WEEK 1: INTRODUCTION
Define Politics and why it is important
-can be viewed as a feature of all organized human activity
-the laws and policies of government can affect all aspects of our lives and society
-political decisions affect the economy, employment, the equality of the environment ,
international relations and the freedoms you can enjoy
-understanding politics can help you think of issues
-invisible but powerful
• -Power is often defined as the ability to achieve an objective by influencing the behaviour of
• The resources that give individuals and groups the potential to exert political power are
• Power is often thought of in terms of some having power over others, or in a more positive way
as the power to achieve collective goals.
- Acceptance by the members of a political community that those in postitions of
authority have the right to govern
charismatic authority; someone being appointed to because of their personality
traditional authority; (Queen)
legal-rational authority (happens in Canada)
• A government whose rule is considered legitimate can rely more on authority than on coercion
to get people to obey laws.
- Right to exercise power that is accepted by those being governed as legitimate What are the common good, individualist and pluralist perspectives? How do they relate to
• Common good: what is good for the entire community
• The common good of the country may not be the same as the common good of other political
communities to which we belong (i.e. local, provincial, global).
• Individualist Perspective: people acting primarily in accordance with their own interests
• Pluralist System: groups representing a variety of interests influence political decisions -
government tries to satisfy as many groups and there is no dominant group influence
WEEK 2: Political Ideology, Capitalism and Political Parties
Forms of Governments
What are the four types of democracy?
- Direct: citizens meet, discuss and vote on various policy initiatives. Can be achieved in
- Representative: free competition of candidates/political parties to elect representatives
(most limited version of democracy).
- Plebiscitary: citizens have greater control over elected representatives and collective
decisions via referendums, initiatives and recall elections.
- Deliberative: political decisions based on discussion by free and equal citizens.
What four elements define a democracy?
Democracy means “Rule by the people.”
Power decided by free and fair elections
Rule of Law - applies equally to all, including government officials
Guaranteed rights and freedoms to all citizens (CDN charter)
Civic and political participation of people (ie: voting, voluntary/community organizations) What is a political ideology?
A political ideology is a package of interrelated ideas and beliefs about government, society, the
economy and human nature that inspire and affect political action.
Most political ideologies also provide a vision of what the world should be like and propose a
means of political action to achieve their objectives.
The development of political ideologies is associated with the European Enlightenment and with
the development of capitalism via the Industrial Revolution.
Politics + Economy +Social Issues
To understand politics and democracy, we must understand our economic system - capitalism.
Political ideologies within a democratic society have everything to do with how much people will
be taxed, how those tax dollars are spent and how much involvement government there will be.
Political ideologies also offers explanations about human nature and important social work
issues such as poverty, unemployment, mental health, crime and violence.
What are the key ideals of capitalism + corresponding critiques?
1) Private ownership of means of production and limited government regulation & involvement.
2) Profit is key (minimal corporate taxes/breaks, outsource jobs, local part-time/seasonal, contract jobs
with limited benefits, deregulate unions).
Privatization of sectors such as social services and making them for profit erodes principles of human
worth, potential and dignity (ie: jails, welfare, daycare). Less accountability.
Minimal taxes = limited social programs, income supports, subsidies (healthcare, education, daycare,
Decent wages less attainable, working poor - unable to afford necessities to be successful
Capitalism is based on inequality. Profit means a large working class - less money, weak union = more
3) Everyone has an equal opportunity as long as you work hard.
4) Strong business = strong economy. Strong economy = trickle down effect (everyone benefits). CRITIQUE:
‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.’ Capitalism needs economic inequality to be successful!
There needs to be a working class to support large profits for the elite few at the top. This results in a
very unequal distribution of wealth.
The less the working class gets, the more the wealthy gets!
If the working class demands to much, outsource.
Little private/public investment into affordable healthcare, education, social programs. Working families
cannot afford to pay privately for services.
Will the working class ever get ahead if government does not step in and create policies to level the
Is equality in big business’ best interest?
In Canada in 2005, the top 10% of the population controlled 58% of the country’s wealth.
(Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2009).
Data from 2004 suggests that wealth in America is concentrated in the hands of a small number of
families. The wealthiest 1 percent of families owns roughly 34.3% of the nation's net worth, the top
10% of families owns over 71%, and the bottom 40% of the population owns way less than 1%.
5) Issues such as poverty homelessness are the result of individual deficits (laziness). They are not social
6) Social programs get limited funding to reduce ‘dependency on the state.’ Need to work hard and stop
looking for handouts.
7) Rugged individualism.
Blaming individuals masks the massive inequality perpetuated by capitalism.
Minimal taxation = accumulation of wealth but also results in few social programs and supports. This
keeps people in poverty, restricts ability to access opportunities to be successful.
Major social consequences - undermining social cohesion, leading to increased social unrest and social
conflict (crime and social exclusion).
Equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes is sought. Who are the three major political parties in Canada and identify the key principles of their ideologies
Know the types of policies each party would support.
NDP- Universal healthcare, Reduce poverty in Canada, Environmental rights, Gender equality and gay
rights, Increase corporate taxes, Protecting workers and human rights
LIBERAL- Multiculturalism Act, Universal Healthcare, Food policies for Canadian Farmers, Reduce Debt,
Cancel corporate tax deductions, Invest in renewable energy sources
PC- Lower taxes, Eliminate deficit by cutting gov’t spending & eliminating waste, Strengthening national
defense, Getting tough on crime
What do the terms left and right wing mean?
-they are simple way of depicting ideological positions
-Left is associated with the pursuit of greater social and economic equality
-Right- generally see inequality as a natural feature of human society Week Three: Political Influence and Political Participation
Define self-interest and public interest groups, along with social movements and know what each of
their purposes are.
Groups that represent economic and occupational interests as well as groups that want a
benefit from government for its members can be considered to be self-interest groups (ie:
professional organizations, unions).
Public interest groups are not primarily concerned with gaining specific benefits for their
members, but have been formed to promote a particular cause (injustice) that they believe to
be in the public interest (ie: environmental, human rights activists, protesting cuts to welfare,
What is the role of the media in a democratic society?
The communications media can be considered a major source of political influence.
The media not only are important in communicating the concerns and views of various groups
and individuals to government, but also have an ability to raise issues, influence both public and
politicians, and help shape political debate.
Media includes print, online and audio/visual.
Debate exists about whether the mass media provide the political information that is needed for
people to participate meaningfully in political life, make intelligent choi