Political system: maintain
internal as well as external
order by exercising power
Dysfunction: state coercion,
• Protect the Citizenry
– Regulatory agencies – organizations established by
the government to enforce statutes that apply to a
• Secure Order
• Distribute Power Equitably
• Provide a Safety Net
– Government provides a minimum standard of living
below which it will not allow citizens to fall.
• Major sociologic concerns:
the source of power,
the exercise of power,
the distribution of power,
and the relationship between
government and people:
The source of power:
• Charismatic power: power based on
individual attributes and personal charm
• Traditional power: power based on long
• Legal Rational Power: laws, legal
• Critical thinking: American government?
– Americans want strong leaders, but they also fear the
abuse of power that a strong leader may bring to the
– Americans have favorable attitudes toward ordinary
people holding political office, but they also value
charisma of their leaders.
– Americans want leaders who will unify the people, but
they do not want to compromise their own positions in
order to forge the unity.
– Americans admire leaders with vision, but they also
believe that leaders should be responsive to public
• Ideologies: government out of the way of
individuals vs active government intervention
The source of power determines the
type of government
• Authoritarian government: people are excluded
from political process, and one or a few in
control. (monarchy, oligarchy)
• Totalitarian government: the government not
only control politics, but all other aspects of
• Democratic government: participatory
democracy, representative democracy
Problems Concerning the Political
• The Structure of Government
– The extent to which a government is a political
democracy (e.g. two party system).
– The way the government is organized to fulfill its
• Ideal: decentralized, small, democratic
• Reality: centralized form of government:
a power elite
Only a little over half of all Americans express a “great deal”
or “a lot” of trust in the presidency.
Political Alienation – a feeling of political disillusionment,
powerlessness, and estrangement.
The Failure of Trust
• Military-industry complex: the
interdependency and connection between
military and private military contractors.(
problems: high cost and low quality products)
The political process
• Lack of Citizen Participation.
• Voting turn-out: gender, social status, and racial/ethnical differences
• increasing number PACs and lobbyists
– Low voter turnout is not a new phenomenon in American politics.
– About half or less of the voting-age population participates in national elections.
• Altered Voting Patterns.
Voter apathy: indifference of people in political participation
• The Economics of Campaigning
– On the average, a winning Senate seat went from $609,000 in 1976 to $7 million
– On the average, a winning House seat cost $87,000 in 1976 and $1 million in
– People without access to considerable sums of money or money-raising skills
are unlikely to win an election.
– Campaign finance reform.
Growing Federal Bureaucracy:
. Expanded government: the rate of increase in the
number of government employees has been much
higher than the rate of increase in the population.
• E.g. federal government: around 40% , state 346% and local
• expenditure grows at an unprecedented rate: after
200 years, increased to 500 billion in 1980
• 1990: double that amount
• 1995: 1.5 trillion
• More than 20% of the nations gross domestic product.
(over 40% from individual tax):
• Why: social structural factors: population, more
functions. Media etc.
Failure of Trust:
• Waste, Corruption and Scandals
• Patronage: giving government jobs to
people who are members of the winning
• Gridlock: the inability of the government to
legislate significant new policies because
of ideological conflict, party differences, or
a standoff between the executive and
The American system:
• Power elite model: power is concentrated in the
hands of a few people who are big corporate
leaders, military and political leaders. (conflict
• Pluralist model: power is dispersed among
different interest groups that are represented in
the government, decision is made based on
negotiation and compromised of the
representatives. (functionalist perspective
Measures of Democracy
• Three different methods:
• 1. survey-based data: public perception of
democracy (e.g. Global Barometer Survey and
World Value Survey)
• 2. Standards-based Survey: use specific political
ideals as the basis and measuer the extent to
which those ideals have been realized.
(Freedom House’s 7 point scale of political
• 3. Events-based data count specific events that
promotes or impede democracy
• Most effective way to influence government.
• There are about 30,000 interest groups in the
• In the 2004 election, Political Action Committees
(PAC’s) contributed $842.9 million to various
• Lobbyist – an individual who tries to influence
legislation in accord with the preferences of an
• Collective attempts to further a common interest or common goal
thorugh action outside the sphere of established institutions.
• Revolutions: the attempt to overthrow the existing political order and
replace it with new one (dramatic and unorthodox)
• Karl Marx: class struggle, the “immiseration thesis.
• Talcott Parson: (functionalist theoriest) maintained that revolutions
were not political at all and had little to do with economic
deprivation, but irrational responses by large number of people who
were not sufficiently connected to social life to see the benefits of
existing conditions and this could be worked into a frenzy by outside
Public Policy and Private Action
• Campaign finance reform
• Greater citizen participation
The relationship between
government and people
• People’s expectation: welfare:
Government has not measured up to
• Protect people: Inadequate protection vs
• Unresponsive to people’s needs.
• Hunting -gathering: subsistence economy, non-market
• Agrarian: feudalism, mercantilism
• Industrial: free market, free competition capitalism
• Socialism: centralized control, command economies,
• Post-industrial: knowledge and information is central
to economic development, growth in service,
• Democratic socialism: major economic organizations
owned by the state, but economic decision made
democratically, but allow private ownership
Conditions for Democratic
• high level of economic development
• the literacy level: informed
• diffusion of power among groups
• cultural heritage for individualism
• political culture that legitimize
the democratic system and its
• the existence of opposition force
• the Iron Law of Oligarchy: rule by a few
people who stay in office indefinitely
• parliamentary democracy
• representative democracy
• The American system:
• Political Campaigns
– 69% of Americas rely on television for their political
• Political Agendas and Government Actions
– Control of the media lies in the hands of a small
group of corporations.
• Failure of Trust
– Media give much coverage to scandals, including
matters that would have been glossed over as
private affairs in past decades.