Political Science 2244E Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Joseph Schumpeter, Elite, Direct Democracy
Course CodePolitical Science 2244E
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American Government –
Chapter 1: The Study of American Government
⁃ How is political power actually distributed in America?
⁃ What explains major political change?
⁃ What values matter most in American democracy
⁃ Are trade-offs among political purposes inevitable?
• Exists in part because people normally differ about two things: who should
govern and the ends toward which they should work
• Who rules will affect how they rule (personality, beliefs, vices and virtues)
• What difference it makes who governs
• Power and purpose intertwined
• Power; the ability of one person to get another person to act in accordance with
the first person's intention
• Authority; the right to use power
• Exercise of authority is easier than exercise of power unsupported by any
persuasive claim or right
• Formal authority; the right to exercise power is vested in a governmental office
• Legitimacy; political authority conferred by a law or by a state or national
constitution. What makes a law or constitution a source of right?(Question
• Virtually all Americans agree that no exercise of political power is legitimate if it
is not in some sense democratic.
• Democracy; word used to describe those regimes that come as close as
possible to Aristotle's definition: 'the rule of the many.'
◦ participatory/direct democracy: A government is democratic if all, or
most, of its citizens participate directly in either holding office or
◦ representative democracy:(Joseph Schumpeter) the democratic method
is that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in
which individuals(leaders) acquire the power to decide by means of
a competitive struggle for the people's vote. Also referred to as
elitist's theory of democracy.
• Justified by:
• the impracticality, owing to limits of time, information,
energy, interest and experience, for the people to
decide on public policy, but not to expect them to
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make reasonable choices among competing
• Some people believe direct democracy is likely to
lead to bad decisions, because the people often
decide large issues on the basis of fleeting passions
and in response to popular demagogues
• Is representative democracy best?
◦ Requires that individuals and parties be able to run for office, that
communication be free, and that the voters perceive that a
meaningful choice exists.
◦ Some people argue direct democracy can and should be reclaimed
even in a modern society by letting cities govern themselves or by
requiring those affected by a government to participate in its
◦ Fathers of constitution strongly favoured representative democracy and
believed that government should mediate, not mirror, popular views
and elected officials should represent, not register majority
sentiments, supposed citizens didn't have time, information,
interest, or expertise to make reasonable decisions
◦ Civil liberties shouldn't hinge on a popular vote (right to free speech,
press, religion, etc)
◦ John Locke:
• 17th century English writer who argued against powerful
kings and in favour of popular consent
• People can exist in a state of nature without any ruler so
long as they can find enough food to eat and a way to
protect themselves. Life may be poor and difficult
• Did not want powerful central government (unlike Hobbes)
• In order to prevent a majority from hurting a minority,
Locke wrote that the government should be separated
with a legislative and an executive branch
◦ Thomas Hobbes:
• Argued people live in a “war of all against all” so a
supreme ruler was necessary to prevent civil war
How is Political Power Distributed?
• Majoritarian politics: where elected officials are the delegates of the people,
acting as the people (or the majority of them) would act were the matter
put to a popular vote. Issues have to be important enough to command
attention of most citizens
• Distribution of political power depends on the mostly on the composition of the
political elites who are actually involved in the struggle over policy
• 4 ways to describe political elite:
1. Elites reflect a dominant social class (originated Karl Marx, power of “the
2. A group of business, military, labour union, and elected officials control
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