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The Basics of American Politics: Notes for 1/25/2016

by: Laura Pratt

The Basics of American Politics: Notes for 1/25/2016 Posc 100

Marketplace > California State University Long Beach > Political Science > Posc 100 > The Basics of American Politics Notes for 1 25 2016
Laura Pratt

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These notes consist of the outline provided by our professor along with the information from the book that could be used to answer the questions. Last bullet points will be covered in class and I w...
Intro to american government
Class Notes
political science




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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Laura Pratt on Sunday January 24, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Posc 100 at California State University Long Beach taught by in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 28 views. For similar materials see Intro to american government in Political Science at California State University Long Beach.


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Date Created: 01/24/16
WASSERMAN, BASICS, CHAP. 1 – AN OUTLINE I. The First Day of Class—Questioning the Instructor  Chapter 1 begins with a humorous vignette to demonstrate the ubiquity of American politics (e.g. you cannot separate yourself from politics, it is even in the classroom) o The teacher asks a student to leave the classroom because 1. The student refused to follow directions and 2. Denied that politics goes on in the classroom A. What is the relationship between Authority and Power?  Power is “the ability to influence another’s behavior” o Having resources does not necessarily give you power but it gives you the capacity for power  Elites o The elites are those we refer to who gain power  Also referred to as the political elite o The elite draw their power from the non-elite (e.g. those who are not wealthy)  As the economic inequalities perpetuate, the elite become more powerful as they have more resources to be powerful  Authority is legitimate (legal) power o The fact that we widely accept we should obey authority gives authority legitimate power  If people no longer feel that authority is legitimate (e.g. civil war in Syria), then the cost to enforce authority upon the people rises o Relationship between authority and power: all in all, authority only has power if people respect and believe the authority is legitimate and ought to be respected; otherwise, people ignore authority or rebel against it which diminishes the authority’s power B. What is the significance of these in the example?  The significance of the relationship between authority and power is that this conflict demonstrates a clear need for there to be a government to lead the people o Since human relations can be unpredictable, the drafters of the Constitution were very careful to include a system of checks and balances that would limit the future leaders of the U.S.  Most countries claim to be democratic (a form of government in which most people can participate in)  America consists of two types of democracy: 1. Representative and 2. Direct o At the federal level we have a representative democracy as we elect people to represent our interests (thus it is indirect democracy) o I am sure that we will cover this at some point but it is important to note that our state government is a direct democracy because the people can directly influence the legislature  Government: political organization that 1. Makes rules determining who will get society’s values and 2. Regulates the use of legitimate force in society o The government may intervene in disputes among its citizens o The government is the ultimate authority in regulating what kind of force s used o Government alone regulates the use of legitimate force but is not the only one in society that can legitimately use force II. The Definition of Politics A. What is Missing in this Definition? Why is that a good thing?  Political science studies “one type of interaction between people – that involving power and authority”  If a political scientist was analyzing the software company, Microsoft, they would ask questions like “Who is getting what, when, and how?” “How does the government influence their decisions?” o Political science asks questions like these because it focuses on the study of power and authority – in this case the power would be the company and the authority would be the government  What is politics?  Politics, as defined by Wasserman, “is the process of who gets what, when, and how; actions among a number of groups and individuals competing for influence.”  What is missing in this definition? o It states that this is the process of who gets what, when, and how but does not designate a specific outcome o This is a good thing because it makes the system more malleable - this is why certain groups such as rights of gays or rights of elderly workers could be transformed into identity politics (e.g. “Who is What” and “Who Gets What”) B. Importance of politics as process rather than outcome  As mentioned before, politics is valuable because of its process – it is more important to be an object in the political game than a subject because whether we like it or not we will be affected by politics so it is important to participate (otherwise we will never influence a political outcome) C. Why winning is significant. D. Is politics easy or difficult? E. Can the weak prevail in politics over the strong? An example where that happened. III. Government and its Role A. Relationship between private interests and public ones B. Big government versus small government—what difference does it make?


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