In politics, the power of words is regarded as “discourse” – an element integral to the post-structural political philosophy. “words” are a linguistic system that order statements and concepts through which people make sense of the world. All the communication between political entities, between government and their subjects, and between leaders and their followers are conducted through a medium crafted by a careful choice of words. These words are not neutral and have political implications. For example, in the international system, when the killing of masses is termed as “genocide,” it results in a robust political response by the international community; whereas, if the same killings are termed as “tribal warfare,” it will result in a less proactive political response.

Words essentially hold power to shape political events and outcomes. For example, a recent terminology, “language politics,” is explained by Noam Chomsky in his writings that “language” is a currency of power in elections. Words hold power to inspire, aspire, manipulate and pressure all kinds of emotions in people. Politicians readily use the power of words in their speechwriting in order to sway voters. The international community bluntly uses labels against their adversaries to create an internationally known label against them. For example, the Bush administration used the words “axis of evil” over and over again, labelling Iran, Iraq, and North Korea – a phrase that still shapes the international community’s perceptions towards these countries.

The power of words in politics is also reaffirmed by the constructivist school of political philosophy, which implies that we live in a world of social reality, which means that there is nothing “objective” in the political world. Rather everything is subjective, which means that it is the result of our own interpretation. This interpretation is also influenced by choice of “words” that are presented to the political audience. The use of words is also regarded as “discursive practices” that are used to yield political power. These discursive practices include the generation of concepts on military discourse, political discourse, legal discourse, economic discourse, and so on, depending upon the goal and interests of any given political entity, be it an individual political leader or a state.

A recent upsurge of populism in politics also upholds itself through the role of “words” to influence. Populist leaders use words, metaphors, and symbols for mass appeal. Their language and use of words help them portray themselves as the only hope for people agonized by the miseries of the status quo.

With a choice of “words” being essential to global politics, there have been increasing challenges as well. For example, politicians have to be extra careful about their choice of words; the media has to be cautious about its political reporting as well because the choice of words can sometimes change the entire meaning and context of the political phenomenon. Although political philosophers have just recently conceptualized the vital significance that “words” have as instruments of power and influence, they have always been playing this role since the advent of mankind and are essentially going to continue to do so in the future.