POLITICAL SCIENCE?

POLITICAL SCIENCE AS THE STUDY OF POWER

Political socialization is defined as the process by which citizens develop the values, attitudes, beliefs, and opinions that enable them to support the political system. The various groups that define our lives contribute to the way we view the world. Although you may never have considered the influence that all or some of these groups have had on your life, certain political scientists have. Some political scientists examine how our differences influence whether and how we participate in the political process. For example, public opinion polls allow individuals to see how certain demographics view certain political issues or problems.

Power: “The ability of A to get B to do something, even against their will.” Power is not necessarily coercive (involving the use of force). Other types of political power include economic/reciprocal power involving penalties or incentives. Moral/or psychological power involving persuasion or ideas, and is the type most commonly employed by governments (particularly in the West). Power is a connection among people that enables one to get others to do what he/she wants. Power is not finite, and eludes scientific measurement. The focus on power distinguishes political science from other social sciences.

Political science is in many respects about the study of power.

Political power can broadly be defined as the ability to get others to do what they would not do on their own.

Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient philosophers believed political power should only be applied as a means to the ends of social justice.

They believed only those educated on the virtues of justice should wield power because they will more likely place the public’s interest over their own. The focus on power distinguishes political science from other social sciences.

Politics is NOT THE SAME AS POWER. 

POLITICS IS THE PROCESS OF RESOLVING CONFLICTS OVER THE POWER TO DECIDE WHO GETS WHAT, WHEN, AND HOW WITHIN A SPECIFIC GROUP OF PEOPLE. 

Politics is not just a thirst for power.  The struggle for power only takes place so that individuals or groups can enact their preferred policies.

 

Classic conceptions of politics in political science history:

Aristotle: Politics is for the purpose of attaining some good.

focus– who decides what is good

power types– moral (psychological) and reciprocal (economic)

Max Weber: Politics is conflict. The essence of politics is struggle.

focus– social conflict, who is competing for what against whom?

power types– coersion (force) and some reciprocal (economic)

Harold Lasswell: Politics is about who gets what, when and how.

focus– who receives (or wins)

power types– reciprocal (economic), a bit of moral

David Easton (systems theory): Politics is the authoritative allocation of values.

focus– who controls and distributes value

power types– reciprocal (economic) and moral

Since the beginning of Western philosophy, scholars have attempted to determine answers to questions about who should rule and which political institutions are best suited to bring peace and security to the people.

Because we live in extraordinary times of financial, political, social, and technological interconnectedness, it is vital that you see a connection to your government and to the world beyond.

The “Facebook” Generation has the unique opportunity to gain access to events around the world instantaneously. This power can often breed a great deal of apathy and confusion toward domestic and global processes because it is quite overwhelming.

  1. Global Origins of Political Philosophy:

Eastern origins of Political philosophy tended to be descriptive in nature. Leading thinkers included Confucius (China) and K. Arthasastra(India). In contrast, Western origins of Political Science tended to be descriptive and normative (explaining what is and what ought to be). Although Plato published the Republic chronologically earlier, Aristotle is generally considered the founder of Political Science. In Politics he explored the possibility of a healthy city-state through political moderation and a balance of proper forms of government.

     The Renaissance thinker, Machiavelli was concerned with the preservation/enhancement of political power in the Prince. “A Prince is much more secure to be feared than to be loved.” Machiavelli commenced the focus of modern Political Science on the study of Power: “The ability of A to get B to do something, even against their will.” Power is not necessarily coercive (involving the use of force). Other types of political power include economic/reciprocal power involving penalties or incentives. Moral/or psychological power involving persuasion or ideas, and is the type most commonly employed by governments (particularly in the West). Power is a connection among people that enables one to get others to do what he/she wants. Power is not finite, and eludes scientific measurement. The focus on power distinguishes political science from other social sciences.

Sovereignty, Legitimacy and Authority are basic to a satisfactory understanding of Political Science and are very much related to power.

SovereigntyWhen a national government exercises ultimate political authority over its country’s territory without outside interference. Authority: Psychological ability of leaders to get others to obey them; a political leader’s ability to command respect and exercise power. Analogous to permission to be in charge. Legitimacy: Perceived or psychological consent to govern; the public feeling that the government’s rule is rightful, and that it should be obeyed; public perception of justifiable, acceptable use of political power. Government: The institutions that provide the basic rules for society, and enforce them using authoritative power.

  1. Politics v. Political Science
  2. * So What is POLITICS? NOT THE SAME AS POWER.  POLITICS IS THE PROCESS OF RESOLVING CONFLICTS OVER THE POWER TO DECIDE WHO GETS WHAT, WHEN, AND HOW WITHIN A SPECIFIC GROUP OF PEOPLE.  Politics is not just a thirst for power.  The struggle for power only takes place so that individuals or groups can enact their preferred policies.* Classic conceptions of politics in political science history:

Aristotle: Politics is for the purpose of attaining some good.

focus– who decides what is good

power types– moral (psychological) and reciprocal (economic)

Max Weber: Politics is conflict. The essence of politics is struggle.

focus– social conflict, who is competing for what against whom?

power types– coersion (force) and some reciprocal (economic)

Harold Lasswell: Politics is about who gets what, when and how.

focus– who receives (or wins)

power types– reciprocal (economic), a bit of moral

David Easton (systems theory): Politics is the authoritative allocation of values.

focus– who controls and distributes value

power types– reciprocal (economic) and moral

  1. POLITICAL SCIENCE— SEEKS TO EXPLAIN or DESCRIBE INTERESTING PHENOMENON IN POLITICS USING THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD, AND IS CHARACTERIZED BY A FOCUS ON POWER. The Scientific Method involves the following stages: Observation, Reflection, Theorizing and hypotheses, Data collection and management, Design & test, Evaluate and generalize, Conclude. Quality political science research has the following characteristics:
  2. i. Reasoned approach
  3. Reliable, balanced approach

iii. Valid evidence to support findings

I would like to elaborate on the nature of Politics and Political Science for purposes of this class.  Your book references Harold Lasswell’s (p. 5) classic definition of Politics as the resolution of conflict over “who gets what, when, and how. “ Fundamentally, there are different groups of people in human communities with varying interests that inevitably conflict (at all levels of society; community, local, regional, national and international).  Politics involves the resolution of those conflicts (please see the social contract theory).  Beyond seeking to describe and/or analyze political phenomenon, Political Science (as an academic discipline) seeks to specifically Explain fundamental problems or questions related to political power.  Having identified such problems or questions related to political power, Political Science research seeks to TEST theoretical explanations (or possible solutions) to such problems or questions through the scientific method.  Modern Political Scientists are committed to utilizing scientific methods in order to test theoretical explanations based on valid, reliable data from the empirical (real) world of politics.

 

International Relations (foreign policy between various countries internationally)

  1. Types of Political & Economic Systems:
  2. Authoritarianism: A form of government in which a large amount of authority is invested in “the state” at the expense of individual rights. Current, modern day examples include China, Myanma and Cuba.
  3. Autocracy: a political system in which almost all power rests with the ruler. Power is monopolized by a single individual, or family. Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and the North Korean Kim dynasty are recent examples.
  4. Capitalism: an economic system in which the “means of production (land, property, factories and/or companies)” are mostly privately owned, and operated for profit. Classic Capitalism argues for preserving an inherent balance between supply and demand with respect to both labor and products. The United States and UK our modern examples of what could be called “regulated” Capitalist systems.
  5. Communism: a political system in which the economy (including capital, resources, property, industry/ companies, as well as public services) is managed and controlled by “the State”— in the form of the Communist Party elite– for the benefit of “the State.” Vladimir Lenin used to refer to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as “the Vanguard of the Proletariat.” No private ownership, nor individual industry, would be allowed in such a system.
  6. Conservatism: A political philosophy that tends to support the status quo and advocates change only in moderation. Conservatives uphold the value of tradition and seek to preserve all that is good about the past. Modern day, US conservatives have traditionally supported individual liberty, freedom of choice and free, open market competition– with very limited government intervention. US conservatives have also favored efforts to limit the power of the national government– divesting power to the states and local governments– conservatives in the US have tended to support expanded national government power only with respect to national security and military. In contrast, traditional US conservatives have tended to support government restrictions on what they perceive to be social or community bad tendencies. Such things as gay marriages, interracial “mixed” families, abortion and/or stem cell research are examples of freedoms/liberties on which traditional conservatives in the US might support expanded government restrictions. The US Republican Party (GOP)– prior to Trump– was a clear example. The idea of President Trump’s recent tariffs (taxes on imports) would make traditional Republicans such as President Ronald Reagan throw-up in their graves. Not only does traditional conservatism strongly support free trade, this philosophy also strongly opposes increased or new taxes!
  7. Democracy: A political system in which ultimate, sovereign power is retained by “the people.” Just like any other political system, “Democracy” may exist to varying degrees in different political contexts around the world. In other words, your book mentions “Direct Democracies” as systems in which any eligible adult in the population may contribute to making direct decisions about governance and policy—as existed in ancient Athens — with no need to delegate decision making authority to representatives. In fact, most large, modern nation-states such as the United States have adopted some form of Representative Democracy. In such a political system, the eligible “people” elect government agents to represent them in conducting government business. A Representative Democracy is virtually synonymous with the concept of a Republic.
  8. Fascism: A nationalist, authoritarian, anti-Communist conception of a highly centralized national government which dominates society, the economy and politics to favor the best interests of “the State”— with little regard to individual rights or liberties. Italy under Mussolini & Nazi Germany under Hitler were examples.
  9. Liberalism: Although classical “liberal thought is best represented by arguments in favor of the inherent value of free market, open-competition Capitalism such as Adam Smith in “A Wealth of Nations.” Liberalism is best understood in terms of recent, contemporary political discourse today as a belief in the duty of government to ameliorate unequal social conditions, as well as negative outcomes of free-market capitalist competition with respect to vulnerable segments of the population– thus facilitating a more equitable society. Modern US Democrats are a good example of Liberalism in the modern age.
  10. Monarchy: a political system ruled by a king or queen— with hereditary succession. See: “Divine Right.” Saudi Arabia is one of the few remaining monarchies in contemporary global politics.
  11. Oligarchy: a political system that is controlled by a small group of individuals, who govern in their own interests.
  12. Plutocracy: Government by the wealthy, or a group of wealthy people who control or influence a government

 12: Terrorism: The pursuit of political goals through violence or intimidation. My definition: “Violence or intimidation for political objectives.”

  1. Theocracy: a government that is run by the leaders of a particular religion. Iran is one of the few major, contemporary nation-states which is a Theocracy.
  2. Totalitarianism: a system of government where the ruling authority of “The State” extends its power over all aspects of society and regulates every aspect of its people’s lives. Recent and current North Korea under the Kim dynasty & the Soviet Union until 1991

15: Utilitarianism: a political philosophy developed in England in the 1800’s by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism argues that the duty of government is to promote the greatest good for the greatest number of people in that society.

Ideology comes in a close second behind theories in terms of essential concepts to understand in the study of Political Science. Ideology can be defined as a system of beliefs and attitudes organized into a simplified worldview.  Here, we explore the major ideologies that have shaped world politics since the time of Adam Smith. Each ideology is explained in terms of its historical development, theorists and/or parties associated with it, and its basic tenants.

Adam Smith’s focus on laissez-faire economics quickly translated into a focus on minimal government intervention in other areas; these principles serve as the basis of classic liberalism. Classic liberalism is, of course, contemporary American libertarianism (US Senator Rand Paul).

Classic conservatism, on the other hand, emphasizes the need for societal structures and institutions (the family, church…) in order to control the irresponsible passions of men: Edmund Burke especially focuses on the role of religion in this process and emphasizes the need for gradual change.

Classic liberalism and classic conservatism (at least the focus on family and religion) are the basis of modern conservatism(US Republicans), which marries free market economics with a demand for institutions to control human behavior (prohibitions against same-sex marriage and abortions) because we are far from completely rational.

Modern liberalism (US Democrats, UK Labour) deviates from classic liberalism in that it recognizes the negative outcomes of a completely free market economy that stems from monopoly and a resulting imbalance of power. As a result, modern liberals argue that individuals need certain protections to ensure that their rights are preserved; positive rights (Civil Rights, access to health-care) are added to the traditional focus on negative rights (Civil Liberties).

Marxist socialism and its evolution into Communism focused on the divide between bourgeoisie and proletariat classes. While Marxists focus on domestic revolution, Communists altered (or high-jacked, depending on your perspective) its focus to a global, violent revolution against the Capitalist, ruling class.

Social Democrats (Western Europe) has abandoned state ownership of industry and introduced the notion of the welfare state to ensure sufficient protections for citizens.

Also influential have been nationalism, regional nationalism and fascism. Ideology at present comprises libertarianism as previously discussed. In addition, it includes noeliberalism, neoconservatism, environmentalism, and feminism. Environmentalismand feminism were reactionary ideologies; the former developed out of the environmental degradation wrought by long periods of industrialization and the latter by the unequal treatment of women in economics, politics, and society on the basis of biological differences. Neoconservatism was also a reactionary ideology against American Democrats shifting to the left and the Great Society programs of the 1960s.