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J. Schwarzmantel, A. Leftwich and the Combahee River Collective | What is Politics?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 1042 words Published: 18th Mar 2021

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In this review, I will make an attempt to compare, contrast, and evaluate the arguments made by J. Schwarzmantel, A. Leftwich and therefore, the Combahee River Collective. Upon examining the texts, sequentially, every authors account of what compounds politics differ.  All supply a coherent exposition of politics regarding the themes: power and role of the state with the authors view on politics varying with depth.

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Schwarzmantel (Schwarzmantel, 1987) presents his viewpoint by discussing politics by taking a narrow approach; primarily defining the dispersal of power. He then outlines how the connection linking two people can be viewed as political. In contrast, Leftwich's concept of politics is comprehensive, where he maintains politics is within all aspects of society from "corporations to clubs" and cannot be avoided or ignored as the process of politics is what connects people. (Leftwich, 1984) Unlike the other authors, the Combahee River Collective comprises of a collection of mostly African American feminists.  Their account of politics is a 'struggle' against discrimination of different kinds including sexual, gender, class and various forms of oppression faced by Black females of the United States at that particular time. They take a significant deviation from Leftwich and Schwarzmantel theme of politics by introducing a different narrative based on the upheaval against governing authority.

In spite of the fact that the connections in theme linking to power and the role of state among the authors are apparent, each author also has different fundamental factors in their texts. The Combahee River Collective mainly display 'black feminism' as their dominant theme in their writing; however, they describe the role of the state in this journey of theirs: "We realize that the liberation of all oppressed peoples necessitates the destruction of the political-economic systems of capitalism and imperialism as well as patriarchy" (The Combahee River Collective statement, 1977). Leftwich and Schwarzmantel both reveal a sharp concern in distribution. Leftwich's primary focus is on the allocation of resources in contrast to Schwarzmantel focal point, which is mainly based upon the distribution of power.

There are many elements of politics that the texts vary on. The first which is mentioned, in all the writings is power; however, in each account, this theme differs in importance. The Combahee River collective describes power as fighting oppression. They begin to distinguish a link between racial and sexual injustice they face during that particular period, and state reports in the past; rape was often used by white men as a tool of power. They quote "The is also a personal genesis for black women that comes from the seemingly personal experience of individual black lives".(The Combahee River Collective statement, 1977)

Consequently, the argument cited above that the aforementioned isn't the only representation of power as the group also said efforts faced by individual black females in political groups are also prevalent with elitism mounting. One example would be the creation of the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO), which was a fragment of the original front against black oppression. The group also discuss the efforts faced with standing beside Black men in the battle against racism but also endeavouring against Black men with sexism.

Contrarily, Leftwich's view of politics is 'universal and timeless process which organizes and expresses the interactions of people, resources and power' (Leftwich, 1984). He explicitly identifies earlier thoughts of power. He uses this into thinking when determining his idea of power is 'it is always present in human affairs' (Leftwich, 1984, p.110). Schwarzmantel links power and state as the main factors of politics: 'Politics is about power and how it is distributed' (Schwarzmantel, 1987, p.2). The central point he is aiming to make is by the design power is 'embodied in human beings' (Schwarzmantel, 1987,) and whereby politics exists on a more extensive setting where it 'exists in any context where there is a structure of power and struggle for power in an attempt to gain or maintain leadership positions' (Schwarzmantel, 1987)

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With Leftwich's piece, the central theme which continues throughout is the 'distribution of power'. The role of the state in when discussing this theme comes concerning the state governing the distribution of these resources. Leftwich also mentions how politics can happen within stateless societies and also public institutions aforementioned previously; this identifies that the state isn't a necessity to politics according to Leftwich. (Leftwich, 1984) Schwarzmantel describes the different functioning’s of the state and different political systems when linking state to politics, he mentions three different types of ways: pluralism which is used in the US, the elite theory and the Marxist approach. He then describes their functioning’s within in a state context.

The question 'what is politics' doesn't only ask a query with a simple answer, it also brings about many other subjects too. All the authors have argued their viewpoint of politics and all have mention things in where they have common ground and other points which deviate each other's notion of politics. With Leftwich giving a more comprehensive account compared to Schwarzmantel who points out that in every aspect of life, there is politics this politics will have an effect of people’s lives whether subtle or significant, overt or covert. Each author uses different scenarios and context when introducing their idea of politics and gives many examples of this application of politics in their lives. The Combahee collective focusing on the lives of Black women and the oppression and Schwarzmantel describing the aspects of politics in society


  • The Combahee River Collective statement. (1977). THE COMBAHEE RIVER COLLECTIVE, .Chapter 1-4.
  • Schwarzmantel, J. (1993). Introduction: What is Politics. pg.P1-16.
  • Leftwich, Political Approach to Human Behaviour. Pg1-10 


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