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Chapter 1

Nash, K. (2010). Chapter 1: Changing Definitions of Politics and Power – 1.2. The Weberian Tradition and 1.3. The Durkhemian Tradition. In Contemporary Political Sociology: Globalization, Politics and Power.

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Jasmin Hristov

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1.2 The Weberian Tradition of Political Sociology Weber • Autonomy of the political at state-level and liberal democracy are central • His definition of power and politics are very broad, the latter being “comprising any kind of independent leadership in action” – but he narrowed his field to the power and politics of the nation-state • State: has gained the legitimate monopoly of force ∴ most powerful institution which competes with influencing/sharing distribution of power inter-state or intra-state – but territoriality crucial∴ modern states viewed in competitive relation to other states (rather than in relation internal forces) nation-state is object of analysis • For Weber, concentration of the means of production (Marx) was important, but also the concentration of the means of administration o I.e. Modern states gain power by concentrating means of admin. In the hands of a few (oligarchy) o They create a bureaucracy with very limited/controlled power • Positives and Negatives of Bureaucracy: o Negative: Officials within the bureaucracy of admin. Have little say outside fulfilling their positions o Positive: in this modern, complex political and economical society, rationality provided by bureaucracy promises predictability, which is necessary for profitability o Positive: limited bureaucracy better then socialism – because under socialism, everything belongs to the state ∴ increasing its power and there would be counter power, such as the market, to manage the bureaucrats • Pros and Cons of Electoral/Representative Government o Empirical View (Negative): representative democracies cannot be practiced in large-scale, complex societies  Large societies cannot be directly accountable to the masses as it would lead to inefficiency and unpredictability o Empirical View (Negative): irrationality and ignorance on the masses (proved through lower voter turnout) o Normative View (Positive): elections provide testing grounds for charismatic leaders who are given the directive of the people and must choose how to direct themselves – they offer the only chance of over-riding the bureaucracy o Normative View (Positive): it offers the opportunity to dismiss ineffective leaders from office ∴ providing a certain degree of protection for the people o Normative View (Positive): there are other sources of power, elites can be challenged by other social actors • Democracy = less the rule of the people and more the rule of the elite o Elite combines leaders and bureaucratic experts • Despite the positives, he believes that under democracy, freedom is highly constrained by the impersonal administration – but this pessimistic view is generally due to his belief that people are ignorant – broadening definition of politics = see more social engagement and activity Elite Theorists • An inevitability of society is a minority ruling over a majority – ask how and why • Are concerned with the decision-makers of society, who hold power as a cohesive, relatively self-conscious group • Roberto Michels: o Concentration of power by elite is inevitable o Focus of analyzing political parties o Parties need to be highly organized ∴ become oligarchic = creation of hierarchy which excludes most members from decision-making process • Joseph Schumpeter: o Takes Michels’ view on political parties and Weber’s view on democracy o Democracy ≠ rule by people o Democracy = political party elites competing for votes – once elected professional politicians are allowed to rule with the help of bureaucracy of expert administrators => stability required for political system • C.W. Mills o Proposed the “Institutional Elite Theory: o Believes that elitism of US in 20 century is a hindrance to democracy rather than a factor that makes it possible o Power became concentrated and unified in 3 groups: military, corporate, political o These 3 + one-way communication of media (as controlled by elite) = makes ordinary citizens ignorant + sad at their lack of control over their lives • Ralph Miliband (Marxist Elitist Theorist): o Similarities to Mills: capitalist class assures its reproduction through its close links with leaders of political parties, civil service, media and military o Difference: Mills claims that elitists not unified necessarily through shared economic interests o RELATIVEAUTONOMY Pluralism • View citizens as actively involved in politics with differing interests that do not need to be ruled by an elite • Politics is a matter of competing interest groups too – none can completely dominate since all have different resources • State itself is a set of competing/conflicting institutions rather than a monolithic entity ∴ they don’t use the word state, but government • Democratic politics involves endless bargaining in order to influence government policy, which is nothing more than a compromise between differing interest groups involved in the political process Neo-Pluralists • Neo-pluralists: do agree that elites (esp. corporate elites) as having a greater degree of influence of govt. policy than other groups – constricting effective influence of other groups • ∴ Neo-pluralists is a convergence of neo-Marxism, pluralism and radical elite theory o Differ from elite theory: elite are not unified + not capable of manipulating citizens into accepting elite rule o Differ from Pluralists: ?????????? o Differ from the neo-Marxists: although business may on occasion subvert the democratic process, it is only in particular places –state politics is primary it cannot be that state is ultimately
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