. The topic has provoked discussions from individuals across the political spectrum.
On example of a detailed work on the subject is the book Why Were Polarized, which was authored in 2020 by journalist Ezra Klein. Though focused on the nature of political polarization specifically, Klein discusses the general pattern of politics infecting regular life in depth. "The parties are dividing over fundamental identities that tend to generate intolerance and hostility," Klein wrote. Human beings form groups and set up collective identities as part of their inherent nature due to their psychological identities, he asserted, yet the dynamics in American politics have caused multiple methods of categorization from ethnicity to gender to religion and more to merge into "mega-identities". Thus in Kleins eyes, the two parties represent fundamentally different types of people to which, due to this identity fusion, frustrating conflict becomes inevitable. "What if our loyalties and prejudices are governed by instinct and merely rationalized as calculation?" he has asked.
While Klein is broadly known as being of the center to center-left, an example of a U.S. conservative who has opined on politicization is U.S. socio-political commentator Jonah Goldberg. According to Goldberg, the politicization of American life has become widespread in the 21st century and caused multiple dilemmas, with him asserting in The Dispatch,
"A healthy society is a diverse society. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you and I can agree that dogs are awesome and that owning dogs is the best thing you can do. That belief may be right or wrong - for us. But it is obviously wrong for other people. And that’s fine. What would be wrong is to create a culture or political system that enforces our point of view on people who disagree with it. It would be bad for people unsuited for dog ownership to be shamed or forced into owning dogs. It would also be bad for dogs. Likewise, it would be bad - for humans and dogs alike - if the anti-dog people tried to force everyone into cat ownership."
"Colonizing every school of thought and every institution to a single idea of the Highest Good - however defined - flattens society and destroys the kind of diversity we need. This points to the problem of talking about institutions as safe harbors. They’re really portals. to paths that give individuals their own sense of meaning and belonging. That’s what the pursuit of happiness means. For some people that’s college. For others that’s the military. For some its parenthood or sports or plumbing school. And for most of us, it’s a whole bunch of portals because we don’t all have to be just one thing. When we say that everything has to be political we say we have to be political has published about everything."
Journalist Stephen Metcalf has written in The New Yorker that overly academic analysis of the politicization of American life and general social polarization among ideological lines miss an essential truth. In Metcalfs opinion, historical evidence clearly has found that the Republican Party and related right-wing interests have stoked the conflagration of division in the narrow pursuit of political power. He explicitly named longtime Congressional figure and political icon Strom Thurmond as a particular example of racially-driven identity politics.
The Acton Institute has published a lamentation of polarization by commentator Ray Nothstine where the writer cautions against the trend to "look to every politician to solve society’s problems, as if politics could." Discussing the death of comedian Robin Williams, Nothstine criticized the "sentiment that there is little or nothing of worth beyond this world" and particular found fault with trying to attach a narrow meaning to Williams case. "Preserving liberty allows for human flourishing, contracting liberty reduces man to the material and morphs him into a piece to be moved on a political chess board. subservient to the political order," the writer concluded.
2. Examples of politicization
Within the totalitarian regimes of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, all sorts of created material previously seen as not necessarily political became forced into ideological frameworks due to the all-encompassing nature of those governments polices. Less dramatic instances have occurred in various other contexts inside of different nations during the 20th century and since.
The politicization of music serves as an example. After 1932, the official Communist Party of the Soviet Union attempted to force principles of "socialist realism" upon the arts in all of its forms, and this favored particular melodic expressiveness seen as existing in prior national traditions in opposition to other musical styles. The formal constraints on musical expression took place within a general academic framework of what got promoted as supposedly scientific types of applied Marxism. Decades later, analysis in the pages of Raisons Politiques remarked that while "the politicization of music. cannot simply be reduced to a formula", still "political power, upstream, believes itself capable of enslaving musical language to its ideology, thus positing the possibility of necessary and readable links between music and the world."
In more recent times, the politicization of science has caused widespread controversy in multiple nations. Within the U.S., the administration of President Donald Trump created public outcry when it declared that the Department of the Interiors screening process would begin to requiring non-scientists to re-approve discretionary grants for outside groups engaged in scientific advocacy, despite previously established rules about the integrity of scientific research. Previously, the administration of President George W. Bush had also attracted mass opposition for the purported willingness of officials to distort and massage resource for the pursuit of different goals, this politicization being thought to have reduced public support for measures to protect the environment.