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Voltra
Voltra

Posted on • Updated on

"Everything is political"?

I truly hope that this will be my last politics-related post. I don't like talking about politics at all, but this is more philosophical really, so I'll let that one slide but only this once.


We often see people complaining about Software or Computer Science being politicized, and other replying that "it's inherently political" or that "everything is political" but they always use petitio principii and never actually develop why, or have any source that would explain why.

For the thought exercise, I didn't go out of my way to look for possible explanations and thought it would be interesting to do the whole reasoning from the start.

To answer the question whether Computer Science (or anything) is "political", we must ask ourselves what it means to be political.

First we'll set "politicizing" as "tying into/with politics" or "to make political". We'll also set "political" as "relating to politics".

For that we will first try to give a definition to politics. The etymological meaning of the word (from Politikos, from the Greek word polis that means City/State in English and CitΓ©/Γ‰tat in French) is "which is relative to the management of the cities" or "affairs of the cities". With that in mind, pretty much everything is political (including just talking to people about your day), so that may not be what people mean when they say something is being politicized.

What most people refer to as politics is politics in its most restrictive sense: the act of exerting power in an organized society. It's often to refer to the power of making decisions regarding making/removing/tweaking laws and society-wide morals. In that sense since AFAIK Computer Science is not a cause of laws/morals and mostly a target of those, we cannot affirm that Computer Science is inherently political. Unless there's a secret meeting I'm not invited to, or chairs in parliaments in every country, etc...

Judging by the fact that almost no one knows about the ancient art of etymology and seem to think words are made up arbitrarily and not based on combining roots from other more ancient languages, we can probably rule out the definition based on etymology.

What do you think? What in your personal opinion makes Computer Science political?


My not so pertinent side note: What if the people who commented that way were just trying to reassure themselves that politicizing their work is OK because it's "inherently political"?

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