Scenario #5
What is or isn’t political

What is or isn’t political

Aims / objectives

The objective of this method is to recognise the importance of politics in one’s own everyday life. The aim is to counteract the impression that politics is something far removed that has nothing to do with one's own life.

Description of the method

  • 1. Ask the participants to name terms that they think have nothing to do with politics. The mentioned terms are recorded on a flipchart (whiteboard or blackboard) until there are at least six terms on the board or until it is full.
  • 2. When the flipchart is filled, each individual term is examined with the participants. You start with the question: “Are there any objections concerning one of the terms on the flipchart, things that may have something to do with politics, after all?”
  • 3. Cross out all the terms for which links to politics have been identified. Ideally, you end up with all the terms on the flipchart crossed out.
  • 4. In the end you ask why we can identify so many links to politics, no matter what term you name there.

Questions for reflection:

To begin with: Are there any objections concerning one of the terms on the flipchart, things that may have something to do with politics, after all? When you or the participants can’t think of any unpolitical terms or things: Think about what you did yesterday evening or for your last holidays. At the end: Why can we find something political about practically everything? Can anyone explain the word politics?

For some links of various terms to politics, have a look at the glossary below.

Glossary: What is or isn’t political

Examples of the way in which different terms can be linked to politics:

  • Air: Politics limits the volume of traffic in order to protect air quality and the environment (e.g. 100 km/h limit for the environment on the motorway) and to curb fine dust pollution. This includes a variety of driving bans for heavy goods transport, or the requirement for certain vehicles to have a label with their emission values.
  • Alcohol: The age from which you are allowed to drink alcohol has to do with politics. The age limit is defined in the Youth Protection Act. In Austria, for instance, you are allowed to drink at least some alcoholic drinks (wine and beer) from the age of sixteen. In the United States, the consumption of alcohol is only allowed from the age of twenty-one. Another difference to Austria is that in the US, people have agreed that alcohol cannot be consumed in public, which is why you will often see people in movies drinking from “brown bags” in which they hide alcoholic drinks.
  • Clothes: When you buy clothes in a store, you have to pay taxes, as you do with food. Many goods and products – for example, cheap garments – are produced abroad, where workers earn low wages and face poor working conditions. In Austria, for example, there are laws protecting employees – like minimum paid leave, maximum working hours, or supplements for working at night. Garments with the “Fair Trade” logo show that the product has been produced abroad under fair conditions. This explains why these garments are sometimes more expensive than those from discounter chains. Clothes may convey political messages, like loving a country, affiliation with a group, or the desire for individual freedom or peace.
  • Computer Games: Some games have a political content or their storyline tells a background story with political relevance. For computer games, there are age ratings, and these are defined in the course of political processes. Some games with contents that violate a law can be taken off the shelves. This process is called “indexing”. It mostly happens because the games glorify violence or in the case of politically extreme content (e.g. violations of the Prohibition Act for Nazi propaganda or Nazi symbols, etc.).
  • Drinking: see “going out”.
  • Family: The Austrian state pays families a financial subsidy for each child – the so-called family allowance. The state also defines who is allowed to marry whom. In Austria, homosexual couples are allowed to register a partnership, but not to marry – in the Netherlands and the US, they can marry.
  • Films: Here, too, there are legal provisions regarding age ratings and the possibility of indexing (see also “computer games”). In addition, privately downloading films is illegal because it violates the (human) right of authorship.
  • Food: When you buy something at the supermarket or elsewhere, you automatically pay a tax, the so-called value-added tax which was defined by the politics that regulate tax revenues. What is taxed and to what extent varies in different countries. Politics also determine which foods can be traded, or which ingredients are prohibited. When you order food in a restaurant, they have to adhere to hygiene regulations that are checked on a regular basis (food control administration). Only recently, the menu or staff also have to provide information on allergenic substances on request.
  • Football: Many football or other sports clubs receive financial support from the state. At important football games, just like at other large events, safety regulations have to be implemented. These are defined by politics and executed by the police (e.g. alcohol in the stadium, number of spectators in a stadium, etc.). Important international matches are sometimes attended by high political representatives in order to cheer for “their” country. In these cases, the national team doesn’t only represent a country’s performance in football, but the whole country as such.
  • Friends: Many people meet their friends at school; regulations associated with politics may be the maximum number of pupils governed by politics, or politically defined compulsory education. Political ideas and projects are nearly always first discussed or implemented with friends. And also among politicians, friendships and trusted people play an important part.
  • Going out: For underage persons, going out is regulated by politics. What underage persons are allowed to do and what they aren’t is the result of political processes of negotiation: what you may drink, and at what age you may drink alcohol; whether and from what age you are allowed to smoke; how long you are allowed to stay out unaccompanied. Even adults are affected by rules of going out: They pay taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, food and drink. They, too, have to abide by rules like rest periods (e.g. outdoor dining areas) or non-smoker protections.
  • Leisure: Your options in your leisure time (for instance, skater parks, football fields, or cinemas in your neighbourhood) are governed by (municipal) politics which decide on their construction. Also the extent of free time, school holidays or leave days for employees are ruled by laws.
  • Masturbation: see “sex”.
  • Moon: The moon as a symbol can be used politically, like many other things. The crescent moon, for example, is used in many national flags, such as in the Turkish and Singaporean ones. International treaties regulate what may or may not be done in space.
  • Religion: The Vatican is an independent state and the Pope is its head of state. Teachers of religion are paid by the state in Austria. Some political parties also derive their ideas from religion. Some countries have state religions; in other countries, there is religious freedom (i.e. religion is a private matter which the state may not interfere with).
  • Sex: There is a legal rule as to who may have sex with whom. In Austria, it is normally legal from the age of 14. There are also age-related legal rules on who may watch pornographic content, just as there are rules whether and until what time a pregnant woman may have an abortion. You are also not allowed to have sex everywhere because this might make other people uneasy (“indecent behaviour”).
  • Sleep: We often don’t decide for ourselves when we sleep. There are state requirements, e. g. compulsory education with its more or less fixed class schedules. And it is similar with the sleep of working people. There are fixed or flexible working days and (at least, in Austria) legally required leave and rest periods. You could also mention a set maximum of driving hours for truck drivers.
  • Sport: see “football”.
  • Vacuum cleaning: As vacuum cleaners can be quite noisy, there are rules here, too, as to rest periods or times when their use is not allowed (unless you have a vacuum cleaner the noise of which does not exceed room volume). When buying a vacuum cleaner, you again pay value-added tax. As with any product, there are rules as to how it may be produced, and whether similar foreign products may be imported.

Usability in social work

This method is useful in social work in the sense that it strengthens the awareness of political relevance in everyday life. It can sensibilise participants for political structures and power relations and show the potential for political participation. The method is more suitable when embedded in a context, for instance, something like a small project on "politics in everyday life".


Name of the method

What is or isn’t political

Target group



20 minutes

Spatial requirements

Room for a group (seminar or workshop room)




To recognise the importance of politics in one’s own everyday life

Method description

Political competences

Social work context



Flipchart and markers (alternatively, a blackboard or whiteboard)



Concept / application

Applied by the Vienna Forum for Human Rights and Democracy in a training during the project


Sapere Aude: (translated by Brita Pohl)

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