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Theories of Political Incorporation: The American Dream Ideal Introduction to Minority Politics Lecture 2 - June 29, 2006 How do Minorities Attain Political Incorporation? First, we will focus on theoretical concepts to analyze minority politics Address 1 st of the course themes:

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Theories of Political Incorporation: The American Dream Ideal

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Theories of Political Incorporation: The American Dream Ideal

Introduction to Minority Politics

Lecture 2 - June 29, 2006


How do Minorities Attain Political Incorporation?

  • First, we will focus on theoretical concepts to analyze minority politics

  • Address 1st of the course themes:

  • How can we explain the role of race and ethnicity in politics?

    • What theoretical tools help us explain the racial divide?


Political Incorporation

  • Definition: the degree to which groups are incorporated into policy-making

    • Also understood as Political Empowerment

  • Assumption: Minorities have not experienced a large degree of political incorporation

  • Key Question: What explains obstacles to political incorporation?


Understanding Political Incorporation

  • Concepts for analyzing minority politics

    • American individualism

    • Assimilation

    • Pluralism

    • Two-Tiered Pluralism

    • Nationalism

    • Class


Structure vs. Agency

  • Classic conceptual tool used to analyze how politics works

  • Agency

    • Agent – individual actor

    • Agency – to exercise intentional action

    • Key ideas: intention, choices, motivation

  • Structure

    • structured context that defines the range of potential actions

    • examples: rules and laws, norms, government, public policies


General Examples?

  • Playing Basketball

  • Driving on the Freeway

  • Selecting Classes at UCI


Thought Project

  • Key concept to think about through the duration of the course

  • Does the political viewpoint emphasize agency, structure or both?

  • Does the solution emphasize agency, structure or both?


Today’s focus: Agency

  • Emphasis on agency:

    • American individualism

    • Assimilation

    • Pluralism

  • These theories place the burden of success on minorities themselves


Let’s Start with the Question:

  • What is the “American Dream?”


Images of the American Dream

Born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, Oprah Winfrey was reared by her grandmother on a farm where she "began her broadcasting career" by learning to read aloud and perform recitations at the age of three. From age six to 13, she lived in Milwaukee with her mother. After suffering abuse and molestation, she ran away and was sent to a juvenile detention home at the age of 13, only to be denied admission because all the beds were filled. As a last resort, she was sent to Nashville to live under her father's strict discipline. Vernon Winfrey saw to it that his daughter met a midnight curfew, and he required her to read a book and write a book report each week. "As strict as he was," says Oprah, "he had some concerns about me making the best of my life, and would not accept anything less than what he thought was my best."


Images of the American Dream

Film Description:

Rudy grew up in a steel mill town where most people ended up working, but wanted to play football at Notre Dame instead. There were only a couple of problems. His grades were a little low, his athletic skills were poor, and he was only half the size of the other players. But he had the drive and the spirit of 5 people and has set his sights upon joining the team.


The Norm of Equal Opportunity

  • American political culture has been defined by its norm of equality

  • Liberal thought

    • Different from Democratic Party-Liberalism

    • emphasis on the individual

  • Embedded in politics


Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness


American Dream as a Worldview

  • The American Dream promotes the key principles found in liberal thought

    • Also referred to as the “American Creed”

  • Here, we will think of it as a worldview

  • Tool to analyze minority politics

    • Adherence (or lack of) to this Dream


Defining Success

  • American Dream explains how to be successful

  • How do we define success?

    • Money, power, prestige?

  • Hochschild outlines 3 ways to measure

    • Absolute

    • Relative

    • Competitive


Four Tenets to the American Dream

  • Tenet 1 - Anyone can pursue success

  • Tenet 2 - Any person may reasonably anticipate success

  • Tenet 3 - A person can reach success through his/her own individual means

  • Tenet 4 - Success is associated with virtue


Who Agrees with the American Dream?


Who Agrees with the American Dream?


Do you Agree with the American Dream?

  • Most Americans, regardless of race, agree with the American Dream

  • Do you agree?

    • Can everyone attain the American Dream?

    • Is hard work the only requirement to achieve the Dream?

    • Is all success well deserved?


Successful?


Values Promoted by the Dream Ideology

  • Emphasis on the individual

    • Individual’s qualities dictate success

  • Very little restraints on the ability to achieve the Dream

  • Failure is attributed to the individual


Prescriptions to Political Empowerment

  • American liberal thought

    • Minorities should exercise more agency to attain political power

  • Two theories that focus on agency

    • Assimilation

    • Pluralism


Assimilation Theories

  • Normally applied to immigration, but also useful to political empowerment

  • conform to American culture by weakening ethnic ties

    • Melting Pots

  • Ethnic divisions are undemocratic

  • Measure assimilation

    • socioeconomic status

    • residential integration

    • interracial marriage


Examples of Assimilationist Policies

  • English-Only Initiatives (Inhofe amendment 2006)

    • English as the national language

    • Eliminates bilingual services

    • Unify the country with a shared language

  • Proposition 54 (2003)– Racial Privacy Initiative

    • prohibits state and federal governments from collecting data on race, ethnicity or national origin

    • “Color-blind” society


Pluralism

  • Group-based politics

    • Competition among groups

    • Minority groups are like interest groups

  • Fair Game

    • Multiple centers of power

    • Various access points to power

    • Equal access to power

  • Winning possible, but not a guarantee

    • proper use of resources

    • Play hard and you can play to win


Example of Pluralism

  • Legal battles such as Brown v Board of Education

  • Act as interest groups: NAACP Legal, Defense and Education Fund

    • Rise of minority organizations

  • Use of mainstream political structures

    • courts, class action suits, etc. as “access points”

    • proper and efficient use of resources leads to success


Is “Agency” the Answer?

  • Is minority disempowerment completely explained by individual “failure?”

  • Critics of American Dream Ideology

    • constraints such as race constrain the ability for minorities to exercise their agency

    • solution is to create institutional structures to override constraints


Next Time...

  • Scholarship on Minority Politics emphasizes structure

    • Race and ethnicity create obstacles to political empowerment

  • How do we explain structural constraints?

    • Two-Tiered Pluralism

    • Nationalism

    • Class


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