Political Science For Dummies book cover

Political Science For Dummies

By: Marcus A. Stadelmann Published: 08-18-2020

Expand your political science knowledge with a book that explains concepts in a way anyone can understand!

 

The global political climate is dynamic, at times even volatile. To understand this evolving landscape, it’s important to learn more about how countries are governed. Political Science For Dummies explores the questions that political scientists examine, such as how our leaders make decisions, who shapes political policy, and why countries go to war. The book is the perfect course supplement for students taking college-level, introductory political science courses. Political Science For Dummies is a guide that makes political science concepts easier to grasp.

  • Get a better understanding of political ideologies, institutions, policies, processes, and behavior
  • Explore topics such as class, government, diplomacy, law, strategy, and war
  • Learn the specialized vocabulary within the field of political science
  • Help prepare for a range of careers, from policy analyst to legislative assistant

Political science crosses into many other areas of study, such as sociology, economics, history, anthropology, international relations, law, statistics, and public policy. Those who want to understand the implications of changing political economies or how governing bodies work can look to Political Science For Dummies. It’s the book thatcuts through the jargon as it focuses on issues that interest readers.

Articles From Political Science For Dummies

page 1
page 2
11 results
11 results
Political Science For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-24-2022

From early Greek political philosophy to current international conflicts, political science is a study in how people come together, interact, become informed, and make decisions that affect everyone. Studying political science allows you to become educated on political issues, make decisions, and discover how politics is made at the local, national, and international level. Take a look at the list of important political scientists and their major works to guide you through the evolution of political science. Also, read through major political science concepts to give you a well-rounded view of political science as a vital discipline.

View Cheat Sheet
10 Political Science Books Everyone Should Read

Article / Updated 07-23-2020

Readers who want to learn more about political science than they’d find in a regular textbook should take a look at the ten books listed in this article. They’re not only classics in the field but also still relevant today. My hope is that you pick one or more of the books and decide to not only read it but afterward come to the conclusion that it still matters today. For example, after reading Aristotle’s Politics, written in the 4th century BCE, you may realize that the book written more than 2,000 years ago is still applicable to politics today. Or after reading The Prince written by Machiavelli in 1513, you may be surprised that Machiavelli’s ideas and conclusions on power can be used to explain Russia’s or China’s foreign policy in the 21st century. Therefore, in each of the books listed here, you’ll find interesting, often eye-opening or shocking revelations still applicable to today’s world. Do keep in mind that the ten book choices are personal suggestions. Feel free to disagree with my choices. You may even disagree with the conclusions I draw from the books or may find new observations and draw your own conclusions. I hope that you’ll discuss the books with friends or classmates or even recommend them to your book club for future reading materials. Without further ado, here’s my list of the ten political science books everyone should read. Politics (335–323 BCE) Most political scientists consider Aristotle’s book Politics the first real political science book. In this seminal work, Aristotle discussed why people create communities and later on the polis (state). Aristotle argued that, as members of a community, people enjoy economic and political security and can focus on advancing personally, focusing on more abstract ideas such as what type of political community is best. Suddenly, politics was born. For Aristotle, the ability to think and philosophize is what makes people happy, not personal wealth or power. People have to take the pursuit of knowledge into politics to be truly happy. This way their thoughts and beliefs can impact actual decision making in the polis. Philosophy and politics have to be fused, and knowledge has to result in action. A good ruler needs to know what’s right and then have the ability to put these policies into place. Finally, Politics was the first political science work that classified different types of governments. Aristotle wanted to know which type of government was best — a monarchy, an aristocracy, or a democracy. So he created a typology of various forms of governments found in Greece at the time. His conclusions were controversial. Instead of making a case for democracy, Aristotle decided that all forms of governments have merit as long as the ruler is wise and just. So for Aristotle, the best form of government depended on the type of ruler. The Prince (1513) The Prince was written by Niccolo Machiavelli in 1513 but wasn’t published until after his death in 1532. It has become one of the most controversial books in the history of political science. The Prince is basically a how-to guide for a ruler on coming to power. For Machiavelli, it’s all about power, and every action that contributes to the acquisition of more power is ethical and moral. Therefore, ethics and justice aren’t what matter for a ruler but the acquisition of power. Leaders should be concerned about power because only it can guarantee their survival and the survival of the state itself. The best way to maintain power is through the use of force or the threat of the use of force. In addition, the book discusses the characteristics a successful ruler has to have and the specific policies he needs to follow to maintain himself in power. Leviathan (1651) Leviathan, written by Thomas Hobbes and published in 1651, is another must-read for anyone interested in political theory or philosophy. In the work, Hobbes tried to explain why people desire the creation of a strong centralized state. Hobbes agreed with Machiavelli that life is a pursuit for power. For him, people are self-centered, egotistical, and on a constant quest for power. This results in conflict, and without a strong state, only the strong will survive. Therefore, in a state of nature, with no government present, constant conflict and violence occurs. For this reason, people willingly give up their freedoms for the creation of a state that provides them with security. Hobbes further argued that the most secure society for a people is an absolute monarchy, where the monarch herself is above the law. For Hobbes, the purpose of a government was to provide security for its citizens and not to advocate for notions such as justice or equality in a society. Two Treatises of Government (1690) In many ways, John Locke and Thomas Hobbes were the exact opposites. Hobbes believed in a strong centralized form of government, while Locke advocated for the opposite. In his work Two Treatises of Government, Locke argued that people are actually rational, they want to better their lives, and they want to own property. People are, therefore, peaceful and want to become prosperous. They’re capable of self-rule and self-government. This allows for weak, limited government, providing people with personal freedoms. Locke argued that people form communities or a state only because of foreign threats and the need for domestic laws and their subsequent enforcement. Only a state, weak and limited in nature, can provide for external and internal security to guarantee against any legal violations and injustices. Locke even described the government structures that should be in place. He advocated for a legislative to make laws, an executive to enforce the laws, and a judiciary to mediate conflict. In his conclusion, Locke went as far as calling upon people to revolt against any government that’s unable or unwilling to stay true to its purpose. The Wealth of Nations (1776) The Wealth of Nations was written by Adam Smith, a Scottish economist, and published in 1776. It has become the bible for people believing in laissez faire (hands-off) capitalism. Smith argued in his work that the free market should regulate a country’s economy, and government needs to stay out of the economy. Smith believed that, in a few instances, government has a role to play in the economy, but these are very limited. Government functions include protection from foreign nations; therefore, government needs to establish a military force. In addition, government needs to provide for an infrastructure, such as roads and canals, to facilitate economic transactions. Finally, a legal system has to be put in place to make and enforce laws protecting mostly economic transactions in the free market. The Communist Manifesto (1848) The Communist Manifesto was written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848. In it, the authors outline their concept of historical materialism in which they trace history from feudalism to capitalism and finally Communism. They discuss the concept of class struggle, showing how the working class is consistently exploited by the bourgeoisie and how it becomes impoverished. That, in turn, results in a violent class revolution where the working class will overthrow capitalism and become the ruling class and outlaw private property. The second section of the work contains demands by the two authors, such as a progressive tax, the nationalization of all property, the abolition of private property, the abolition of child labor, and the right to a free education for all classes. The final section of the work then distinguishes Communism from other forms of socialism. The American Voter (1960) The American Voter was written by Angus Campbell, Philip Converse, Warren Miller and Donald E. Stokes, four professors from the University of Michigan. The book was based on the first large-scale study of American voters in the 1950s. The authors wanted to know what Americans based their vote on — issues, candidate images, or something else. The results were surprising and established the Michigan model of voting. The Michigan model found that most Americans based their vote on partisan identification and not knowledge of candidates and issues. Partisan identification refers to people having an emotional attachment to a political party, which they usually inherit from their parents through a process called political socialization. In other words, voters voted for the Democratic Party candidates because they were Democrats and not because they knew about issues the Democratic Party favored. The Michigan model was the first voting behavior model to discover this. The model further discovered a group of voters called independents, or people who have no attachment to a political party. According to the study, these independents have the least knowledge of all voters but often decide elections. The study was later duplicated by Donald Stokes and David Butler in Great Britain with similar results. Man, the State, and War (1959) Man, the State, and War was published in 1959. In the book, Kenneth Waltz creates the three image or levels of analysis approach to explain causes of war in the international system. Using this approach, Waltz focuses on individuals, nation-states, and the international system itself, in that order. He studies each image and gives explanations of how each can tribute to the outbreak of war. First-image explanations involve individuals such as major leaders or top-level diplomats. Waltz examines how first-image explanations can be used to explain the outbreak of war. Second-image explanations involve nation-states. Here, Waltz studies a country to discover how domestic factors, such as political culture or economic structures, can contribute to conflict in the international system. Third-image explanations focus on the international system. The international system is dominated by anarchy and all nations’ thirst for power to acquire security. This results in conflict between states. Therefore, the international system, anarchic in nature and without a world government to enforce laws and punish aggression, is the major source of conflict for Waltz Who Governs? (1961) Who Governs? is one of the best-known books in American political science. It was written by Robert Dahl and published in 1961. In the book, Dahl attempts to rebut elite theorists who claimed that political power in the United States was centralized in a small power elite, which is interconnected and which occupies all positions of power, while most people lacked political power. To disprove elite theorists, Dahl studied political power distribution in New Haven, Connecticut, to see whether a small elite was running the city and holding all power. He was surprised to find that there wasn’t just one elite but a number of elites or groups competing for political power. One group dominated certain aspects of city politics, such as trash collection, while another one was in charge of another part of the city. This resulted in these elite groups constantly competing for political power and having to bargain and compromise with each other. This is the definition of pluralism as envisioned by James Madison. Therefore, pluralism was at work in New Haven, Connecticut, and there wasn’t one dominant power elite to be found. Dahl later on coined the term polyarchy, which refers to political systems, such as the U.S. system, that are open and inclusive. Everyone can join elite groups, and their power is limited by the people through free elections. Who’s Running America? (8th Edition, 2017) Who’s Running America?, now in its 8th edition, was written by Thomas R. Dye. The book is an example of elite theory, which claims that a small power elite runs the United States. For Dye, however, the position a person holds in an institution puts that person into the elite. In other words, institutional positions are the sources of power. For example, the position of Secretary of State has power attached to it, and whoever holds the position is suddenly a member of the power elite running the U.S. Therefore, all political scientists have to do is identify the institutional power positions in the U.S., and then it’s possible to know not only how many positions exist but who currently holds them. Dye further argues that some members of the elite can hold more than one position at a time and that the power elite is interconnected through family background, schooling, and even race, religion, and gender. In the work, Dye finds that there isn’t just one coherent elite in the U.S. but two. They are the conservative Sunbelt Cowboys, for example, George W. Bush, and the more liberal Establishment Yankees, for example, Barack Obama. The two elites agree on major issues such as form of government (democracy) and economic system (capitalism). However, they differ on smaller issues such as tax rates, military spending, and the legality of the death penalty. Sunbelt Cowboys are conservative on economic, social, and foreign policy issues, while Establishment Yankees tend to be liberal on these issues. The two elites usually corelate with political party affiliation, Sunbelt Cowboys being Republicans and Establishment Yankees being Democrats but do not have to. The two elites constantly compete for power and alternate holding positions of power in the U.S.

View Article
Political Science: What Is Political Socialization?

Article / Updated 07-23-2020

No study of political science is complete without looking at political socialization. Political socialization is the process of how people acquire their political values. The political values people possess in turn will shape their political behavior within the state. Political socialization teaches children political values and norms that will later impact their political behavior. The objective of political socialization is the same for every government: to create a populace that is well socialized and supports the current form of government. For this reason, many governments directly intervene in the socialization process. This can be done through educational structures and even religion. Goals of political socialization Studies have shown that successful political socialization has to create loyalty to the political system in the following areas: Loyalty to the state This is the most important because, without it, states will collapse at some point. If a majority of the people opposes the existence of the state they live in, there’s no future for the state. Recent examples include Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, both states that collapsed because a majority of the people opposed the state itself. Loyalty toward the state is created through nationalism and patriotism. The goal is to instill pride into a people through patriotic activities, such as singing the national anthem before sports events and pledging allegiance to the flag of a country. Loyalty to the political structure: Loyalty toward the state is important but not sufficient for the survival of a government. Besides supporting the country, the populace also has to support the current government structures and the ideas they’re based on. In the U.S., the government is based on democracy and capitalism. For this reason, the government has to artificially create loyalty toward these two. In civic education classes, mandatory in most states, children are taught about the virtues of democracy and how great capitalism works for the well-being of most Americans. At the same time, the evils of authoritarianism and communism are imprinted into children’s minds. Polls show that a vast majority of all Americans support and are very proud of their form of democracy, while a smaller majority also supports various forms of capitalism. Loyalty toward the current government: Loyalty toward the current government in power is a necessity. A populace has to be socialized to accept their favorite candidate losing and still supporting the new government elected. Even though a favorite candidate may have lost, people still have to consider the new government legitimate. If they don’t, they could turn against government and political violence can result. When Hillary Clinton lost the presidency to Donald Trump in 2016, many American were shocked and dismayed. However, nobody took up arms and initiated political violence to overthrow the newly elected Trump administration. This signals that Americans are well socialized into accepting losing elections and living with a president they didn’t support. In other countries, such as Kenya, this wouldn’t have happened. The losing side would have initiated political violence, and civil war would have broken out. Agents of political socialization How do citizens of a nation become socialized? In other words, what and who are the institutions that transmit political values to people? Agents of political socialization refer to the various institutions and people that will have an impact on a person’s learning of values and norms of political behavior. The following sections explore these questions. Trusting family The family is still the most important agent of political socialization today. Parents are who children see the most in early life, and this allows for parents to imprint children politically. Even if governments attempt to indoctrinate children through school or youth organizations, as the Soviet Union did, they fail. While schools preached socialist messages in the Soviet Union, the Russian grandmas back home would tell children stories about the czars and teach them about religion. Lenin considered Russian grandmas among the most dangerous group of people during the Russian Revolution. Therefore, families do matter, and parents influence political behavior. A majority of all people perceive politics as their parents did and also base their voting behavior on their parents’ voting behavior. Even a like or dislike for government can be transferred as can trust and distrust. It’s important to point out that most parents act as an unconscious agent of political socialization. All this means is that parents don’t consciously attempt to indoctrinate their children, but children overhear parents discussing political issues and model their political behavior on their parents’ political behavior. Studies have shown that young men who grow up in single-parent households tend to be more authoritarian than other males. The reason is that they must often assume the role of the man in the household early on in life, which changes their behavior. On the other hand, if children are allowed to have a say in family decision-making, they tend to be more democratic later in life. Going to school During school years is when the government can attempt to influence political socialization. Often, governments will make a conscious attempt to indoctrinate children and create citizens loyal to their country and government. This is accomplished through a curriculum that emphasizes history and civic education classes in such a way as to instill nationalism, pride in the country, and patriotism in children. Creating a political culture curriculum has an added benefit. In many countries, subcultures exist, such as ethnic minorities, and many immigrants may have arrived recently. They still practice their native cultures. Through government-guided education, they can learn a unifying language and a common history. In other words, the educational structure can make sure they’ll become good citizens. Studies have shown that government attempts to socialize children can have the most impact in middle school. Before middle school, children are too young to understand complex political concepts such as separation of power in the U.S. or scientific communism in the Soviet Union. One of the few things young children understand is the concept of authority and loyalty to one person. So early on, loyalty to a political leader can be taught. This in turn enhances legitimate authority in a nation. Many American schools teach the idea that the police have legitimate authority over people, and for this reason, young children are more likely than teenagers to support police. At the high-school level, conscious political socialization is too late. By the time students enter high school, their political values have been fully formed. Even if the government attempts to indoctrinate at this time, it’s too late. Political opinions can rarely change at this age. Therefore, political socialization needs to happen at the middle-school level. Finding friends Friends can be very influential in socializing a person politically. Especially in cases where a young person is apolitical, a friend, who is very much interested in politics, can make a difference. The friend may drag the youngster along to political rallies and constantly talk politics. This will make a difference. Another example involves peer groups. If a person moves to a new neighborhood, say, a country club suburban area, he may change his political beliefs to fit into a new peer group. Going to church Religion can become an important agent of socialization. If a person is deeply religious and her religion takes many political stances, the person will adopt these issue stances as a part of her political values. For example, the Catholic Church opposes abortion, and many devout Catholics do so for that reason. Listening to the media Today, the media is becoming more important in political socialization. More and more American children grow up in one-parent households, and after school, they’re alone at home watching television or engaging in social media. The absence of family has given the media an opening to socialize children. It’s not just news programs, rarely watched by children, that can impact a child’s belief systems, but just about any show on television that portrays certain behavior, a certain lifestyle, or analyzes events in a certain way. In most societies, the government regulates parts of the media and thereby controls the flow of information to the public. In authoritarian and totalitarian societies, the government assumes direct control over the media and allows only certain information to be dispersed to the public. This allows the government to politically socialize people and manipulate their political values. Belonging to a minority group Most societies contain minority ethnic groups. In the U.S., for example, African Americans constitute a minority and have developed certain political traits. For example, African Americans tend to be more liberal than American whites and are more likely to vote for the Democratic Party. They’re also more likely to perceive police as racially biased. These ideas are socialized into young black children and will stick with them for the rest of their lives. Today, more than 90 percent of all African Americans vote consistently for the Democratic Party in the United States. Living through major political and economic crises A certain catastrophic event can change people’s political values and their political behavior. For example, the Great Depression changed American values and, in turn, voting behavior. Before the Great Depression, most American believed in small government and voted Republican. The Great Depression changed all of this. Suddenly, people favored government intervention in the economy through a welfare state and began to vote Democratic. This lasted until the late 1960s, when the war in Vietnam and race relations changed Americans again. Changing later on in life Although most people won’t change their political attitudes and behavior during their lifetime, a few do. There are two ways that can happen. First, there is adult socialization. This can be brought about by economic changes in a person’s life. A person can grow up poor and a staunch Democrat. However, later in life, he grows wealthy, moves to a nice neighborhood, and is now surrounded by conservative peers. This can change his political attitudes. He becomes conservative, especially on economic issues. The second way a person can change his political attitudes is through a process called elite socialization. This can happen if a person makes it into an elite group, such as a business group or a political group. A good example are new members of the U.S. Senate. They start out rebellious, wanting to change things around in the Senate. They may want to change the rules of conduct or propose radical policies. Over time, they figure out that unless they change their political attitudes and behavior, they’ll be very unsuccessful Senators never passing any bills. This can cost them reelection. To be a successful Senator, they’ll have to work through the system and adapt. As soon as they do, elite socialization has happened, and it has changed their political attitudes and behavior.

View Article
Political Science: The International Bill of Human Rights

Article / Updated 07-23-2020

When studying political science, you will learn about the formation of the United Nations and its mission to protect human rights throughout the world. The International Bill of Human Rights consists of the three most important pieces of international legislation in regard to human rights. They are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) The most comprehensive definition of what human rights actually entail was given to us on December 10, 1948, when the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After World War II had ended, the international community was shocked by the atrocities committed during the war. The United Nations decided that human life had to be protected and human rights mattered. For this reason, the United Nations created the Human Rights Commission in 1947. It was chaired by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Under Eleanor Roosevelt’s able leadership, the commission created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or UDHR. International experts on human rights from all over the world and belonging to many different religions came together to work on the declaration. The committee decided that human rights were indivisible and that all the rights listed in the UDHR were linked to each other. The UDHR lists basic principles, such as dignity, liberty, and equality in the first two articles, while the latter articles address issues such as political, economic, cultural, and social rights. All signatories agreed that human rights were guaranteed in their respective countries. Like all other United Nations General Assembly resolutions, the UDHR wasn’t binding on any nation in the world but just a recommendation on how to treat human beings. For this reason, the United Nations decided to turn it into international law through a series of treaties, binding on all signatories. These treaties created the International Bill of Human Rights. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a multilateral treaty passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966. It went into force in 1976. The treaty mandates that all signatories guarantee civil and political rights of individuals. Examples include freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. In addition, the right to due process and fair trial are included. The final right is the right to be able to participate in policy making through free electoral processes. As of 2019, 173 nations have signed and ratified the treaty. Twenty nations, including, Cuba, China, and Saudi Arabia, have not yet ratified the treaty. The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) The same year, 1966, the United Nations also passed the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). It also came into force in 1976. All signatories to the treaty have to provide their citizens with economic, social, and cultural rights. Examples include the right to unionize, the right to receive an adequate education, and the right to an adequate standard of living. Therefore, the treaty deals with second- and third-generation human rights. As of 2018, 169 countries have signed and ratified the treaty. The U.S. hasn’t ratified the ICESCR because it believes that second- and third-generation human rights aren’t inherent rights of people but rather desirable social goals, which have to be implemented by respective states, with America’s help if so desired. Today, most countries agree on first-generation human rights, however, there’s a split in the international community on whether second- and third-generation human rights are actual rights or desirable social goals.

View Article
Seeking Globalization: An Integration of Countries

Article / Updated 07-23-2020

The concept of globalization has become one of the most widely used terms in the International Political Economy (IPE) today. Globalization refers to the integration of countries through increasing trade and contact. It’s defined as a widening, deepening, and speeding up of a worldwide interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporary social life, from the cultural to the criminal, from the financial to the spiritual. Although globalization could be found in the 19th century among many European powers, only recently has globalization occurred on a global scale. With the creation of the Bretton Woods system, which advocates for free international trade and also attempts to manage the international money system to prevent another Great Depression, increasing contact and trade began between many countries, and today almost every nation’s economy has become closely tied to the economies of the rest of the world. The term we use in political science and other fields to describe this phenomenon is interdependence. Any event — be it economic, scientific, or even cultural — within any society will have an impact on the rest of the globe. An American economic downturn, such as experienced in late 2007, won’t only hurt the American people anymore but will start a major recession in the rest of the world. An outbreak of a pandemic disease, such as the coronavirus COVID-19, won’t just impact the country of origin, China in this case, but within weeks will affect the rest of the world. Even the emergence of an American pop phenomenon, such as Lady Gaga, will have an impact on the rest of the globe. International trade, a measure of globalization International trade is the major way we measure globalization today. We take the sum of imports and exports and then divide it by gross domestic product (GDP) to get a correct measurement of international trade. The higher the percentage, the more connected an economy is globally. In other words, the higher the percentage, the more interdependent a country is globally. GDP measures all economic transactions within a country. GDP per capita divides the overall GDP of a country by its population to measure a country’s wealth. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is the second major example of globalization. The term refers to one country participating in the economic activities of another country. This can be done directly, through the ownership of property in foreign countries, or indirectly. The ownership of mines, oil fields, and factories are an example of direct foreign investment. A more indirect way of foreign investment includes joint ventures, transfer of management techniques and new technology, and even the purchase of foreign stocks and bonds. Today, trillions of dollars are exchanged every year in the form of foreign investments. While traditionally the most foreign investment occurs between the advanced industrialized world, this has been rapidly changing, with more and more foreign investment occurring in Third-World countries. To be able to invest in a foreign country or trade with a foreign country, a stable currency system has to be in place. This is usually referred to as a monetary system. This monetary system determines the value of a nation’s currency in relation to another nation’s currency, allowing investors, buyers, and sellers to calculate the costs of economic transactions. In other words, the monetary system determines a state’s currency exchange rate in relationship to other nations’ currency rates. Comparing countries: The KOF Index of Globalization The KOF Index of Globalization, developed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, measures three dimensions of globalization: economic, social, and political. The following figure shows the increase of globalization from 1970 to 2017. As the figure shows, international economic integration has increased from about 35 percent in 1970 to about 62 percent globally in the last 47 years. The KOF Index measures globalization in economic, social, and political dimensions, using 42 variables and on a scale from 1 to 100. The higher the score for a country, the more globalized (integrated) a country is. The economic aspects of the KOF Index include both trade and international finances. It measures both exchange of goods and services, including tariffs, taxes, and trade restrictions. The financial aspect looks at foreign investment as well as investment restrictions and international investment agreements. The social aspects of the KOF Index include personal contact, information flows, and cultural globalization. For example, personal contact includes tourism, migration, and international student exchanges. Information flows can include access to television and the internet and freedom of the press. Cultural globalization can include the number of American fast-food places abroad and the protection of civil rights, including gender equality. Finally, the political aspect looks at the numbers of embassies a country has, how many international treaties a country has signed, how many international organizations a country belongs to, how often a country participates in U.N. peacekeeping missions, and how many international nongovernment organizations (NGOs) are located within a country. NGOs are private organizations not connected to a government. They raise money and find volunteers to help the population in Third-World countries. They often work with local government to help the local population with issues such as disease, hunger, and natural disasters. Doctors Without Borders and the Children’s Defense Fund are examples of NGOs. The KOF Index demonstrates that globalization has spread throughout the world since 1970. However, regional differences exist. In Africa, for example, many areas are barely topping the 30 percent level, which shows a very weak level of economic interconnectedness. In other areas, such as in many Western European countries, the KOF Index number has actually topped the 90th percentile, showing an almost perfect level of economic interdependence. In Western Europe, this is obviously the result of European integration through the European Union, but other countries such as Australia and Canada are following suit quickly. In the most recent index, Switzerland was the most highly globalized country in the world, followed by the Netherlands and Belgium. Switzerland was strongly globalized across all categories. The two least-integrated countries in the world are Eritrea and Somalia, both located in Africa. Smaller countries tend to be more integrated with the global economy than larger countries, which aren’t as dependent on trade. For this reason, the U.S. occupies the 59th spot on the KOF Index. At present, globalization is becoming a global phenomenon, slowly overcoming the North-South divide. While only about 20 percent of all goods traded globally were exported by developing economies in 1980, this number has changed quite dramatically. By 2005, developing countries had increased their level of trade/exports to 32 percent, and by 2030 that level of trade/exports is expected to increase to 45 percent. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel As many liberal economists had hoped for, free trade is slowly able to overcome the North-South divide. The creation of a global free market economy has the potential to overcome the gap between the First and Third World. Certainly, this won’t happen overnight but may take another generation or two. The First World seems to have realized this and has recently opened its exclusive club called the Group of 8 (G-8), including the eight largest economies of the world, to new members. Many are from traditional Third-World countries, such as Indonesia and Brazil. The most recent example of globalization is the creation of the G-20 in 1999. The Group of 20 (G-20) includes 19 countries and the European Union. Combined, these 20 economies represent about two-thirds of the world’s population, 80 percent of the world’s trade, and 85 percent of the world’s GDP. Its major focus is the maintenance of international financial stability and trade. In other words, the G-20 represents an attempt to deal with international economic crises globally.

View Article
Political Science: Maoism

Article / Updated 07-23-2020

When you are studying communism as part of your political science education, you might think that communism in China is the same communism as in Russia. However, communism in China, or Maoism, is very different. Mao Zedong (see the following figure) knew right away that Marxism and Leninism weren’t a perfect fit for China in the 1920s. China was preindustrial, with the vast majority of all Chinese living in the countryside. They were being exploited by a landed aristocracy. There was little industry in China, and a small working class was concentrated in a few large cities. According to Marx, a class revolution couldn’t occur in China because the revolutionary class, the working class, was missing. China first had to go through industrialization and create a capitalist society with a large working class, and only then could it go Communist. Mao Zedong was born in 1893 in Shaoshan, China. He was the son of a wealthy farmer and received a good education, including a tutor familiar with Western ideas such as nationalism and socialism. In 1911, Mao became a supporter of the revolution that overthrew the Chinese monarchy, and in 1917, he completed his first academic work, “A Study of Physical Culture,” in which he infused Confucianism with the Western concept of nationalism. In 1919, Mao applied to the best university in China, Beijing University, but he was rejected. Disappointed, Mao decided to move to the capital anyway and became a librarian at Beijing University to be close to academics. Here, he was introduced to the works of Marx and Lenin, and in 1921, he became one of the 13 original founding members of the Chinese Communist Party. In 1927, Chinese nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek began his quest to destroy the Communists, and Mao had to flee in 1934 to the remote mountainous parts of China. The Communists, however, were saved by the Japanese attack on China in 1937, because Chiang Kai-Shek had to focus on defending his country instead of wiping out the Communists. After the defeat of the Japanese Empire in 1945, a civil war broke out in China between the Communists and nationalists. The Communists won the civil war with Soviet help, and in 1949, China went Communist, and Mao established the People’s Republic of China. He ran the country until his death in 1976. Mao had no intention to wait until capitalism established a large working class in China. So, he decided to make a few changes to Marxist/Leninist theory. According to Mao, it wasn’t the working class in China that was being exploited and had the potential to become the class initiating a revolution; it was the peasants in rural areas. Thus, for Mao, the peasants were the class that would initiate class struggle and destroy the current form of government. The cities, on the other hand, with a few workers and a larger middle class, were parasites that lived off the peasants’ work, exploiting them; and therefore, the peasants had to destroy them. For Mao, the countryside was the site of progress and not the cities. Mao further believed in the concept of permanent revolution. Both Marx and Lenin believed that a working-class revolution would destroy capitalism and then socialism would take care of remnants of other classes and set the foundation for Communism. As soon as Communism was achieved, there’d be no need for another revolution. Mao disagreed. He believed that after a few years or decades, people become complacent and capitalist ideas resurface in society. Therefore, another revolution, a cultural one, was needed to eliminate or reeducate the people who had lost their Communist spirit. In 1965, Mao implemented the Cultural Revolution to purge Chinese society with disastrous political and economic results. Finally, Mao agreed with Lenin that the common person wouldn’t be able to make rational decisions for the country. Only a small intellectual elite in charge of a powerful political party could do so — thus, the creation of the Chinese Communist Party, which still runs China at the time of this writing.

View Article
Getting Real: The Power of Realism

Article / Updated 07-23-2020

The school of realism is the oldest school in international relations, and your political science studies should include an overview of realism. It can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. Realism's most famous adherents are Niccolo Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes. The idea behind realism is that world politics is all about struggle for power between nations. The following points discuss realism: It is the dominant school of thought in international relations before World War I and after World War II. The idea behind realism is that world politics is all about struggle and a quest for power in the international system. States are the key actors in the present international system. International organizations, such as the United Nations, are secondary actors. Every state tries to become more powerful because only power can guarantee survival of a state. This struggle for power results in conflicts between states. Anarchy, or lawlessness, dominates the international arena. There is no world government that can enforce laws or punish aggression. Because there’s no authority, such as a world government, to prevent conflict, every state is on its own. In other words, every state lives in a self-help system where the strong will survive and the weak will perish. Security necessitates a strong powerful military and a good economic foundation. Military force is a necessity. You not only have to possess it, but you also have to be willing to use it. The use of military force to acquire power and assure the survival of the country is justified at any point. International morality is not relevant. The highest moral goal of a country is to assure its own survival. High politics dominates. With the security of a state being the ultimate objective, only foreign policy matters, because only it can guarantee security. Idealism is utopian: A realist believes that idealists are utopian. Their ideas are based on wishful thinking about the nature of people. Realists advocate looking at the real world and not at how things should be. Balancing power: The balance of power theory The balance of power theory is one of the oldest realist theories used to study international relations. The balance of power theory was used by statesmen in ancient Greece and Rome and advocated by great writers such as the Italian political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli. The theory is based on the idea that states interact with each other and that this interaction causes our present-day international state system. Beginning with the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, it became the dominant foreign policy concept of the day. From King Louis XIV of France to the great Prussian ruler Frederick the Great to even Napoleon, balance of power became the foundation for foreign policy. It can be used to explain foreign policy events from the Concert of Vienna, which ended the Napoleonic Wars, to World War I (1914–1918). Seeing how the theory works The balance of power theory is fairly simple in nature. It stipulates that all great powers — at least two are needed for the theory to work — are similar in size and power. The power of a country is measured in both military and economic terms. If this is the case, the world will be in balance and peace will result. If, however, one country grows too powerful, it will upset the balance. This in turn will result in conflict, even war, because the system is out of balance. To rebalance the international system, other nations will have to combine and rebalance the system. This is done using warfare. For example, Germany grew rapidly economically and militarily in the late 19th century. By 1914, it had upset the balance of power in Europe and other countries such as France, Great Britain, and even Russia combined against it. The resulting conflict, World War I, rebalanced the system by weakening Germany. Noting whether it’s still applicable today For balance of power theory to work, certain preconditions have to be in place. First, as previously mentioned, all the great powers have to be similar in size and power, both economically and militarily. This isn’t always the case. After World War II, the U.S. enjoyed a period of unipolarity, or sole power, because it was the only great power left. It took the Soviet Union years to catch up and rebalance the system. The same happened after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The U.S. had again become the hegemon, or sole superpower in the world. It took a decade for other powers such as China, Russia, and the European Union to become relevant again. Second, a willingness to use force has to be in place for balance of power to work. Countries have to be willing to use force to rebalance the international system. Examples are the Napoleonic Wars and World War I. Third, a system of flexible alliances has to be in place. This refers to countries switching allies quickly to rebalance the system. To be able to do so, you need to forsake a former ally and align with a former enemy if needed. Great Britain, for example, fought France for hundreds of years and was on good terms with Germany. However, when Germany became too powerful in the late 19th century, it switched sides quickly and aligned itself with its former enemy France against former ally Germany. Fourth, an agreement on rules of conduct during warfare has to exist. If you go to war against a country, you have to keep in mind that that country could be a future ally. Therefore, a war can’t be too devastating because any enemy is a future friend. Finally, to be able to conduct a foreign policy based on balance of power, you have to have skilled foreign policy leaders. The need to constantly monitor the international arena for any possible upset of the balance of power and the willingness to bargain and compromise with not just allies but also enemies takes time and especially diplomatic skills. Avoiding conflict: The power transition model The power transition model is a realist model developed by political scientist A. F. K. Organski in 1958. It is a theory developed to explain peace and conflict in international relations. The power transition model arrives at the exact opposite conclusion that balance of power theory does. The transition theory states that any balance — two or more powers being equal — results in conflict. Therefore, any kind of balance, or states being similar in power, needs to be avoided. Instead, one all-powerful country (the technical term is hegemon) is needed to maintain peace and stability within the international system. This all-powerful country dominates the system, polices it, and maintains the peace. However, whenever another great power rises and suddenly equals the hegemon, it challenges the hegemon, and conflict occurs. Therefore, a balance within the system leads to conflict, while an imbalance — one power dominating the system — results in peace. Conflict will occur only if a rising secondary power is dissatisfied with the way the hegemon runs the international system. As long as it benefits from the system, it won’t challenge the hegemon but will continue to become more powerful over time. For example, many believe that the U.S. became the hegemon for a second time after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The U.S. dominated the international arena and maintained peace within it. Whenever aggression by minor countries occurred, such as in 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the U.S. would take care of business, in this case with Operation Desert Storm, and resolve the conflict. However, today the U.S. is clearly not the hegemon anymore, being challenged by China and a rapidly rising Russia. But both China and Russia do benefit economically from the international system and so far have decided not to challenge the U.S. but rather sit back and have the U.S. police the world while they continue to get more powerful militarily and economically. At some point, however, a challenge to the U.S. may occur, especially from China. Noting neorealism Neorealism isn’t a new school in international relations but an update to classical realism. Neorealism accepts all the foundations of realism, such as the fact that the state is the key unit of analysis, that anarchy is at the root of the international system, that states pursue power for security, and that states are rational actors, which engage in policies that will benefit them and guarantee their security in the long run. Neorealists also agree that a strong military with a willingness to use military force as a foreign policy tool is necessary to survive in the international arena. However, neorealists find realism lacking in many areas. They believe that classical realism is inadequate because it ignores the role international law and international organizations can play in international relations. Further, realism doesn’t account for global economic integration and the impact domestic politics can play on a country’s foreign policy. Can you really ignore public opinion or the role of interest groups when studying the foreign policy of a nation? Neorealists thus argue that political scientists today have to not only study high politics (foreign and security policy) but also focus on international organizations and international law as well as low politics (domestic politics, such as economic and social policy). For this reason, a more comprehensive approach to the study of international relations is needed. The integration of international organizations, international law, and low politics completes realism, giving a comprehensive approach to the study of world politics. An example of neorealist theory is called the theory of hegemonic stability and was developed by Robert Gilpin in his seminal work War & Change in World Politics (published in 1981 by Cambridge University Press). The work details how countries become all powerful and then create international systems from which they benefit. However, over time, these hegemons decline and are replaced. The work further discusses in detail the reasons these hegemons decline and mentions ways to prevent decline. In other words, check out the rise and decline of nations. This figure presents the theory in a nutshell. Following are three possible results of hegemonic or world wars: The hegemon wins the war, and no major changes occur to the international system. The challenger is beaten back, and the world returns to the status quo. The challenger wins the hegemonic war, and a new international system from which the challenger benefits the most is established. Both hegemon and challenger destroy each other, and a third power by default becomes the new hegemon and establishes a system from which it benefits the most. History provides examples of all three possible outcomes. By 1800, France under Napoleon had become the hegemon on the European continent. So the rest of Europe combined and challenged the new hegemon, and by 1814, France had been defeated and the previous international system was restored. The Concert of Europe was established and maintained peace in Europe for about 100 years. Second, by 1900, Germany had grown both economically and militarily in Europe and presented a challenge to the then-hegemon Great Britain. By 1914, a hegemonic war broke out, World War I. However, the hegemon prevailed, the challenger was defeated, and no changes occurred to the international system. The third example revolves around World War II. The hegemon was still Great Britain with the U.S. going back to isolationism after World War I. The new challengers were once again Germany and this time also Italy and Japan. During the ensuing hegemonic war, the hegemon and all challengers were either destroyed or weakened, and there was a power vacuum. The U.S. by default slid into it and became the new hegemon. Next, it established our current international system. Moving into hegemonic decline Why do great powers decline over time? This question is all important for the U.S. With the U.S. being the hegemon for most of the time since the end of World War II, it’s imperative to discover the causes of decline. If we can determine these causes, it may be possible to slow down or even reverse them. The next sections list some causes of decline and some possible solutions to them. Overextension With a hegemon having to control and police the international system it created, overextension, or imperial overstretch, sets in over time. Today, the U.S. has to have military bases all over the world to respond to any form of aggression quickly. In addition, military alliances, such as NATO in Europe, have to be formed to be able to exercise control globally. Although NATO has proven to be very beneficial containing first the Soviet Union during the Cold War and now Russia, this has come at an enormous cost to the U.S. Currently, the U.S. spends the most of any country in the world on its military, more than 3 percent of its GDP, while most allies don’t spend even the 2 percent minimum requested by NATO in 2014. Possible challengers such as China do spend quite a bit but don’t come even close to the U.S.’s military spending. Over time, massive military expenditures can cripple an economy because the monies spent can’t be used on other necessities such as keeping up a country’s infrastructure or being put into research and development. The law of increasing cost of war The hegemon has to have the most powerful military in the world and constantly develop newer and better military technology. This is expensive, and often after the development of new weapons systems, allies and possible challengers will receive the technology for free or just steal it. The law of stagnation The law of stagnation is an old economic concept trying to explain why some economies grow and some don’t. It stipulates the following: For an economy and a country to grow, it has to have low consumption of goods by its population, high investment in research and development in the economy, and low protection costs. For a hegemon, however, protection costs are very high, and its population consumes more than it should, which leads to not very much monies available for investment. Because investment in new technology and new infrastructure makes an economy strong and a country powerful in the long run, and the hegemon is now lacking in investment, the hegemonic country begins to decline. Changes in economic structures History has shown that growth in the manufacturing sector makes a country powerful. Industries such as steel, chemicals, and the military industrial complex turned the U.S. into the hegemon after World War II. By becoming the most powerful country in the world and creating an international system from which it benefited the most, especially economically, the U.S. became very prosperous within decades. This resulted in a shift in the economy. The manufacturing sector began to decline, and the service sector increased. Although the service sector is necessary and often more profitable than the manufacturing sector, it doesn’t contribute much to a country’s economic power. The steel industry is one of the backbones of any powerful economy, not Starbucks selling fancy coffee. Population growth Although population growth is necessary for a powerful country, too much of it can be detrimental. With the U.S. growing in wealth, it became the envy of the world. Citizens from other countries wanted to share in the U.S. wealth, and more and more began to emigrate to the U.S. While legal immigration can be very beneficial, the best and the brightest wanting to move to the U.S., illegal immigration can have mixed results. Many illegal immigrants tend to be less educated and have lower skill levels than legal immigrants. For this reason, they take manual labor jobs, many American citizens won’t take because they believe they are too qualified. These include jobs in construction, meatpacking and agriculture. At the same time, they also rely on the hegemon’s extended welfare benefits, especially free education and subsidized housing. When an economy begins to decline or economic crisis suddenly strikes this can become an economic and political problem for the hegemon. Solutions to decline What can be done about these factors contributing to the decline of the hegemon? Following are some answers. Cut protection costs. One attempt to reverse decline involves cutting the costs of protection. The U.S. has worked on this for decades. American military bases all over the world have been closed, and allies have been asked to contribute more. For example, NATO has been asked to spend more on its military and has actively contributed in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, lowering American costs. Bring in an ally. A new powerful ally can be brought in on the hegemon’s side. Its power makes up for the hegemons’ decline of power. In the early 1970s, the U.S. actively courted China as an ally against the Soviet Union. Today, relations with China have become more problematic and the emphasis has shifted to India. Reduce consumption. To lower consumption within the hegemon’s economy, hard and often politically impossible choices are needed. Keep in mind that people love to buy products (consume). Who doesn’t want to have the newest iPhone? However, by consuming too much, especially by going into debt to consume, money is taken away from investment. Investment is what made the hegemon’s economy powerful. The only way to reduce consumption in a society is to take purchasing power from citizens. This involves higher taxes and higher interest rates. It would be political suicide for any politician to advocate for this. For this reason, most hegemons historically have not been able to stop decline and have been replaced by another country at the top.

View Article
Types of Governments

Article / Updated 07-23-2020

When studying political science, you come across a variety of governments. From democracies to totalitarian regimes, governments do vary. What type of government or regime is out there in the world today? The table gives examples of the various forms of government. Forms of Government Forms of Government Power Structure-Holder of Political Power Examples Monarchy One, a king or prince Saudi Arabia, Medieval France Aristocracy A small ruling elite or class, usually based on hereditary qualifications Ancient Sparta Oligarchy A small group based on characteristics such as wealth or religion Iran, ancient Venice Totalitarian One all-powerful supreme leader Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany Authoritarian One leader with a small elite Egypt, fascist Italy Democracy Many; the people United States, Great Britain, the Roman Republic Anarchy Nobody; no leader or government in charge; can occur during or right after a civil war Libya, Somalia Democracy The term democracy comes from ancient Greece. Demos in Greek refers to “the people” while cracy means “rule by.” Therefore, the term democracy translates to “rule by the people.” Today, two types of democracies exist. Direct democracy Arriving on the scene first, direct democracy was practiced by the ancient Greeks and Romans. In a direct democracy, the citizens make all decisions themselves. In other words, citizens make policy. They gather on occasion in a large place and discuss and then vote on policies for the state. These policies can include laws or bureaucratic appointments. No politicians are elected because the citizens themselves make all decisions. Direct democracy has become rare. It still exists at the local level in New England and in countries like Switzerland. A direct democracy is the most democratic form of government in existence. The people themselves make policy for their country. However, it’s tough, almost impossible, to have direct democracy in countries with large populations. The concept worked well in small city-states, such as Athens, or the Roman Republic. It would be unworkable in the U.S. Where would more than 150 million American citizens meet to make policy directly, and how could they ever agree on anything? Representative democracy The second type of democracy is referred to as a representative democracy. In a representative democracy, such as the U.S. or Great Britain, citizens don’t make policy for the country directly. Instead, they vote for a representative, or office holders, who will act on and make policy on their behalf. If the representatives follow the people’s wishes, implementing policies they support, they’ll get reelected. If, on the other hand, they anger the population, the people can replace them with new and hopefully better representatives. Representative democracies work well in larger countries and give the people the freedom to disengage from politics. They don’t directly have to participate in decision making. They can pick someone else to do it for them. However, this can result in a major problem. Often, many citizens choose not to participate, allowing for a small minority to take over policy making. In the U.S., for example, almost 40 percent of the people don’t vote for president. Every president for the last 100 years has actually been elected by a minority of the people. Is this still democracy? Today, two types of representative democracies exist: parliamentary democracy and presidential democracy. Parliamentary democracy Parliamentary democracies are very common in Europe and also found in Australia and New Zealand. Germany and Great Britain are the two major examples of parliamentary democracies. In a parliamentary democracy, the people don’t vote for their executive, be it a prime minster or chancellor, directly; instead, they vote for a member of a legislature. The legislature then selects the executive. It’s usually the majority political party that gets to select the executive. The following diagram shows how parliamentary democracy works in Great Britain: Parliamentary systems tend to be dominated by the executive. The British prime minister has to have a majority in parliament and controls his political party with an iron fist. Instead of having separation of power and checks and balances between the legislature and the executive, there exists a fusion of power, where the two branches of governments are intermixed. All power is in the hands of the executive. For this reason, it’s easy to pass legislation, and parliamentary systems tend to respond quickly to the public’s wishes for new policies. Presidential democracy Presidential democracies are common on the American continents and are also found in a few European countries such as France. In a presidential democracy, the concept of separation of powers exists. The two institutions, the legislature and the executive, are elected separately and constantly check each other. So citizens vote twice, once for the president (executive) and once for the legislature. In the U.S., the voters select the president and members of Congress separately. The following diagram shows the presidential system in the U.S. As the diagram shows, the two structures are independently elected by the people and share powers when it comes to policy making. This in turn results in a system of checks and balances between the two. Presidential systems take longer to bring about political change, because two institutions have to implement them. Overall, this brings about moderate change. Testing totalitarianism As the term implies, in a totalitarian state, the government exercises total control over its citizens. The government controls the social, political, and economic aspect of a person’s life, and the person enjoys no freedoms whatsoever. Totalitarian regimes are rare in history. The two most prominent governments that qualify being called totalitarian are Nazi Germany (1933–1945) and Stalinist Russia (1929–1953). At the same time, there were many dictatorships and monarchies that restricted people’s freedoms, but none of them was able to become totalitarian in nature. What makes a government totalitarian? To qualify as totalitarian, a government has to control all aspects of a person’s life and meet the following six characteristics: One-party state: There has to be one major political party that controls all aspects of not only the government but also a person’s life. It’s the only legal party, and people have to join it to advance politically or economically in a totalitarian society. No opposition parties are tolerated. In Germany, the National Socialist Workers Party (NSDAP) fulfilled this role, while in the Soviet Union, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) had a similar role. Citizens joined the party at a young age and were being consistently indoctrinated throughout their lives. The party was there at every stage of their lives. The Hitler Youth in Germany and the Young Octobrists in the Soviet Union are examples of such youth political party organizations. Children were not just politically indoctrinated but were also taught how to fight and show extreme devotion to the totalitarian leader. These party organizations became like second families to many children. They spent weekends with the party, not their families, made friends in the organizations, and often would find their future spouse at party events. Later, when becoming adults, children would join the regular party. One dominant ideology: One ideology explains political and economic life to the average citizen. This ideology justifies why government is in power and why certain leaders are all-powerful. The ideology further lays out the economic structure of the country and even explains its foreign policy. Fascism and communism were used to justify Stalin’s and Hitler’s rule. The average citizen is indoctrinated with this ideology throughout life. Political party organizations at all levels of life will familiarize citizens with the ideology. In addition, educational structures, including universities, will teach the ideology, and it permeates all aspects of the media. Total control over the media: Government has to fully control all aspects of the media. This includes television, the radio, and newspapers. No news from nonapproved government sources can enter the country, and the population can have access to only government-approved news. The average citizen is allowed to know only what the government wants him to know. The government controls not only the news but also education, the arts, and even movies. Everything a citizen sees is government-approved. In both the Soviet Union under Stalin and Hitler’s Germany, the government did exercise total control of the media. It was virtually impossible for the average German or Russian to get information that wasn’t biased or government-controlled. Today, it has become a lot tougher to control the media, which now includes the internet and social media. With globalization, it has become virtually impossible to totally isolate a population and control its access to other news sources. Control over the police: Government has to not only control the regular police to maintain law and order but also establish a secret police to control its population. This secret police has to instill a culture of fear into the average person so that he won’t question or turn against the regime. Everybody in the country needs to know the kind of punishment he’ll face if he questions or turns against the regime. Both the NKVD in the Soviet Union and the Gestapo in Germany performed this function. Mass killings and torture of dissidents was common, and every Russian and German knew the punishment for opposing the regime. In turn, opposition to both totalitarian regimes was minimal. Control over the military: History has shown that most dictators are toppled by their own militaries. Control over the military is difficult to accomplish in most authoritarian regimes, even monarchies. In a totalitarian society, it’s different because the military is brought under the total control of the regime. In the Soviet Union, Stalin executed almost all his officer corps during the Great Purges in the 1930s to bring the military under his control. This assured him total loyalty of the military. In Germany, Hitler struck a deal with the military, eliminating the socialist wing of his national socialist party, which in turn led the German military leadership to acquiesce to his rule. Later, a force separate from the military was created to assure that in the event the military turned against Hitler, there would be another military branch to protect him. This was the infamous SS. In both countries, within a few years of totalitarian rule, the military lost its independence and became a tool of the ruling regime. Control over the economy: To qualify as a totalitarian regime, a government has to control its economy. In the Soviet Union, all property was nationalized and owned by the government, and the government planned for the economy, abolishing the free market. Government control of the economy was a given. Germany was different. In Germany, private property and ownership of business existed, but the government often intervened, telling businesses what to produce and how much to charge for it. Often, the government itself became the largest purchaser of privately produced goods. Only if a government controls all six areas can it be labeled totalitarian. If it meets only five or fewer of the criteria, it’s considered authoritarian instead of totalitarian. With technological advances today, it’s very unlikely that any government could ever qualify as totalitarian again. It has become impossible to control all aspects of the media, to prevent a country’s citizenry to be kept in the dark for long periods of time. Answering to authoritarianism An authoritarian government has less power over its citizens than a totalitarian government. Although it still controls many aspects of its citizens lives, it doesn’t exercise complete control. Authoritarian leaders usually don’t possess an official ideology that penetrates a society. More important, there’s no powerful political party that runs the state for the leadership and permeates all aspects of society. Totalitarian leaders possess a high level of charisma that results in a very high level of public support. Thy tend to be good speakers and are able to solicit dedication from the masses. Authoritarian leaders are the opposite. Many of them aren’t charismatic, and the level of public support they enjoy is low, usually based on specific issues or fear of a secret police. The level of control over a person’s public life may be the same as that found in a totalitarian society, but control of the private lives of citizens is missing. Total control of the media and the military is also missing. In many instances, authoritarian leaders are replaced by their own militaries. In addition, with the advent of globalization, it has become tougher to control a country’s economy. The state-controlled economies of the Soviet era have disappeared, and today even authoritarian regimes like China see their economies easily impacted by other economies. Finally, the level of legitimacy is very high in totalitarian regimes. People have been indoctrinated to support the leader and often are swayed by his charismatic style. Plus, a high level of nationalism is found in a totalitarian society. Often totalitarian countries have been wronged in the past and now are ready to right the wrong. In authoritarian regimes, neither is found. Further, the level of corruption is low in totalitarian regimes while it can be very high in authoritarian regimes.

View Article
Political Science: The Cold War

Article / Updated 07-23-2020

Your political science education has to include a study of the Cold War. By 1946, the Soviet Union had violated both the Yalta and the Potsdam agreements, which called for democracy in Eastern Europe. Instead, the Soviet Union imposed Communist dictatorships. Joseph Stalin didn’t stop there. He helped initiate Communist uprisings in Greece and Turkey, and by 1947, Communist victories in the two countries seemed possible. The U.S. had had enough, and President Harry Truman decided to act. The Soviet Union In 1946, George F. Kennan created the policy of containment. He had been the deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Moscow since 1944 and had become worried of Soviet promises and policies. By 1945, Kennan started to believe that the Soviet Union wouldn’t abide by any of the agreements it had signed with the U.S. and Great Britain during World War II. The Soviet Union, therefore, posed a great threat to the Western world. In April 1946, Kennan sent his “Long Telegram” from Moscow in which he tried to explain his concerns to the State Department. In the telegram, Kennan outlined a policy of containment of the Soviet Union, arguing that the Soviet Union was an inherently expansionist power that had to be contained by the West, namely the U.S. By 1947, the policy of containment became the official policy of the U.S. George Kennan’s telegram was published as an article titled “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” in the magazine Foreign Affairs in 1947. The concept of containment advocates for the U.S. to not only provide countries threatened by Communism with military and economic aid but also surround the Soviet Union with pro-American alliances to prevent it from expanding. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), established in 1949, was a part of the policy of containment. Coming together in the forming of NATO The concept of collective security, stating that an attack on one member equals an attack on all members, became the foundation for NATO. The Soviet Union knew that if it tried to expand by subverting or attacking a NATO member, such as Denmark, it would face the might of all the other members of NATO, including the U.S. To back up the idea of collective security, President Truman stationed four U.S. Army divisions in European NATO countries. Collective security worked well; no NATO member was ever attacked by the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union responded in 1955 by setting up the Warsaw Pact, which included all its Eastern European client states. The purpose of the Warsaw Pact was similar to that of NATO. The goal of U.S. foreign policy was to contain the Soviet Union globally. It established security organizations similar to NATO all over the world. Examples include SEATO in Asia, the ANZUS Pact with Australia and New Zealand, and the Baghdad Pact in the Middle East. Finally, with military alliances with Japan and South Korea, the U.S. was able to complete global containment of the Soviet Union. Greece and Turkey: the Truman Doctrine Stalin was emboldened by his successes in Eastern Europe. He then turned to Southern Europe. The Soviet Union began to actively support communist uprisings in Turkey and Greece. President Truman decided that he had to act. For this reason, President Truman addressed Congress on March 22, 1947, and outlined what was to become the Truman Doctrine. The Truman Doctrine called for $400 million in military and economic aid for Greece and Turkey to save the countries from Communism. In addition, President Truman sent U.S. military advisors to both countries to help train government forces fighting Communist rebels. By 1950, the U.S. government had provided $600 million in aid to Greece and Turkey, saving both countries from Communism. The Truman Doctrine became an official part of U.S. foreign policy and marked a permanent commitment by the U.S. helping foreign countries threatened by Communism. From now on, the U.S. provided non-Communist governments with U.S. aid if threatened by Communism. Restoring Europe: the Marshall Plan When World War II ended, Europe laid in ruins. The economies of most countries had been destroyed by the war, and widespread poverty existed. This dire economic situation helped create popular support for Communist parties, which promised to provide for the basic needs of all. In both France and Italy, the Communist Party became the largest party by 1947, and it looked like they could come to power democratically. President Truman knew he had to act. Together with his Secretary of State George C. Marshall, President Truman announced the European Recovery Program, later known as the Marshall Plan, in June of 1947. The Marshall Plan was both economic and political in nature. The U.S. offered billions of dollars in loans to any European country that applied for it. After receiving U.S. aid, a country had to buy U.S. goods with the money, therefore stimulating the U.S. economy. Later, of course, the loans had to be repaid. Politically speaking, President Truman knew that U.S. loans would help restore economic prosperity to Europe, which in turn undermined the possibility of Communist electoral successes on the continent. History proved him right. Neither the Italian nor the French Communist Party grew strong enough to come to power in their respective countries. Between 1947 and 1951, the U.S. provided more than $13 billion in Marshall Plan aid to Europe, undermining Communist parties everywhere on the continent. Feeding millions: the Berlin airlift The four victorious allies of World War II — the U.S., the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France — divided Germany and its capital of Berlin into four zones of occupation. In 1947, the British economy was on the verge of collapse, and Britain found itself unable to care for its zone of occupation. It asked the U.S. for help. The British zone was then fused with the American zone of occupation, creating the Bi-zone. Later, France, in similar bad economic shape, asked the U.S. to fuse its zone with both the British and the American zones, creating what was called Trizonia, which became West Germany in 1949. Alarmed, the Soviet Union decided to punish the Western allies by shutting off all access to West Berlin, which was geographically located within the Soviet zone of occupation. The idea was simple: Prevent food from getting into West Berlin and starve the Germans into submission. President Truman implemented the Berlin Airlift in June 1948 to feed the starving population of Berlin. For the next 11 months, the U.S. flew food to the city, feeding close to 2 million people. During the height of the crisis, an American plane landed in Berlin every minute of the day. In May of 1949, the Soviet Union caved and ended the blockade, and a new country, West Germany, came into existence. The Soviet Union followed suit quickly and created Communist East Germany. Going to war in Korea In June 1950, the Cold War turned into a hot war, when North Korea invaded South Korea. Korea had been divided by American administrators along the 38th parallel, with U.S. troops occupying the Southern part and Soviet troops occupying the Northern part of the Korean Peninsula. By 1950, South Korea was controlled by a pro-Western dictator while North Korea was under Communist control. Open warfare broke out when North Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. The Communist forces advanced quickly, and President Truman decided to act. He sent U.S. troops, later supported by United Nations forces from 15 member countries, to defend South Korea. The U.S. fought back the Communist forces and started to push them back into North Korea. The U.S. ignored warnings from the Chinese, who asked the U.S. not to invade North Korea. The U.S. crossed into North Korea. China entered the war on the North Korean side. This stopped the U.S. advance. By 1951, prewar borders were restored, and for the next two years, the two sides fought each other to a standstill. President Dwight Eisenhower ended the war in 1953, by threatening North Korea and China with the use of any weapon at his disposal, including nuclear weapons. Within months, the war was over and the prewar borders were restored. Just talking: the Doctrine of rollback Dwight Eisenhower became president in 1953 and made changes to U.S. foreign policy. Instead of only containing Communism, Eisenhower wanted to roll back Communism by liberating Communist countries. This new doctrine of rolling back Communism turned out to be mostly rhetorical in nature. The U.S. refused to help the Hungarians, who rose up against Soviet control in 1956, as well as France and Britain during the Suez Canal Crisis In both instances, President Eisenhower wasn’t willing to risk military confrontation with the Soviet Union. Rising up against Communism: the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 Hungary was one of the Eastern European countries dominated by the Soviet Union. A pro-Soviet regime ran the country with an iron fist. In 1956, the Hungarians, led by reformist leader Imre Nagy, attempted to leave the Soviet bloc. Believing that President Eisenhower would back them, they seceded from the Warsaw Pact. Soon, the Soviet tanks rolled in, killing an estimated 50,000 Hungarians in two weeks, while the U.S. did nothing. Hungary remained Communist until 1989. Taking back a canal: the Suez Canal crisis The Suez Canal crisis of 1956 brought the world close to nuclear war. Both Great Britain and France jointly owned the Suez Canal, located in Egypt, since 1875. In 1956, a new revolutionary government in Egypt took over the canal. Great Britain and France invaded and took the canal back. Egypt at the time was closely aligned with the Soviet Union, which threatened Britain and France. Both of these close NATO allies turned to President Eisenhower for help. He, however, refused, fearing that Great Britain and France would attempt to recolonize the Middle East. Without U.S. backing, Great Britain and France had to stand down and were forced to withdraw from Egypt. France decided that it needed its own nuclear forces, and General De Gaulle, after becoming President of France in 1958, developed nuclear weapons for France and pulled the country out of NATO. France didn’t fully rejoin NATO until 2009. Building the Berlin Wall Since the creation of an East German state in 1949, millions of East Germans had fled the communist country by crossing into West Germany. With no real border fortifications in place in Berlin, thousands left there every day because it was the easiest place to leave the country. By the early 1960s, the number of people fleeing presented a major problem for East Germany. The country’s best educated and most skilled citizens were leaving. East Germany faced a brain drain and a shortage of skilled laborers. In August 1961, the Soviet Union and the Communist East German government built a wall to close off East Berlin to prevent people from fleeing the country. Border guards received the order to shoot to kill anyone attempting to leave East Germany. Source: Library of Congress Building the Berlin Wall in 1961. Over the next decades, more than 100 people were shot and killed attempting to flee East Germany. The Wall became a symbol of the Cold War, and its fall in 1989 signaled the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. The Cuban Missile Crisis In October of 1962, the U.S. discovered that the Soviet Union was building missile sites for nuclear missiles in Cuba. Cuba, which had gone Communist in 1959, was the ideal site for the Soviets to counter American missiles targeting the Soviet Union in Europe. Instead of invading Cuba, as the military had urged, President John F. Kennedy decided to blockade the country. The U.S. stated that it would intercept any Soviet ship heading for Cuba to make sure that no missiles or missile parts could reach the island. In addition, President Kennedy demanded that all Soviet weapons and bases be removed from Cuba. At the last minute, the Soviet Union decided to back down and recalled its ships heading for Cuba. The U.S., in turn, promised not to invade Cuba or topple the Communist Castro regime. A world war was narrowly avoided. Note: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was removed after backing down during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Staying communist: the Brezhnev Doctrine In 1968, a reformist government came to power in Czechoslovakia. Its leader was a social democrat who attempted to slowly move Czechoslovakia toward the political center. He was interested in improving the standard of living for his people and wanted closer ties with the West. The Soviet Union saw this as a direct threat to its dominance over Eastern Europe and invaded the country in 1968. The new leader, Alexander Dubček, was removed, a hardline government restored, and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev stated that from now on the Soviet Union would make sure that any country that had gone Communist would remain Communist. This became known as the Brezhnev Doctrine. Getting stuck in Vietnam In 1945, France regained control over its colony Indochina, consisting of what today is Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Indochina had been conquered and occupied by the Japanese during World War II, and a native force organized by Communist leader Ho Chi Minh fought the Japanese while France was focused on the war in Europe. After World War II ended, Indochina was returned to France, which refused to implement reforms, such as local autonomy, demanded by Ho Chi Minh and the Communists. A bitter eight-year war of independence began. Aiding France in Vietnam The U.S. at first decided to stay out of the conflict. However, after China went Communist in 1949, U.S. policy changed. President Truman didn’t want to see another country go Communist in Asia, so he sent military and economic aid to France to help it fight Communism. Despite increasing levels of American aid, the French forces started to lose ground, and by 1954, the war was lost. In a last-ditch effort, France asked the U.S. for more direct help, including air strikes against the Communist forces. Instead, the Eisenhower administration pushed for peace talks. At the 1954 Geneva conference, the French agreed to withdraw from Indochina, and Vietnam was divided into a Communist North and anti-Communist, pro-Western South. Elections to unify the country were scheduled for 1956. Starting military involvement by the U.S. By 1956, it looked like the Communists might win the elections, so the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government refused to hold elections. In response, the North started a Communist uprising in the South, and President Eisenhower decided to intervene. He sent military and economic aid and committed military advisors to train the South Vietnamese military. Later, Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson escalated U.S. involvement by sending troops to aid South Vietnam. When the war began to turn in the North’s favor in 1964, President Johnson issued the Gulf of Tonkin report to Congress in August 1964. The report claimed that North Vietnamese forces in the Gulf of Tonkin had attacked U.S. warships. To punish this obvious act of war by North Vietnam, President Johnson asked for Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which allowed him to escalate the war in Vietnam. Congress passed the resolution, and the U.S. increased its troop presence to 200,000 and started to bomb North Vietnam. In addition, the U.S. asked some of its Asian allies to contribute troops to help out. By the end of 1965, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the Philippines had committed troops. By 1967, the war was taking a horrible toll on the U.S. About 15,000 soldiers had died so far, and the war had cost the U.S. $25 billion. The American public and the president were ready to end the war. However, North Vietnam rejected initial peace proposals. Instead of negotiating, North Vietnam launched a major offensive against the U.S. and its allies in January of 1968. The campaign began during the Vietnamese New Year’s celebrations, or the Tet holidays. Every large city and provincial capital in South Vietnam was attacked by the North Vietnamese forces and its South Vietnamese allies, the Vietcong. Fighting back: the Tet offensive and Vietnamization American forces fought back the attack, and the Tet Offensive turned out to be a major U.S. victory. Eighty-five thousand Communist troops were killed, which eliminated the Vietcong as a viable fighting force. From then on, the U.S. fought regular North Vietnamese soldiers. By 1968, American troop strength in South Vietnam suddenly reached 500,000. Casualties increased, and after being elected in 1969, President Richard Nixon decided it was time to act. He recalled 90,000 troops by the end of 1969. When he was up for reelection in 1972, only 30,000 American troops remained in South Vietnam. When secret peace talks collapsed, President Nixon decided to bomb North Vietnam back to the bargaining table. The air strikes proved to be the most severe in history to this point, but they did bring North Vietnam back to the bargaining table. President Nixon’s strategy was called Vietnamization. It called upon South Vietnam to do more of the fighting so that the U.S. could withdraw its troops. In addition, President Nixon proclaimed what became known as the Nixon Doctrine, which stated that Asian countries fighting Communism could only expect military and economic aid from the U.S. in their fight against Communism — the U.S. wouldn’t send any more troops and would begin to recall troops from Vietnam. The objective was to make sure that countries would fight Communism without the help of American troops. Coming to a close President Nixon finally settled the conflict in 1973 with the Treaty of Paris, which returned Vietnam to its divided prewar status. The two Vietnams broke the agreement shortly thereafter, and the war dragged on for two more years. Without U.S. support, the South Vietnamese army collapsed, and on April 30, 1975, the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon fell. The war was over, and the country unified under Communist control. At its height, more than half a million American soldiers fought in Vietnam, and more than 50,000 of them wouldn’t return. President Bill Clinton finally reestablished diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1996, and today the two countries enjoy a cordial relationship. Invading Afghanistan In 1979, the Soviet Union for the first time during the Cold War used its own troops to invade a country that was not a part of the Warsaw Pact. This shocked the world and resulted in both Europe and the U.S. to begin a process of rearmament to fight off Soviet aggression. After the fall of the Afghan monarchy in 1973, Afghanistan was taken over by the Communist Party, which established a pro-Soviet government. By 1979, the ruling Communists in Afghanistan were fighting an anti-Communist insurrection and decided to leave the Soviet sphere of influence. Using the Brezhnev Doctrine, the Soviet Union invaded in late 1979. President Jimmy Carter felt that he had to act. He boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow and imposed a grain embargo against the Soviet Union. In addition, the U.S. began to support freedom fighters in Afghanistan, called the Mujahedin, who were fighting against the Soviet Union. The U.S. soon supplied advanced weaponry to the Mujahedin. The deliverance of Stinger missiles especially hurt the Soviet Union, because the Afghanis could shoot down Soviet aircraft. This took air superiority away from the Soviets. For the next decade, the Soviet Union fought a battle against Western-supported Afghan freedom fighters. After losing close to 15,000 men and wasting billions of dollars, the Soviet Union finally withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. The Soviet military was demoralized and Afghanistan was in shambles, with more than 1 million dead and 5 million displaced. Destroying an empire In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became the new leader of the Soviet Union. Young and energetic, he was ready for change. So, he altered Soviet foreign policy. Gorbachev realized that his country was in decline and that only peaceful relations with the West could assure Soviet survival. Therefore, he not only renounced the idea of world Communism but also started to pursue arms control and disarmament negotiations with the U.S. To save much-needed resources, Gorbachev decided to end Soviet involvement in Afghanistan. He ordered the pullout of all Soviet troops from Afghanistan by 1989. After the Soviet Union had fully withdrawn, a bitter civil war broke out in Afghanistan between a Communist puppet government and various Mujahedin factions, including the Taliban who consolidated power by 1996. Gorbachev further cut support to Soviet-dominated regimes and militant groups all over the globe. Within months, many pro-Soviet regimes either collapsed or changed their policies, suddenly becoming friendly to the U.S. and the West. Examples include Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Angola, and Cambodia. Only Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and China chose to continue to pursue the Communist path. By 1988, Gorbachev was ready to let Eastern Europe go free. Starting with Hungary and Poland, most of Eastern Europe went democratic by 1989. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Germany even unified by 1990. Soviet dominance over Eastern Europe was now over. At home, Gorbachev ended the monopoly of power of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), allowing for multiparty elections by 1990, and was ready to implement a new mix of socialism and capitalism. He even allowed for Glasnost, or intellectual and cultural openness, which included freedom of the press, and allowed for freedom of dissent. This new freedom of expression stimulated nationalism within the Soviet republics. By 1990, the three Baltic States — Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia — proclaimed their independence; after a failed coup by hardliners against Gorbachev in the summer of 1990, the President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, began to dismantle the rest of the Soviet Union, resulting in the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991. The Soviet Union was replaced with 15 independent countries, the largest and most powerful being the Russian Republic. The Cold War was finally over.

View Article
Political Science as the Study of Political Power

Article / Updated 07-23-2020

Political science is the study of power. The discipline is enamored with the concept of power, namely how A gets B to do what A wants. Therefore, political science studies who holds power and how it’s being used. Political power is the ability to get others to do what you want. It can take force or peaceful means, such as persuasion, to achieve this. Political power is exercised over people in many ways. In the U.S., for example, the federal government exercises political power over its population by forcing its citizens to pay taxes. Who would volunteer to pay taxes once a year unless the federal government had the power to force someone to pay up! Most important, this use of power of the U.S. government is considered rightful by its population. Therefore, the federal government possesses the legitimate use of power over its population. The term government describes the people and institutions that are responsible for making laws and policies in a country. Exercise of political power In the U.S. and other federal societies, such as Germany, states or regions also exercise political power over their population. In the U.S., the states set speed limits on their roads, and in Germany, states have the power to set tax rates. Finally, specific people, such as teachers, can also exercise political power. Whenever teachers assign homework, they’re exercising political power over students. Student consider teachers to have authority and their use of power legitimate and therefore will do something, such as homework, they wouldn’t normally do for fun. Authority refers to a general agreement that a person has the right to make certain decisions and that these decisions should be complied with. Different thoughts on political power Both ancient and modern political scientists were concerned with how power is used in societies. The famous Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle believed that political power should be held by the best educated in society and should be used for the good of society. Niccolo Machiavelli disagreed in his seminal work The Prince. He argues that power is needed to maintain the security of the state both at home and internationally. His work focuses on how to acquire power and then use it for the good of the state. Fellow political philosopher Thomas Hobbes not only agrees but also claims that political power shouldn’t be used for ethical governance but to prevent conflict both domestically and internationally. The more modern theorists such as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau argue differently. They believe that the people should exercise political power in a nation-state and need to be able to hold their leader accountable. For Locke, whose work became the foundation for the American political system, a contract exists between leaders and citizens on how to exercise political power. If leaders violate the contract, the people can remove them from their positions. More recent thinkers such as John Rawls have added the components of social justice and economic equality to their theories. Views on who holds the political power One of the ongoing questions in political science is how can the researcher determine who holds power in a society. Over time, six different explanations were developed. Bureaucratic theory: Bureaucratic theory assumes that bureaucracies in countries hold power and make the most important decisions for society. It’s therefore not politicians nor other leaders but top-level bureaucrats who run a country. They work for the good of the country, not to amass wealth, and their policies are based on what’s best for a country. When studying France or Japan, two countries with powerful bureaucracies, bureaucratic theory can be used to study political power. Pluralism: Pluralism, as developed by James Madison in Federalist Paper Number 10, believes interest groups will be created as societies become more economically and socially complex. People will join together to push for their own interests and for government benefits. These interests can be economic, professional, ideological, environmental, or even religious. All these diverse groups will now compete for public benefits, ensuring that public policy will benefit not only a few people but a majority in the country. Political power is therefore held by interest groups, representing the people. As soon as one group of citizens feel disadvantaged, they’ll begin to organize and compete for benefits. Suddenly, many interest groups are competing for political benefits and hopefully balancing each other out overall. Pluralism assumes that everybody will get a little bit from policymakers, but nobody will get everything he asks for. This balance makes every interest group accept lawmakers’ policy decisions without complaining or, more importantly, without taking action against policymakers. Corporatism: Corporatism also deals with interest groups. However, there are not tens of thousands as in the U.S. but a lot less. There may be only three. These groups are large and powerful and directly deal with the government when it comes to policy making. Therefore, a few but very powerful interest groups hold power in a society . The political scientist needs to study these to find out who holds power in a society. Examples of corporatist countries include Germany, Austria, and most of Scandinavia. Elite theory: Elite theory, as created by the great Italian social scientists Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca, states that every society has an elite that holds political power. That elite differs from society to society. In some societies, it’s blood based, meaning you have to be born into it. A monarch with a ruling aristocracy comes to mind. In other places, wealth puts you into the elite. The more money you have, the more influential you’ll be. This is often the case in capitalist countries like the U.S. or Great Britain. Another determinant of power is religion; Iran is governed by a religious elite. Membership in organizations such as an elite political party, for example, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, or the military can put someone in the elite. A military dictatorship such as found in Chile from 1973 until 1990 under General Pinochet is an example. In a nutshell, elite theory states that in every society an elite holds political power. Marxism: A Marxist believes that whoever holds economic power also hold political power. In other words, control of the economy equals control of government. In a capitalist society, the economy is controlled by the upper and middle classes, and therefore they control government. In a feudal society, the king and his aristocracy control the economy and therefore government. Sources of political power Two models explain where political power comes from. First is the percolation-up model. It assumes that power rests with the citizens of a country. The citizens in turn elect leaders and give them political power to run the country on their behalf. If the citizens are satisfied with their leaders, they can reelect them. On the other hand, if they’re dissatisfied, they can replace them. An example is a representative democracy. The second model assumes the exact opposite. It’s called a drip-down model. Here, ultimate power doesn’t rest with the citizens but with the leadership of a country. For example, in authoritarian and totalitarian systems, the leader has ultimate power and makes policy for the country. The citizens have no input and can’t hold the leadership accountable. Historically, this type of power model was the most widespread of the two. Examples include the monarchies of the past, totalitarian systems such as the Soviet Union, and more modern dictatorships such as Belarus or Iran.

View Article
page 1
page 2