Politology (Unit 3)

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Unit III

SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS:

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS.

 

Text I.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

A political system is a cultural universal and a social institution formed in every society. Each society must have a political system because politics is deciding who gets what, when and how.

Power is at the heart of a political system, for it is defined as the ability to exercise one's will ever others. Power relations can involve large organizations, small groups, or even people in an intimate association.

There are three basic sources of power within any political system — force, influence and authority. Force is the actual or threatened use of coercion to impose one's will on others. When leaders imprison or even execute political dissidents, they are applying force; so, too; are terrorists when they seize an embassy or assassinate a political leader. Influence, on the other hand, refers to the exercise of power through a process of persuasion. A citizen may change his or her political position because of the newspaper editorial, an expert testimony, or a stirring speech at a rally by a political activist.

The term authority refers to power that has been institutionalized and is recognized by the people over whom it is exercised. Sociologists commonly use this term in connection with those who hold legitimate power through elected or publicly acknowledged positions. Each society establishes a political system by which it is governed. In modern industrial societies there are five basic types of government: monarchy, oligarchy, dictatorship, totalitarianism and democracy.

A monarchy is a form of government headed by a single member of a royal family, usually a king, or a queen. At present, monarchs hold true governmental power in only a few nations, such as Monaco. Most monarchs have little practical power and primarily serve ceremonial purposes.

An oligarchy is a form of government in which a few individuals rule. Today, it usually takes the form either of military rule, like in the developing nations of Africa, Asia and  Latin America, or of a ruling group as is the case with the Communist Parties of some countries in Europe and Asia, the Soviet Union including.

A dictatorship is a government in which one person has nearly total power to make and enforce laws. Typically, dictators seize power by force and are usually bitterly hated by the population over whom they rule with an iron hand.

Frequently, dictatorships develop such overwhelming control over people's lives that they are called totalitarian. Totalitarianism involves complete governmental control over all aspects of social and political life in a society. Both Nazi Germany under Hitler and the Soviet Union after the October Revolution are classified as totalitarian states.

Political scientists have identified six basic characteristics of a totalitarian state: 1) Large-scale use of ideology. 2) One-party system. 3) Control of weapons. 4) Terror. 5) Control of the media. 6) Control of the economy. Through such methods totalitarian governments have complete control over people's destinies.

In a literal sense, democracy means government by the people. The word «democracy» is originated in two Greek roots — «demos», meaning «the common people», and «kratia», meaning «rule». Of course, it would be impossible for all the people of a country to vote on every important issue that comes about. Consequently, democracies are generally maintained through a mode of participation known as representative democracy, in which certain individuals are selected to speak for the people.

 

Vocabulary Practice

 

Ex. 1 Give definitions to the following words:

power, force, authority

 

Ex. 2 Match the words with their definition

 

1. a set of plans or actions that are agreed on by a government, political party or other organization

a. political

2. interested or involved in politics

b. policy

3. someone who has a job in politics

c. politics

4. the idea and activities that are involved in getting power in an area of governing it

d. politician

 

Ex. 3 Find the odd word out

1.      monarchy – an oligarchy – a dictatorship – authority – democracy

2.      a prince – a monarch – a queen – a king – a prime-minister

3.      shoot – murder – kill – execute – assassinate – imprison

 

Ex. 4 Give adjectives to the following words:

1.      power (n)

2.      force (n)

3.      policy (n)

4.      democracy (n)

5.      totalitarianism (n)

6.      dictatorship (n)

7.      sociology (n)

8.      president (n)

 

Ex. 5 Guess these words according to their meanings

1. (n) – controlling a country and its people in a very strict way, without allowing another political party

2. (n) – government by someone who takes power by force and doesn’t allow elections

3. (n) – a system of government in which a country is ruled by a king or queen

 

Ex. 6 Change the words into nouns:

1.      governmental –

2.      presidential –

3.      religious –

4.      influential –

5.      educational –

6.      significant –

7.      national –

8.      economic –

 

Ex. 7 Give synonyms to this list of words:

1.      impact –

2.      fate –

3.      contemporary –

4.      to trust –

5.      issue –

6.      outlook –

7.      persuasion –

8.      to reign –

 

Text II

Each society has its own ways of governing itself and making decisions, and each generation must be encouraged to accept a society's basic political values and its particular methods of decision making. Political socialization is the process by which individuals acquire political attitudes and develop patterns of political behavior.

The principal institutions of political socialization are the family, schools, and the media. Many observers see the family as playing a particularly significant role in this process, as parents views have an important impacts on their children's outlook. The schools can be influential in political socialization, too, since they provide young people with information and analysis of the political world. All societies, even democracies, use educational institutions for this purpose and political education generally reflects the norms and values of the prevailing political order. Like the family and schools, the mass media can have obvious effects on people's thinking and political behavior. Today, many speeches given by a nation's leaders are designed not for immediate listeners, but for the larger television audience. Yet, a number of studies have reported that the media do not tend to influence the masses of people directly. Messages passed through the media first reach a small number of opinion leaders including teachers, religious authorities, and community activists, and later, these leaders «spread the word» to others over whom they have influence.

In theory, a representative democracy functions most effectively if the majority of its citizens gets involved in the political process. Unfortunately, this is hardly the case in our contemporary societies. Though the majority is familiar with the basics of the political life, but, only a small minority often members of the higher social classes) actually participates in political organizations on a local or national level.

Sociologists note that people are more likely to participate actively in political life if they feel that they have the ability to influence politicians and the political order. In addition, citizens are willing to become involved if they trust political leaders or feel that an organized political party represents their interests. Without question, in an age marked by revelation of political corruption at the highest level, many members of all social groups feel powerless and distrustful. As a result, many view political participation, including voting at presidential elections, as a waste of time.

 

Vocabulary Practice

 

Ex. 1 Read and translate the text using a dictionary if necessary

 

Ex. 2 Answer the questions:

1.      What is political socialization?

2.      What are the principal institutions of political socialization?

3.      How can the schools be influential?

4.      Do parents views have an important impact on their children’s outlook?

5.      What do educational institutions generally reflect?

6.      What is the role of mass media?

7.      Who usually participates in political organizations on a local or national level?

 

Ex. 3 Read the text and speak about the sociological analysis of social institutions.

 

Ex. 4 Speak about the citizen’s participation in political life in Russia (in the USA, in Great Britain)

 

Ex. 5 What is your opinion about:

1.      Ideas of government

2.      System of government

3.      Modern democracies

4.      Political systems

5.      Elections

6.      Extreme governments

 

Text III

When we speak about models of power structure, it is important to answer the following questions: Who really holds power in a society? Do "we the people" really run the country through elected representatives? Or is there a small elite of people that governs behind the scenes? It is difficult to determine the location of power in a society as complex as modern industrial ones. In exploring these critical questions, social scientists have developed two basic views of a nation's power structure: the elite and the pluralist models.

The elite model is a view of society as ruled by a small group of individuals who share a common set of political and economic interests. Very often it is the power elite, if all power — industrial, military, governmental — rests in the hands of a few who control the fate of a state. Some sociologists do not fully accept this power elite model and suggest that, in this case, a society is run and controlled by a social upper class, that is a ruling class that exercises the dominant role in politics, economy and government. By contrast, the pluralist model is a view of society in which many conflicting groups within a community have access to governmental officials and compete with one another in an attempt to influence policy decisions.

Without question, the pluralist and elite models have little in common and each describes a dramatically different distribution of power. Yet, each model offers an accurate picture of the political life in contemporary society. Power in various areas rests in the hands of a small number of citizens (elite view), yet within contemporary society there are a great number of political institutions and agencies with differing ideas and interests (pluralist model). Thus, we may end this discussion with one common point of the elite and pluralist perspective — power in a contemporary political system is unequally distributed; all citizens may be equal in theory, yet those high in a nation's power structure are "more equal".

 

Vocabulary Practice

 

Ex I. Read and translate the text, using a dictionary if necessary.

 

Ex. II. Find in the text English equivalents of the following:

осуществлять свою волю над кем-либо, принуждение, навязывать волю, заключить в тюрьму, совершить политическое убийство, убеждать (убеждения), передовица, показание (свидетельство), страстная речь, применять власть над кем-либо, обладать законной властью, руководить (управлять), править, как в случае, создавать и проводить в жизнь законы, захватывать власть силой, часто, широкомасштабный, судьба (2), в буквальном смысле, голосовать, следовательно, выбирать, говорить от имени народа, приобретать политические взгляды, взгляды родителей, мировоззрение, преобладать (преобладающий), оказывать явное влияние на, мышление, теоретически, к сожалению, быть знакомым с основами, участвовать (участие), доверять, представлять интересы, несомненно, обнаруживать (признание, открытие), недоверчивый, президентские выборы, пустая трата времени, выборные, представители, за кулисами, исследовать критический вопрос, иметь общие интересы, иметь доступ к чему-либо, государственные чиновники, иметь мало общего, находиться в руках (власть).

Ex. III. Supply the missing words and word combinations choosing among those given below.

1) Power is the ability to ... one's will over others. 2) Force is the actual or ... use of coercion ... one's will on others. 3) Influence is the exercise of power through a process of ... 4) Authority refers to those who hold ... power through ... or publicly ... positions. 5) Each society ... a political system by which it is ... . 6) Most monarchs have little practical power and primarily ... ceremonial purposes. 7) A dictator is a person who has nearly ... power to make and ... laws. 8) Frequently, dictatorships develop ... control over people's lives. 9) One of the characteristics of a totalitarian state is ... use of ideology. 10) Political socialization is the process by which individuals... political... and develop ... of political behavior. 11) The family plays a particularly ... role in political socialization. 12) Parents'... have an important... on children's ... . 13) Schools ... young people with information and analysis of the political world. 14) Political education generally... the norms and values of the ... political order. 15) The mass media can have ... effects on people's ... and political behavior. 16) A number of studies have ... that the media do not ... to influence the masses of people.... 17) Unfortunately, this is... the case in our contemporary societies. 18) Citizens are ...to participate in political life if they ... political leaders or feel that they ... their interests. 19) In an age ... by revelation of political... people feel powerless and ... .20) As a result, many view political participation as ....21)... the pluralist and elite models have little ... and each describes a ..., different distribution of power. 22) Power in various areas ... in the hands of a small number of citizens.

 

rests, without question, in common, dramatically, a waste of time, marked, corruption, distrustful, willing, trust, represent, hardly, reported, tend, directly, obvious, thinking, reflects, prevailing, provide, views, impact, outlook, significant, acquire, attitudes, patterns, large-scale, overwhelming, total, enforce, sense, establishes, governed, legitimate, elected, acknowledged, persuasion, threatened, to impose, exercise.

 

Ex. IV. Give definitions of the following words:

1.      a small group of people who have a lot of power or advantages (elite)

2.      a situation in which people of different races, religions, cultures, politics, etc. live together in a society (pluralism)

3.      modern, or relating to the present time (contemporary)

 

Ex. V. Find the odd word out:

1.      a group – a community – a society – a model;

2.      observers – political leaders – sociologists – politicians – governmental – officials – individuals;

3.      dictatorship – oligarchy – pluralism – monarchy

 

Ex. VI. Study the following word combinations and use them in sentences of your own:

to exercise one's will over smb., to impose one's will on smth., to apply force, to assassinate a political leader, because of, in connection with, to hold legitimate power, to enforce laws, to seize power by force, to be bitterly hated by, to develop overwhelming (complete) control over, in a literal sense, to vote on an issue, to speak for the people, to acquire political attitudes, to provide smb. with smth., to have an effect (an impact) on, to influence smb. directly, to have influence over,  in theory, get involved in, to trust smb., to be willing to do smth., to be likely to do smth., to represent smb's interests, to feel distrustful, to view smth. as a waste of time, to run a country (to govern country), to govern smth. behind the scenes, to share interests, power rests, to have access to, to compete with, to hive little (much) in common with.

 

Comprehension Exercises

 

Ex. I Read the text and answer the following questions:

1) Why is a political system a cultural universal? 2) How can you prove that power is at the heart of a political system? 3) What basic sources of power are there within any political system? 4) What differs "force" from "influence" as sources of power? 5) In what connection do sociologist commonly use the term "authority"? 6) What are the basis forms of government in contemporary industrial society? 7) What differs the monarchy from the oligarchy? 8) Why do dictatorships frequently develop into totalitarianism? 9) What are the basic characteristics of a totalitarian state? 10) What does "democracy" mean in a literal sense and in practice? 11) Through what process do members of a society acquire their political attitudes and develop patterns of political behavior? 12) How can you prove that the family, schools and the media are the principal institutions of political socialization? 13) How can you characterize the process of involving people in political activities in theory and in practice? 14) What models of power structure do you know? 15) Do they offer an accurate picture of the political life in contemporary society? Why so? 16) What is one common point of both models? Do you agree with this statement?

 

Ex. II Define the following key terms and memorize the definitions:

political system

totalitarianism

politics

democracy

power

representative democracy

force

political socialization

influence

elite model

authority

power elite model

monarchy

ruling class

oligarchy

pluralist model

 

Ex. III. Speak on government and politics in brief and illustrate your reports with examples and situations of your own.

 

Ex. IV. Discuss the following topics thinking like sociologists.

1) The former Soviet Union: a representative democracy or a totalitarian state? 2) The present organization of the Russian system of power and authority. 3) Political socialization and its agents in the Russian society. 4) The process through which you have acquainted your political outlook. 6) The influence of the Russian mass media on the county's political campaign. Can Russians be considered active or apathetic in their political behavior? Why? 6) The distribution of power in the Russian political system: are there any citizens «more equal» in our country

 

Ex. V. Speak and discuss:

I.

1.      What is a political system?

2.      Why must each society have a political system?

3.      How is the power defined?

4.      What three basic sources of power are there?

5.      When is force usually used?

6.      How is influence used in politics?

7.      What are the five basic types of government in modern industrial societies?

8.      What six basic characteristics of a totalitarian state have been identified by political scientists?

9.      In a literal sense, democracy means "government by the people", doesn't it?

10.    What is a representative democracy?

II.

1.      Has each society its own ways of governing itself?

2.      What is political socialization?

3.      The principal institutions of political socialization are the family, schools and the media, aren't they?

4.      What institution has the most important impact on the person's outlook?

5.      Are many speeches given by nation's leaders designed for immediate listeners or the larger television audience?

6.      When does a representative democracy function most effectively in theory?

7.      Is the majority of our modern societies' citizens involved in the political process?

8.      Are citizens willing to become involved if they trust political leaders?

9.      Can our political leaders be fully trusted?

10.    Is it difficult to determine the location of power in a society as complex as modern industrial ones?

11.    What are the two basic view of a nation's power structure?

12.    What is the elite model?

13.    What is the difference between the power elite and a ruling class?

14.    What is the pluralist model?

15.    What is the common point of the elite and pluralist models?

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