Chapter 1
Political Thinking:
Becoming a Responsible Citizen
“The worth of the state, in the long run,
is the worth of the individuals composing it.”
John Stuart Mill
I. Learning to Think Politically
A. Barriers to Political Thinking
B. What Political Science Can
Contribute to Political Thinking
C. Political Culture
II. Politics and Power in America
A. A Democratic System
B. A Constitutional System
C. A Free Market System
D. Who Does Govern?
I. Learning to Think Politically
• Political thinking is the careful gathering and
sifting of information in the process of forming
knowledgeable views of political
I. Learning to Think Politically
• Political thinking is a key to
responsible citizenship, but many
citizens avoid it by virtue of paying
scant attention to politics.
– Barriers to political thinking
• Unwillingness to make an effort
• Political “spin”
– White House Press Office
– Talking Points
• Modern media
– Liberal bias in “old media”
– Right-wing radio and blogs
– Internet & Social Media
I. Learning to Think Politically
• The tools of political science can contribute to
effective political thinking.
– Reliable information about the U.S. political
– Systematic generalizations about major
tendencies in U.S. politics
– Terms and concepts that precisely describe the
key aspects of politics
I. Learning to Think Politically
• Political Culture
– The characteristic and deep-seated beliefs of a
particular people about government and politics.
– Rooted in European heritage of the first white
– America’s national identity rests largely upon
shared political ideas
– These beliefs are said to be mythic ideas
• Symbolic postures that reflect partly what is ideal and
partly what is real
America’s Core
II. Politics & Power in America
• Politics is the process by
which it is determined whose
values will prevail in society.
• The basis of politics is conflict
over scarce resources and
competing values.
• Those who have power win
out in this conflict and are
able to control governing
authority and policy choices.
II. Politics & Power in America
• Authoritarian governments openly repress
their political opponents
– Totalitarianism: no limits on the power of the state
II. Politics & Power in America
• In the United States, no one faction controls all
power and policy.
– James Madison-Federalist No. 10• the dangers of faction
• Government is most dangerous when a single group is
powerful enough to gain full political control
– Majorities govern on some issues, while other issues
are dominated by:
Individuals through judicial action
Officials who hold public office.
II. Politics & Power in America
• Politics in the United States plays out through
rules of the game that include:
– democracy
– constitutionalism
– A free market system
II. Politics & Power in America
• Democracy is rule by the people,
which in practice refers to a
representative system of
government in which the people
rule through their elected
– Majority rule through elections
– Empowers majorities
(majoritarianism), groups
(pluralism), and officials (authority)
“demos” + “kratis” = “the people rule.”
II. Politics & Power in America
• Constitutionalism refers to rules
that limit the rightful power of
government over citizens.
– Based on the rule of law
• U.S. Constitution
– Legal protections for individuals
• Bill of Rights
– Empowers individuals by enabling
them to claim their rights in court
(judicial action)
• Gideon v. Wainwright- 6th
– “…if you cannot afford an attorney,
one will be will be appointed for you.”
II. Politics & Power in America
• A free market system assigns private parties
the dominant role in determining how
economic costs and benefits are allocated.
– A system that centers on transactions between
private parties
– Empowers business firms (corporate power) & the
wealthy (elitism)
American Political System
Ch. 1- Major Concepts
political thinking
The careful gathering and sifting of information in the process of forming a knowledgeable view about a political
political science
The systematic study of government and politics.
The process through which a society settles its conflicts.
The ability of persons, groups, or institutions to influence political developments.
A form of government in which the people govern, either directly or through elected representatives.
The idea that the majority prevails not only in elections but also in policy determination.
A theory of American politics that holds that society’s interests are substantially represented through power
exercised by groups.
Ch. 1- Major Concepts
The recognized right of officials to exercise power as a result of the positions they hold.
The idea that there are definable limits on the rightful power of a government over its citizens.
judicial action
The use of courts of law as a means by which individuals protect their rights and settle their conflicts.
free market system
An economic system based on the idea that government should interfere with economic transactions as little as
possible. Free enterprise and self-reliance are the collective and individual principles that underpin free markets.
corporate power
The power that corporations exercise in their effort to influence government and maintain control of the
The notion that wealthy and well-connected individuals exercise power over certain areas of public policy.
public policies
Decisions by government to pursue particular courses of action.

similar documents