Chapter 17. Government and also Politics
Figure 17.1. In 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself top top fire to protest the humiliation of having the items from his street vending stall confiscated, sparking the Tunisian change of 2011. How did this act of desperation become a key political act? (Photo take away January 22, 2011, courtesy of chris Belsten/Flickr)

Learning Objectives

17.1. Power and also Authority

Define and also differentiate in between government, power, and authority.Identify and describe the three varieties of authority.

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17.2. Democratic will Formation

Explain the significance of the difference between direct democracy and representative democracy.Describe the dynamic of politics demand and political it is provided in identify the democratic “will that the people.”

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

Identify and describe determinants of political exception that affect modern-day political life.

17.4. Theoretical Perspectives ~ above Government and Power

Understand how functionalists, crucial sociologists, and symbolic interactionists see government and also politics.

Introduction to Government and also Politics

In one of Max Weber’s last public lectures — “Politics together a Vocation” (1919) — the asked, what is the definition of political action in the context of a whole method of life? (More accurately, he supplied the term Lebensführung: what is the an interpretation of political action in the context of a totality conduct of life, a layout we will return to in the next section). The asked, what is political around political activity and what is the place of “the political” in the ongoing conduct of society life?

Until freshly we might have to be satisfied with response that examined exactly how various political institutions and processes role in society: the state, the government, the polite service, the courts, the democratic process, etc. However, in the last couple of years, amongst many other examples we could cite, we have actually seen just how the occasions of the Arab spring in Tunisia, Libya, and also Egypt (2010–2011) put seemingly secure political institutions and also processes right into question. Through the collective action of ordinary citizens, the long-lasting authoritarian energy of Ben Ali, Gadhafi, and also Mubarak were carried to an end through what some dubbed “revolution.” Not just did the politics institutions all of a suddenly not duty as they had for decades, castle were additionally shown not to be in ~ the center of political activity at all. What perform we learn about the place of national politics in social life from this examples?

Revolutions are regularly presented together monumental, foundational political events that take place only rarely and also historically: the American revolution (1776), the French change (1789), the Russian revolution (1917), the Chinese transformation (1949), the Cuban transformation (1959), the Iranian change (1979), etc. Yet the occasions in phibìc Africa remind us that revolutionary political action is constantly a possibility, not just a rarely political occurrence. Samuel Huntington specifies revolution as:

a rapid, fundamental, and also violent domestic adjust in the dominant values and myths that a society, in its political institutions, society structure, leadership, and government activity and policies. Changes are therefore to be distinguished from insurrections, rebellions, revolts, coups, and also wars of self-reliance (Huntington 1968, p. 264).

What is at stake in change is also, therefore, the bigger question that Max Weber was asking about political action. In a sense, the inquiry of the role of national politics in a whole way of life asks exactly how a whole way of life comes into existence in the very first place.

How carry out revolutions occur? In Tunisia, the street seller Mohamed Bouazizi collection himself top top fire after ~ his create cart to be confiscated. The injustice of this event noted an emblem for the widespread problems of poverty, oppression, and humiliation knowledgeable by a bulk of the population. In this case, the revolutionary action might be stated to have originated in the way that Bouazizi’s act sparked a radicalization in people’s sense of citizenship and power: their inner feelings of separation, personal, instance dignity, rights, and freedom and also their volume to action on them. It was a moment in which, after living through years of deplorable conditions, world suddenly feeling their very own power and their own capacity to act. Sociology is interested in studying the problems of such examples of citizenship and power.

17.1. Power and also Authority

Figure 17.2. The Parliament buildings in Ottawa signify the authority of the Canadian state. (Courtesy that West Annex News/Flickr)

The nature the political control — what us will specify as power and authority — is an important part that society.

Sociologists have a distinctive method to researching governmental power and authority the differs from the perspective of politics scientists. Because that the many part, politics scientists emphasis on studying how power is spread in different varieties of politics systems. They would observe, for example, the the Canadian political device is a constitution monarchy divided into three distinct branches of government (legislative, executive, and also judicial), and might explore how public opinion affects political parties, elections, and the political process in general. Sociologists, however, often tend to be much more interested in government more generally; that is, the various means and strategies offered to straight or conduct the behaviour and also actions of rather (or of oneself). Together Michel Foucault explained it, federal government is the “conduct that conduct,” the method some seek to action upon the conduct of others to readjust or channel the conduct in a particular direction (Foucault 1982, pp. 220-221).

Government implies that there room relations that power in between rulers and also ruled, however the paper definition of dominance is not minimal to the state. Federal government in this feeling is in operation whether the power relationship is between states and also citizens, institutions and clients, parents and also children, doctors and also patients, employers and also employees, masters and dogs, or also oneself and oneself. (Think that the cultivate regimes, researching routines, or diets human being put themselves v as they seek to change or straight their resides in a specific way). The duty of the state and its influence on society (and vice versa) is just one element of government relationships.

On the various other side of governmental power and also authority space the various develops of resistance to gift ruled. Foucault (1982) says that without this latitude because that resistance or independent action on the component of the one over whom strength is exercised, over there is no partnership of strength or government. Over there is only a relationship of violence or force. One central question sociological analysis asks therefore is: Why do world obey, particularly in instances when the is no in your objective interests to perform so? “Why do males fight for your servitude as stubbornly together though the were your salvation?” together Gilles Deleuze once put that (Deleuze and Guattari 1977, p. 29). This entails a much more detailed research of what we average by power.

Making Connections: social Policy and also Debate

Neoliberalism as style of Government

Figure 17.3. The research of federal government as the “conduct of conduct” is key to knowledge the various ways in which civilization with disabilities room treated (Image courtesy the GDS Infographics/Flickr)

Neoliberalism is fascinating sociologically because, aside from gift a type of economic policy (see thing 9), it signals a new means of administrate individuals. This has wide implications exterior of the small parameters that neoliberal policies like taxation cuts, deregulation, and also reducing the state’s role in the economy. Neoliberalism also refers to a an ext general strategy of administer individual conduct in a number of different locations including health, employment, education, security, and also crime control. In an exciting way, it governs people through their practice of liberty and free choice. Whereas the welfare state has been frequently criticized by neoliberals for fostering a society of welfare dependency and a “one size fits all” concept of government services, the brand-new types of neoliberal methods emphasize various ways to create active and elevation entrepreneurial citizens (Rose, 1999). Thus, the idea of industries is important since markets room mechanisms that regulate and also discipline people through the cost-free choices that they make. If lock make good choices castle profit; if lock make poor choices they pay.

One thing the “neo” (or “new”) in neo-liberalism signifies is the extension of the idea the the industry into areas of life where no sectors existed before. Because that example, the supplication of treatment for the disabled used to be provided through state institutionalization. Today, that is common to uncover a version of treatment like “individualized funding” (See, because that example, community Living BC, 2013). The state provides households of the disabled with direct payments that they usage to salary for care providers who they pick after doing their own research on ideal therapies or treatments. A sector for caregivers and therapists is created, based on an assumption that this that is a much more efficient design for matching the skills of care building contractors with the requirements of the disabled. Quite than care being detailed as needed, individuals or family members are motivated or obliged come become energetic consumers the therapeutic services and also to do calculative decisions from variety of sector choices. The families need to demonstrate their experienced use that the money v formal mechanisms prefer budgets, audits, targets, minimal standards, and contracts but otherwise are cost-free to select the services they want.

In practice these plans are often means to further reduce the as whole amount the state expenditure because that the disabled and their families, yet as a technique for administrate the stays of individuals, they represent a an essential shift indigenous the concept of individuals as citizen with rights to people as agents that must separately exercise complimentary choice, enterprise, and also self-responsibility. Even though these varieties of policies, as soon as properly funded, have many positive functions for those v the wherewithal come take benefit of the expansion of selection (Sandborn, 2012), they represent a significant shift in the methods of government. Thus, neoliberalism is both a macro-level economic policy, yet it is also a strategy designed to adjust the kind of relationship we have actually with ourselves and also the ide of ourselves as citizens.

What Is Power?

Figure 17.4. Prince wilhelm is in the heat of sequence to become head the state in Canada and good Britain, but he will have minimal involvement in the day-to-day operations of government. (Photo courtesy the HerryLawford/flickr)

For centuries, philosophers, politicians, and social scientists have actually explored and commented top top the nature the power. Pittacus (c. 640–568 BCE) opined, “The measure of a male is what he does through power,” and also Lord Acton perhaps an ext famously asserted, “Power often tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely” (1887). Indeed, the principle of power can have decidedly an adverse connotations, and the term itself is complicated to define. There space at the very least two interpretations of power, i beg your pardon we will refer to listed below as power (1) and also power (2).

As we noted above, strength relationships refer in general to a kind of strategy relationship between rulers and also the ruled: a set of practices by which states seek to govern the life of your citizens, supervisors seek to manage the labour of their workers, parents seek to guide and raise your children, dog owners look for to train their dogs, medical professionals seek to regulate the wellness of their patients, chess players look for to manage the move of their opponents, people seek to keep their own lives in order, etc. Numerous of these sites the the exercise of strength fall exterior our normal understanding of power because they execute not it seems ~ “political” — they do not address an essential questions or disagreements around a “whole way of life” — and because the relationships in between power and resistance in them have the right to be an extremely fluid. Over there is a give and take in between the make the efforts of the rulers to straight the plot of the ruled and also the attempts of the ruled to stand up to those directions. In numerous cases, it is difficult to watch relationships as strength relationships at all uneven they come to be fixed or authoritarian. This is because our conventional understanding of power is the one human being or one team of world has strength over another. In various other words, when we think about somebody, part group, or some institution having actually power over us, we space thinking about a relation of domination.

Figure 17.5. Max Weber’s “Politics together a Vocation” (1919). (Photo courtesy that Wikimedia Commons)

Max Weber identified power (1) together “the chance of a male or the a number of men to realize their very own will in a communal activity even against the resistance of rather who room participating in the action” (Weber 1919a, p. 180). The is the varying levels of ability one needs to exercise one’s will over others. Once these “chances” become structured as creates of domination, the give and also take in between power and resistance is solved into much more or less permanent hierarchical arrangements. They end up being institutionalized. Together such, strength affects much more than personal relationships; the shapes larger dynamics prefer social groups, expert organizations, and governments. Similarly, a government’s power is no necessarily minimal to manage of its own citizens. A leading nation, because that instance, will regularly use the clout to affect or assistance other governments or come seize regulate of other nation states. Initiatives by the Canadian government come wield strength in other countries have consisted of joining with other countries to type the Allied forces during civilization Wars I and II, entering Afghanistan in 2001 with the NATO mission come topple the Taliban regime, and imposing sanctions on the federal government of Iran in the really hopes of constraining its development of nuclear weapons.

Endeavours to gain power and also influence perform not necessarily lead to domination, violence, exploitation, or abuse. Leaders such together Martin Luther King Jr. And Mahatma Gandhi, for example, commanded powerful movements that affected positive change without military force. Both guys organized nonviolent protests to combat corruption and also injustice and succeeded in inspiring major reform. Lock relied top top a range of nonviolent protest techniques such as rallies, sit-ins, marches, petitions, and boycotts.

It is thus important to retain the distinction between domination and also power. Politics and power space not “things” that space the exclusive issue of “the state” or the home of an individual, judgment class, or group. In ~ a much more basic level, power (2) is a capacity or ability that every of us needs to create and also act. As a result, power and also politics must likewise be interpreted as the collective capacities we need to create and build brand-new forms of ar or “commons” (Negri, 2004). Power in this feeling is the power we think of once we speak of one ability to carry out or develop something — a potential. That is the way in i m sorry we jointly give kind to the neighborhoods that us live in, even if it is we know this in ~ a an extremely local level or a worldwide level. Power creates the points that we deserve to do and also the points that us cannot do.

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The Greek thinker Aristotle’s original notion of national politics is the idea the a freedom people grant themselves to dominion themselves (Aristotle, 1908). Therefore, strength is not in principle domination. The is the give and take we suffer in day-to-day life together we come with each other to build a much better community — a “good life” as Aristotle put it. As soon as we ask why people obey also when the is no in their best interests, we are asking around the conditions in which power is exercised as domination. For this reason the an important task that sociology is to ask exactly how we might complimentary ourselves from the border of domination to engage much more actively and freely in the creation of community.