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POLS 2300 (142)


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University of Guelph
Political Science
POLS 2300
Scott Schau

CH.1 Introduction to Political Life 10/9/2010 12:56:00 PM An Introduction to Political Life Politicians range at the lowest rank when picking out what professions should be trusted most statistically They realize as they gain popularity that their goals and public promises cannot always be kept as they wished In no established democracy do a majority of people say that they have a great deal of confidence in political parties What Is Politics? Politics: is the activity by which rival claims are settled by public authorities the boundaries as to what is considered to be political are located where the states authority reaches ( public realm) Politics is about the exercise of power Political conflict is largely about where exactly the boundary between public and private should be drawn, what should be considered a proper matter for public life and decisions by the state, and what should remain private matters The state is the only institution that can reasonably claim to speak and act on behalf of the entire community and its unique function is to ensure the conditions for some degree of social order without it there is no peaceful basis for reconciling conflicts in society Power the ability to influence what happens; found in all sorts of settings, not simply political ones Compliance may result from the threat or use of force ( coercion); from the ability of A to convince B that a particular action is reasonable or otherwise in Bs interests ( Influence) OR from the recognition on t part of the compliant party that the person or organization issuing a command has the right to do so and should b obeyed ( authority) The protection of law and order may exact a high cost in terms of personal freedoms Open society: where individuals are free to speak their minds, associate with whom they wish, and move freely without having to notify or justify Downloaded for free at 1 their movements to the public authorities ( brought to Canadians, more th so Americans after September 11 ) State & government the existence of the state is necessary for the existence of politics State: includes the governments as the seat of legitimate authority in a territory but also includes bureaucracy, judiciary, Armed Forces, and internal police etc. distinguishing characteristics of the state is its monopoly over the use of force in a given territory Has three main characteristics: 1) Territorial boundaries: states have borders, beyond which their legal authority is either nil or strictly limited 2) State consists of a complex set of institutions that wield public authority the courts, the police, and the educational system are outpost of the states authority no less then are the elected legislatures and the bureaucracy 3) The state is defined in terms of power what Weber called its monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order for what purpose and in whose interest this power is exercised are important questions an adequate explanation of the state must ask on whose behalf and in whose interest the states authority is exercised. Contemporary political science offers three main answers to these questions: pluralism, class analysis, feminism. PLURALISM : the pluralist model assumes various forms, some of which are socially centered - the society centered variants emphasize the impact of groups in society on the state, while state centered variants place greater emphasis on the ability of public officials to act on their own preferences and according to their own interests, rather than merely responding to the demands of voters and interest groups - pluralist models of the state do not assume that the competition among groups takes place on a level playing field Downloaded for free at 2 CLASS ANALYSIS: sees the state in capitalist societies as an instrument through which the small minorities who control most of a societys wealth maintain their social and economic dominance - the control that the dominant class has over the mass media and popular culture, and a lack of class consciousness among even the least privileged groups in society that stems from the widespread acceptance of capitalist and individualistic values as normal FEMINISM: view the state as an inherently patriarchal institution ( means the state, its structures, and its laws all serve to institutionalize male dominance - it is the hierarchal nature of authority embodied in the state that makes it fundamentally patriarchal - Marx said that state would wither away once classes were abolished, feminists say that if gender discrimination were to be eliminated the state would disappear Government: a term that is more usefully reserved for those who have been elected to power; more personal than the state, being associated with a particular group of people and usually with political parties the willingness of individuals and groups to obey the decisions of government decisions that they may vigorously disagree with , and a government that they may have not voted for is based on their view that the state is legitimate LEGITIMACY: the rules and institutions that comprise the state, and which determine how governments are chosen are accepted by most people as being reasonable legitimacy of the state is based on consent of those who are governed Democracy requires some measure of stability and respect for rules, including those rules that determine who has the right to govern and how and when that right ends Government is upheld by consent or force, but usually both Worlds greatest democracies: US & France TOTALITARIANISM: system of government that suppresses all dissent in the name of some supreme goal Downloaded for free at 3 Cultural Hegemony: used to signify the ability of societys dominant class to get its values and beliefs accepted as the conventional wisdom in society at large Democracy 3 types of democracy in the world: ( MACPHERSON) LIBERAL: the only one characterized by competition between political parties DEVELOPMENTAL/COMMUNIST: do not have competitive elections , would not be considered democratic by most Canadians they both attach a greater importance to the social and economic equality of individuals than does liberal democracy in addition to recognizing the formal political equality of citizens Democracy is based on equality Majority rule, government by popular consent, one person one vote, and competitive elections are the political institutions with democratic government Inequality results from the fact that a very small proportion of the population the capitalist class controls the vast majority of the means of economic production and distribution Members of the public are often poorly informed or wrong in their opinions on public matters Representative Democracies: all modern democracies; government is carried out by elected legislatures that represent the people citizens delegate law- making authority to their representatives, holding them responsible for their actions through periodic elections Plebiscites & referendums - direct votes of citizens on important public questions frequently held elections, choosing judges and some administrative officials through election etc. Government that levies heavy taxes on citizens is undemocratic Rights and freedoms are seen to be the most important in democracies, but everyone except extreme libertarians believe that protecting these right and freedoms can sometimes produce undemocratic outcomes Downloaded for free at 4
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