Social Science and Public Policy

Richard Freeman

Doing Politics in Translation

How does politics happen? When we do politics, what are we doing? In answering this question, I return to Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition, to her sense of action as what happens between people and to the significance she attaches to speech and storytelling. I identify meeting, talk and text as the base elements of political action, and put forward the analytic concepts of trajectory, transformation and translation as ways of understanding the work they do. In figuring out what all this might mean in the international domain, I present a case study of a meeting which took place a long time ago, in July 1971, between Henry Kissinger, then US Secretary of State, and Chinese premier Zhou en Lai. And in concluding, I discuss the implications of 'thinking about doing' for our understandings of power, translation, and the distinction we make between politics and international relations.
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