Politics and Society Chapter One Notes

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Chapter 1 Outline
What Americans Think about Government
1. Americans historically have been reluctant to grant government too much power and have often been suspicious of politicians, but they have also turned to government for assistance in times of need and have strongly supported the government in periods of war. 2. Political efficacy is the belief that citizens can affect what government does. In recent decades, the public’s trust in government has declined. As public distrust of government has increased, so has public dissatisfaction with the government’s performance. 3. Americans today are less likely to think that they can influence what the government does. This view has led to increased apathy and cynicism among the citizenry. Citizenship: Knowledge and Participation

1. Informed and active membership in a political community is the basis for citizenship. Citizens require political knowledge to be aware of their interests in a political dispute, to identify the best ways of acting on their interests, and to know what political action can and cannot achieve. However, today many Americans have significant gaps in their political knowledge. Government

1. Government is the term used to describe the formal institutions through which a land and its people are ruled. Governments vary in their structure, in their size, and in the way they operate. 2. Beginning in the seventeenth century, two important changes began to take place in the governance of some Western nations: governments began to acknowledge formal limits on their power, and governments began to give citizens a formal voice in politics through the vote. 3. As Harold Lasswell, a famous political scientist, put it, politics is the struggle over “who gets what, when, how.” The term politics refers to conflicts and struggles over the leadership, structure, and policies of governments. 4. Political participation can take many forms: the vote, group activities, and even direct...
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