European Studies 1
Government and politics
Certain key concepts
October 2008
ES1
Power
• In the broadest sense, ‘the ability to achieve
a desired outcome, sometimes referred to as
the power to do something
• In politics, power is usually thought of as a
relationship, the ability to influence the
behaviour of others in a manner not of their
choosing; it is referred to in terms of having
power over people
October 2008
ES1
Dimensions of ‘power’
• Power as decision-making:Keith Boulding,
Three Faces of Power (1989), distinguishes
between
– 1. The stick – use of force or intimidation
– 2. The deal – productive exchanges involving
mutual gain
– 3. The kiss - creation of obligations, loyalty
and commitment
ES1
Dimensions of power (2)
• Power as agenda setting
– The ability to prevent decisions being made;
this involves the ability to set o control the
political agenda and so prevent issues/proposals
being aired in the first place
20008
ES1
Dimensions of power
• Power as thought control
– Ability to influence another by shaping what he
or she thinks, wants, or needs; this is power
expressed as ideological indoctrination or
psychological control
ES1
Liberty/Freedom
• Positive and negative freedom:
– Free to the degree to which no human being
interferes with my activity (freedom from)
– Be one’s own master (freedom to)
• The interpretations of freedom are
important in the debate between
conservatism, liberalism and socialism
2008
ES1
Justice
• Power exercised in accordance with the law,
and most associate law not only with order
but with justice – law must have a moral
dimension to be acceptable
• What therefore is a ‘just’ society?
– Justice to be found in a democratic socieety
which respects the moral equality of the
individuals composing it
2008
ES1
Right versus Left
• Political movements and thinkers are classified as
right-wing or left-wing; this goes back to the french
National Assembly when pro-monarchist
conservatives sat on the right and the revolutionary
republicans sat on the left of a semi-circular
formation;
• Right: seen as against political, economic and social
change; monarchist, clerical, favours the interests of
established propertied classes
• Left: in favour of change; identified with
republicanism, anti-clericalism and the interests of the
2008es – workers….
ES1
Right… Left…Centre
• In contemporary liberal democracies – we need to
note the existence of a large democratic Centre,
committed to existing constitutional system, but
accepting the legitimacy of gradual social and
economic change
• Distant from the centre are
– Far Right – want change in an ultra-nationalist, perhaps
racist direction
– Far Left – want change in an anti-capitalist direction
2008
ES1
The state
• The state - the authoritative decisionmaking institutions for an entire society; all
other groups are legally subject to it; it is
legally sovereign; its authority is
compulsory; it is the ultimate regulator of
the legitimate use of force
2008
ES1
The Nation-State
• The nation-state - this is when the two
overlap
– nation - people sharing a common identity,
tradition, culture and language
– state - the political and legal entity through
which collective decisions made and enforced
• An abstract entity - we defend it in song, in
sport, in war, in peace, flags and emblems
2008
ES1
Sovereignty
• In its simplest sense, the principle of absolute and
unlimited power
– The predominant theory of the state today is that of
‘sovereign states’ whose legitimacy is based on idea
that each nation has a right to self-determination
– People of a nation are seen to consent to the
establishment of a government over them which
supports a system of law appropriate to their culture
and traditions
2008
ES1
Government
• Government - a condition of orderly rule; as
groups/organisations
become
more
complex, stable patterns of decisionmaking emerge
2008
ES1
The machinery of government
• Governments - the Taoiseach and cabinet
who have executive authority on behalf of
society and the state
•
2008
ES1
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European Studies 1 - Institute of Technology, Sligo