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Fundamentals of Political Science

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    1. Fundamentals of Political Science Dr. Sujian Guo Professor of Political Science San Francisco State Unversity Email:

    3. Levels of the political system State A permanent structure of political entity with legitimate use of coercion over the territory and population. Governments succeed one another or regimes come and go, while the state usually stays. Regime Fundamental principles, norms, rules of the political institutions of the state within which government operates. A regime is a more permanent organization of power than specific governments. Governments may come and go while the regime may remain in place. Government A collection of offices in a political system filled by office holders who play various roles in the political process.

    4. Important Implications We can tell governments succeed one another, but how can we identify regime changes? This has important theoretical and political implications for the political analysis or the comparison of different political systems. The first thing to do is to identify the defining features of one type of regime from which a transition departs or a change occurs. Principles and norms provide the basic defining characteristics of a regime, while rules and procedures can be consistent or inconsistent with the same principles and norms. Changes in rules and procedures are changes within a regime, if principles and norms are unaltered. A regime change occurs only when those fundamental principles and norms change, such as change from a nondemocratic regime to a democratic regime. Furthermore, the nature of one particular type of regime can remain in place, even if this type of regime incorporate some features of another type of regime. Ex. a nondemocratic regime can have constitutional provisions for elections, but these are meaningless unless an opposition is allowed and able to succeed legitimately to government in an open, free, and fair contest.

    5. The David Easton Model System theory is almost synonymous with the name of David Easton, who published his theoretic works on political models in three volumes - "The Political System" (1964), "A Framework for Political Analysis" (1965) and most importantly "A Systems Analysis of Political Life" (1979). At the center of his work was the question as to how political systems manage to remain firm in a world full of instability and change. To answer this question, he believes that it is necessary to examine the way in which the political system interacts with the environment within society and outside of society.

    7. What is a System?

    8. Easton's definition of the Political System Political System: "A set of interactions abstracted from the totality of social behavior, through which values are authoritatively allocated for a society. Authoritative allocation of values: similar to Lasswell's defintion of politics: "Who gets what, when and How"

    9. The Key Assumption The key assumption built into this definition is that in every society people have different values such as interests, objectives, desires, resources, and these must be authoritatively allocated or distributed in a conflict situation (scarcity vs. incompatible goals). How is this done or how are values distributed, or in Lasswells classic phrase, Who gets What, When, and How? becomes the basic question of politics and the main task of any political system.

    10. Easton's theory of political system 1. He rejects the idea that different systems must be created for national and international politics - He seeks a "unified theory of politics" that can be universally applied to all political systems and activities. 2. He argues that if Political Science is to be a science it must have high level abstractions for the ordering of knowledge, which will encompass all of what is politics, all of what affects politics, and all of what politics affects. 3. The first task of political science is the analysis of general problems common to all political systems - e.g. survival, reproduction, & adaptation.

    11. Critiques of Easton 1. Easton claims to create a "general theory" but he really has only succeeded in describing or defining the political system 2. Black box view of politics: 1) Not clear of how "conversion" inside the box operates 2) Assumes that politics is ordered and complete 3) Too mechanical and rigid - not dynamic 3. Ideological Too western - democratic - not general Can Eastons theory is capable of answering such questions? -- Can Easton's model be used to describe all political systems? -- Can Easton's model be used to describe communist, authoritarian, corporatist systems?

    12. Almond's theory of the political system 1. drawing on Weber he stated that political systems can be classified by their "political culture" 2. The political culture defines the roles that are played in the political system 3. Thus political systems are in fact systems of roles 4. All political systems must perform a minimal set of basic functions 5. The functions are performed by structures 6. Structures are patterned roles a. All systems must perform the function of rule making (judiciary) b. The judge, jury, district attorney, etc. are roles played by individuals in the political system c. The "court" is a structure i.e. - it is a set of patterned roles d. The structure (court) performs one of the minimal basic functions (rule making) 7. Thus Almonds approach is basically "structural functionalism"