I just came across the following meanings of "politics" on Dictionary.com:

  1. the science or art of political government.
  2. the practice or profession of conducting political affairs.

In my opinion meaning number 2 refers to the set of activities related to the governance/government of a political unit. If meaning number 1 does not refer to a field of study, how is it different from meaning number 2.

  • 1
    Definition #1 is the more "abstract" definition, referring to the collective knowledge, theories, principles, etc. involved in politics (not necessarily studied as an academic discipline, though it might be). #2 refers to the practical implementation of those ideas. A bit like the difference between Literary Criticism (as a potential subject of study) and actually writing a poem. Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 12:41
  • 2
    I do not understand these kinds of questions. Surely, in your own language there is a difference between science and art versus practice and profession. A good bilingual dictionary should resolve it.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 15, 2021 at 21:55
  • Downvoted for stopping after consulting just one dictionary, especially one that uses language very sloppily. Politics is neither a science nor an art.
    – TimR
    Commented May 20 at 13:16

1 Answer 1


the science or art of political government

This mainly refers to the theoretical study of the subject. It is mainly called Political Science or Politology, however some people do refer to it simply as "politics".

Now come to think what science is: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

Any field of science has what is called, scientific and systematic study of things happening the way they are happening. This is the same. Learning why politics is politics, what is included in politics, and also how to deal with it, etc. with or without the practical/field experience.

the practice or profession of conducting political affairs

This is the practical implementation of the learning. People in government are usually said to be involved in politics, which means they are involved in the practice of the art too, and not merely its study. Not all people necessarily learn politics to get involved into politics.

This can be easily understood by the definitions given on Google:

the academic study of government and the state. (theoretical study)

the activities of governments concerning the political relations between states or the governmental policy. (practical life)

  • can an art or a science ever mean a field of activity? Merriam-Webster too has listed "art or science of government" as the first meaning. Now I doubt if it refers to a field of study because everywhere else the first meaning of politics is "activity related to government/governance".
    – adieng
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 14:33
  • A field of activity, yes. But the activity is doing study of it. And not everywhere else though it is included. Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 14:35
  • why would Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com list it ahead of the undoubtedly more popular meaning of the word "politics". It makes me doubt that "science or art govt/political govt" refers to the practice of politics rather than the study of politics. Please provide more support to your claim that it refers to the study rather than the practice. Thank you in advance.
    – adieng
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 14:45
  • You mean to say dictionaries write same repeated phrases to mean the same thing over and over again. That's generous. Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 14:50
  • sorry for my poor English but by "subject of study" I mean the object of study or the study of politics (the practice, not political science).
    – adieng
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 16:03

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