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Comparative Politics: A Global Introduction by Michael J. Sodaro Third Edition Chapter 4: “Power”. Presented for Instruction by Angela Oberbauer, M.A. Updated 2011. Define What Power is? (pp. 98-115). Power is the capacity to effect outcomes.

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comparative politics a global introduction by michael j sodaro third edition chapter 4 power

Comparative Politics: A Global Introduction by Michael J. SodaroThird EditionChapter 4: “Power”

Presented for Instruction

by Angela Oberbauer, M.A.

Updated 2011

define what power is pp 98 115
Define What Power is?(pp. 98-115)
  • Power is the capacity to effect outcomes.
  • Power reveals who is strong and who is weak.
  • Power is as central in the world of politics, as money is in economics.
  • Power is the capacity to cause or bring about actions or results.
  • Power is a capability or potential (Latin potere, “to be able”).
    • Power is not any specific thing or action:

it is an ability that someone possesses, e.g.

U.S. President; or some powerful inanimate object,

e.g. the atomic bomb.

how is power exercised as dominance
How is Power Exercised as Dominance?
  • Having the ability to determine or control political outcomes.
  • Dominance is the maximum degree of political power.
    • Can be exercised by government officials who enjoy enormous legal authority.
    • Or by nongovernmental groups with powerful assets to influence political decision-making.
showing power as influence
Showing Power as Influence
  • Influence is a degree or dimension of power, one that is less all-encompassing than domination (Sodaro 101).
  • Influence is the capacity to effect outcomes indirectly or partially.
  • It also means that individuals have access to political decision-makers.
defining political power
Defining Political Power?
  • Political Power is the capacity to effect outcomes by controlling or influencing the state. The “state” means government at any level.
  • Political Power means the ability to determine or influence the decisions, actions, or behavior of government officials.
  • Comparative Politics focuses on the various ways power can be used “within” countries.
who has power and how much
Who Has Power? And How Much?
  • Elites: socially prominent, politically knowledgeable.
  • Political Elites: people who have prominent positions either in government or in nongovernmental organizations and professions that have a real effect or impact on government decisions and actions.

--Primary Elites = 1% of population:

Government officials--Presidents, cabinet ministers, legislators, judiciary (refer to

Comparative 1).

--Secondary Elites - ca. 2-5% of population:

Heads to major corporations and business,

Leaders of trade unions, important interest groups, religious authorities, politically influential journalists and academics.

  • Who are the Political Society? are most politically active members of the population: government officials, party activists.
  • Who are the Masses: the rest of the population (refer to Comparative 1, page 8), consists of diversity, including ethnicities, religions, and class.
  • Therefore power assumes what? That some people have more of it than others have ---especially to influence governmental decisions and actions:

How does the society see government?

--as an authority,legitimate, elite, coercive?

  • What is meant by Political Power?

1. Competition for positions of governmental authority

2. Competition for influence over what government officials do.

3. Relationships between elites and populations.


When is Power Relational? When it involves a relationship between a “power holder” and “someone else” over whom the power holder has some kind of power, e.g. Dominance and Influence.

Power as Dominance exercised? Is the maximum degree of political power exercised by government officials (dictators), or by nongovernmental groups or individuals (white Americans before the Civil Rights Movement).

Power as Influence exercised? The capacity to affect outcomes indirectly or partially, e.g. government decisions, actions, or behavior without fully controlling them (the U.S. President).


The Power Elite in the United States? C.Wright Mills 1950s (p.101). The “Warlords”, the “Political Directorate” and the “Corporate Chieftains” (refer to Mills in Danziger/Rejai II, and know also “The Ruling Class” defined by Gaetano Mosca, et al in early the 1920s - 1939).

Check these Power Elites out at your class website POSC 103, click on “References/Sources” button, and then click on the PowerPoint lecture

“Danziger III.”

  • Explain Weber’s three types of Legitimate authority?
      • Traditional Authority
      • Legal-Rational Authority
      • Charismatic Authority (pp. 103/104)

How much Power the Governing Elites Have depends on what?

    • Is the authority limited or unconstrained?
    • Are government officials and the institutions they operate subject to the jurisdiction of laws that limit their power?

e.g. Magna Carta 1215 signed by King John at

    • Or, are they above the law (dictators)?
    • Do they have Legal authority of the “state”, meaning the governing elite’s capacity to make, implement, and enforce the law?

Democracies? are based on principle of the rule of law: the legal authority of states and its officials is limited by the law, and that no one is above the law (p.104).

Autocracy? means one-person rule:

  • Supreme governing authority and is acknowledged as the maximum leader by dominant country’s elites (primary and secondary).
  • Makes final decisions, e.g. sultan (rulers) (p. 105).

Oligarchy? rule by a few (Communist leadership after death of Stalin in 1953).

Totalitarianism? a form of authoritarianism in which the government controls/dominates politics, the economy, and society.

techniques elites use in exercising power
Techniques Elites Use in Exercising Power
  • Bargaining: What are the four techniques used by Elites to Bargain?
    • Persuasionis a bargaining technique: persuade the people to follow appealing to their individual self-interest, etc.
      • Or leaders may use patriotic symbols or religious symbols to persuade.
    • Propagandais a deliberate form of political persuasion to

secure mass mobilization (e.g. Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union)

    • Offering Rewardsin return for favorable behavior:

Both Democracies and Dictatorships offer material rewards, e.g.

--jobs, tax cuts, welfare benefits;

--or psychological rewards (national greatness, spiritual uplifting).

    • Cooptationrewards in exchange for political support or neutrality

(as sort of Social Contract).

  • Coercion: is the act of compelling people to do something (p. 105)

How do Elites use -- Legal Authority?

--Autocratic regimes, Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein use violence to stamp out opposition, with no accountability to the people.

--Democratic governmentsroutinely arrest people and jail them for violating the law, however, they are accountable to the people.

explain how abuse of power is exercised by political leaders
Explain How Abuse of Power is Exercised by Political Leaders?
  • By tyranny of the Majority in Legislative Bodies.
  • Political corruption:the illegal or unethical use of a political position to provide special advantages for individuals or groups: accepting bribes or other favors from

e.g. Mafia, businesses, white collar crimes, etc.

---because of the “absence of the rule of law,” or

the rule of law not being followed.

---because of the “lack of alternation in power,

meaning, political officials need to be replaced or

limited in their positions of power.

---because of “nepotism:” favoritism shown to family or friends in favors, job assignments.

chapter 5 the state and its institutions
Chapter 5: The State And Its Institutions
  • Defining the State: (The Treaty of Westphalia 1648

The State is the totality of a Country’s governmental institutions and officials, together with the laws and procedures that structure their activities.

    • Institutions: are governmental organizations that perform specified functions on the basis of laws, rules, directives, and other authoritative procedures and practices, regulations and operating principles: e.g. Cabinets, legislatures, courts, the bureaucracy, the military, the police, public schools and colleges, your local trash removal department.
  • What are the Elements a State Requires to be recognized?

1.Legal Authority: only the state/national government possesses the legal authority to make, and coercively enforce, laws that are binding on the population.

    • If a state cannot employ its coercive power effectively and is challenged by domestic groups or anarchy exists, it is called

a “Failed State” or is in “Political Decay”.

state continued
State, continued

2.Sovereignty:is the exclusive legal authority of a government over its population and territory, independent of external authorities (there is no higher authority that the “State” will recognize but its own).

  • Sovereignty is “key element” for legal concept of State.
  • Examples of “Pooled Sovereignty” are the U.N. and EU., and (more in Chapter 6).

In the Pooled Sovereignty case, “shared sovereignty” is exercised.

3.Legitimacy: is the right to rule.

--the right to employ force within a given territory (126)

--the right to make laws and implement them.

state continued16
State, continued

4.Autonomy of the state refers to the relative independence of state authorities from the population.

  • High degree of independence: state officials are quite free to do what they please when it comes to governing the society.
  • Low degree of independence: state officials are limited to create laws or make decisions independent of the population or its politically most powerful groups.
  • Maximum state autonomy: people have little or not say.
  • Minimum state autonomy: state officials are very limited.
state continued17
State, continued

5. Territorial Integrity:

a. A state must have sufficient power to

protect itself militarily to resist and reject

any aggression, invasion, or intervention

within its territorial boundaries.

b. It must be able to protect its “National Interests,” which include everything within or outside of the State’s domain [It] considers to be its National Interest.

the purposes of the state
The Purposes of the State
  • Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679): proposed that the people should form a kind of social contract (“covenant”) with the leaders of an all-powerful state which he called “Leviathan” (p. 127).
    • Hobbes proposed further that the state’s main purpose would be to leave humanity free to pursue science, art, exploration, and other aspects of civilization without the “continual fear, and danger of violent death (p. 127).
  • John Locke (1632-1704): argues government’s role is to safeguard one’s property, natural rights and freedoms. Locke

favored a representative democracy established “by common consent”, with an elected legislature making up the highest political authority (p. 127).

  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778): Rousseau stressed the “collective rights and freedoms of the community;” the people, not the State are “the sovereign;” together they form an organic “body politic” on the basis of the “general will” which is the common good (p. 127).
  • Adam Smith (1723-90), Scottish Philosopher “The father of modern free-market economics” argued the state’s should promote private enterprise without excessive government interference.
    • The state should limit itself to provide a legal system to enable commerce to flow and undertake projects unprofitable for entrepreneurs to take on (p. 128).
the purposes of the state continued
The Purposes of the State, continued
  • Most modern states were fashioned from force rather than consent of the governed.
  • Anarchism: notion that the people are better off without rule of law or an organized government.
  • Sodaro notes that today’s governments run a wide gamut, dependent upon whether the elites in government follow democratic controls, or violently impose their will on the population (128).
state institutions
State Institutions
  • Institutionalism: is the branch of comparative politics that looks at how state institutions are set up and how they shape the political decision-making process ---

and then their “Outcomes” are these


  • In most countries the legal competence of governmental institutions is defined in a national constitution.
    • The U.S.: first country to establish itself from scratch on the basis of a written Constitution in 1787, then in 1791 “The Bill

of Rights” were added, which are the first Ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Since that time, only seventeen more Amendments have been added.

    • Britain: is one of the oldest continuous constitutional traditions, which consists of thousands of laws and practices that have been developed over the course of centuries of parliamentary interactions with the crown and courts.
    • Israel: established in 1948, has no formal constitution, only Basic Laws and other legislation that substitute for a constitution.
    • Germany: is also without a formal constitution.
  • Political Scientists also look at the ways state institutions operate in real life. Often they provide only the skeletal structure of a governmental system, but may not indicate how the system’s institutional parts really work or how effectively the laws of the land are implemented.
  • Often Constitutions are vague about governmental authority, and leave room to interpretation, which is often conflicting (p. 129).
the executive
The Executive

Types of Executives:

Head of Government: is usually the country’s chief political officer and is responsible for presenting and conducting its principal policies, “real decision-making authority” (p. 124): e.g.

 Britain= Prime Minister with Cabinet are Head of Government; Crown is Head of State

U.S. = President is Head of State and Head of Government.

France = “Dual Executive:” The President is Head of State, with greater decision-making authority than the Prime Minister who is

the Head of Government.

Germany = Chancellor, Head of Government

Japan= Head of State is the Emperor; Head of

Government is the Prime Minister.

the executive continued
The Executive, continued
  • What are some Roles of Executives:

• Leadership, symbolic, and ceremonial roles.

• Supervision of the administration.

• Supervision of the military and foreign affairs.

Some executives are purely ceremonial, some have real power.

the legislature
The Legislature:
  • Unicameral = one Legislative House:
    • Advantages of one house: it does not have to share authority with a second legislative chamber in making laws (therefore, no gridlock, delays, needed compromise with members from a second chamber).
  • Bicameral = two Legislative Houses: Upper and Lower Houses
    • Advantages of two houses: each provides greater representation for population and requires greater deliberation in law-making process

Different electoral systems:

    • Winner-take-all (U.S.elections)
      • House of Representatives - one representative per district.
      • Senate - 1788 until 1913: Two were selected per state by State’s

Legislative Branch. With the 17th Amendment in 1913, elected by

whole state’s voters.

    • Proportional elections (Parliamentary Systems): each district

can have multiple [party] representatives. Only need small

percentile of votes [often 5% or 10%] to win seat in Legislature.

the judiciary
The Judiciary

Functions of Courts:

  • Interpret laws.
  • Apply the relevant rules or laws.
  • It is utilized as a mechanism of social control ensuring acceptable social behavior.
  • To Arbitrate over other branches of government in the political system to check that their actions are constitutional and according to law.
  • U.S. Judicial Systems: Federal and State Judicial Systems.

Federal Courts: - The Supreme Court, 13 Circuit Appellate Courts,94 District Courts.

The U.S. Supreme Court can exercise “Judicial Review,” that is evaluate whether laws or actions by the Executive or

Legislative Branches are constitutional or not.

U.S. State Courts:Supreme Courts, District Appellate Courts, County Courts.

Britain: House of Lords (Upper House) functions as

the countries highest constitutional court.

the bureaucracy
The Bureaucracy

Functions and Power of “Civil Servants”

  • Information Management.
  • Provision of Knowledge, advisory.
  • Provision of public goods and services.
  • Regulation and enforcement of public policies.
  • Extraction of resources: collectors of revenues,

and operate state owned or directed goods and


    • Bureaucracies (in different countries) can differ in terms of operating procedures, the class and educational backgrounds of their personnel, their propensity to corruption (p.131).
the military
The Military
  • Military establishments can be very powerful:
    • “Junta” refers to the leaders of a military government.
    • Some military officials keep civilian governments dependent on the their approval (p. 132).
    • Many states currently in transition to democracy were ruled by military officials.
    • Bolivia experienced periods of civilian rule from 1825 - 1982 with more than 180 military seizures of power during that 157 year period.
    • Military “coup d’etat, or “Revolution from Above: forceful takeover of state power by military heads:
      • Why? Because of economic stagnation, poorly developed political institutions, poor governmental performance, including low levels of popular support for civilian politicians, also breakdown in law and order.
How States Are Organized: Who has the power; The Central Government or the Subnational Authorities [regions]?
  • Unitary System: Central [National] institutions

conduct decision-making.

    • The Subnational Authorities [regions or states] have little

or no decision-making power. They only implement laws

decided by the National institutions.

  • Federations (Federal System): Powers are constitutionally divided between National and Subnational regions [states].
    • The States have decision-making power, then allocate decision-making powers to local governments, e.g. counties, cities.
  • Confederations: States [subnational regions] enjoy significant local autonomy or even independence as sovereign states.
    • The Central Government is weak, symbolic, and administrative (p.139/140).
  • Divided Government:
  • Rational Decision Making versus “Satisficing” (pp141-242).
  • Unitary Actor model of decision making.
chapter 6 states and nations nationalism nation building and supranationalism
Chapter 6, States and Nations: Nationalism--Nation-Building and Supranationalism
  • A Nation: is a group of people whose members share a common identity on the basis of distinguishing characteristics and a claim to a territorial homeland:
    • Language, religion, territory, culture, race, or ethnicity.
    • National Identity: People’s conscious belief that they collectively constitute a nation.
      • Ethnicity: a group identification rooted in a common biological ancestry (or the group’s belief in a common biological ancestry).
    • Members of a nation lay claim to a more or less clearly defined territory (p. 148).
        • Civic Community: shared principles or ideals or community goals.
    • Multinational State: consists of a variety of peoples who have their own separate national identities but also citizens of a State (e.g.U.S.)
  • Nationalism is a consciously formulated set of political ideas emphasizing the distinctiveness and unity of one’s nation, specifying common interests, and prescribing goals for action and to constitute the “nation” as an effective political actor to protect its members’ common interest and realize their common aims.(p. 149).
  • Constituting the Nation as a Political Actor: defenders of a group’s collective identity may want the government under which they live to cease discrimination against their people.
    • Territorial autonomy: self-government over its own territory within the structure of a larger state.
    • Independence or self determination -- the group wants its own country or state.
    • Separatism [to Secede], e.g. Civil War in U.S.; East Timorese from Indonesia 2002; or when German nationalists succeeded in creating a unified German state in the nineteenth century.
nation building
Nation Building
  • Nation buildingis the process of building a widely shared national identity among a country’s population, under an independent, legitimate state, e.g. Germany under dictators before and during WWII (p. 152).
  • Democracy can provide:
    • a more effective way of building and reinforcing a population’s identity as a nation:
    • a state that has been explicitly approved by the population and follow-up by elections with competing candidates for office.
    • it must cement ties of mutual interest and cooperation among various social components, encouraging their active participation in a common cause.
    • Democracy can provide common goals that can unit the people.
state nationalism in international affairs
State Nationalism in International Affairs
  • Nationalist, and Nationalistic refer to certain orientations that national governments adopt in their relations with states international organizations, and other international actors [International Affairs].
    • States are the principal executors of these foreign interactions.
    • A Nationalistic Foreign Policy affirms that the country is entitled to have its voice heard and its interests and policy positions taken into account.
    • Patriotism means love of one’s country and general loyalty to one’s state.
    • Hypernationalism is extreme nationalism, also known as


Xenophobia, means distrust and hatred of foreigners.

Chauvinism (Sodaro notes] means wildly exaggerated, fanatical patriotism.

Irredentism: a nationalist foreign policy manifests a claim on the territory of another state in an effort to unite a national group, e.g. Germany under Hitler; Italy under Mussolini.

when the nation and the state don t fit together
When the Nation and the State Don’t Fit Together
  • A Nation-State is a sovereign state consisting of one “nation” within internationally recognized boundaries.
    • In most instances, the nation’s population is characterized in ethnic terms, e.g. Germans, Italians, Serbs, Poles (p.155).
    • Conflicts become unbearable [157] when different nations within a territory have competing visions of nation and state.
  • Supranationalism refers to efforts on the part of two or more countries to limit their sovereignty by establishing new decision-making structures over and above their national governments.
  • Example: the European Union (p. 166).