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Chapter 16

New Societies Chapter 16, 18, 19, 20 .docx

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Sociology
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SOC100H5
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Brym

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Chapter 18: Politics and Social Movements Power: the ability of an individual or a group to impose its will on others, even if they resist o The power of a group may be widely recognized as legitimate or valid under circumstances if it is, power becomes legitimate authority People who occupy the command posts of institutions are seen as authorities o When power flows to non-authorities it undermines the legitimacy of authority Non-authorities form social movements Collective attempts to change part or all of the social order May riot, petition, strike, demonstrate, and establish pressure groups, unions, and political parties to achieve their aims Normal politics: politics as it is practised when authorities are firmly in power Politics beyond the rules: politics as it is practised when the legitimacy of authority is weak Power from Above: Normal Politics The use of force by authorities is a sign of their weakness o If authorities are truly in a position of strength, their rule will be widely recognized as legitimate o Will not need to use force to impose their will because most people agree with their policies o Politics will be routine, nonviolent or normal Most part today, Canadian politics is normal politics Power is exercised in all social settings o Ultimate seat of power in society is the state o State: a set of institutions that formulate and carry out a countrys laws, policies, and binding regulations o State power ultimate because authority stands above all others Job of the government to initiate policies, propose laws and see that they are enforced o Executive branch of the state o Proposed laws are turned into operating statutes by the legislature, which consists of all the people elected to Parliament o Responsibility of the judiciary or court system to interpret laws and regulations o States administrative apparatus or bureaucracy undertakes enforcement of laws o If laws are broken or the states security is jeopardized, it is the role of the coercive apparatus (police, military) to enforce the law and protect the state State is a set of institutions that exercise control over society o Individuals in civil society also exercise control over the state through a variety of organizations and institutions Social movements Mass media Pressure groups/lobbies How democratic is the Canadian state? Pluralist Theory One interpretation of the relationship between state and civil society We live in a heterogeneous society with many competing interests and centres of power o Because of this, no one group can control politics, according to the pluralists o Argue that overtime all voters and interests influence the political process almost equally o Most often however politics involves negotiation and compromise among competing groups According to pluralists, because no one group of people is always able to control the political agenda or the outcome of political conflict, democracy is guaranteed Elite Theory C. Wright Mills Elites: small group that occupy the command posts of a societys institutions Most powerful elites are the people who the countrys several hundred biggest corporations, the executive branch of government, and the military The men who control these institutions make the important decisions that profoundly affect members of society o Do so without much regard for elections or public opinions Showed how the corporate, state, and military elites and interconnected o People move from one elite to another over their careers o Children intermarry o Maintain intimate social contacts of a day to day basis o Tend to be recruited from the upper-middle and upper classes o Denied that these similarities and interconnections turn the three elites into a ruling class That is a self-conscious and cohesive group of people, led by corporate executives and owners of big business, who act to advance their common interests o Three elites independent of each other May see eye to eye on many issues, but each has its own jealously guarded sphere of influence and conflict between elite groups is therefore common The Elitist Critique of Pluralism Most political sociologists today question the pluralist account of democratic politics because research ahs established the existence of large, persistent, wealth-based inequalities in political influence and political participation Porters The Vertical Mosaic was the first in a series of Canadian studies that demonstrate the weakness of pluralism and corroborate some aspects of elite theory o Studies show that a disproportionately large number of people in Canadas political and other elites come from upper and upper middle class families o Arguably people with this sort of background cannot act dispassionately on behalf of all Canadians rich and poor Controversy still persist over whether Canadas elites form a ruling class o Porter noting frequent conflict among elites argued against the view that a ruling class controls Canada Top students disagreed Argued that the interests of large corporations dominate Canadian political life Both agreed: contrary to pluralists claims, Canadas well to do consistently exercise disproportionate influence over political life in this country Studies of political participation in Canada add weight to the elitist view o Surveys show that political involvement decreases with social class o As intensity of political participation declines so does political influence The Marxist Critique of Elite Theory Known as instrumentalists, deny that elites enjoy more or less equal power o Elites enjoy more or less equal power o Elites form a ruling class dominated by big business From their point of view the state is an arm (or instrument) of the business elite o Big business gains control of the state in three main ways First members of wealthy families occupy important state positions in highly disproportionate numbers Second, government officials rely mainly on the representatives of big business for advice Third, political parties rely mainly on big business for financial support o Elites may disagree about specific issues, but as a result of the three control mechanisms they always agree about one issue: the need to maintain the health of the capitalist system Second group of Marxists known as structuralists offers a different interpretation of why the state in capitalist society is necessarily biased in favour of big business o It is not so much the social origins of high government officials or the social ties linking them with big business that encourages the state to act with a pro-capitalist bias o Rather they argue, the capitalist sate acts as an arm of big business because it is constrained to do so by the nature of the capitalist system itself o According to the structuralists it is the very fact that the state is embedded in a capitalist system that forces it to act in this way Follow from both instrumentalists and structuralists that the ordinary citizens, and especially members of the working class, rarely have much influence over state policy True democracy can emerge only if members overthrow capitalism and establish a socialist system in which economic differences between people are eliminated or at least substantially reduced Power Balance Theory Power balance theorists argue that the distribution of power in society changes significantly more frequently o Admit that power is usually concentrated in the hands of the wealthy o Also note that other classes sometimes gain power Big implications for political life Distribution of power determines how democratic a society is First measure variations in the social distribution of power o Then show how those variations are reflected in the successes and failures of different political parties and the rejection and adoption of different state policies o Recognize that society is truly democratic only when power is widely distributed o Recognize that society is not very democratic when power is highly concentrated in the ha
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