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Wilfrid Laurier University
Political Science
Yamsmine Shamsie

Guide for Reading Chapter 1: Understanding Politics KEY TERMS (Some of the terms were covered in the lectures others are in the textbook) Politics: What is it? What does it involve? Activity related to influencing, making, or implementing collective decisions for a political community. Power The ability to achieve an objective by influencing the behavior of others, particularly to get them to do what they would not have otherwise done. Legitimacy Acceptance by the members of a political community that those in positions of authority have the right to govern. Authority The right to exercise power that is accepted by those being governed as legitimate. Free rider problem A problem with voluntary collective action that results because an individual can enjoy the benefits of group action without contributing. 3 Types of authority: Traditional authority Authority based on customs that establish the right of certain persons to rule. Charismatic authority Authority based on the perception that a leader has extraordinary or supernatural qualities. Legal–rational authority The right to rule based on legal rules and procedures rather than on the personal qualities or characteristics of the rulers. Common good What is good for the entire political community. Individualist perspective A perspective that views human beings as acting primarily in accordance with their own interests. Pluralist perspective A political system in which a large number of groups representing a wide variety of interests are able to influence the decisions of government. Government tries to satisfy as many groups as possible and no group has a dominant influence on government. Empirical analysis Analysis that involves explaining various aspects of politics, particulaly by using careful observation an dcomparison to develop generalizations and testable theories Normative analysis Analysis that includes examining ideas about how the community should be governed and what values should be pursued through politics. Policy analysis Analysis that involves evaluating existing policies and assessing possible alternatives to deal with particular problems. As you read the chapter, think about the following questions: What is politics? Why is politics important? Power How is power exercised in societies? Through coercion, inducement and persuasion/manipulation. Is power concentrated or widely dispersed in a democracy? Widely dispersed in the form of enfranchisement or concentrated within the elite minority. What are the three faces of power? Ability to affect decisions, control political agenda and the dominant ideas in society. What are the pluralist and elitist perspectives on the distribution of power? Pluralist Elitist  How power is distributed  How power is concentrated  Diffused rather than concentrated  Existence of open political conflict b/w  Large number of groups representing groups over issues does not rule out all significant and different interests of the possibility of a isngle unified elite the population operating behind the scenes  Groups compete for influence over  We cannot rely on evidence from public gov’t sources since theyw ill not report the  Competition follow the “rulers of the activities of a relatively secret elite with game” power that is exerted informally  All groups accept the legitimacy of the  An elite will not want to dominate all decision making process & outcome areas/issues, some will be of little interest  Competition ensures no one group dominates  Most effective in routine areas of policy  Gov’t is a neutral arbiter b/w interests to avoid getting into power struggle What are power resources? Which are more significant in Canada and why? (wealth? Position? Etc.) Wealth, control of important aspects of the economy, social status and prestige, official position, control of information and expertise, the ability to mobilize supporters, control of the means of force, and the ability to influence people. Wealth, control of economy and official position will have a heavier weight in Canada because mobilizing supporters fall into the hands of the younger generation, control of the army seems extremist and generally people/governments are swayed by money. How is the legitimacy of governing authorities established and maintained? 3 types of authority, establishing legitimacy in its own way. Traditional Authority derives its power from customs; a descendent from god, monarchs, emperors etc. Those that violate this rule will face consequences. Charismatic Authority derives its power from the individual’s merit, charisma, and ability to mobilize supporters. Generally arise during times of crisis. Maintained by performing miracles, issuing prophecies or leading a military victory Legal-Rational Authority derives its powers from a higher order; the rule of law. So long as they do not violate any rights under the Charter and fulfill their responsibility outlines by law, they will maintain their authority. What is the significance of legitimacy? (ie: why is it important?) If a considerable portion of the population questions legitimacy of the ruling authority, they can impair the government’s ability to establish and maintain power. All governments must use coercion to control the actions of its citizens but the political community can exhaust the government’s resources. This impedes progress in society, there will be no productivity because no one will want to obey the government and the government cannot rule without obedient citizens. Having legitimate authority can allow the government to achieve their goals even though the laws do not reflect their interests or values. Governments will be granted legitimate authority so long as they do not infringe on rights and regularly consult the general consensus. The meaning of the common good. To put it simply, the Common Good is what’s best for the entire political community. The top 3 generally agreed common goods that governments must provide are law/order, general security and basic infrastructures. Aristotle argues that a government should give citizens the opportunity to lead a virtuous life. Jean Jacques Rousseau said that citizens should sacrifice their personal interests in pursuit for the general interest, the true interest of all citizens formed after discussion. This was supposed to grant true freedom, citizens making the law themselves. However, critics argue that this perspective is sort of totalitarian being there is total control of people’s lives for a collective goal proclaimed as the general interest. John Dewey suggests that the reality of conflicting interests in society will be resolved “through an open process of discussion and scrutiny, the merits of different solutions to problems could be assessed in term of the publi’s ‘more inclusive interests’”. (Shamsie, pg 15) The individualist perspective and the common good. The Individualist Perspective is a view that sees human as acting “primarily in accordance with their own interests.” (Shamsie, pg 15) In other words, humans will act selfishly and that the belief people will act for a common good while sacrificing their own interests is naïve. Those who believe in the individualist perspective is supported by Adam Smith with his suggestion of the “invisible hand”. The market is organized by the pursuit of individual’s self-interest, resulting in a maximization of wealth. The free market will naturally shape itself as if there is an “invisible hand” above. Critics argue against the individualist perspective with the social aspect of human nature and our sympathetic desire to help others. For example, following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, people worldwide donated out of selflessness to aid complete strangers. Furthermore, a sense of belonging brought on by being a part of a political community grants us our identity. It “could be considered an important part of a fulfilling and meaningful life.” (Shamsie, pg 16) People care about themselves just as much as the social well-being of the quality of their community. “Individuals engage in political activity not only to advance their own interests, but also to pursue the values they think should guide the actions of government”. (Shamsie, pg 16) Conflicting or differentiating views on freedom, equality, order, justice and values of separate group may prove to be difficult to achieve because of the inconsistent priorities. Furthermore, “the costs and benefits of actions to achieve the common good are often unequally distributed.” (Shamsie, pg 16) For example, free breakfast programs at schools may benefit the poor students but still cost everyone within the community. Or post-secondary education is a common good, therefore the burden should be shifted from the leaders of the future to the general public. “However, in political communities where there are sharp divisions (based, for example, on economic inequality, religion, or cultural identities), the sense of being members of a shared community and a willingness to be concerned about others may be weak or non-existent. In such political communities, the notion of the common good may not be very meaningful.” (Shamsie, pg 17) How can the common good best be achieved? Democracy is often seen as the form of government most likely to actaually pursue the common good. Ideally, through discussion among citizens, an informed consensus can be reached about the policies that are desirable for the common good. However, meaningful discussion is often difficult to achieve outside of small groups and small communities. Instead, there is often an expectation that decisions in a democracy will tend to reflect the decisions of the majority of the population. Even if this is the case, it does not ensure that the common good of the community will be achieved. The majority is not necessarily oriented toward the common good of all members of the community, and at various times majorities have supported policies that oppress minorities. What is a pluralist system? A political system in which a large number of groups representing a wide variety of interests are able to influence the decisiosn of government. Government tries to satisfy as many groups as possible and no group has a dominant influence on government.A potential problem here is that even if government is responsive to groups representing a wide variety of interests, this does not necessarily result in the common good. Providing particular benefits to various groups that are able to exert effective pressure may not be the same as acting for the common good. If each group pursues its own interests, the good of the entire community may be ignored. Chapter 2 KEY CONCEPTS AND TERMS Civic nationalism Nationalism based on the shared political values and political history of those who are citizens of a country. Ethnic nationalism Nationalism based on common ancestry along with the cultural traditions and language associated with a particular ethnic group. Failed state A state that is unable to enforce laws, maintain order, protect the lives of citizens, or provide basic services. Globalization The processes that are increasing the interconnectedness of the world Government The set of institutions that makes decisions and oversees their implementation on behalf of the state for a particular period of time. Multiculturalism The idea that different cultures within a country should be recognized and respected and provided with encouragement and support to help them retain their cultures and traditions. Nation A group of people who have a sense of common identity and who typically believe they should be self- governing within their home-land Nationalism The idea that the nation-state is the best form of political community and that a nation should have its own self-governing state. Nation-state A sovereign state based on people living in a country who share a sense of being a member of a particular nation. Sovereignty The principle that states are the highest authority of their population and territory and are not subject to any external authority. State An independent, self-governing political community whose governing institutions have the capability to make rules that are binding on the population residing within a particular territory. Specific questions you should be able to answer after having read the chapter and attended the lectures. Some of these questions were dealt with lectures, while others are in the textbook. So make sure you keep up with your readings! Remember in order to do well you need to attend lectures and read the course material. What is a state? An independent, self-governing political community whose governing institutions have the capability to make rules that are binding on the population residing within a particular territory. Max Weber’s classic definition, the state successfully claims “the monopoly of legitimate use of physical force within a given territory” The state can be viewed as more extensive and permanent expression of the political community than the government, the set of institutions that make decisions and verses their implementation on behalf of the state for a particular period of time. The Canadian state includes the federal, provincial and municipal governments, military and police forces and state-owned corporations (courts and Bank of Canada are free from direct government control). Responsible for providing law, order and security, modern states are very active in activites such as regulating business activityl fostering economic developmentl stabilizing the economy; providing health, education, and social services to the public; assisting the disadvantaged; and protecting the environment What is the difference between the government and the state? State Government  The Constitution, permanent  Interpreters, propose laws &  All the governments within the attempt to change nation  The Who (people, ministers, prime minister) enacts activities  Military/police because we will not remove them (Action Plan etc.) on behalf of  Various government ministries the state. b/w there will always be ministries, different if dissolves but it’s there  Courts, you can change judges but permanent etc. The development of the modern state and some of its characteristics? What is a failed state? (textbook) Parliament, the constitution, the people as a whole, or some combination of these, the modern state itself is viewed as sovereign. More generally, the idea developed that the state is an impersonal authority separate from particular individuals and from society—that is, “an independent structure of laws and institutions which rulers are trusted to administer on behalf of the community.” A failed state is a state that is unable to enforce laws, maintain order, protect the lives of citizens, or provide basic services. Under what conditions is interference with state sovereignty justified? State sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies with the state itse
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