Textbook Notes (363,137)
Canada (158,217)
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SOC101Y1 (470)
Adam Green (15)
Chapter 18

New Society - Sixth Edition - Chapter 18.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Adam Green

SOCIOLOGY REVIEW CHAPTER 18: POLITICS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS INTRODUCTION:  POWER = the ability of an individual or group to impose its will on others, even if they resist; raw power becomes authority  AUTHORITY = the people who occupy the command posts of institutions; non-authorities form social movements  SOCIAL MOVEMENTS = collective attempts to change part or all of the social order; they may riot, petition, strike, demonstrate, and the like to achieve their aims  POLITICAL PARTIES = organizations that seek to control state power  The terms defined allows us to distinguish between NORMAL POLITICS (politics practised when authorities are firmly in power) and POLITICS BEYOND THE RULES (politics practised when the authority grows weak) NORMAL POLITICS:  The use of force by authorities is a sign of their weakness: if authorities are in a position of strength, their rule will be widely recognized as legitimate and they do not need to use force to impose their will because most people agree with their policies  Minor outbursts of violence occur but they are so unusual and rarely result in fatalities in Canada  Power is exercised in all social settings  The ultimate seat of power in society is the STATE (a set of institutions that formulate and carry out a country’s laws, policies and binding regulations)  In democratic countries, the government is formed by the elected members of the political party that wins the most seats in a general election  It is the job of the government to initiate policies, propose laws, and see that they are enforced STATE: Executive (prime minister and Legislature Judiciary (courts)  cabinet)  initiates law, (parliament)  interprets laws ensures their implementation makes laws Bureaucracy  Coercive Apparatus (police, military)  implement laws enforces laws  Democracy involves two-way control; civil society must also be controlled and looked after via political parties, lobbies, mass media, public opinion and social movements  The state exercises control over society through these institutions and individuals in CIVIL SOCIETY (the private sphere) also exercise control over the state through a variety of organizations and institutions  The mass media keep a watchful and critical eye on the state and help keep the public informed about the quality of government  Pressure groups or lobbies are formed by trade unions, manufacturers’ associations, ethnic groups and the like to advise politicians how much their members’ votes and campaign contributions matter THEORIES OF NORMAL POLITICS: (INTERPRETATIONS OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STATE AND CIVIL SOCIETY) 1) PLURALIST THEORY - We live in a heterogeneous society with many competing interests and centres of power - Because of this, no one groups can control politics - Over time, all voters and interest groups influence the political process almost equally - Politics involve negotiation and compromise among competing groups - Because no one group of people is always able to control the outcome of political conflict, democracy is guaranteed - Say that democratic politics is about accommodation and compromise; but it usually give more advantages to others in reality - Criticism:  Research has established the existence of inequalities in political influence and political participation, disproving the theory  J. Porter’s studies show a disproportionately large number of people in Canada’s political and other elites come from upper and upper middle class families  Porter argued against the view that a ruling class controls Canada and that the interests of large corporations dominate political life  Many surveys show that political involvement decreases with social class  Although political apathy and cynicism are high among Canadians, the poorest are the most politically apathetic and cynical; they have less interest in politics and are more likely to think that government does not care what they think 2) ELITE THEORY - C. Wright Mills is the foremost among them - ELITES = small groups that occupy the command posts of a society’s institutions; are people who run the country’s biggest corporations, the executive branch of the government and the military; control without much regard for elections or public opinion - The corporate, state and military elites are interconnected because people move from one elite to another, their children intermarry, they maintain social contacts on a daily basis, & they tend to be recruited from the upper middle and upper classes - None of the three elites become a RULING CLASS = a self-conscious and cohesive group of people led by corporate executives and owners of big businesses who act to advance their common interests - The elites are independent of each other but each has its own jealously guarded sphere of influence, and conflict between them is common - Criticism:  Marxism is the foremost critical; see below 3) MARXIST THEORY - Instrumentalism (type of Marxism) deny that elites form a ruling class dominated by big business - the state is an arm of the business elite - big business gains control of the state through members of wealthy families who occupy important state positions in highly disproportionate numbers, government officials who rely on the representatives of big business for advice, and through political parties who rely on big business for financial support - There is a need to maintain the health of the capitalist system - Structuralism (type of Marxism) argues that the capitalist state acts as an arm of big business because it is constrained to do so by the nature of the capitalist system itself - Governments in capitalist societies find their field of action restricted to policies that ensure the well-being of big business - According to Marxists, true democracy can emerge only if members of the working class and their supporters overthrow capitalism and establish a socialist system in which economic differences between people are eliminated 4) POWER-BALANCE THEORY - Argues that the distribution of power in society changes significantly more frequently - Power is concentrated in the hand of the wealth but other classes can sometimes gain power - The distribution of power determines how democratic a society is - Agree with the pluralists that society is democratic only when power is widely distributed - Also agree with the elitists that society is not very democratic when power is concentrated in the hands of a few - But this theory treats the distribution of power as a variable, and they improve the understanding of the relationship between power and democracy - Unions enable workers to bargain with employers and governments for improved wages, working conditions, and social policies; if bargaining fails, they can go out on strike to force the issue - If the level of unionization increases working-class power, that should be reflected in the political behaviour of citizens and the policies adopted by governments - Suggests that democratic politics is a contest among various classes and other groups to control the state for their own advantage; when power is redistributed, a major class gets better organized while another becomes less socially organized; old rulings fall and new ones take office - To achieve stability, it is crucial that people who lose elections are given a say in government 5) STATE-CENTERED THEORY - Lead by T. Skocpol - Show that the state itself can structure political life independently of the way power is distributed among classes and other groups at a given time (Example: USA has one of the lowest voter turnouts of any rich democracy in the world largely because it is a product of voter registration law; Americans have to take the initiative to go out and register themselves in voter registration centres; because some types of people are less able and inclined than others to register, a strong bias is introduced into the political system) - State structures are generally resistant to change; the foundations are anchored by constitutions, which can be altered only by large majorities of federally elected representatives and state or provincial level legislatures - There are many ideological reinforcements; all states create anthems, flags, ceremonies, celebrations, sporting events, and school curricula that stimulate patriotism and sever in part to justify existing political arrangements THEORIE
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