Access to the material conditions necessary for health is a human right, and while health, at least at a population level, has long been understood to be secured through social organization – it is itself determined by the political process (Evans et al. 1994; Levin and Ziglio 1996; Harrison and Ziglio 1998). Despite this widespread understanding, the view that population health promotion might require intervention in the domain of social organization still tends to be presented as innovatory, radical, contested, or litigious. Within both public policy making and the training of professionals employed to work in the field of public health, ‘political skills’ are rarely mentioned by name, while public health action that requires political intervention mostly remains part of the ‘hidden history’ of public health success. A significant effect is that people die from the consequences of actions not taken and much progress in public health practice is delayed. Understanding the causes and consequences of the delay requires an exploration of politics – both as a discipline and as an embodied reality both within social organization and the management and conception of public health itself.