POL101Y1 Lecture Notes - Celtic Christianity, Wags, Visible Minority

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5 Dec 2010
POL356 Lectures
Lecture 1 (Sept 13th, 2010): Introduction to the Course
Support/trust in political parties has gone from 30% in 1979 to 7% in 1991
- rise of social groups and single-purpose organizations may have played a part
- the more highly educated are leaving party politics for social group politics, thinking
they can make a greater impact via that course
Studies show that voter turnout is down in 18/20 western states
- parties are less able now to mobilize people to vote
Remarkable: parties are adept at adjusting and adapting to changes in society
- access to the internet; used by parties
- Authors: demographic shifts, globalization, international migration, increasing
affluence, technological change and growth of bureaucratic power presents greatest threat
to parties in 150 years
- all of these changes (save for the last) have happened in the past; take migration for
example: much lower now than in the past. Technology: streetcars, telephones, etc. all
appeared and were groundbreaking at the time; are these changes less revolutionary?
Television? Radio? Both completely revolutionized politics
Two of the authors argue that Canada has never had a real issue with class politics; that
political parties prefer to deal with issues such as religion, regionalism, language,
- shunned away from gaps between the rich and poor
- Wiseman: not necessarily the case
We hear a great deal about the middle class, but not the others, in Canada, but class
differences are definitely present in Canada
- NDP in poorer/rural areas; Conservatives in wealthy neighbourhoods
Parties came about from groups who organized around charismatic figures
- Party politics has grown to become perhaps the greatest subject of study in political
Canada differs from the United States in terms of parties
- three vs. two
Regionalism is very important in Canadian political parties
Some posit that Canadians do not have a set party affiliation, but instead act as consumers
How important are leaders in politics? Wiseman suggests they play an increasingly
important role
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Can we imagine politics without parties? Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, at the
provincial level do
Peoples values shape partisan choices
- survey research, however, is tempting
In the past 15 years, many provinces have looked seriously into different types of
electoral systems
- recall the referendum in Ontario in 2006
- Several in British Columbia
Decline of the Party?
- Some monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia; those with Emperors (etc.)
- Transitional societies, such as French West Africa in the 1960s
Parties are voluntary associations that are regulated by law (which began in the 1970s)
- Party names began to appear on ballots; had great implications
- Parties mobilize people, represent various interests in society, provide compromises
among competing views within the party; provide us with leaders; provide us with
candidates; runs the government and apparatus if elected; proving ground for leaders;
- odds of being elected without being a member of a party (independent) is small
Some have specific interests, such as previous Christian parties or the Green Party
- some want to transform society (Liberal Reform Parties; Social Democratic/Labour
- fascist, communist, nationalist, etc.
Parties are ubiquitous
- countries have competitive party systems
- it took a long time for parties to develop and become important
- they arose with the growth of democracy and representative government
- further impotence with responsible government (those running and executing the laws
must remain the confidence of the populace)
- Centuries ago, representatives were appointed, regardless of public opinion
Common view with political parties in western society (especially in Canada) is to see
them as brokers; mediating conflict among competing groups
- to be successful in Canada, some say, parties must be brokerage parties
- elected by appealing to a broad cross-section of Canadian opinions
Brokerage parties aggregate a wide variety of people into voting coalitions (this is good!)
Parties have many functions
- link people to the government and state
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- also structure voting and organize electoral choice; determine and define what issues are
- recruit candidates and leaders; education function (policy issues and choices made
available to the public); transmission belts between public opinion and making public
- educate the public in raising issues, putting out facts
- vehicles for leaders to communicate with the public; set the political agenda
- if elected, they run the bureaucracy
Parties may not be democratic! Paradox!
- a lot to be desired when viewing them as democratic institutions
- different conceptions of democracy
- some societies have one-party-dominant systems
- can still be democratic
- to us it is the ability to choose
Decline of the party?
- are they empty vessels?
- De Tocqueville described parties as an evil inherent in free societies
- what would a democratic Canada look like without political parties?
Three Generalizations
1) In countries that have congressional systems, the parties unite to back a
presidential candidate; once the election is over, they act independent from their
party. They see themselves as delegates or ambassadors for the constituency, and
not necessarily or at all for the president.
2) In a parliamentary system (Westminster style; NZ, AUS, CAN) parties stick
together. Party members rarely break discipline; if the Prime Minister loses a
vote, an election is called; parties thus work together to ensure the strength of the
party and avoid collapse. In our system, MPs have a collective responsibility; they
are thus not delegates per se, but members of national organizations; first and
foremost party members, not ambassadors.
3) In countries with proportional representation is multiple-party-systems. In PR
countries, a small percentage is needed to be able to sit in parliament; thus some
countries, such as Israel, have many parties vying for any number of seats. Thus, a
parliamentary majority is very rare, and coalition governments run the country.
Parties fulfill a social role
- much more so in the past, when there was little technology for entertainment
- now, one does not have to join a party for entertainment or even marriage; most party
membership these days is actually artificial
- party membership moves like a yo-yo; means little in Canada
Perhaps another reason some claim that parties are on a decline is that politics is more
-party policy is less based on fundamental values as social issues
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