Politics broadly refers to any or all conflicts among human beings over the allocation of power, wealth or prestige, when interests are pursued by means other than the use of physical violence. According to a more optimistic view, politics is an essential means by which collective goals can be achieved through peaceful co-operation. Narrowly the term describes activities associated with GOVERNMENT and the STATE. The state serves the purpose of managing conflicts and imposing solutions that are binding on all individuals and groups subject to its authority. To be viable, a state must enjoy unchallenged authority over a particular territory and population.

There are many schools of thought in POLITICAL SCIENCE concerning the role of the state. David Easton, a Canadian-born political scientist of international renown, has defined the role of the state as "the authoritative allocation of values." Marxists, however, interpret politics as class conflict and consider the state the institution that reflects and expresses the common interests of the dominant SOCIAL CLASS. Pluralists define politics as competition among organized groups and interests, the state being the neutral referee that imposes generally acceptable solutions. Other observers view politics as the conflict among ELITES who manipulate the masses as a means of pursuing their own ends.

Politics have existed in Canada for thousands of years, although political authority among the native peoples before the arrival of Europeans differed significantly from that which exists in a modern state. In the narrower sense politics probably began under the French regime and certainly no later than the latter part of the 18th century, when elected legislatures were established in Upper Canada, Lower Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Politics in the Canadian state usually include activities associated with the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government, as well as the relations among these 3 levels of government. Political activities among these levels of government involve legislative, executive and judicial institutions, the administrative departments and agencies of government, and political parties and interest groups.

A large proportion of the events reported and commented upon by the news media involve politics (see POLITICS AND THE MEDIA). Most Canadians can identify the PRIME MINISTER, the PREMIER of their own province and other leading participants in the political process, and the vast majority of adult Canadians participate in politics by voting in elections. The academic study of politics is called political science but other subjects, eg, history, geography and sociology, also involve the study of politics.

The term "politics" is sometimes associated in people's minds with the cynical manipulation of PUBLIC OPINION, the trading of favours for political support, and the enrichment of politicians and their friends at the expense of society (see CORRUPTION). While such activities no doubt exist, they make up only a small part of the substance of politics.