Politics Readings 01/09/2014
Textbook Chapter 7
Institutions are regular patterns of behaviour that give stability and predictability to social life.
Some are informal with no written rules,
Example: the family, social class or ethnic groups.
Others are more formalized with codified rules and organizations
Example: governments, political parties and constitutions.
Political scientists attempt to identify regular patterns of adaptation as a way of generalizing
more widely about the behaviour of political institutions.
Structuration theory clarifies the relationships between political institutions and the
environmental forces that surround them
Structuration means the factors that hold back and provide resources for change in the operation
of institutions and the system as a whole.
Big events or changes are never caused by just one factor, there are overlapping causes.
Structure refers to the impact of a particular groups of institutions.
Agency on the other hand, refers to the impact of actions taken by one or more agents, either
individuals or groups.
States have many elements like; sovereignty, legitimacy, and a monopoly on the use of force in a
particular territorial area.
They also claim a monopoly on law-making.
The state is the structure of rule and authority within a particular geographical areas.
The Rise of the European State
State capacity is the ability of a government to administer its territory effectively. It takes four
forms: 1. Extractive capacity – the capacity to mobilize financial resources from the society to pursue
what the central policy makers perceive as the national interest
2. Steering capacity – the capacity to guide national socioeconomic development.
3. Legitimation capacity – the capacity to dominate by using symbols and creating consensus.
4. Coercive capacity – the capacity to dominate by threat or force.
The capacity to extract taxes paired with access to modernizing and industrializing economies,
enabling some states to dominate others.
The French revolution transformed the state, leading to a level form of taxation for all its
citizens, as well as the principle of the modern citizen army, which helped France to dominate
continental Europe until 1814.
First, the state officials were expected to advance the state and the public good, rather than any
Secondly, officials developed rules and patterns of administration that separated them from the
rest of society.
As the European states grew stronger, new institutions and legal principles had to be established
to constrain the rulers.
TheAmerican revolution identified six innovations:
1. The deliberate formulation of a new frame of government by way of a popular convention
2. Awritten constitution
3. Abill of rights enshrined within
4. Guaranteed protection for these rights through judicial review.
5. The separation of powers along functional lines
6. And the division of powers between national and state governments.
The French Revolution can be summarized into four main points:
1. The declaration of the natural rights of man and the citizen established the legal basis for the
rule (sovereignty) of the democratic state based on general will.
Making all men equal (saying little about women)
2. The revolution laid down the national unity of all French citizens and their loyalty to the state.
3. In defense of the French revolution, the state mobilized vast numbers of citizens to fight on its
behalf, forcing its enemies to mobilize comparable citizen armies. 4. The committee of public safety followed by Napoleonic dictatorship marked the rise of neo-
Rule by law and force
The Spread of the European State Model
Economic and military control of European powers, helped them develop empires over seas.
The purpose of colonialism was to exploit countries by taking their riches, and to spread
European-style to other continents.
Patrimonial states are when rulers use the state to extract resources from the rest of society for
their own benefit.
Through colonization, western states imposed formal boundaries and took little account of social
and cultural relations.
Often members of the same ethnic groups were split between two or more colonies
When the colonies became independent, the arbitrary boundaries created by colonial powers
made it difficult to create nation states.
Pragmatic Adoption of the Western Model
In 1854 the US Navy led war ships into Tokyo Bay and demanded that the Japanese open up
Since they had no ships or forces, they had to comply.
They valued theAmerican power, and modernized so that they could compete with the states
The Japanese established a parliament, and set limits on the powers of the emperor.
Because of this Japan formed itself into a modern industrial state.
Within a few decades the new Japanese state had accomplished what had taken European nations
centuries to do.
Turkey is another example that adopted Western forms of rule in order to compete with the West.
The European State System
The modern European state system originated in the Pease of Westphalia which ended the thirty
year war in 1648.
The treaty established the paradigm of the state using three principles: 1. Sovereignty of states and their right to self-determination
2. Legal equality between states
3. Non-intervention of one state in the affairs of another.
The Modern State
States today have two sets of roles or functions; internal and external
The internal role of the state, had been understood through three distinct lenses.
1. The Partisan Role
Every state pursues its institutional interests or those of the officials who work within in.
its own structure and procedures that help it resist pressures from the rest of society.
2. That of a guardian
the state is seen as working in the interests of the society as a whole, stabilizing and maintaining
healthy balance between the various, conflicting interests of society.
Example: federal political systems
Example: developmental state – where the state directs development of society along a path that
is most favorable in regards to national interests.
3. State is seen as a tool/instrument
example: liberal democracy where the people control the states actions.
Political elite often take advantage of their connections to enrich themselves.
They have two external functions:
1. To manage relations with other states
2. And to protect their people and territory against attacks from outside. Strong and Weak States
Modern states are expected to provide its citizens with;
predictable methods of adjudicating disputes and regulating both the norms and the prevailing
values of a particular society of polity,
and freedom to participate in politics and compete for office, respect and support for national and
regional political institutions
healthcare, educational institutions, infrastructures a banking system with a national currency
and policies regulating money are also expected.
Those that don’t function in this manner are considered weak states in the developing world.
Taxes are not collects, undisciplined exploitation of mineral resources becomes endemic,
weapons circulate, villages split up, delinquency spreads, business suffers from under
Factors that determine strength:
Astates capacity to pursue goals.
Acountries economic strength.
Legitimacy (consensus of the state to rule)
The strength of states is the robustness of state institutions.
The US has the power to finance a high level of domestic public services and respond to the
preferences of its people.
The Democratic State
Ademocracy has free and fair elections and has political parties
It is generally accountable to elected representatives
Accountability is an essential element
Effective checks on governments
Those in power will loose their power if they fail to do what the people want.
Democracy in East and SoutheastAsia have a illiberal democracy, which have elections and
political parties but operate on the basis of more definite views about appropriate forms of social
The main priority of the legal system is to control society rather than protect the rights of its
in a democratic state there have to be winners and losers, the losers must accept the outcomes
because it is in the best interest of their countries. 01/09/2014
Textbook Chapter 9 01/09/2014
Legislatures and Legislators
The Functions of Legislatures
They are vital elements in the structures of power within the state serving as a guardian for
The functions of legislatures can be divided into three groups: representational, governmental,
Represents both citizens and particular groups in society.
Congress is representative of the kinds of people who achieve positions of leadership, it produces
a sample of local elites from a diverse nation.
You must be elected to congress, and this is an elitist achievement therefor it should represent the
elites not the entire population
However now, the composition of legislatures is required to represent the population as a whole
(including female representatives and those of different races, by giving one the opportunity to
be elected into congress, than all other races that are under-represented must be recognized as
Manon Tremblay and Rejean Pelletier believe that Parliament needs more feminist
representatives, not just women
The recall model states that representatives can be replaced or face re-election if they fail to
represent the views of its societal members
In most states the connection between individual representatives and the people that they
represent in territories is an essential contribution to the legitimacy of the legislature.
Presidentialism versus Parliamentarianism
Parliamentarianism is the principle that parliament is the final authority in the choice of the
More advantageous for democracy because it is more flexible and more favorable to stability
Some believe that presidential rule assumes a powerful executive based on the whole people.
Others believe that parliamentary systems encourage actors holing different political positions to
negotiate compromises because they have to rethink their personal acceptance with the national
Presidentialism is when the legislative and executive branches are separate and the legislature
has no say in the choice of president who is elected by the whole nation and has a powerful
Hybrid system original reasoning was to strengthen the position of the prime minister and avoid
the endless wrangling between small parties. 01/09/2014
Legislatures are used to shape and pass legislations, must also be able to stand up to judicial
reviews, and respect international law.
Hold government to account for its actions.
This is important in democracies to ensure that governments honor the commitments they made
to the public during an election.
This increases the incentive for credible commitments, and to ensure that if a government fails to
keep its promise, it will be replaced.
Formation of Public Attitudes
Contribute to formation of public opinion and to set the agenda for public debate
Some legislatures have taken advantage of the internet to create public debates over current
Parliamentary activities ritualize conflict by providing a safe forum for the expression of
Parliaments can help resolve disputes that might otherwise take a more violent turn, and they
Parliaments are committed to openness, to publicizing issues and policies.
By making the resolution of disagreements in society more open, transparency promotes social
Types of Legislature
There is a five-part classification based on the ability of a legislature to stand up to the executive
1. An active legislature is at the center of the political system and has the power to say no to an
executive when necessary.
2. Areactive legislature has less power to withstand the government, but it can set firm
parameters within which the government has to act.
3. Avulnerable legislature is more flexible, because of political cultures that tolerate legislators
pursuit of their own material interests. 01/09/2014
4. Amarginal legislature performs important legislative functions, but has at best tentative
supports from social elites.
5. Aminimal legislature meets rarely and serves mainly to symbolize national unity and regime
legitimacy; it does not exercise any effective check on the government.
The Structure of Legislatures
Most legislatures are unicameral meaning that they consist of just one chamber or house.
Bicameralism means having two chambers, has been the choice of larger, more complex nation
There are three general reasons to separate the legislature into an upper and lower house.
1. Tradition – bicameralism has allowed for the separate representation of different sections of
2. Federalism – setting an upper house aside for representatives from provinces, territories, or
states serves as an guarantee to those entities that their wishes will not be ignored by the national
3. The expectation that the upper house will lead to better legislation.
Having two chambers of parliament affects on the legislative process.
Most of the detailed consideration of proposed legislation is carried out in temporary committees
to scrutinize individual ministries.
Committee work offers opportunities to criticize the government’s policies and propose
Westminster-style democracies, members of parliament are theoretically representative of the
population at large.
Some western states are developing the political class
Meaning a group of self-interested, self-aware, and dependent for its economic and moral status
on the resources of the state.
It refer to a class that lives of politics, and acts as a class itself.
Now however, it is seen as a group of political professionals that are skilled in winning elections
and have never had another career. 01/09/2014
Votes, Elections, Parties
The Voting Paradox
Voting is a method of making collective decisions and a key method of representation
Arrow’s impossibility theorem concludes that when a group of people are asked to choose one
preference from three or more alternatives, it is impossible to conclude that any option is the one
The method we choose for assessing votes is crucial and can alter the outcome.
Election can be defined as a method of assessing preferences through votes.
There are three types of electoral systems:
1. Majoritarian systems – first past the post system – allows voters to choose individual
candidates based on their own merits, rather than on their ties with the party.
This gives the winning party clear majority of the seats.
It also facilitates a strong opposition and broadly based parties.
2. Proportional representation – priority is to ensure adequate representation of the range of
Favors minorities and encourages parties to try harder to appeal to voters outside their core
3. Hybrid – alternative member model – some seats are elected on simple majority, and some on
the basis of proportional representation.
In one alternative system, a second round of election is held when the first round doesn’t produce
an absolute majority, and only the two most successful candidates remain on the ballot.
Some believe that political parties are a vital element in political systems, especially in
However others believe that gains are small for the cost of membership
Parties are often corrupt elites that want to pursue their own interests and don’t stand for
anything but themselves.
Emergence of Parties 01/09/2014
Parties first developed in the Congress, forming blocs of like-minded representatives helped to
simplify the negotiating process and increased individual influence.
Group commitments encouraged greater confidence than individuals.
Later, parties began to form outside of congress to mobilize support for candidates
Party organization motivated supporters to vote and stimulated greater interest in politics.
Political parties a vital element in the extension of democracy.
Since the second world war, parties have further evolved and coined catch all parties which
devote less attention to ideology and more to strategies to win.
Recently parties have undergone further evolutions and turned into cartel parties.
Now parties have turned into organizations of media-savvy professionals ready to serve
whichever candidates emerge to prominence.
Any modern party can be divided between its activities in three arenas:
1. The party-in-government
2. The party-in-the-electorate
3. The parties internal organization.
Functions of Parties
Apolitical party is an institution that seeks influence in a state, attempting to occupy positions in
government and usually consists of more than a single interest in society.
There are seven functions that a party may perform:
1. Legitimation of the political system
2. Integration and mobilization of citizens
4. Structuring of the popular vote
5. Aggregation of diverse interests
6. Recruitment of leaders for public office 01/09/2014
7. Formulation of public policy
how parties perform these function depends on three things:
1. The constitutional framework within which they operate.
2. The way the nation organizes elections
3. The communication technologies available to them
Typologies of Political Parties
Based on the way parties organize themselves.
Nine general types of political program:
1. Liberal parties stand for equal political and legal rights.
2. Conservative parties support traditional forms of social relations
3. Christian democratic parties endorse more traditional authority relations (preferring women to
4. Socialist or social democratic parties advocate workers control of the means of production
5. Communist parties believed in unconditional loyalty to the party.
6. Regional parties stand for the interests of particular regions of countries
7. Environmental parties advocate consensus-based decision-making and social justice.
8. Nationalist parties based on a concept of the whole nation, as opposed to the interests of part
9. Islamic parties seek to speak for the whole of society rather than the specific part.
Any state with more than one political party also has a party system which is seen as a system of
interactions resulting from inter-party competition
The interactions are affected by three factors:
1. The nature of the political system 01/09/2014
2. The pattern of basic social cleavages that represent the differentiation between parties.
Example: center versus periphery, state versus church, land versus industry, owner versus
3. The channels open for competition between parties.
Duverger’s Law is when electoral systems tend to produce two-party systems. He argued that
proportional representation tends to produce multiparty systems.
Problems Facing Parties
Political parties today face serious problems, membership is declining.
To deal with this lack of interest there have been adoption of more responsive electoral systems
which offer a greater choice of candidates, and state funding for parties designated $3 a vote to
New parties find it difficult to establish a clear image, raise funds and bring in large numbers of
members to compete in elections.
The job of establishing the parties brand and designing its platform are handled by professiona