Explain what is meant by power, and by political power in particular. Relate the latter to authority, legitimacy, and democracy.
Differentiate between majoritarian politics and elitist politics, explaining the four major theories of the latter.
Explain how political change tends to make political scientists cautious in stating how politics works of what values dominate it.
There are two major questions about government: Who Governs? To what ends? This book will focus on the first question and will encourage students to develop their own answers to the second question.
Democratic theory recognizes that the answer to the question “Who Governs?” is more complicated than “the people.” Participatory democracy has only been a reality in a limited number of cases. Representative democracy gives rise to an elite. Elite theorists have given at least four answers to the question “Who governs?”:
Marxist: Those who own the means of production, controlling the economic system, will control the government
Power Elitist: A few top leaders, drawn from the major sectors of the US polity, will make all important decisions.
Bureaucratic: Appointed civil servants control the government, without consulting the public
Pluralist: Competition among affected interests shapes public policy decision making.
In order to choose among these theories or to devise new ones, one must examine the kinds of issues that do (and do not) get taken by the political system and consider how they are resolved by the system. It is not enough to merely describe governmental institutions and processes.
Distinguishing between different types of democracies is a very important part of this study. The Framers of the Constitution intended that the US be a representative democracy in which the power to make decisions would be determined by a free and competitive struggle for the citizens’ votes.
?? Do we have ‘Free’ and ‘Competitive’ struggles today?? Chapter 1 Terms:
Power Elite View
Compare the institutions that have power over you with the institutions that have authority over you. What are the characteristics that distinguish one set of institutions from another?
Distinguishing between power and authority is fundamentally, reflective to one’s political beliefs. In what kinds of institutions do you have confidence? Why do you trust them? In contrast, what kinds of institutions raise your suspicions? Why?
How do your assessments of institutions in your daily life relate to your attitudes toward governmental and political institutions? Are you more or less confident about Congress, presidency, judicial system, political parties, and other structures? Why?
Text Outline – Chapter 1 – Constitutional Underpinnings
Who governs? To what ends?
Politics exists because people differ about the two great questions
Marxism: founded by Karl Marx; argues that government is merely a reflection means of production; government is controlled by the dominant social class (the capitalist class in the US)
Power Elite Theory: founded by C. Wright Mills; argues that a power-elite, composed of key corporate leaders, military leaders, and political leaders, control and are served by government; the power elite has been expanded to include media chiefs, labor union officials and many others
Bureaucratic view: founded by Max Weber; argues that power is mainly in the hands of appointed officials who are able to exercise vast power when deciding how public laws are to be turned into administrative actions
Pluralist view: has no single intellectual parent; argues that no single elite has monopoly on power; hence all elites must bargain and compromise while being responsive to followers
Is democracy driven by self-interest?
All elite theories of politics may lead to the cynical view that politics is simply a self-seeking enterprise in which everyone is out for political gain
Policy outcomes do note necessarily reflect their authors motives
Self-interest is an incomplete guide to decision-making (de Tocqueville’s argument: Americans are more interested in justifying theory of self-interest than in honoring their own disinterested actions)