PO111 Study Guide - Politics Among Nations, Democratic Ideals, Mixed-Member Proportional Representation
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Power: Politics always involves the exercise of power. Power is the ability of one actor (or group) to impose
his/her will on others. Power influences the resolution of conflict. For example, some individuals or groups win
out over others…power may be difficult to track. Power can also be described as hard (force) or soft
(manipulation). This is important because in the end someone gets what they want. Politics is also about who,
what and why but can sometimes be difficult to see because there are different ways of exercising power.
3 Ways of exercising power:
Coercion – others submit involuntarily because of use of force, intimidation and psychological pressure (does
not always have to be physical)…e.g. Bill 115 on teachers, taxes
Authority – Others consent to your exercise of power, thus the exercise of power is legitimate (traditional,
charismatic, legal rational)
Influence – you sway the opinions and preferences of others, influence the way they think about an issue
The State: The state is an organization that has the monopoly of the legitimate use of force in certain
areas…e.g. Bolivia, Canada, Zimbabwe and 190+ others. Difference between a state and a country is that a
country is a geographic location whereas a state is an organization, which exercises power. The state is the
structure of rule over a geographical unit. The concept of the state is linked to sovereignty. The people within
a geographical region regard the states authority as legitimate. The state is known as the structural rule over a
geographical unit and is a critical political entity. The state is the law, institutions, sovereign entity, internally
recognized entity, a group of people and an idea.
Functions of the State: The state is supposed to provide human security for citizens and adjudicate disputes,
according to commonly held values of a society. States also provide a political framework for participation in
politics, protection of rights and support of national and regional institutions. States also provide an economic
framework, such as monetary systems, infrastructure and market regulations. They also provide a social
framework for health and education services and redistribution of wealth. However, different states perform
these functions with varying degrees of success and performance varies over time…e.g. Mexico 1985 vs. 2013
(2013 violent drug war, failed state? And struggling for security)
…And China 1960 vs. 2013 (1960 attempt to modernize China, famine, poverty; 2013 non-democratic,
Sovereignty: Theoretically, there is no higher form of power in a country. The state has a monopoly on use of
force (coercion) within territory, and this is externally recognized. Practically, however, there are constraints
on state sovereignty.
Government: A specialized activity of those individuals and institutions that make and enforce collective
decisions in a state. It is both a set of activities (occurring over time) and also a collection of institutions that
carry out these activities. The difference between a state and a government is that the government is the
institution that runs the state and the state is more enduring (governments change but states don’t
necessarily – state is the car government is the driver)
Freedom House “Map of Democracy”: Each country is rated on a seven category scale, 1 is most free and 7 is
the least free. There are two foci: political rights, which enable people to participate freely in the political
process, including the right to vote, run for office etc. The second is civil liberties, which allows for the
freedoms of expression and belief, associational and organizational rights, rule of law, personal autonomy and
Democracy: Democracy means rule by the people and is a set of ideals about how government should work,
what the role of citizen is in the political system and a set of procedures and institutions guiding operation of
government participation of citizens.
The Democratic Ideals (7)
1. Popular Sovereignty: Sovereignty is the supreme authority in a political community and popular is the
people are the source of all political power and have the right to overrule other bodies. For example, we can
“throw the rascals out.” Power in some way rests with the people. Under popular sovereignty the people have
the right to get rid of the representative.
2. Political Equality: The idea that each individual citizen, regardless of their gender or race, carries the same
weight in voting and other political decision-making. It is measured by extent to which citizens have equal
voting in governing. This is important because political activity means by which we inform our governors of
our interests and make them responsive to us. Essentially, each individual citizen should carry the same weight
in the political process.
3. Majority Rule: Idea that, if each vote is to be counted equally, the decision of the majority must be
accepted. The government accepts what most people want. The alternative is “oligarchy” which is rule by the
few. In majority rule you must accept that at least some of the time you will get what you want. Canada has a
majority government in the sense that conservatives had most seats in 2011 elections but not necessarily the
popular vote. Mexico has 3 similar parties.
4. Political Liberty: Liberties are freedoms that protect the individual, sets limits on government or fellow
citizens and is essential to exercise of popular sovereignty. There are two types of freedoms negative and
positive. Negative liberties are the freedoms from, such as speech, association, religion, press, fair trial, right
to bear arms, sexual orientation…unrestricted by government. Positive freedoms are the freedoms to such as,
education and health care, which are provided by government. States that were formed after the early 1900s
tend to focus on positive liberties rather than negative.
5. Minority Rights: Minority rights were designed to ensure that a specific individual or group (which may be
vulnerable, disadvantaged) is able to achieve equality. This includes both individual rights, which are applied
to all types of people and collective rights accorded to minority groups.
6. Political Competition: If people are to be sovereign, they must be able to choose their political
representatives, so there must be more than one choice. Elections are key to political competition, must be
fair, affects legitimacy of political systems for example Canada vs. Singapore. There are election in Singapore
however, the state controls the media and it is not fair competition…the government always wins because
they manipulate means of power.
7. Rule of Law: The rule of law is the idea that government authority is legitimately exercised only in
accordance with written, publicly disclosed laws. It is intended as a safeguard against arbitrary governance.
There is a distinction between “rule of law” and “rule by law.” In China for example, the rule of law isn’t
practiced as much as the rule by law.
*Some of these ideals are in tension with each other…so how do you create a balance (countries all have
different ways of distributing these rights.
Democratic Elitism: In this system citizens delegate law-making authority to elected representatives.
Essentially, you choose elites to do the job so citizens participate indirectly. This assumes that direct citizen
participation is unrealistic and undesirable, usually in larger populations. The system is democratic because
elites must compete for votes, and it does realize popular sovereignty. This system is also known as a
Deliberative Democracy: In this system all citizens are involved in decision making, not just good for the
system also food for the citizen (citizens participate directly). This argues that it is not enough for citizens to
vote for their representatives. Citizens must have the opportunity to take part in political debate on issues and
help to for consensus.
*Democracy is framework for institutions and procedures for putting these ideals into practice…how do we
Constitutions: Constitutions are fundamental and provide a body of rules and principles according to which a
state is governed. It includes who and what institutions are to carry out major functions of government and
how to change the constitution or how things are amended. A constitution should outline the basic rights and
obligations of citizens and is a basic source of natural law. Constitutionalism fulfills the democratic
requirement of the rule of law and is the fundamental principle of political life. There are two types of
constitutions written and unwritten (uncodified). Britain has an unwritten constitution, which is comprised of
ancient documents, acts of parliament and judicial decisions. Constitutions also lay down the foundations for
power relations such as the different parts of state (horizontal) and different levels of government (vertical).
Horizontal (power relations): Different parts of the state are analyzed under three functional headings.
Horizontal power is the legislative branch, or the lawmakers (house of commons), the executive branch (law
implementers), and the judicial branch (law adjudicators). Some democracies are concerned that power
should be strictly divided among branches (presidential – separation of power system is hard to get things
done). Other democracies are less concerned about the concentration of power in one branch. The
parliamentary system is considered a fusion of power system.
Vertical (power relations): Vertical powers include unitary and federal systems. The unitary system refers to
the idea that the central government ha power over regional governments (Britain and France). The federal
system refers to the idea that the central and regional governments each have power and cannot overrule
each other (Canada, US, Mexico).
ETA – Basque Fatherland and Freedom: Basques have long wanted their own government but struggle to do
so. Because they haven’t been able to attain their own government they have turned to violence. This group
represents an ethnic group that wants independence.
Relations Between State and Citizens: The British tradition of parliament is to safeguard rights of citizens not
courts while the American tradition is to set out rights in the Bill of Rights enforced in courts. (Political liberty,
equality and minority rights)
Canadian Constitution: Created democratic parliamentary system, based on the British model. The most
important characteristic of this system is that it concentrates power in the hand of a few decision makers.
There is less emphasis on popular sovereignty, individual rights, fragmentation of power and constraints on
Power: politics always involves the exercise of power. Power is the ability of one actor (or group) to impose his/her will on others. For example, some individuals or groups win out over others power may be difficult to track. Power can also be described as hard (force) or soft (manipulation). This is important because in the end someone gets what they want. Politics is also about who, what and why but can sometimes be difficult to see because there are different ways of exercising power. Coercion others submit involuntarily because of use of force, intimidation and psychological pressure (does not always have to be physical) e. g. bill 115 on teachers, taxes. Authority others consent to your exercise of power, thus the exercise of power is legitimate (traditional, charismatic, legal rational) Influence you sway the opinions and preferences of others, influence the way they think about an issue.