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Quotes on politics

Quotes on politics

These quotes will kick-start your exploration of knowledge and politics, and help you reflect on your own understanding of this optional theme of TOK.

Which quotes do you find the most and least insightful? Do the quotes challenge or support your understanding of politics? What do the quotes reveal about how politics interlinks with the areas of knowledge, the core theme, and the other optional themes?

Quotes on the nature and scope of politics

  • These quotes on knowledge & politics relate to Big Question 1 (What is politics, and how essential is an understanding of it?), the first of our BQ units
  • They also link to the nature and scope of politics, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for exploring TOK
  • Use the link to each thinker as a starting point to find out more about their ideas

Everything is politics.
Thomas Mann

The method of political science is the interpretation of life; its instrument is insight, a nice understanding of subtle, unformulated conditions.
Woodrow Wilson 

Political science has long tried to tackle a fundamental question of voter behavior: Do voters choose politicians because those politicians hold views that they like, or do voters choose policy positions because the politicians they like say those positions are correct?
Kristen Soltis Anderson

Economists should be modest and be aware that they are part of the broader social science community. We need to be pragmatic about the methods we use. When we need to do history, we should do history. When we need to study political science, we should study political science.
Thomas Piketty

Politics is really religion. Politics is about sacredness. Politics is about offering a vision that will bind the nation together to pursue greatness.
Jonathan Haidt

The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.
Thomas Sowell

Man is by nature a political animal.
Aristotle

Politics is a science. You can demonstrate that you are right and that others are wrong.
Jean Paul Sartre

Politics is not an exact science.
Otto von Bismarck

One baby is a patient baby, and waits indefinitely until its mother is ready to feed it. The other baby is an impatient baby and cries lustily, screams and kicks and makes everybody unpleasant until it is fed. Well, we know perfectly well which baby is attended to first. That is the whole history of politics.
Emmeline Pankhurst

Quotes on the relationship between politics and values

  • These quotes on knowledge & politics relate to Big Question 2 (How does our knowledge about the world inform our values?), the second of our BQ units
  • They also link to politics and ethics, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for exploring TOK
  • Use the link to each thinker as a starting point to find out more about their ideas

There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.
Alexis de Tocqueville

Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.
Mao Zedong

Politics and ethics belong to different worlds.
Adam Michnik

Politics have no relation to morals.
Niccolò Machiavelli

Under every stone lurks a politician.
Aristophanes

Globalisation has made us more vulnerable. It creates a world without borders, and makes us painfully aware of the limitations of our present instruments, and of politics, to meet its challenges.
Anna Lindh

Idealism is the despot of thought, just as politics is the despot of will.
Mikhail Bakunin

Where there is politics or economics, there is no morality.
Friedrich Schlegel

Politics is a blood sport.
Aneurin Bevan

The politics of fear are always the same. They are easily recognisable in retrospect. They are easy to acquiesce in at the time.
Naomi Alderman

Politics, as a practise, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.
Henry Adams

The most shocking fact about war is that its victims and its instruments are individual human beings, and that these individual beings are condemned by the monstrous conventions of politics to murder or be murdered in quarrels not their own.
Aldous Huxley

Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.
Henry Kissinger

In politics nothing is contemptible.
Benjamin Disraeli

No science is immune to the infection of politics and the corruption of power.
Jacob Bronowski

There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel.
Vladimir Lenin

My three years in politics was very instructive about the way in which the appetite for political power can destroy a human mind, destroy principles and values, and transform people into little monsters.
Mario Vargas Llosa

Either one lives ‘for’ politics or one lives ‘off’ politics.
Max Weber

The fact that people die because of an AK-47 is not because of the designer, but because of politics.
Mikhail Kalashnikov

Quotes on the communication of ideas in politics

  • These quotes on knowledge & politics relate to Big Question 3 (How is our understanding influenced by the way knowledge is communicated?), the third of our BQ units
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices related to politics, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for exploring TOK
  • Use the link to each thinker as a starting point to find out more about their ideas

The first resistance to social change is to say it’s not necessary.
Gloria Steinem

Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word.
Charles de Gaulle

Television is democracy at its ugliest.
Paddy Chayefsky

Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.
Otto von Bismarck

The potential for the abuse of power through digital networks – upon which we the people now depend for nearly everything, including our politics – is one of the most insidious threats to democracy in the Internet age.
Rebecca MacKinnon

I think people involved in politics make good actors. Acting and politics both involve fooling people. People like being fooled by actors. When you get right down to it, they probably like being fooled by politicians even more. A skilful actor will make you think, but a skilful politician will make you never have to think.
Donna Brazile

All art is political in the sense that it serves someone’s politics.
August Wilson

Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favor of his image, because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be.
Marshall McLuhan

I would say that no film is apolitical. There are politics in all films. Any film that is anchored in a society, any film that deals with humanity is necessarily political.
Abbas Kiarostami

In politics, a lie unanswered becomes truth within 24 hours.
Willie Brown

The money in politics is a cash cow for the media.
Noam Chomsky

There is a holy, mistaken zeal in politics, as well as in religion. By persuading others, we convince ourselves.
Junius

Every artistic expression is either influenced by or adds something to politics.
Dario Fo

Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do.
Douglas Adams

They say women talk too much. If you have worked in Congress you know that the filibuster was invented by men.
Clare Booth Luce

Quotes on politics shaping – and being shaped by – our perspectives

  • These quotes on knowledge & politics relate to Big Question 4 (How do our perspectives and biases shape our knowledge?), the fourth of our BQ units
  • They also link to perspectives & context related to politics, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for exploring TOK
  • Use the link to each thinker as a starting point to find out more about their ideas

Politics is politics; art is art. If you play a political role, you have to stop being an artist.
Youssou N’Dour

I hate all politics. I don’t like either political party. One should not belong to them – one should be an individual, standing in the middle. Anyone that belongs to a party stops thinking.
Ray Bradbury

I was a woman in a man’s world. I was a Democrat in a Republican administration. I was an intellectual in a world of bureaucrats. I talked differently. This may have made me a bit like an ink blot.
Jeanne Kirkpatrick

In politics the middle way is none at all.
John Adams

Politics isn’t about left versus right; it’s about top versus bottom.
Jim Hightower

We all have our likes and our dislikes. But… when we’re doing news – when we’re doing the front-page news, not the back page, not the op-ed pages, but when we’re doing the daily news, covering politics – it is our duty to be sure that we do not permit our prejudices to show. That is simply basic journalism.
Walter Cronkite

If we lived within our means – by being prudent – the 7 billion people in the world could have everything they needed. Global politics should be moving in that direction. But we think as people and countries, not as a species.
José Mujica

Once the people of planet Earth are all hanging out together online in a virtual world without any borders, I think it could change social networking, entertainment and even politics.
Ernest Cline

It is my mission to put sensible and evidence-based information above politics and exaggeration.
Carl Hart

Quotes on the creation of new ideas in politics

  • These quotes on knowledge & politics relate to Big Question 5 (How is new knowledge about the world created?), the fifth of our BQ units
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices related to politics, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for exploring TOK
  • Use the link to each thinker as a starting point to find out more about their ideas

Our modern world, though infinitely more complex than that of ancient Greece, is also far more superficial. Where the Greeks offered simple psychological training, we live in an age of style and spin in which perceptions of good and evil slither and shift with the political view of the moment.
David Gemmell 

The science of politics is the one science that is deposited by the streams of history, like the grains of gold in the sand of a river; and the knowledge of the past, the record of truths revealed by experience, is eminently practical, as an instrument of action and a power that goes to making the future.
John Dalberg-Acton

Our politics are our deepest form of expression: they mirror our past experiences and reflect our dreams and aspirations for the future.
Paul Wellstone

Any time scientists disagree, it’s because we have insufficient data. Then we can agree on what kind of data to get; we get the data; and the data solves the problem. Either I’m right, or you’re right, or we’re both wrong. And we move on. That kind of conflict resolution does not exist in politics or religion.
Neil deGrasse Tyson

Quotes on becoming a discerning knower about politics

  • These quotes on knowledge & politics relate to Big Question 6 (How do we become discerning knowers?), the final BQ unit
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices related to politics, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for exploring TOK
  • Use the link to each thinker as a starting point to find out more about their ideas

Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.
Gore Vidal

Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.
Robert Louis Stevenson

Politics is the only field in which the more experience you have, the worse you get.
Kinky Friedman

Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory.
John Kenneth Galbraith

The faith religious believers have in God is small compared to the faith people put in politicians, knowing how many times they have been disappointed in the past but still insisting that this time it will be different.
Jonathan Sacks

Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.
Winston Churchill

The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual’s own reason and critical analysis.
Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama)

Policy makers, like most people, normally feel that they already know all the psychology and all the sociology they are likely to need for their decisions. I don’t think they are right, but that’s the way it is.
Daniel Kahneman

Link these quotes to the exhibition

Our TOK exhibition prompt decoder helps you to understand each of the 35 IA prompts, link them to the core and optional themes, and the 12 key TOK concepts, and explore them via quotes, questions, TED talks, and media sources. Access the decoder here.

Explore the quotes in more depth

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