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Chapter 1

Political Science 45-100 Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Political Science
Course Code
POLS 1000

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Chapter 1
What is Politics
Arises from the fact if scarcity
Not possible for all of us to be satisfied
Limits on stock of those things people desire wealth, privacy, clean air and water, social
Politics is about more than the fact that these things bring up conflicts
Politics takes place in such settings as the family, workplace, and economic marketplace,
and social organizations (churches)
Politics is the activity by which rival claims are settled by public authorities
o Boundaries by what is considered political is located in the states authority
o Page 5 definitions of politics (box 1.1)
Power: The ability to influence what happens
Found in all sorts of settings, not simply political ones
Compliance may result from the threat or use of force (coercion)
o Or from the ability of A to persuade B to do something (influence)
o Or from recognition of compliant party that the person or organization should be
obeyed (authority)
Democratic politics relies primarily on these 2 non coercive species of power
State and Government
Existence of the state is a necessary condition for social order that allows for the peaceful
resolution of conflict
Canadian political scientist Leo Panithc provides this definition of the state: A broad
concept that includes government as the seat of legitimate authority in a territory but also
includes bureaucracy, judiciary, and Armed forces and internal police, structures of
legislative assemblies and administration, public corporations, regulatory boards, and
ideological apparatuses such as the education establishment and publicly owned media.
The distinguishing characteristic of the state is its monopoly over the use of force in a
given territory
The state has 3 main acteristics
o First, it involves territorial boundaries. States have borders, beyond which their
legal authority is nil or limited
o Second, the state consists of a complex set of institutions that wield public
o Third, the state is defined in terms of power, what weber called “monopoly of the
legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order”
Marx argued that the end of class conflict would sound the death knell for the state. It
would “wither away”, no longer having any function to perform.
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Those who see politics as being fundamentally a competition
between different interests are likely to conclude that the state
responds chiefly to demands of those groups that are best organized
Assumes various forms, some of which are society oriented
Society centered variants emphasize the impact of groups in society
on the state
State centered variants place greater emphasis on the ability of pubic
officials to act on their own preferences and according to their own
interests, rather than merely responding to the demands of votes and
interest groups
Do not assume that the competition among groups takes place on a
level playing field
Class analysis
Has always seen the state in capitalist societies as an instrument
through which the small minorities who control most of a society’s
wealth maintain their social and economic dominance
View the state as an inherently patriarchal institution
The state, its structures, and its laws all serve to institutionalize male
Most of feminist political theory still insists that a state centered
political system will be patriarchal
Views the state as an essentially oppressive and even repressive
Much more eclectic in the forms oppression that it associates with the
state and public authority
Oppression may be targeted at groups based on their race, gender,
ethnicity, sexual preferences, or some other trait that places them
outside the dominant group
Views the state as a repressive institution in that the structures, laws,
and activities that constitute the state repress the expression of some
values at the same time as they legitimize and nurture others
Those who embrace this approach comprise what is called the new
o The old left wished to see overthrow of the capitalist state and
its transformation into the vehicle whereby those whose
property and money and statuses would be able to reform
Government: a term more usefully reserved for those who have been elected to power
More personal than state, being associated with political parties
These elections and the rules of them are part o the state system
Much less likely to generate political controversy and to undergo change than are the
government and its policies
Willingness of individuals and groups to obey the decisions of government is based on
their view that the states authority is legitimate
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