How Politics Works • It is very well to speak of democracies and non-democracies in the abstract but • Do the people really rule in democracies? • Does one individual really control all politics in an authoritarian system? • We will discuss three models that purport to explain how politics really works • Political Culture: widely shared political attitudes and beliefs • Politics: The competition to influence public policy or “who gets what, when, and how”
Elite System or Elitism • There is a relatively small group of individuals who basically “run the show” • Hold key positions in what industries?
Elite World View • Elites have similar backgrounds: • Schools, Neighborhoods, Social Life • Have similar interests: • Economic, Occupational, etc. • Not a Conspiracy but • Share a World View • Like any group, the elite are motivated to protect their privileged position and promote their interests and world view
Influence the Government • Have the Means: • Own or control key industries and org’ns • In U.S., top 1% of pop’n holds 1/3 of wealth and 85% of voting shares of stocks • Wealth is even more unequally distributed in other societies • How does Economic Power translate into Political Power? • Funding candidates, running for office, etc. • Any contemporary examples?
The Masses in an Elite System • What role do the masses play? • Not Much: relatively powerless, apathetic and victimized • But, still need Consent of the Masses • Need to have justification for elite rule • How do we achieve this in the U.S.? • Democracy • In other societies? • Divine right of Kings, force, etc.
Democracy in an Elite System • From where are the candidates drawn in our Democracy? • From the ranks of the elites, examples? • Does it matter whether Rep or Dem? • No, masses may care, but both parties answer to the elite • Government is controlled by the elite • According to Elite Model, what is the difference between Democracy and Dictatorship? • Competition for Votes
Class Model • According to this model, society is stratified into classes • Focus on Inequality, Exploitation, and the Control of the Means of Production • Always potential Class Conflict • Upper Class tries to prevent lower classes from developing Class Consciousness and changing potential power into actual power • Much more class consciousness in Europe than in the U.S. • Workers develop “false consciousness” of consumerism
Avoiding class conflict • What strategies does Upper Class use to avoid conflict? • Appease, Divide, and Coerce • How are lower classes appeased? • Welfare, unemployment, Social Security, myth of social mobility • According to this model, who benefits when lower classes view government as “the problem and not the solution”? • How are the lower classes divided (intra class conflict)? • by race, gender, religion, etc.
Class Conflict • How do the upper classes respond when threatened directly? • With Violence and Force • Examples? • The U.S. Revolution, Socialism, the labor movement, the anti-globalization movement, etc.
Class Conflict • Like elite model, government and the power of the state is subordinate to ruling class
Group Approach (Pluralism) • Rather than Strata, society divided into many different (interest) groups • Groups are well established and protect fundamental interests and vital needs • People belong to many different groups (Cross-Cutting Cleavages) • Government: relatively neutral referee • In theory, no permanent winners and losers as resources dispersed among groups. Does this work in practice?
Group Approach (Pluralism) • Madison, in Federalist #10 argued that Factionalism is bad for democracy as long as it pits some groups against the best interest of the whole • The Irony of Democracy: when the majority passes a law that undermines the democratic rights of the minority • Examples?
Group Approach (Pluralism) • Putnam argues that simply belong to voluntary organizations, even something like a bowling league, is good for Democracy; why? • Exposes citizens to people of other backgrounds • Facilitates volunteerism and participation that can lead to political participation • Civil Society: the totality of voluntary civic and social organizations • What’s happening to voluntary organizations like the Lions, the Elks, bowling leagues, etc.? • The membership is dying out
Similarities and Differences • Elite and Class Similarities? • Society is stratified into distinct groups • Dominant group controls Government • Elite and Class Differences? • Number of groups • (im)potency of lower class • Top-Down v. Bottom-Up perspective • How is Group model different? • no stratification, different groups win
Which Model is most Accurate? • Which best explains our system? • The following slide has questions that might aid in your political analysis
Can a small elite be identified? • How often do the elite lose on policy decisions significant to its members? • Are the masses uninformed & inactive? • Does the state almost always serve the interests of the dominant group or class? • Are group identities reinforcing or cross-cutting? • Are most significant social changes directly attributable to violence? • Does every group both win and lose? • Does Money trump all group resources?
Which Model is most Accurate? • These are Theoretical Approaches • Can aid in explanation and analysis • Different events can be explained by different models • All are probably accurate to some degree
Economic Power • Undeniable that there has been a relative shift from political to economic power over the last few decades • Examples? • Why? • The growth of Corporate Capitalism • The declining influence of the U.S. Government as a countervailing force • The decline of Civil Society and civic institutions
Synthesis • In order to meet vital needs, people with similar interests (be they class interests, group interests or interests of the elite) must become organized • Organization is the weapon of the weak against the strong • But, any large organization (including the government) must be organized bureaucratically which necessarily concentrates power at the top • Elites are much more informed, active, (and polarized) than the masses and they use these tools to retain their privileged position • This is the Iron Law of Oligarchy • Can you think of any examples?
Iron Law of Oligarchy • These elite can become entrenched: they use their resources to stay in power which is made easier by the relative apathy of the masses • A problem can arise if forced to choose between their elite position and the interests of the group • Elites need to get enough from other elites to satisfy their members but elites may refrain from doing all they can for the interests of their group in order to accommodate other elites and maintain their own elite position • What does this say about the compatability between Democracy and Large-Scale Organization? may be incompatible