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Contents:
  1. Morality in Realist Theories
  2. Power and Politics in Organizational Life
  3. The Power Elite

Authority refers to accepted power—that is, power that people agree to follow. People listen to authority figures because they feel that these individuals are worthy of respect. Generally speaking, people perceive the objectives and demands of an authority figure as reasonable and beneficial, or true. For instance, a person who sees the flashing red and blue lights of a police car in his or her rearview mirror usually pulls to the side of the road without hesitation. Such a driver most likely assumes that the police officer behind him serves as a legitimate source of authority and has the right to pull him over.

Not all authority figures are police officers or elected officials or government authorities. Besides formal offices, authority can arise from tradition and personal qualities.

Unitary nation-states

Based on this work, Weber developed a classification system for authority. His three types of authority are traditional authority, charismatic authority, and rational-legal authority Weber Table Traditional authority is usually understood in the context of pre-modern power relationships.

Morality in Realist Theories

According to Weber, the power of traditional authority is accepted because that has traditionally been the case; its legitimacy exists because it has been accepted for a long time. People obey their lord or the church because it is customary to do so. People adhere to traditional authority because they are invested in the past and feel obligated to perpetuate it. In this type of authority, power is vested in a particular system, not in the person implementing the system.

However irritating bureaucracy might be, we generally accept its legitimacy because we have the expectation that its processes are conducted in a neutral, disinterested fashion, according to explicit, written rules and laws. Rational-legal types of rule have authority because they are rational; that is, they are unbiased, predictable, and efficient. On the other hand, people also obey because of the charismatic personal qualities of a leader.

In this respect, it is not so much a question of obeying as following. Weber saw charismatic leadership as a kind of antidote to the machine-like rationality of bureaucratic mechanisms. It was through the inspiration of a charismatic leader that people found something to believe in, and thereby change could be introduced into the system of continuous bureaucratic administration. The appeal of a charismatic leader can be extraordinary, inspiring followers to make unusual sacrifices or to persevere in the midst of great hardship and persecution.

Charismatic leaders usually emerge in times of crisis and offer innovative or radical solutions. They also tend to hold power for short durations only because power based on charisma is fickle and unstable. However, while people often decry the lack of rational debate about the facts of policy decisions in image politics, it is often the case that it is only the political theatre of personality clashes and charisma that draws people in to participate in political life. They have in the back of their minds the Hobbesian view that the absence of sovereign rule leads to a state of chaos, lawlessness, and war of all against all.

As such, the radical standpoint of anarchism provides a useful standpoint from which to examine the sociological question of why leadership in the form of the state is needed in the first place. We will return to this question in the final section of this chapter. The tradition of anarchism developed in Europe in the 19th century in the work of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon — , Mikhail Bakunin — , Peter Kropotkin — and others. It promoted the idea that states were both artificial and malevolent constructs, unnecessary for human social organization Esenwein Anarchists proposed that the natural state of society is one of self-governing collectivities, in which people freely group themselves in loose affiliations with one another rather than submitting to government-based or human-made laws.

For the anarchists, anarchy was not violent chaos but the cooperative, egalitarian society that would emerge when state power was destroyed. The anarchist program was and still is to maximize the personal freedoms of individuals by organizing society on the basis of voluntary social arrangements.

These arrangements would be subject to continual renegotiation. As opposed to right-wing libertarianism, the anarchist tradition argued that the conditions for a cooperative, egalitarian society were the destruction of both the power of the state and of private property i.


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Clearly not all or even most anarchists advocated violence in this manner, but it was widely recognized that the hierarchical structures and institutions of the old society had to be destroyed before the new society could be created. Nevertheless, the principle of the anarchist model of government is based on the participatory or direct democracy of the ancient Greek Athenians.

Power and Politics in Organizational Life

In Athenian direct democracy, decision making, even in matters of detailed policy, was conducted through assemblies made up of all citizens. These assemblies would meet a minimum of 40 times a year Forrest Ordinary Athenians directly ran the affairs of Athens. Direct democracy can be contrasted with modern forms of representative democracy , like that practised in Canada. It is based on the idea of representation rather than direct citizen participation.

Critics note that the representative model of democracy enables distortions to be introduced into the determination of the will of the people: elected representatives are typically not socially representative of their constituencies as they are dominated by white men and elite occupations like law and business; corporate media ownership and privately funded advertisement campaigns enable the interests of privileged classes to be expressed rather than those of average citizens; and lobbying and private campaign contributions provide access to representatives and decision-making processes that is not afforded to the majority of the population.


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  8. The distortions that intrude into the processes of representative democracy—for example, whose interests really get represented in government policy? Democracy however is not a static political form. Three key elements constitute democracy as a dynamic system: the institutions of democracy parliament, elections, constitutions, rule of law, etc.

    On the basis of these three elements, rule by the people can be exercised through a process of democratic will formation. The underlying norm of the democratic process is what Habermas calls the ideal speech situation. Ideally no individual is prevented from speaking not by arbitrary restrictions on who is permitted to speak, nor by practical restrictions on participation like poverty or lack of education. On the other hand, when the norms of the ideal speech situation are violated, the process of democratic will formation becomes distorted and open to manipulation.

    In practice democratic will formation in representative democracies takes place largely through political party competition in an electoral cycle. Two factors explain the dynamics of democratic party systems Kitschelt People form common political preferences on the basis of their common positions in the social structure. For example, changes in the types of jobs generated by the economy will affect the size of electoral support for labour unions and labour union politics.

    Secondly, political supply refers to the strategies and organizational capacities of political parties to deliver an appealing political program to particular constituencies. For example, the Liberal Party of Canada often attempts to develop policies and political messaging that will position it in the middle of the political spectrum where the largest group of voters potentially resides.

    In the election, due to leadership issues, organizational difficulties, and the strategies of the other political parties, they were not able to deliver a credible appeal to their traditional centrist constituency and suffered a large loss of seats in Parliament see Figure In Figure Along both axes or spectrums of political opinion, one might imagine an elliptically shaped distribution of individuals, with the greatest portion in the middle of each spectrum and far fewer people at the extreme ends.

    Sociologists are typically more interested in the underlying social factors contributing to changes in political demand than in the day-by-day strategies of political supply. One influential theory proposes that since the s, contemporary political preferences have shifted away from older, materialist concerns with economic growth and physical security i.

    Inglehart From the s on, postmaterialist social movements seeking to expand the domain of personal autonomy and free expression have encountered equally postmaterialist responses by neoconservative groups advocating the return to traditional family values, religious fundamentalism, submission to work discipline, and tough-on-crime initiatives. This has led to a new postmaterialist cleavage structure in political preferences. What explains the emergence of a postmaterialist axis of political preferences?

    Arguably, the experience of citizens for most of the 20th century was defined by economic scarcity and depression, the two world wars, and the Cold War resulting in the materialist orientation toward the economy, personal security, and military defence in political demand. The location of individuals within the industrial class structure is conventionally seen as the major determinant of whether they preferred working-class-oriented policies of economic redistribution or capitalist-class-oriented policies of free-market allocation of resources.

    In the advanced capitalist or post-industrial societies of the late 20th century, the underlying class conditions of voter preference are not so clear however. Certainly the working-class does not vote en masse for the traditional working class party in Canada, the NDP, and voters from the big business, small business, and administrative classes are often divided between the Liberals and Conservatives Ogmundson Kitschelt notes two distinctly influential dynamics in western European social conditions that can be applied to the Canadian situation.

    Secondly, in the transition from an industrial economy to a postindustrial service and knowledge economy, people whose work or educational level promotes high levels of communicative interaction skills education, social work, health care, cultural production, etc. The implication Kitschelt draws from this analysis is that as the conditions of political demand shift, the strategies of the political parties i. Social democratic parties like the NDP need to be mindful of the general shift to the right under conditions of globalization, but to the degree that they move to the centre 2 or the right 3 , like British labour under Tony Blair, they risk alienating much of their traditional core support in the union movement, new social movement activists, and young people.

    On the other side of the spectrum, the Conservatives do not want to move so far to the right 5 that they lose centrist voters to the Liberals or NDP as was the case in the Ontario provincial election in However, to the degree they move to the centre they risk being indistinguishable from the Liberals and a space opens up to the right of them on the political spectrum.

    The demise of the former Progressive Conservative party after the election was precipitated by the emergence of postmaterialist conservative parties further to the right Reform and the Canadian Alliance.

    The Power Elite

    This model of democratic will formation in Canada is not without its problems. Similarly, the argument that political preferences have shifted from materialist concerns with economic growth and distribution to postmaterialist concerns with quality-of-life issues is belied by opinion polls which consistently indicate that Canadians rate the economy and unemployment as their greatest concerns.

    On the other hand, it is probably the case that postmaterialist concerns are not addressed effectively in current formal political processes and political party platforms. With regard to the distinction between direct democracy and representative democracy, it is interesting to note that in the current era of declining voter participation in elections, especially among young people, people especially young people are turning to more direct means of political engagement See Figure In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes , the post-apocalyptic narrative of brewing conflict between the apes—descendants of animal experimentation and genetic manipulation—and the remaining humans—survivors of a human-made ape virus pandemic—follows a familiar political story line of mistrust, enmity, and provocation between opposed camps.

    In the first part of the movie, we see the two communities in a kind of pre-political state, struggling in isolation from one another in an effort to survive. The communities have leaders, but leaders who are listened to only because of the respect accorded to them. However, when the two communities come into contact unexpectedly, a political dynamic begins to emerge in which the question becomes whether the two groups will be able to live in peace together or whether their history and memory of hatred and disrespect will lead them to conflict.


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    The underlying theme is that when the normal rules that govern everyday behaviour are deemed no longer sufficient to conduct life, politics as an exception in its various forms emerges. The concept of politics as exception has its roots in the origins of sovereignty Agamben, It was articulated most clearly in the s in the work of Carl Schmitt who later became juridical theorist aligned with the German Nazi regime in the s. This occurs when the normal rules that govern decision making or the application of law appear no longer adequate or applicable to the situation confronting society.

    Specifically, we refer to a state of exception when the law or the constitution is temporarily suspended during a time of crisis so that the executive leader can claim emergency powers. Nevertheless political exceptionalism is a reoccurring theme in politics and as situations of crisis have become increasingly normal in recent decades—the war on terror, failed states, the erosion of sovereign power, etc. Until the moment of contact, the apes are able govern themselves by a moral code and mutual agreement on decisions.

    It is an ideal, peaceful pre-political society. This is an example of political exceptionalism. In this case, Caesar suspends the law of the apes and dispenses with Koba in his first act of emergency power. Caesar decides who is and who is not an ape; who is and who is not protected by ape law.

    This possibility of the state of exception is built in to the structure of the modern state. When society is threatened however, from without or within, the conditions of a temporary state of exception emerge. Constitutional governments often provide a formal mechanism for declaring a state of exception or emergency powers, like the former Canadian War Measures Act. Many observers of contemporary global conflict have noted, however, that what were once temporary states of exception—wars between states, wars within states, wars by non-state actors, and wars or crises resulting in the suspension of laws—have become increasingly permanent and normalized in recent years.

    The exception is increasingly becoming the norm Agamben ; Hardt and Negri As we defined it earlier, terrorism is the use of violence on civilian populations and institutions to achieve political ends. Typically we see this violence as a product of non-state actors seeking radical political change by resorting to means outside the normal political process. Al-Qaeda for example is an international organization that had its origin in American-funded efforts to organize an insurgency campaign against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in the s.

    Its attacks on civilian and military targets, including the American embassies in East Africa in , the World Trade Center in , and the bombings in Bali in , are means to demand the end of Western influence in the Middle East and the establishment of fundamentalist Wahhabi Islamic caliphates. Terrorism is an ambiguous term, however, because the definition of who or what constitutes a terrorist differs depending on who does the defining.

    Nepal: Its new political structure

    There are three distinct phenomena that are defined as terrorism in contemporary usage: the use of political violence as a means of revolt by non-state actors against a legitimate government, the use of political violence by governments themselves in contravention of national or international codes of human rights, and the use of violence in war that contravenes established rules of engagement, including violence against civilian or non-military targets Hardt and Negri Noam Chomsky argues, for example, that the United States government is the most significant terrorist organization in the world because of its support for illegal and irregular wars, its backing of authoritarian regimes that use illegitimate violence against their populations, and its history of destabilizing foreign governments and assassinating foreign political leaders Chomsky ; Chomsky and Herman Even before there were modern nation-states, political conflicts arose among competing societies or factions of people.

    Vikings attacked continental European tribes in search of loot, and later, European explorers landed on foreign shores to claim the resources of indigenous peoples.