Chapter 17. Government and Politics

Chapter 17 Resources and Activities

Key Terms

absolute monarchy: A political state in which a monarch has absolute or unmitigated power.

accumulation function: The role of the state in maintaining the economic conditions for sustained capitalist investment and profitability.

anarchism: The political principles and practice of social organization without formal or state leadership

anarchy: The absence of any organized government.

asymmetrical warfare: Violent military conflict in which there is a significant imbalance of technical and military means between combatants.

authority: Power that people accept because it comes from a source that is perceived as legitimate.

charismatic authority: Power legitimized on the basis of a leader’s exceptional personal qualities.

citizenship: The internalized sense of individual dignity, rights, and freedom that accompanies formal membership in the political community.

coercive function: The role of the state in maintaining social order by use of force.

constitutional monarchy: A political state in which a monarch is head of state but whose powers are limited by a legal constitution.

democracy: Rule by the people.

democratic will formation: The deliberative process by which the will or decisions of the people are determined.

direct democracy: A form of government in which decision making, even in matters of detail, is conducted through assemblies made up of all citizens.

domination: A situation in which power and resistance are fixed into a more or less permanent hierarchical arrangement.

empire: (1) A geographically widespread organization of individual states, nations, and peoples that is ruled by a centralized government; (2) The contemporary global network form of power whose territory is the entire globe and whose network nodes include the dominant nation‐states, supranational institutions, and major capitalist corporations.

government: The various means and strategies used to direct the behaviour and actions of others (or of oneself).

ideal speech situation: The ideal norm of democratic discussion in which every subject is permitted to take part in public discussion, to question assertions, to introduce assertions, and to express attitudes, desires, and needs; no subject can be prevented from speaking.

image event: An event staged using primarily visual symbols as a means of public persuasion.

image management: The process of controlling the impact of one’s appearance to others.

institutions of democracy: The institutions that organize the regular processes of democracy including parliament, the civil service, electoral procedures, constitutions, rule of law, etc.

legitimation function: The role of the state in securing social harmony and the consent of the public to be ruled.

monarchy: A form of government in which a single person, or monarch, rules until that individual dies or abdicates the throne.

nation-state: A political unit whose boundaries are co-extensive with a cultural, linguistic or ethnic nation.

neoliberalism: A style of government which governs individuals through their exercise of freedom and free choice

normalization of militarization: The social process in which civil society organizes itself for military action and the production of violence as a routine practice of everyday life.

pluralist theory: The state acts as a neutral mediator to balance the competing interests and demands of divergent interest groups in society.

politics: (1) The means by which form is given to the life of a people; (2) The activity of striving to share power or striving to influence the distribution of power, either among states or among groups within a state.

political demand: The underlying societal factors and social changes that create constituencies of people with common interests.

political image management: The process in which political messaging is subject to sophisticated controls, calculations, and communications strategies.

political supply: The strategies and organizational capacities of political parties to deliver an appealing political program to particular constituencies.

postmaterialist: Concerns with quality-of-life issues: personal autonomy, self-expression, environmental integrity, women’s rights, gay rights, the meaningfulness of work, habitability of cities, etc.

post-security: A condition in which lethal violence is present as a constant potentiality, always and everywhere ready to erupt.

power: (1)The ability to exercise one’s will over others; (2) The capacity or to create and act.

public sphere: An open democratic space for public debate and deliberation.

rational-legal authority: Power that is legitimized by rules, regulations, and laws.

representative democracy: A government wherein citizens elect officials to represent their interests.

revolution: A rapid, fundamental, and violent domestic change in the way of life, social structure, and political institutions of a society.

sovereign state system: The system by which the world is divided up into separate and indivisible sovereign territories or states.

sovereignty: The political form in which a single, central, supreme lawmaking authority governs within a clearly demarcated territory.

state: A human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.

state of exception: A condition of crisis in which the law or the constitution is temporarily suspended so that the state can claim emergency powers.

terrorism: The use of violence on civilian populations and institutions to achieve political ends.

traditional authority: Power legitimized on the basis of long-standing customs.

war: A violent armed conflict between politically distinct groups.

Section Summary

17.1 Power and Authority
Sociologists examine government and politics in terms of their impact on individuals and larger social systems. Power refers to both an individual’s ability to control or direct others and the capacity each person has to act and create. Forms of domination occur when the give and take between these two types of power become fixed into permanent hierarchies. Modern states are institutions that organize relationships or power and domination according to the principle of sovereignty and the modern state system, which divides the world into exclusicve sovereign territories. Authority is influence that is predicated on perceived legitimacy. Max Weber studied power and authority, differentiating between the two concepts and formulating a system for classifying types of authority: traditional, rational-legal, and charismatic.

17.2 Democratic Will Formation
States are governed by different political systems, including monarchies, oligarchies, dictatorships, and democracies. Democracies are based on the principle of rule by the people, although how democratic will formation is achieved and implemented has changed from the original direct democracy of the Greeks to modern forms of representative democracy. Three components are central to the understanding of democratic societies: the institutions of democracy, the internalized sense of citizenship, and the public sphere. Sociologists model the process of democratic will formation and political party competition by examining social factors that affect political demand and political supply.

17.3 The De-Centring of the State: Terrorism, War, Empire, and Political Exceptionalism
The modern state system emerged in Europe in response to the instability that arose through conflict between competing authorities and overlapping jurisdictions and powers. The ability of the state to regularize social life and provide a stable container for society is undermined however by states of exception such as terrorism and war or the formation of supra-national entities such as empires. The challenges to state authority have intensified in recent years, leading to the observation that states of exception have become the norm.

17.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Government and Power
Sociologists use different theoretical paradigms to gain perspective on data and observations related to the study of power and government. Durkheim’s functionalism suggests that societal power and structure is predicated on balancing competing interests in a pluralist state structure. Critical sociology asserts that the state and politics are means by which dominant social groups exercise power over subordinate groups. Symbolic interactionism examines the role of symbols of power and image management in the ongoing conduct of political life.

Questions

Quiz: Government and Politics

17.1 Power and Authority

  1. Which statement best expresses the difference between Max Weber’s definitions of power and authority?
    1. Authority involves intimidation.
    2. Authority is more subtle than power.
    3. Authority is based on the perceived legitimacy of the individual in power.
    4. Authority is inherited, but power is seized by military force.
  2. Which of the following types of authority does not reside primarily in a leader?
    1. Dictatorial
    2. Traditional
    3. Charismatic
    4. Rational-legal
  3. Sociology studies government and governmental relationships as                              .
    1. The exercise of power by the state.
    2. The strategies some use to direct the behaviour and actions of others.
    3. The institutionalization of legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the state.
    4. The means by which permanent hierarchies are established and enforced.
  4. Pierre Trudeau used his relative youth, flair, intelligence, and magnetism to call for Canada to become a “just society.” He is an example of a(n)                              leader.
    1. Traditional
    2. Charismatic
    3. Rational-legal
    4. Image-managed
  5. Sovereignty can be defined as the principle of                              .
    1. Ancient Greek democracy.
    2. The state’s legitimate monopoly over the use of force in a territory.
    3. The network form of Empire.
    4. The Queen’s role as head of the Canadian state.
  6. The emphasis on image management in contemporary politics is a product of the central role of                               in political party competition.
    1. Barbers
    2. Political demand
    3. Charisma
    4. Democratic debate

17.2 Democratic Will Formation

  1. Anarchists believed that states were                              .
    1. A necessary evil.
    2. Artificial constructs.
    3. Withering away.
    4. Instruments of democratic will formation.
  2. The difference between direct democracy and representative democracy is the difference between                              .
    1. Rule by individuals and rule by MPs.
    2. Rule by the people and rule by the oligarchs.
    3. Rule through referenda and rule through proportional representation.
    4. Rule through direct action political protests and rule through petitions and letter-writing campaigns.
  3. Citizenship refers to                              .
    1. Holding a Canadian passport.
    2. Formal membership in a political community.
    3. An internalized sense of individual dignity, rights, and freedom.
    4. All of the above.
    5. None of the above.
  4. Political demand and political supply refer to                              .
    1. The role of economic market forces in determining public policy.
    2. Social factors that affect the distribution of political opinion and the ability of political actors to satisfy political opinion.
    3. The problem of excessive democracy and the inability of political leaders to meet unrealistic democratic demands.
    4. The natural limits on public expenditures determined by the tax base of a nation.
  5. Which is not a characteristic of young people’s engagement in politics today?
    1. Higher-than-average non-voting political behaviours.
    2. Higher-than-average voting turnouts.
    3. Lower-than-average consumption of news and current events.
    4. Higher-than-average concern with postmaterialist issues.
  6. Which statement best expresses the shift to postmaterialism?
    1. People are more concerned today with Buddhist-inspired lifestyles than with consumerism.
    2. People are more concerned today with Green politics than with social conservatism.
    3. People are more concerned today with the quality-of-life issues than with economic growth and security.
    4. People are more concerned today with lowering taxes than with the decline of the welfare state.

17.3 The De-Centring of the State: Terrorism, War, Empire, and Political Exceptionalism

  1. A state of exception refers to                              .
    1. The legitimate monopoly on the use of force within a territory.
    2. The suspension of laws to respond to crisis.
    3. A rogue state.
    4. A period when states are not at war or threatened by terrorist violence.
  2. Which of the following is not an act of terrorism?
    1. The use of tear gas to suppress public looting.
    2. The use of violence by non-state actors to achieve political ends.
    3. The use of secretive security agencies to assassinate leaders of foreign governments.
    4. The indiscriminate destruction of civilian property to attain military objectives.
  3. Carl von Clausewitz said that war is                              .
    1. Perpetuated by the military-industrial complex.
    2. A form of organized group violence between politically distinct groups.
    3. The inevitable product of the modern state system.
    4. The continuation of politics by other means.
  4. Asymmetrical war is                              .
    1. A war that is disproportionately fought by both sides using advanced weaponry like unmanned drones instead of having “boots on the ground.”
    2. A war using guerilla tactics against superior forces.
    3. A war between nation-states of different sizes.
    4. A theoretical war using computer simulations to predict outcomes.
  5. The FLQ crisis was an example of a state of exception because it involved                              .
    1. Irresolvable conflict between the Governor General and the Canadian Parliament.
    2. A referendum in which Quebecers voted on withdrawing from the Canadian state.
    3. A condition of global post-security.
    4. An apprehended insurrection.

17.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Government and Power

  1. Which concept corresponds best to the functionalist analysis of the state?
    1. Greatest good for the greatest number
    2. Goal attainment
    3. Power
    4. Symbols of authority
  2. Which sociologist is not associated with critical sociology?
    1. Catherine MacKinnon
    2. Michel Foucault
    3. Karl Marx
    4. Erving Goffman
  3. Karl Marx believed the state evolves out of                              .
    1. Political supply and demand.
    2. Pluralism.
    3. The needs of capital.
    4. Proletarian revolution.
  4. The Greens, Occupy Wall Street protests, and the Tea Party movement have the following in common:
    1. They are products of class struggle.
    2. They are examples of competing interest groups whose demands are weighed by the state.
    3. They can only occur in a representative democracy.
    4. They are part of the legitimation function of the state.
  5. Which is not one of functionalism’s four main purposes of government?
    1. Maintaining law and order
    2. Meeting social needs
    3. Equally distributing resources
    4. Planning and directing society
  6. The processes of successful image management are studied from a                              perspective.
    1. Critical sociology
    2. Symbolic interactionist
    3. Functionalist
    4. Feminist
  7. Which of the following statements represent a symbolic interactionist perspective on the state?
    1. The state is a means of managing the affairs of the bourgeoisie.
    2. The state is made up of meaningful interactions of small groups of people.
    3. The state is made up of meaningful interactions of small groups of men.
    4. The state is a means of attaining societal goals.

[Quiz answers at end of chapter]

Short Answer

17.1 Power and Authority

  1. In what ways is government exercised outside of the context of state-citizen relationships? What compels people to follow governmental direction in these situations?
  2. Explain why leaders as divergent as Hitler and Jesus Christ are categorized as charismatic authorities.
  3. Bureacracy is a form in which rational-legal authority is exercised. Review the characteristics of bureaucracy in Chapter 7. Groups and Organizations and describe why they fit the definition of rational-legal authority. Think of examples of when bureacratic authority is accepted as legitimate and examples when it is not accepted. What is the difference between these examples and what do they say about the effectiveness of rational-legal authority?

17.2 Democratic Will Formation

  1. Do you feel that Canada is a true democracy? Does Canadian society reflect the will of the people? Why or why not?
  2. Would you characterize your main political concerns as materialist or postmaterialist? Why?
  3. What sociological factors do you think will influence the political preference formation in the next federal election? To which specific groups or classes do the federal parties address their platforms? What might lead an individual to vote for a political party that does not represent the traditional concerns of their socioeconomic group in society?

17.3 The De-Centring of the State: Terrorism, War, Empire, and Political Exceptionalism

  1. How has the end of the Cold War affected the nature of geopolitical politics and conflicts? What types of conflict characterize the world today?
  2. In what ways has the sovereignty of the state been undermined during the period of globalization? In what ways have the activities of supranational agencies, economic agreements, and military alliances been responsible for the decline of sovereignty? Does it makes sense to describe this process as a new global empire?
  3. Do some research online to study the October Crisis and the use of the War Measures Act in 1970. Why do you think this was popular in 1970? Would it be popular today under similar circumstances? What happened to the War Measures Act?

17.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Government and Power

  1. How would functionalists criticize critical sociology and symbolic interactionism, and vice versa?
  2. What is the significance of the different analyses of the state by Marxists, feminists, and Foucaultians?
  3. How important is image in politics? Is politics about anything other than image?

Further Research

17.1 Power and Authority
Want to learn more about sociologists at work in the real world? Read this blog posting “Regimes and Movements: Thoughts on Contentious Politics and the Arab Spring” by Atef Said (2014) on the Mobilizing Ideas website to learn more about the roles sociology scholars played in the midst of the Arab Spring uprising.

17.2 Democratic Will Formation
The Occupy Wall Street movement has addressed the constraints on meaningful democracy in North America. They argue that democracy is becoming more oriented toward serving the rich than the general population. Visit Occupy Wall Street website to find out more about its activities and agenda.

17.3 The De-Centring of the State: Terrorism, War, Empire, and Political Exceptionalism
Noam Chomsky has long been a critic of the role of Western nations in creating a culture of terrorism. Watch the video Prof Noam Chomsky – How to create a terrorist… by Renegade Inc. (2013) on YouTube to hear his views.

17.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Government and Power
Functionalism is a complex philosophical theory that pertains to a variety of disciplines beyond sociology. Visit the entry devoted to Funcionalism on Stanford University’s Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy by Janet Levin (2023) on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy website for a more comprehensive overview.

Anarchists have had one of the most thorough critiques of power and the state but their arguments have largely been misunderstood. Examine the theories, history, and solutions proposed by anarchists in this three-part CBC Ideas series, “Against the State”.

References

17.0 Introduction to Government and Politics

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17.1 Power and Authority
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Solutions to Section Quiz

1 C, | 2 D, | 3 B, | 4 B, | 5 B, | 6 C, | 7 B, | 8 A, | 9 D, | 10 B, | 11 B, | 12 C, | 13 B, | 14 A, | 15 D, | 16 B, | 17 D, | 18 B, | 19 D, | 20 C, | 21 B, | 22 C, | 23 A, | 24 B, [Return to Quiz]

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