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Chapter 18

SOC101Y1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 18: Captive Market, Human Rights Movement, Islamic Fundamentalism


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC101Y1
Professor
Adam Green
Chapter
18

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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

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It is the job of the government to initiate policies, propose laws, and see that they are enforced
STATE:
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
Executive (prime minister and
cabinet) initiates law,
ensures their implementation
Legislature
(parliament)
makes laws
Judiciary (courts)
interprets laws
Bureaucracy
implement laws
Coercive Apparatus
(police, military)
enforces laws
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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
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