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Why study political science?

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Studying political science can help one understand and critically analyze the world around us in relation to how humans interact with each other, other non-human animals, and the planet as a whole. Specifically, political science seeks to analyze and understand systems of governments and centralized power within human relations. Given that so much of human and non-human suffering directly stems from how power is concentrated into the hands of a few and how most people in our world are unable to have direct control of their own lives, studying these systems can be incredibly important to imagine another way of living and relating to one another.

For instance, the United States was founded on genocide, slavery, and the destruction of the environment. These acts were cemented and legalized through, originally, the colonial governments of England, Spain, and France, and then later through the American government. Through the hierarchical nature of governments and their ability to maintain power through use of violence and coercion (military and police), people without access to that hierarchical power are unable to fully control their own lives or fight their oppression without facing state repression.

This is how plantation slavery existed for so long in the United States, as the government and powerful individuals in society were able to maintain concentrated power that allowed them to enforce slavery through laws that were then enforced through state and vigilante violence (slave catchers, police, militias). As such, political science can simply be understood as the study of power and how power is concentrated and maintained by certain individuals/states. In order to imagine a world in which power is not concentrated through states or in the hands of a few individuals, one must study the current systems and thoroughly understand how they are fundamentally oppressive.

If one can study how power concentrates, then one can imagine a world in which power is not used hierarchically. Through this understanding, people can participate in resisting state oppression and can participate in building another world. For instance, the Zapatistas in Mexico have been working for 25+ years on building an alternative society that is rooted in respecting all forms of life, the planet, and Indigenous ways of relating to the Earth and one another in a non-hierarchical manner.

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