Sociology- CH 18 Politics and Social Movements

Topics: Sociology, Democracy, Marxism Pages: 16 (2214 words) Published: October 13, 2014
Terms Defined:

• Power: Ability of an individual or group to impose its will on others, even if they resist

• Authority: Power widely viewed as legitimate

• Authorities: People who occupy command posts of legitimized power structures*

• The power of a group may be widely recognized as legitimate or valid under some

• Social movements: collective attempts to change part or all of the social order

• Political Parties: organizations that seek to control state power to achieve their aims.

Two types of Politics

1. “Normal politics”: When authorities are firmly in power

2. “Politics beyond rules”: When legitimate authority grows weak*

Power From Above Normal Politics:

• The state: Set of institutions that formulate and carry out a country’s laws, policies, and binding


• The state’s power is “ultimate” because its authority stands above all others

• Furthermore, if the state needs to use force to maintain order or protect its borders, most

people will regard its actions as legitimate

• In normal politics, ultimate seat of power is the state (state power widely recognized as


• State also is authorized to use force (coercive power) if necessary

• But use of force by authorities is sign of state’s weakness (should not need force to impose will)


• In democratic countries like Canada, the government is formed by elected members of the

political party that wins most seats in a general election

• Government initiates policies, proposes laws, and enforces both

• The government is referred to as the executive branch*

Civil Society:

• Individuals in civil society (private sphere of life) also exercise control over the state through

variety of organizations and institutions, including:

Social movements, mass media, pressure groups or “lobbies”, political parties

circumstances; if it is, raw power becomes legitimate authority

social movements can influence the state by rioting, petitioning, striking, demonstrating, and

establish pressure groups, unions and political parties to achieve their aims

The mass media are supposed to keep a watchful and critical eye on the state and help keep the

public informed about the quality of government

Pressure groups or “lobbies” are formed by trade unions, manufacturers’ associations, ethnic

groups, and other organizations to advise politicians of their members’ desires; lobbies also

remind politicians how much their members’ votes and campaign contributions matter

Five Sociological theories of democracy:

1. Pluralist theory: Argues normal democratic politics is characterized by compromise and

accommodation of all group interests

According to pluralists, we live in a heterogeneous society with many competing interests and

centres of power; in a democracy no one social group controls the state because there are

competing interests in civil society and different groups win political struggles on different


Compromise and accommodation guarantees democracy

2. Elite theory C. Wright Mills: Argues that despite compromise and accommodation, power is

concentrated in higher-status groups, whose interests the political system serves best

• Elite theory claims that the wealthy have a disproportionate influence over the state since

• The most powerful elites are the people who run the country’s several hundred biggest

• The elite are interconnected and move from one elite group to another over the course

they have disproportionate resources to run for office, contribute to parties, and influence


corporations, the executive branch of government, and the military

of their careers; however, they do not form a ruling class (i.e., self conscious and cohesive

group of people led by corporate executives who act to advance their common interests)

because each elite group has its own jealously...
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