Political Thinking: Becoming a Responsible Citizen
Learning to Think Politically
Barriers to Political Thinking
What Political Science Can Contribute to Political Thinking II.
Politics and Power in America
A Democratic System
A Constitutional System
A Free Market System
Who Does Govern?
The Text’s Organization
Having read the chapter, you should be able to do each of the following:
1. Describe the importance of political thinking in a democracy and the current barriers to political thinking among the public. 2. Describe the discipline of political science and how it can contribute to political thinking. 3. Explain the nature of politics in the U.S. and how it is a struggle for power among competing groups and interests. 4. Discuss how the culture of individualism developed in the U.S. and how it has affected some public issues like taxation or social welfare policy. 5. Discuss the major rules of American politics: democracy, constitutionalism, and the free market system, and why rules are necessary in politics. 6. Explain differing theories of political power, including majoritarianism, pluralism, corporate power, and elitism, and how they may undercut the ideals of democracy in the U.S. 7. Discuss the nature of the free market system in the U.S. and how it compares to European and other economic systems.
Political thinking is the careful gathering and sifting of information in the process of forming knowledgeable views of political developments. Political thinking is a key to responsible citizenship, but many citizens avoid it by virtue of paying scant attention to politics. The tools of political science can contribute to effective political thinking.
Politics is the process by which it is determined whose values will prevail in society. The basis of politics is conflict over scarce resources and competing values. Those who have power win out in this conflict and are able to control governing authority and policy choices. In the United States, no one faction controls all power and policy. Majorities govern on some issues, while other issues are dominated by groups, elites, corporations, individuals through judicial action, or officials who hold public office.
Politics in the United States plays out through rules of the game that include democracy, constitutionalism, and free markets. Democracy is rule by the people, which in practice refers to a representative system of government in which the people rule through their elected officials. Constitutionalism refers to rules that limit the rightful power of government over citizens. A free market system assigns private parties the dominant role in determining how economic costs and benefits are allocated.
Focus and Main Points
Contemporary American government is placed in historical perspective in this chapter. The value of political science in examining the development of American politics since the country’s earliest years is examined briefly, and concepts such as power, pluralism, and constitutionalism that are central to the study of government and politics are also assessed. In addition, the value of political thinking and the ability of political science to help develop political thinking are discussed. Several comparisons between the cultural development of political institutions and financial systems of the United States and Europe are made to help illustrate the different forms of government and economic organization. The main points of this chapter are as follows:
• The development of political thinking is important for functioning democracies, which rely on the informed choices of citizens for the formation of government. There are powerful barriers to political thinking, such as individual unwillingness to develop it, changing patterns of media...
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