Political Concepts- Chapter 1 Notes 16/12/2012 10:02:00 AM
Politics is the activity or process by which groups reach and enforce binding
decisions affecting the collectivity as a whole.
Three aspects of politics are:
Politics is a collective activity, occurring within and between groups.
A castaway on a deserted island could not engage in politics.
Politics involves making decisions on matters affecting the group.
These decisions can be reached by a variety of means, from
informed deliberation to violent imposition.
Political decisions become authoritative policy for the groups as a
while, binding and committing its members. These decisions are
Government: consists of institutions responsible for making collective
decisions for a society. More narrowly, government refers to the top political
level within such institutions.
Broader sense, government is the entire terrain of institutions
endowed with public authority.
Governance: denotes the activity of making collective decisions, a task in
which government institutions may not play a leading, or even any, role. In
world politics, many issues are resolved my negotiation: governance without
Conception than a concept
Aristotle’s classification of governments
Form vs. Rule by
One (Rule by) Few Many
Genuine Kingship Aristocracy Polity
Perverted (own Tyranny Oligarchy Democracy
Ex) According to Aristotle, Kingship was the genuine form and the regarded
tyranny as it’s degraded equivalent.
Kingship: involved one person as the leader Tyranny: arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse
Aristocracy: which was defined as the rule by the virtuous.
Oligarchy: is the rule by the rich.
Polity: rule by the moderate middle class, exercised through law
Democracy: rule by the poor in their self-interest.
Classifications of Governments
Liberal democracy: in a liberal democracy, representative and limited
government operating through law provides an accepted framework for
political competition. Regular elections based on near universal suffrage are
free and fair. Individual rights, including freedom of expression and
association, are respected. In combining a measure of political equality with
a market economy based on private property, liberal democracy has proved
to be a successful form of rule.
Ex) Canada and India.
Illiberal democracy: in an illiberal democracy, leaders are elected with no
or minimal falsification of the count. However, the rules exploit their position
to prevent a level playing field. To keep their potential opponents off-
balance, they interfere with the rule of law, the media and the market.
Horizontal accountability is weak, with the rulers often claiming a patriarchal
relationship with the people. Individual rights are poorly entrenched, the
judiciary is weak and the rulers claim to be the best judge for the national
interest and the guarantor of stability. An illiberal democracy is a common if
far from inevitable outcome of the transition from authoritarian rule in
Ex) Malaysia and Africa
Authoritarian regimes: rulers stand above the law and are free from
effective popular accountability. The media are controlled or cowed. Political
participation is usually limited and discouraged. However, the rulers power is
often constrained by the need for tacit alliances with other power-holders
such as landowners, the military and religious leaders
Ex) Military governments
Totalitarian states: participation was compulsory but controlled as
the government sought total control of society, justified by an
ideology seeking to transform both society and human nature. These regimes placed heavy reliance’s on party members, the
secret police and other agents of social control.
o Ex) Russia
Power: is the capacity to bring about intended effects. The term is often
used as a synonym for influence, to denote the impact (however exercised)
of one actor on another. But the word is also used more narrowly to refer to
the more forceful modes of influences: for example, getting one’s way by
Ex) Parsons vs. Arendt
o Parsons thinks the conception of power as the capacity of a
government to draw on the obligations of its citizens in order
to achieve collective purposes such as order and
o Arendt thinks that power is to be empowered by a group’s
members to pursue joint objectives.
A group whose members are willing to act together to
possess more horsepower than does a group dominated
by suspicion and conflict.
Arendt viewed power and violence as enemies rather
Max Weber’s Classification of Authority
Authority is the right to rule. Authority creates its own power so long as
people accept that the person in authority has the right to make decisions.
3 types of authority: Traditional, Charismatic, and Legal- rational.
Traditional authority: is rule based on custom and established procedures. It
formed an element of Max Weber’s influential classification of authority.
Charismatic authority: is based on the intense commitment of followers to
the leader and his message. Charisma refers to the nature of the
relationship between leader and followers, not to any intrinsic characteristics
of the leader; thus, charisma is a sociological rather than psychological
Ex) Jesus, Hitler, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Legal- rational authority: is based on regular and formal procedures; the
basis of rule is the office rather than its occupant.
A legitimate system of government is one based on authority: that is, those
subject to its rule recognize its right to make decisions.
The state and sovereignty
State is a political community formed by a territorial population subject to
Sovereignty: refers to the ultimate source of authority in society. The
sovereign is the highest and final decision-maker within a community.
Internal sovereignty refers to law- making power within a territory.
External sovereignty refers to international recognition of the
sovereign’s territorial jurisdiction.
Nation: According to John Stuart Mill in his book, a portion of mankind may
be said to constitute a nationality if they are united among themselves by
common sympathies… which make them co-operate with each other more
willingly than other people, desire to be under the same government, an
desire that is should be government by themselves or a portion of
Nation according to Hague and Harrop is basically a more elusive