Political Science (Contemporary issues)
concerns • Many of the most important lessons that contemporary social science holds for contemporary political philosophy concern the limits, and possibilities, of institutional design.
According to the self-conception of the discipline of empirical political science, its distinctive focus is upon ‘power’ – its distribution and its distributional consequences.
Other concens • Freedom • Justice • Focus upon the intentional actions of particularly powerful individual agents. Power is first and foremost the ‘production of intended effects’.
The operation of democracy • For all its official macro-sociological concern with the distribution of power and the influence of that on the patterning of social benefits and burdens, contemporary political science concentrates heavily on individual level behavior. Furthermore, the focus has been on behavior in one particular (electoral) setting, which may or may not bear much relation to overall social power or distributional consequences.
Empirical results: voting • There is a certain populist view of democracy, easily parodied and possibly never actually embraced in precisely that form.
Power and elites • The findings of modern political science drive us away from populist models and towards models of ‘democratic elitism’ • Arguments for representative versus direct democracy • The fear of elites that has long bedevilled the so-called ‘community power’ debate is fear of a rather different sort of elite power holder. • There have been many studies, conducted in many modes, trying to settle the empir- ical question of whether any such elites actually exist in modern Western societies.
Power and elites ‘who has power around here?’ • There are many mechanisms by which power is exercised politically in such a way as to pervert the political process. • Penetration of economic power into the political arena • Corruption • Syndicalism • There is one other semi-structural sense in which certain people inevitably have more power than others in a democracy. Assuming a fair procedure for aggregating votes, the median voter should always get her way, precisely because she sits at the strategically central point in the spectrum of political opinion.
Party competition • The model of democratic elitism just adumbrated presupposes, among other things, that parties offer electors real choices. It further presupposes that parties will implement their promised policies to the best of their ability. Cynics might query both propositions.
Collective action in politics • The main problem to discuss here: Public Goods
Public judgement • Individual decision making • Aggregating preferences: social choice theory • Discursive decision making: deliberative democracy
Power and Distributional Regimes • There are many different ways of organizing the distribution of the benefits and burdens of social co-operation. At root, all are arguably variations on two basic alternatives – markets and planning. Each has its own characteristic strengths and weaknesses and its own characteristic consequences for the distribution of social power (Dahl and Lindblom, 1953; Lindblom, 1977; Wolf, 1988; Simon, 2000).
Power and Distributional Regimes • Politics over markets • Markets over politics
Just before finish • Constitutional regimes • Politics and civil society
Conclusion: Political Possibilities “the art of the possible”
Political Science (Ancient issues)
CHARACTERISTICS Egypt Babylonia
ECONOMYAND TRADE ECOLOGY AND CLIMATE AGRICULTURAL ORGANIZATION POLIS AND EMPIRES INTER-STATE CONNECTIONS AND MARKETS WARFARE MONETARY EXCHANGE