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SOC101Y1 (470)

Politics and Social Movements

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University of Toronto St. George
Robert Brym

Politics and Social Movements • main issue addressed in the chapter: who gets what and under what circumstances? • power: is the ability of an individual or a group to impose its will on others, even if they resist • authority: power that is widely viewed as legitimate • authorities: people who occupy the command posts of legitimized power structures o *authority is the whole main structure and the authorities are the people who enforce it, like the police* • when power flows to nonauthorities, social movements arise • social movements: enduring collective attempts to change part or all of the social order by means of rioting, petitioning, striking, demonstrating, and establishing pressure groups, unions, and political parties o *the petition that was set up to light up the CN Tower in rainbow for the Olympics* • political parties: organizations that seek to control state power o *Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, etc...* • terms defined above distinguish between "normal politics" and "politics beyond the rules" • normal politics: politics as it is practiced when authorities are firmly in power • politics beyond the rules: politics as it is practiced when the legitimacy of authority grows weak • Box 18.1: Three Bases of Authority o Max Weber argued that authority can have one of the three bases  traditional authority: rulers inherit authority through family or clan ties • *British Monarchy*  Legal-rational authority: authority derives from respect for the law. Laws are deemed rational, and if someone follows these laws their authority is respected • *the Police*  Charismatic authority: charismatic individuals challenge traditional or legal-rational authority and often emerge during a political revolution • *Hitler* o political revolution: a concerted attempt on the part of many people to overthrow existing political institutions and establish new ones  *Hitler's Nazi's* • Power FromAbove: Normal Politics o force: a coercive power  *1998; RCMP using pepper spray to disperse a crowd in Vancouver; seen as excessive use of force sanctioned by Prime Minister* o use of force is seen as a weakness o if authorities are truly seen in a position of strength they would not need to resort to force because they would be seen as legitimate and the people agree with their policies o this is known as "normal politics"  *Canadian politics is seen as "normal politics"* o state: set of institutions that formulate and carry out a country's laws, policies, and binding regulations o ultimate seat of power in society is the state  *authority stands above others, and if force needs to be used, it will seen as legitimate* o it is the job of the government to initiate policies, propose laws, and see that they are enforced  *refer to Figure 18.1 in the textbook if you want more info* o the state is a set of institutions that exercise control over society o civil society: private (nonstate) sphere of social life o individuals in society also exercise control over state through a variety of organizations and institutions  *for example: mass media, pressure groups/lobbies, and political parties* • Pluralist Theory o holds that society has many competing interests and centers of power and that no one interest or power center predominates in the long run  *interests of parents with school-age children and interests of pensioners* o 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  *believe that over time, all voters and interest groups influence political processes equally by one group of voters winning sometimes and the other group winning other times* • Elite Theory o Elite theorists (like C. Wright Mills) sharply disagree with the pluralists o elite theory: maintains that well-to-do people consistently have more political influence than people who are less well-to-do have and that society is therefore not as democratic as it is often portrayed o elites are small groups that occupy the command posts of a society's institutions (corporations, executive branch of government, and military) o Mills showed how each (corporations, executive branch of government, and military) were interconnected, but denied that these similarities made the elites into a ruling class (a self-conscious and cohesive group of people, led by corporate executives and owners of big business, who act to advance their common interests) • The Elitist Critique of Pluralism o political sociologists today question the pluralist account of democratic politics because research has established the existence of large, persistent, wealth-based inequalities in political influence and political participation o many surveys show that political involvement decreases with social class  *likelihood of a person voting falls with their class position* o as intensity of political participation declines, so does political influence  *people with lower class position think that the government does not care what they think* • The Marxist Critique of Elite Theory o Marxists deny that elites enjoy more or less equal power  *elites form ruling class dominated by big business; state is an arm (or "instrument") of business elite* o business gain control of state in three main ways:  1. members of wealthy families occupy important state positions in highly disproportionate numbers  2. government officials rely mainly on representatives of big business for advice  3. political parties rely mainly on big business for financial support o always agree on the need to maintain the health of the capitalist system o second group of Marxists known as "structuralists"  *first group mentioned above known as "instrumentalist"* o argue that capitalist state 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 Marxists, true democracy can emerge only if members of the working class overthrow capitalism and establish a socialist system in which economic differences between people are eliminated/reduced • Power-Balance Theory o suggest that social movement formation and success depend on how powerful authorities are, compared with partisans of change.Also hold that societies with widely distributed power are more democratic and more egalitarian than societies with narrowly held power  *distribution of power determines how democratic a society is* o level of unionization increases working-class power. It is reflected in the political behavior of citizens and the policies adopted by governments  *there are stats comparing this between Sweden and Canada in the text book if you guys want more info on this* o the distribution of power between classes and other groups shapes the character of politics in a country o only if more citizens wield more clout (influence/power) can society become more democratic • State-Centered Theory o shows how the state structures political life independently of the way power is distributed among classes and other groups at a given time  *as I tried to explain during the session there is the example of non voting in the U.S.: • caused by voter registration law (U.S. citizens unable or unwilling to register) • American voter registration law is a pathway to democracy and a ba
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