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Chapter 1

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Political Science
Erin Tolley

POL214 Week 1 Chapter 1 - Approaching The Study of Politics The Political System  Empirical beliefs - about the way things are ; Normative beliefs - the way things should be  These are deep-seated, unconscious beliefs & influence our views on studying politics & real-world problems.  Political Issue - an issue that involves a decision on the part of a collectivity to act, or not to act, in a particular manner. Politics is the practice of attempting to influence these collective decisions.  Private/Voluntary Sectors - those parts of society & the economy that function separately from government, a.k.a the public sector. Public Issue - some gov action can be taken.  Power - the ability of 1 actor to impose its will on another, to get its own way, to do or get what it wants. Max Weber : the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance.  3 kinds of power: 1) Coercion - the agent (i.e person, group, organization) is able to impose its will on others by using, or threatening, physical force & other forms of punishments. People obey in this situation b/c they are fearful of the consequences of disobedience. 2) Authority - power based on legitimacy. The agent can impose its will on another b/c the subject regards the decision-maker as having the right to make a decision. Kind of power that we have agreed to be bound by b/c it comes from a respected source. 3) Influence - imposition of one's will on another through persuasion & voluntary compliance - w/o either accompanying threats or submission to authority.  Government refers to the set of organizations that make, enforce & administer collective, public decisions for a society. To some extent, we obey the gov b/c of the threat/expectation of penalties if we don't (coercion). Also obey b/c we accept gov decisions to be binding on us & necessary for the general good (authority).  3 kinds of gov power: 1) Legislative power: power to create laws/ public policies 2) Executive power: power to enforce laws & administer public pols 3) Judicial power: power to interpret the law  Exercised by diff branches of gov : the legislature/Parliament, the executive or PM & Cabinet & the Courts. Sometimes 2 or more branches work together in the formulation, passage & implementation of a new law.  Govs don't exist in a vacuum. How gov power is exercised shapes & is at once shaped by, conditions & pressures in the broader social env. Patterns of inequality in the broader soc env outside of gov often reproduce themselves as patterns of inequality inside of gov.  Systems Theory - David Easton → Fig 1.1, pg 5.  The core of the "pol system" is a box including the legislature, the executive & the judiciary as well as the bureaucracy & electoral system. This box is situated within a broader env from which come demands or inputs that the pol system filters & reacts to by enacting laws & policies (outputs). These laws & policies, in turn, shape the env &  the future inputs on the pol system (feedback effects). This loop of demands- Page 1 of 4 POL214 Week 1 outputs-feedback locks the pol system & the env into a dynamic, circular, never-ending process in which the authorities impose their own priorities, reach to demands, seek out public sentiment etc.  Ex: Demand for more official bilingualism in Canada in the 1960s, in response to which Parliament passed the Official Languages Act (Pearson & Trudeau).  But the Act spurred feedback in 2 directions: a demand for more official bilingualism at the provincial level & a backlash on behalf of unilingual public servants who felt discriminated against. Ongoing → whether S.C judges should be fluently bilingual.  The essence of gov lies not only in making & executing decisions for society, but in having to choose among competing demands, in trying to resolve conflict, or in making social choices in the midst of social conflict.  Politics: an activity in which conflicting interests struggle for advantage/dominance in the making & execution of public policies.  The act of voting in elections in 1 way in which the indiv Canadians are able to inject their own inputs into the political process, but there are many other ways as well → letter, fax, email etc.  Today's govs put increasing effort into seeking out the views of the public for a variety of reasons: 1. 1 is that advances in tech, such as polling & communications, make it possible for gov to solicit such views 2. After a decade or more of a downsizing gov, the authorities were left w/ fewer policy analysis resources of their own 3. More think tanks & policy advocacy organizations exist than ever before.  Interest Group: an organz that exists to purse the common interests of its members  Advocacy/Pressure Group: an interest group that aims to accomplish its objectives by trying to influence directly how gov power is used. The National Citizens Coalition (NCC) & Women's LEAF are exs. LEAF pursues its objectives by providing funding for litigants advancing feminist causes through the courts.  Pol Party: formal orgz that seeks to achieve its objecs through gov by contesting elections & winning power.  When deep & persistent divisions in society, such as those involving region, ethnicity, language, religion become politicized, they are often known as cleavages.  Identities: our idents evolve from those characts that are most imp to us as individuals & groups. Not necessarily automatic, voluntary, individualistic choices. The soc env exercises much influence on the individual in constructing his/her identity. Page 2 of 4 POL214 Week 1  Structural Analysts emphasize the role of soc structures - traditions, customs, practices, institutions - which largely determine how ind members of a society behave. Identities are socially constructed - we operate within a powerful set of pre-existing societal norms.  Cultural hegemony is the process through which dominant beliefs & assumptions reinforce existing patterns of power in a society by taking alternative courses of action off the table.  Social Move
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