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SOCA02H3 Chapter Notes -E-Democracy, Civil Society, Colonial War

Course Code
Malcolm Mac Kinnon

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Free Trade and Democracy
Political sociology is mainly concerned with institutions that specialize in the
exercise of power and authority.
The state consists of the institutions responsible for formulating and carrying out a
countrys law and public policies.
Civil society is the private sphere of social life.
Authoritarian states sharply restrict citizen control of the state.
In a totalitarian state, citizens lack almost any control of the state.
In a democracy, citizens exercise a high degree of control over the state. They do this
mainly by choosing representatives in regular, competitive elections.
Political parties are organizations that compete for control of government. In the
process, they give voice to policy alternatives and rally adult citizens to vote.
Lobbies are organization formed by special interest groups to advise and influence
The mass media are print, radio, television, and other communication technologies.
In a democracy, the mass media help keep the public informed about the quality of
Public opinion refers to the values and attitudes of the adult population as a whole.
Social movements are collective attempts to change all or part of the political or
social order by means of rioting, petitioning, striking, demonstrating, and
establishing lobbies, unions, and political parties.
Pluralist Theory

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Beginning in 1954, Mayor Richard Lee planned to attract new investment and
eliminate downtown slums.
Urban renewal was a potentially divisive issue.
Pluralist theorist holds that power is widely dispersed. Neither economic leaders nor
the social elite monopolized political decision making. As a result, no group enjoys
disproportionate influence and decisions are usually reached through negotiation
and compromise.
The pluralists believed that politics worked much the same way in the US as a whole
and in other democracies, such as Canada, too.
Because there is so much heterogeneity between and within groups, no single group
can control political life in democracy.
Because no one group is always able to control the political agenda or the outcome of
political conflicts, democracy is guaranteed.
Elite Theory
Elite theorists, C. Wright Mills chief among them, sharply disagreed with pluralist
Elite theory holds that small groups occupying the command posts of the most
influential institutions make the important decisions that profoundly affect all
members of society. Moreover, they do so without much regard for elections or public
Elites are small groups that control the command post of institutions.
Mills showed that corporate, state, and military elites are connected.
A ruling class is a self-conscious cohesive group of people in elite positions. They act
to advance their common interests, and corporate executives lead them.
The Elitist Critique of Pluralism
John Porters classic work was the first in a series of Canadian studies that
demonstrate the weaknesses of pluralism and corroborate some aspects of elite
The studies show that a disproportionately large number of people in Canadas

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political and other elites come from upper-class and upper-middle-class families.
In their youth, members of Canadas elites are likely to have attended private
schools. As adults, they tend to marry the offspring of other elite member and belong
to exclusive private clubs. In the course of their careers, they often move from one
elite group to another.
Porter argued against the view that a ruling class controls Canada. His top students
argued that the interests of large corporations dominate Canadian political life.
Both Porter and his students agreed that contrary to pluralist claims, Canadas well-
to-do consistently exercise disproportionate influence over political life in this
Many surveys show that political involvement decreases with social class.
The likelihood of voting falls with a persons class position. As intensity of political
participation declines, so does political influence.
The poorest Canadians are the most politically apathetic and cynical. They have less
interest in politics than the well-to-do and they are more likely to think that
government does not care what they think.
Marxist Rejoinders to Elite Theory
Some Marxists, known as instrumentalists, deny that elites enjoy more or less
equal power. They say elites form ruling class dominated by big business.
Big business gets the control of the state in three main ways:
oMembers of wealthy families occupy important state positions in highly
disproportionate numbers.
oGovernment officials rely mainly on the representatives of big business for
oPolitical parties rely mainly on big business for financial support.
A second group of Marxists, known as structuralists, offers a somewhat different
interpretation of why the state in capitalist society is necessarily biased in favour of
big business. For the structuralists, it is not so much the social origins of high
government officials on the social ties linking them with big business that
encourages the state of act with a pro-capitalist bias. Rather, they argue, the
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