POLI 222 Lecture 1: Ways of thinking about the political process

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Ways of thinking about the political process
Try to explain political outcomes and eventually, we may be successful in
predicting and understanding politics. We may try to predict things, we try
to explain something and be analytical about a political outcome.
How do we categorize the explanations we come up with.
Give categories that are basically ideas and institutions.
What is a political process?
Understand some things as fundamentally political
Ideas, kinds of explanations and institutions.
Politics and the policy process:
Politics: The activity by which rival claims are settled by public authorities.
Idea of it being rival, rival claims. Important because it signifies a
competitive aspect, politics is about competition.
When you listen to campaign coverage, it is is all about the gain, there is a
competition at stake, potential winners and losers and the result is not
What are we competing for? Power, public attention
Public attention: resource of politics, nothing can be done without peoples
attention. Competing for saliency, to have your particular issue and your
take on that issue to be the topic of public interest
Having people tune in/enough people is a big and inherent part of politics
Political will- only so many things that can be done because politics is a tiring
business and we get exhausted. Understanding that only so many things can
be done so we need to make choices over what it is that can be done.
Time is a resource of politics- the time of a legislature. Certain amount of
finate time that legislatures sit in a session and it takes time to move stuff
through a legislature, sometimes there is interesting moments where things
can happen. Legislative time is valuable, it may be the cabinet time or time
of Prime minister or maybe there is a competition of saliency or attention or
Idea of politics is a rivalry business because of this
Issue: politics is not a spectator sport, if you sit on the sidelines, what you
care about won’t be part of the discourse.
Part of politics is getting in the game, there is costs to joining the game but
there is also potential costs to sitting out
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Claims: different claims being made in politics and demands that are
expressed,framed and channeled through political process and system.
Actually making a claim whether it be a normative one like environmental
politics(the most central issue of our time), should occupy what we do with
politics. Environmental politics says that environmental management like
power generating stations, how we use and allocate resources says this is
what we should be doing and everything is secondary(strong claim)
You can imagine a set of counter-claims(presenting other common problems
that are just as worthy, deserving of attention)
Making, framing of claims to grab peoples attention and provide
justifications to what it actually is, is fundamentally political
The way you frame your claim and argue to what it is we need/should do,
the way you frame that impacts whether or not it is achieved
Framing is critical***********- important in media and partisan
Public: by public we mean politics is not just about the private sphere and
issues, we are ultimately interested in a collective response. We don’t
necessarily just care what one person says, but about a healthier policy,
collective choices, budgets, the kind of care I will receive and that it is
determined by the type of systems we set up. We care about collective
decision making, public discussion and it’s public nature and it’s framing
What is considered public? What is considered appropriate to discuss in the
public domain and what is strictly private
Part of politics of gender is to understand issues as being public rather than
Making an assertion that what is required is a public response
The caring of children, particularly young ones is not just the responsibility
of a parent, it is a public one because there are public benefits or ongoing
public concern about public education of children or public concern of
maintaining presence of women in labor force.
How issues are framed public vs.private is fundamentally political and once it
is accepted as public, the type of public decisions and discussions that are
generated as a result
Authority: engaging authoritative power, what we care about is the state
The state is authoritative, in political science, we are interested in the state.
In the process of governing not just between families or individuals but how
the state either governs or how the decisions of the state structures how
everything else happens.
This is static, the political process is dynamic with steps and how things
change from one decision to another.
Political process:
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Problem definition: part of political process is defining what a problem is.
This requires a political solution, a collective response(public one ex. Child
Example: medical malpractice
How you define the problem offers suggestions on how you will
address it.
How is it that people get organized to address particular issues?
Once you recognize the problem and political attention is brought
there and solutions found
Critical part of politics is getting organized and getting the idea that
it is not a spectator sport. Ask questions about the people, the
organizations that get behind particular problems and put forth
particular solutions
Be interested in how organization happens, how you build a
constitutuency and build a base/momentum.
A really important part is about getting organized and mobilizing
people, there is a currency to that. Political power comes from
showing you can mobilize and organize people
In showing you can do this, people will listen(power).
Getting organized
Where do groups come from
Building a political constituency- strategies: showing they can motivate
Example: Canadian parks of wilderness society: how do they
get Canadians to send a postcard to the MP/PM about creating
a national park in northwest territories and convince people
that it is fundamentally important? If enough people do it,
enough things may be done just to stop the postcards.
Creating a public agenda: through protest, seeing people involved in a
movement, use of media, global conferences, protesting at global
conferences, lobbying, organizations lobbying politicians and policy makers.
Media campaigns. Trying to change perceptions or discussions about various
policy issues
Identifying public policy solutions:
How do you agree on coming to a collective decision? What are the
rules for coming up with that decision? You have a legislature that
showed me relatively easy, but there has to be structure on how we
actually make a collective decision. The rules you adopt will either
make it easier or harder to make that decision. People will be
fundamentally interested in those decision rules, these may be the
most important part. The rules to change the rules(ammendments)
are also very important.
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