Chapter 18: Politics and Political Movements
Sociologists are interested in politics believe that we ignore politics is really to our disadvantage – politics is about power
Power defined as the capacity to force your will despite the resistance of others – Max Weber. It is the ability to do what
you want, when you want.
North Americans generally see themselves as “free” individuals – they generally think of others in this way too. People who
live in Canada enjoy rights and freedoms to pursue self-interests. However, not everyone has the same capacity, i.e.
wealthy v. poor, adult v. youth.
We often see disparities in the ability of different groups to achieve their aims are understood as stemming from
differences in individual effort. Under Constitution s. 15 says everyone should have equal opportunity – tempts people to
blame others in a disadvantageous position for their own misfortunes.
Sociologists found that factors, defined by social structures, shape power relations and reward some people who possess
or control them more than others, i.e. money.
Sociologists understand power as relational (phenomenon that only happens in human relationships) rather than intrinsic.
Materialistic things do not matter, but rather people that recognize its importance and legitimacy of those who try to
Power is relational therefore it is not fixed. There are constant negotiations and challenge that contest power by those who
oppose with its bases and defended by those who benefit from the status quo.
Sociologists tend to treat power as a series of social or political processes. It contests can result in new forms of power and
modification of old power relations. – however women are traditionally at a disadvantage than to men.
State is an institution associated with governing over a specific territory as well as establishing and enforcing rules within
that territory. The state in a number of countries is involved in providing various public services. It is a formal bureaucracy
that largely shapes material, cultural and social, and institutional political processes.
The greatest concentration of power in contemporary Western societies lies in the domain of the state.
The state is the only institution whose officials have the legal right to tax, assault, permit people to murder during
conscription services, detainment, etc.
States hold power because the majority of people governed by the state accepts that it should have power. It grants rights
and privileges in exchange for citizenship.
States emerged from the Industrial Revolution and emergence of modernity. New urban middle classes challenged the
traditional authority of aristocracies and the nature of negotiations around power began to change, in regards to land
ownership, capital, money, divine and heredity rights, etc. Religious influence was also challenged by science. Key development that accompanies the emergence of the modern state was bureaucracy, which is an organizational form
that is ordered by criteria independent of the personal qualities of people holding positions of power.
The emergence of state also brought massive shifts in primary bases of power that came with industrialization. Through its
various branches, state leaders today can shape all manner of social processes including material power distribution, etc.
Money matters when it comes to power.
Political sociologists concerned with why and how money operates as a source of power view the possession and control of
material resources as central to politics. Material resources include property, technology, money, natural resources,
Money is a symbol of other forms of privilege and represents shared value and worth.
Karl Marx said that those who owned/controlled the means of production have exercised the most power in human
societies. During the industrial era, Marx saw emerging the bourgeoisie wielding power over the proletariat (concept of
ownership and control of means of production, class and status, and the development of false consciousness in which
people believe it is natural for elite to hold power.
Max Weber recognized most societies are stratified (hierarchically ordered in terms of power) and access to material
resources is an important determinant of the stratification in society
In contrast to Marx, he believed material power flowed from non-material processes in addition to the means of
Highlights a person’s status and party (the organizational and institutional resources that one commands)
To understand how material resources shaped the exercise of power, we must look at a person/group’s market
situation (the circumstances they face in the market economy) rather than their property holdings
o People’s capacity to participate in the economy shapes their life chances
o These chances are opportunities they have to acquire the things and lead the lifestyles they want
More useful to think of a class as a group of people who shares a similar relationship to the market (and therefore
similar life chances) rather than the possession of material resources alone
Last idea by Weber was combined by C. Wright Mills in his book The Power Elite, arguing that a higher circle of
corporate, military, and political leaders ruled the post-World War II US. They controlled the massive and
interconnected hierarchies of the economy, state, and army that made up the means of power.
John Porter saw a hierarchical intersection in class, education, political standing, and ethnicity.
Describes Canadian society as a vertical mosaic whose own ‘power elite’ is made of political, economic, and
cultural leaders from the charter groups
These individuals have heritage linked to Canada’s English/French ‘founders’
These groups used their material and other advantages to sustain their power and hold migrants in an entrance
Non-charter groups earned lower incomes for their labour, held less prestigious positions, had fewer educational
opportunities, and had less access to the state bureaucracy and political system
Challenged by several people
o Darroch found that Porter focused too much on the hierarchical ordering of ethnic occupations and not
enough on the changes over time
Examined changes in the proportions of ethnic groups in given occupations – found decreasing
association overtime Challenged Porter’s blocked mobility conclusion
o Lorne Tepperman argued that the privileged position of charter groups had been challenged by other
European ethnic groups
o Michael Ornsteing found that class, gender, and other labour market variables were more important
determinants of earning inequalities than ethnicity
Resource mobilization theory (RMT) is a perspective on social movements and collective action that highlights how crucial
material assets are for launching successful challenges to power.
Mobilizing resources as a collective group (via Internet space to laung campaigns, etc.)