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POLI 212-FEBRUARY 27.docx

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Political Science
POLI 212
Hudson Meadwell

FEBRUARY 27, 2012: Topic 3: Political Regimes  What is a political regime? A political regime is, in effect, summarizing or representing the political rules of the game. What a regime defines and presents are rules that allocate power and authority among political offices and authority. It is a means through which power and authority are allocated.  Formal rules implied codification- in the form of a constitution. You can also have informal rules—conventions or norms that shape political expectations and behaviours. What constitutions do is separate day-to-day politics from large kinds of political principles. A constitution insulates or separates extraordinary and ordinary politics. A constitution is a mechanism that takes issues and sets them aside for the authority of a political regime.  A regime sets out the rules of the game, but doesn’t necessarily play the game. In day-to-day politics the rules are challenged or questioned.  There is nothing in this working definition, which tells us over whom these rules are to legitimately apply. A regime doesn’t have built into it the recognition of boundaries within which regime rules are to be applied. This ambiguity we can resolve in both theory and practice: The regimes that interest us are typically associated with state. Regimes sit atop states, and states have a territorial dimension.  More formal definition of a regime (from the work of Siaroff): What Siaroff described as essential to a regime is what the regime specifies as the method of selection of government and representative assembly (competitive elections are not the only selection mechanism- ex. Coups, royal prerogative). Every regime has, built into it, a method of selection. The second dimension of a regime is that a regime sets out the mechanisms of political representation- formal and informal. Siaroff adds a 3 dimension- a regime specifies mechanisms of repression and sets out the legitimate use of force or violence by political authority (he is interested in answering under what kind of rules does a regime use violent or non-violent coercion against citizens).  We want to distinguish a regime from particular incumbents in office, and distinguish from a regime that supports incumbents. We want to separate a regime from the public policies that a particular incumbent government adopts. A regime is not a government; there is something more basic about a regime. A regime sets the rules under which political actors compete. A regime is not intrinsically bounded.  How do we define different types of regimes? Roughly speaking, the 3 authors have a shared understanding of what a regime is, but they each have a different typology to classify cases.  Alan Siaroff reading: Looking for a system of classification of regimes. He wants to classify all contemporary political regimes. It is an account of regime from 2007 and there are 192 regimes he wants to classify some fashion. His classification scheme needs a typology that is jointly exhaustive and mutually exclusive of all cases. This is a property you want a typology to have. It contains enormous variation, but he wants to reduce this to simple types.  The basic distinction he draws in between democracy and autocracy. It is a very simple continuum. In the middle are more fine-grained descriptions of regimes. Within these two types he makes two basic distinctions: democracy boils down to liberal democracy and electoral democracy. Autocracies are either semi-liberal or closed.  This is a “Static typology.” It is a checklist of characteristics of various types of regimes, so the characteristics are very important. The empirical exercise is seeing which cases exhibit these characteristics and to slot them into types. This is an argument about regimes that is not interested in the causes or origins of regimes (classification, not explanation).  He thin
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