Politics + Social Movements: NS, SiQ, SLDI readings only

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8 Apr 2011

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Week 19 – 3/2/11
Politics & Social Movements
Karl Marx: Three Bases of Authority
1) Traditional Authority: particularly in tribal + feudal societies: authority through family
+ clan ties
-right of a family/clan to monopolize leadership derives from god’s will
2) Legal-Rational Authority: (modern societies) authority comes from respect for the
-laws = rational
-achieve office by respecting laws + regulations
3) Charismatic authority
-extraordinary + charismatic individuals challenge traditiona/legal-rational authority
-claim to be inspired by higher principle that transcends traditional authority
-political revolution: concerted attempt by many ppl to overthrow political institutions +
establish new ones
-power: ability of individual /group to impose its wills on others even if they refuse
-authority: to be widely recognized as legitimate
-social movements: when power flows to non-authorities -> questions authority ->
collective attempts to change part or all of the social order
-political parties: organizations that seek to control state power
-Force: coercive power by authorities
-state: set of institutions that formulate + carry out a country’s laws, policies, binding
-government = executive branch of the state; it inititates policies, proposes laws, enforces
-legislature = turns proposed laws into operating statutes
-administrative apparatus/bureaucracy = enforcement of laws
-coercive apparatus: police/military that enforces law + protects state
-civil society: private sphere of life; also exercises control over the state through
organizations + institutions. Mass media -> criticizes state and comments on it. Pressure
-“government of the people, by the lawyers, for the business owners?”
Pluralist Theory
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-Pluralist theory: we live in hetereogeneous society w many competing interests +
centres of power.
-no one group can control politics
Elite Critique of Pluralist Theory
-elite theorists: - eg. C. Wright Mills, sharply disagree with Pluralists. Powerful elites
-power is contained within these elites: eg. Intermarriage, social contacts, from one elite
to another in careers
-in US, 3 most powerful elites = biggest corporations, executive branch of gov,
-however, elites are independent of each other
-ruling class: interconnections and similarities of the 2 elites
-critique of pluralist theory: The Vertical Mosaic – disproportionately large # of ppl in
Canada’s political + other elites come from upper- and upper-middle class
-> most powerful positions in politics, etc. given to ppl who have the most $$ -
could attend expensive private schools, marry exclusive members, etc.
-critics of Porter: no it s not ruling class who dominate Canada, rather, large corporations
-political involvement decreases with social class
Elite theory: Marxist Criticism
-“Instrumentalists:” (branch of Marxism)
-deny that elites enjoy more or less equal power; elites = ruling class dominated by big
-state = arm or “instrument of the business elite
-big business controls the state through:
1) members of wealthy family => imp state positions in highly disproportionate
2) government officials rely on representatives of big business for advice
3) political parties rely mainly on big business for $$
-not so much social origins of high government officials/social ties w/ big business
-capitalist state = arm of big business BECAUSE nature of Capitalism dictates so
Power-Balance Theory
-Power Balance theorists distribution of power in society changes more frequently
-compare Sweden + Canada;
-a group’s power is partly determined by the degree to which it forms
organizations to further its interests
-eg. Unionzed blue-collar + white-collar workers more powerful than their nonunionized
-> unions enable workers to bargain w employers + governments -> or go on
State-Centered Theory
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